Autoimmune disorders can be both physically and mentally taxing, especially for individuals that can’t figure out what exactly causes their immune system inflammation. In fact, your autoimmune condition might be caused by dietary choices, which can trigger your immune system into attacking healthy cells and tissues.
Fortunately, this means that you can use one or more autoimmune diets to potentially avoid the worst symptoms of your condition.
Let’s check out the best autoimmune diets to try in greater detail.
What Are Autoimmune Disorders?
In short, an autoimmune disorder occurs when your immune system doesn’t operate helpfully. When working properly, your immune system should produce antibodies that only attack harmful or foreign cells in your body.
However, if you have one or more autoimmune disorders, your immune system will instead produce antibodies that occasionally or constantly fight healthy cells and tissues.
Living with autoimmune diseases can be difficult. But research into autoimmune conditions has led some scientists and dietitians to believe that various diets can stop one’s immune system from flaring up, thus avoiding many of the worst side effects of these chronic conditions.
Let’s check out some options for effective autoimmune diets based on different needs and preferences.
The AIP or autoimmune protocol diet is technically a variation of the Paleo diet: a dietary plan that focuses on only eating foods that our Paleolithic ancestors could have reasonably eaten as well. The idea is to transition the body back to a diet with digestible, organic foods without tons of preservatives, processed meats, and sugars.
Under the AIP diet, practitioners avoid lots of agricultural foods like grains, eggs, nuts, seeds, legumes, dairy products, and more. It’s a very restrictive diet at first, but the AIP diet follows an elimination protocol, allowing followers to try out different food groups that may or may not contribute to immune system inflammation. Over time, a holistic diet is discovered and implemented after decreasing problematic foods.
This said, the AIP diet isn’t for everyone and it may be risky for individuals with autoimmune diseases that lead to nutritional deficiencies. However, individuals with IBD – and who experience regular discomfort and ulcerative colitis – might find the AIP diet to be helpful, especially once the elimination phases are finished.
An anti-inflammatory diet is exactly what it sounds like: it’s designed to reduce inflammation of the immune system and various digestive issues. Some foods are more inflammatory than others, whereas the anti-inflammatory diet focuses on eating foods like fruits, olive oil, fish, nuts, seeds, vegetables, and legumes.
It’s roughly similar to the now-trending Mediterranean diet, as there’s some evidence suggesting that it can lower the risk of various chronic diseases. It may also be helpful for individuals who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, which is an inflammatory disease first and foremost.
Under this diet, any food consumed should be as natural or organic as possible. Homemade meals are prioritized over-processed food items. It also emphasizes a limitation on dairy products, at least at first. Individuals can tailor the diet slightly to suit individual preferences or inflammatory triggers.
As its name suggests, a gluten-free diet is ideal for those who need to cut gluten out of their lives for one reason or another. Those suffering from celiac disease can certainly benefit from a gluten-free diet.
Gluten is a protein found in many grains, such as wheat, barley, and rye. Those with celiac disease cannot eat gluten without sustaining damage to their small intestines. But even if you don’t have celiac disease, your digestive or immune system might still be provoked into inflammation or other effects because gluten is a large, inflammatory molecule.
Unfortunately, many of the most common foods in our society have lots of gluten to spare, including breads, pastas, soups, salad dressings, and more.
A gluten-free diet practitioner, however, can now target a variety of gluten-free products sold in regular grocery stores. Additionally, individuals with other autoimmune diseases, like autoimmune thyroid issues, can benefit from a gluten-free diet as well.
A plant-based diet isn’t the same thing as a vegan diet, as a vegan diet excludes any non-plant products wholesale, including animal secondary products such as milk or cheese. Plant-based diets cut out a lot of naturally inflammatory foods, including meat and dairy foods.
Those following plant-based diets typically cook vegetables both to improve their flavor and their digestibility. Raw vegetables can still provoke the immune system into an inflammatory response due to their large molecule size and fibrous structures.
Cooking breaks vegetable molecules down and makes them much more digestible. A plant-based diet might be easier for individuals with autoimmune diseases to follow compared to a vegan diet as well because it doesn’t force them to totally give up meat or dairy products.
It’s best to pursue a plant-based diet with an elimination phase strategy. Gradually reducing inflammatory foods at once, then gradually reintroduce foods into your diet one at a time to determine which foods are truly inflammatory and which are acceptable.
There are many more diets than these to check out if you have one or more autoimmune disorders. But the above four are the most commonly followed by individuals with chronic conditions due to either their ease of adoption or other health benefits.
Check out our collection of over 100 recipes that include anti-inflammatory, vegan and low sugar recipes that will make meal planning simple.