Lots has been written and lots will be written in the future about the role of diet in autoimmune diseases. The truth is that standard medical opinion looks down on the importance of diet both in the prevention and treatment of these diseases.
Each and every one of us has an opinion and nobody is in possession of the absolute truth. With such diversity of stances, it seems all but easy to devise an “ideal” diet for patients. Chronic diseases can vary immensely amongst individuals and the same foods aren’t always harmful for all people. In the following paragraphs we’ll go through the most well-known diets for treating this type of disease to then offer our own suggestion.
- Seignalet’s Ancestral Diet: Jean Seignalet treated over 3000 autoimmune disease patients with a diet which eliminated all grains (except for rice), dairy and fast food and emphasized on consumption of lightly cooked foods. His average success rate was of over 70%, which is most definitely stunning, especially given how low conventional treatment rates are for these diseases.In our opinion this is the most sensible option, since it’ll make most patients improve without affecting lifestyle much. With effectiveness of about 96% in Crohn’s disease or ankylosing spondylitis and up to 80% for rheumatoid arthritis, we believe changing towards this diet can bring big improvement to patient’s lives.
- The Autoimmune Protocol: developed by Sarah Ballantyne, this might be today’s most popular approach towards these conditions. It eliminates grains, pulses, dairy, nightshades, nuts and eggs to then slowly reintroduce some of them. It might be a bit too rigid for our liking, since it often happens that patients stay in the elimination phase for an indefinite time, though many would probably be just fine cutting out grains, dairy and pulses. Even so, it’s easy reading and solid foundation make it advisable, together with Seignalet’s.
- GAPS diet: this one, though lacking the scientific depth of the previous two, seeks the “reeducation” of the intestine. The idea is to consume lots of broths and other easily digestible foods during the first phase. We think it might be useful for flaring patients of Crohn’s or UC.
- Specific Carbohydrate Diet: it was developed for both UC and Crohn’s and eliminates all complex carbohydrates (including bananas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, etc). We recommend it for both conditions.
- No-starch diet or Alan Ebringer’s diet: very similar to the one above, designed for ankylosing spondylitis and very effective. A must if suffering from AS.
- Gluten free: it was the first diet ever used to treat an autoimmune disease. It has proved useful in conditions closely linked to celiac disease, such as microscopic colitis or thyroid disorders, with effectiveness of 30% just by eliminating gluten. However, it normally requires a lot more in order to reach remission.
- Ketogenic diet or very low-carb diet: though it has been studied in fields as varied as sports performance or type-2 diabetes treatment, what interests us here is autoimmunity. Wolfgang Lutz was an Austrian doctor who used a very low carbohydrate diet (less than 72 grams per day) for the treatment of several pathologies, achieving exceptional results mainly in inflammatory bowel diseases and IBS. It is therefore another option to be taken into account.
Some of the diets above are too restrictive, some are too relaxed. But they’re all useful and can help to pave the way for achieving remission, or, at least improve your quality of life. Even so, we consider that they all leave out one or more important factors. Since we believe in establishing specific guidelines for each individual case, we have decided to list all the basic measures we think should help ALL patients who put them into practice. They are a summary of ones found in the books above plus quality information from several scientific papers. In order to better identify them, we’ve called them the “Stop Autoimmunity Diet”. By following these 10 simple measures you’ll take a step in the right direction.
Remember to consult with your physician or dietitian each time you want to make changes in your diet. The suggestions below are our opinion and should by no means substitute your doctor’s task.
Stop Autoimmunity Diet for autoimmune diseases:
1-No cereals: wheat, rye, oats, spelt, corn, brown rice and pseudocereals such as quinoa or amaranth. White rice seems to be safe and is recommended.
2-No Legumes: all types of beans, lentils or soy (especially in thyroid disorder cases).
3-No dairy: mainly milk, though depending on tolerance, elimination of yoghurt, cheese and butter (in that order) might be needed. Ghee and kefir are recommended.
Not for humans!
4-Omega 3 to 6 ratio: up your consumption of salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines and other fatty fish. Reduce intake of vegetable oils such as that coming from corn, rapeseed, palm, etc. Though a ratio of 1:3 is technically considered healthy, try to strive for 1:2 or even 1:1.
You also should consider supplementing with a high quality, natural product such as this one.
5-Moderate intake of fructose and cut out added sugar: less than 12 mg/day. Get more calories from eggs, ghee or avocado instead of from fruit. Remember that excess fructose causes non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Doesn’t need to be said that fructose syrup, a staple in junk food, is also most definitely out.
6-Get some soluble fiber: white rice, sweet potatoes or potatoes, though in moderation due to their thigh carb content. A good source of low-carb fiber source can be found here.
7-Vitamin D and Magnesium: magnesium is abundant in green leafy veggies but it’s difficult to reach the required amounts. Most patients need a high quality supplement like this one. For vitamin D, eat eggs, salmon, trout or other similar fish. Remember to also get plenty of sun from direct exposure without protection (at least 15min per day). Should this not be possible, supplement with this product.
8-Optimum hydration: drink mineral water with small quantities of himalayan pink salt.
9-Eating raw and fermented foods: home fermented kefir, sauerkraut or gherkins are good ways to start. If the condition allows it (so, not for IBS or IBD), try to eat many veggies raw. Also try probiotics.
10-Intermittent fasting: and interesting option may be the 16/8 rule, which consists in eating two meals in an 8 hour window and fasting during the remaining 16.