Autoimmune conditions, in which the body’s immune system attacks itself, sweep the nation. Not only is conventional (and even many alternatives) medicine failing to heal people, but often they cannot suppress the symptoms to provide short-term relief to their patients and are even making symptoms worse. Presently there are about 200 known diseases in the category of autoimmune, which include Eczema, Celiac, Colitis, Crohn’s, Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes, Grave’s, Hashimoto’s, Leaky Gut, IBS, Lupus, and Arthritis.
Today we are doing to explore the incredible recent scientific breakthroughs in the realm of autoimmunity and bridging the gap between ancient wisdom and modern science: using diet to heal.
Dieting for Autoimmune Diseases
Food is medicine, and your diet’s impact on your health is not only about what you’re putting in but also about what you’re not. For example, many autoimmune protocols focus on removing certain inflammatory and gut-irritating foods from your diet to allow the body to heal. They include the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) and Gut and Psychology (GAPS) diets. Both are nutrient-dense, ancestral diets focusing on whole foods and avoiding inflammatory foods like grains, legumes, refined foods, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, soy, coffee, and dairy.
Many off-limit foods from autoimmune-friendly diets focus on removing inflammatory and gut-irritating foods, giving the body a chance to heal. My approach includes a multi-therapeutic diet that removes trigger foods and harnesses the power of ketones to heal the body.
Keto-Adaptation Diet for Autoimmune Conditions
Keto-adaptation (also known as fat-adaptation) is the process in which your body goes from using primarily glucose for energy to using mostly fat for energy. You achieve this either by fasting or by going on a ketogenic diet. The keto diet is a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb diet, forcing the body to generate ketone bodies to metabolize fat eventually. Technically the body is always using a combination of the two (glucose and ketones), but in a non-keto-adapted state, the body will reach for glucose first, and there will be very few ketones circulating in the blood.
Keto-adaptation was studied to manage and treat diabetes and drug-resistant seizures as far back as the 1920s. This diet intervention has re-emerged lately, showing promising results not only for diabetes and strokes but also for weight loss resistance, metabolic syndromes, neurodegenerative brain conditions, autism, severe gut disorders, and autoimmune conditions like Celiac and Crohn’s disease.
Healthy Fat for Autoimmune Disease
Healthcare practitioners have demonized fat for a long time, but new science shows that fat does not make you fat, far from it. Healthy fats are a source of essential fatty acids that our hormones need to function and cannot be produced endogenously. In addition, they carry nutrients like fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, abundant in pasture-raised, organic animal fats. These fats help your hormones operate optimally, play a crucial role in healing the gut, and promote healthy body composition. Unfortunately, keto-adaptation requires a high-fat approach, which floods the body with these often lacking nutrients.
Lowering Carbohydrates & Autoimmune Conditions
A standard keto-adaptation macronutrient ratio is approximately 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbohydrates. Keeping carbohydrates heavily restricted and protein moderately bound prevents the body from needing to secrete insulin all day long. Insulin is the hormone the pancreas produces, enabling your body to use sugar (glucose) for energy. As we have explored, a keto-adapted body uses predominantly fat for energy and thus uses ketones instead of insulin. When your blood sugar roller coasters throughout the day (a bi-product of a high-carb diet), not only are your energy levels up and down, but your hormone receptors become dulled- meaning they don’t function optimally. This manifests in many ways, including losing appetite control (incessantly hungry/can’t get full), lethargy, and weight loss resistance. This whole process is also associated with chronic inflammation, a major contributing factor to autoimmunity. Black seed oil supports many conditions and may have autoimmune benefits as well.
Rheumatoid Arthritis & Dieting
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune condition for which no known medical cure exists. Behind most chronic diseases and autoimmune diseases (such as arthritis) is a high amount of inflammation and its associated pain. One of the many benefits of a keto-adaptation diet is the profound anti-inflammatory effect, which relieves these highly inflammatory diseases. The magic is a combination of taking away the inflammatory, free-radical-causing sugars (that spike your insulin), as well as the therapeutic boost of ketones. One all-star ketone is called beta-hydroxybutyrate, and research shows that this ketone can block what is called the NLRP3 inflammasome, an immune system receptor linked to inflammation.
What Foods To Avoid For Autoimmune Diseases
Alongside a keto-adapted (high-fat) diet, there are certain key foods you want to avoid to ensure your body can heal. The goal is to remove foods that trigger the immune system to inflame.
Here are some foods and drinks to avoid:
- legumes (beans, soy, peanuts, chickpeas, etc.)
- lectins (nightshade vegetables),
- all refined/ processed foods (flour, sugar, packaged foods)
- industrial seed oils (vegetable or canola oils)
- seeds (including chocolate)
- artificial sweeteners
- emulsifiers and thickeners
The list is extensive, but once your gut is properly healed and you have no more symptoms of autoimmunity, it is possible to slowly reintroduce the off-limits whole foods (one at a time) to test your immune response. If all is clear (you should wait 72 hours to ensure there isn’t a delayed response), you can continue consuming the food(s) in question. Certain foods, like seed oils, soy, artificial sweeteners, and highly refined foods/ grains, should be avoided long term for optimal health.
- Highly inflammatory diets fuel autoimmune-related diseases;
- A keto-adapted diet supports health and heals autoimmunity by reducing carbohydrates (which regulates blood sugar, decreases inflammation, and increases hormone sensitivity) and by increasing healthy fats (which help healthy hormones and reduce inflammation through ketosis);
- Ketone bodies are associated with multiple regenerative factors, especially beta-hydroxybutyrate, which is a highly anti-inflammatory ketone;
- Combining an elimination-diet style autoimmune diet with a high fat, moderate protein, low carb keto-adapted diet is a way to heal the body from autoimmune symptoms naturally.