preventing autoimmune disorders
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What to Eat for Autoimmune Disease

Diet and your environment affect the genes responsible for health and longevity. Learn why diet can help you treat and prevent autoimmune disorders and what to eat for autoimmune disease.

preventing autoimmune disorders

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Did you know that the right diet can help you prevent autoimmune disorders? Autoimmune disorders are on the rise. In fact, more than 24 million Americans have one or more of 100+ autoimmune diseases, according to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA). Autoimmune disorders occur when your immune system attacks and destroys healthy tissue, leading to fatigue, lack of energy, digestive problems, joint pain, and many other symptoms that severely limit your quality of life. The good news is that there are simple diet and lifestyle changes you can make to prevent or even treat autoimmune disorders. Read on to learn why diet and autoimmunity are so intertwined.

Autoimmune disorders can develop when the body’s immune system turns against itself, destroying healthy tissue and sometimes resulting in life-threatening symptoms.

Diet has been found to play an important role in how well your immune system functions and whether or not you experience any autoimmune diseases, which means you should take preventative measures like eating healthier if you’re at risk of developing one of these disorders.

This post is all about What to Eat for Autoimmune Disease.

preventing autoimmune disorders

What You Should Know Autoimmune Disorders and Lifestyle

You can drastically reduce inflammation and prevent autoimmune disorders by making a few small changes to your lifestyle. This article explains how everything works, and why these changes are critical for both healing and prevention.

preventing autoimmune disorders

Preventing Autoimmune Disorders: Health Problems Begin in the Cell

The human immune system consists of a complex network of microorganisms with specific functions that protect the body from invading pathogens.

The microbiome can contain many organisms such as bacteria, fungi, and yeast (1). It lines the respiratory, digestive, and urinary tracts, but most of these microorganisms reside in the large intestine.

This cell system prevents infection, mutated cell development that leads to cancer, and the breakdown of the body’s metabolic functions. 

It is not surprising that an autoimmune flare can arise from the slightest change in the immune system’s ability to recognize a pathogen (2).

Most chronic diseases have cellular dysfunction such as mitochondrial issues, inflammation, high cortisol levels, and other biochemical abnormalities (3).

Diseases begin with dysfunction, and such distortions determine the expression of genes (4). Unfortunately, such subtle changes in function can precede a diagnosis by decades (5).

Hence, chronic illnesses, such as autoimmune disorders, are challenging to diagnose and manage. Symptoms can be numerous. While treating the symptoms can occasionally bring relief to patients, the illness will continue to exist and possibly worsen without finding the real causes of diseases.

Dr. Terry Wahls developed the Wahls Protocol Diet to overcome disability from multiple sclerosis. This evidence-based functional nutrition program can help people manage and prevent many chronic diseases and autoimmune disorders. I follow this diet and highly recommend it to everyone. – Tara

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Autoimmune Trigger #1: Cellular Dysfunction in the Gut

The science of genomics reveals how a person’s genotype interacts with their environment to determine which genes activate.

Environmental factors such as geographical location, sleep patterns, smoking, stress, dietary habits, exposure to antibiotics, and infections can affect genetic expression.

These factors can result in gut dysbiosis, which disrupts the homeostasis of the gut microbiota’s structure and function (6). 

When the microbiome becomes unbalanced with more bad pathogens and fewer of the good guys, problems arise.

Dysbiosis of the gut microbiome contributes to rheumatoid arthritis, metabolic disorders, diabetes, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, and more (1).

The intestinal flora affects the development of disease by affecting the intestinal immunity. So, when the microbiome is rebalanced, the regional immune system regains function. This results in healing (7). 

preventing autoimmune disorders

Environmental Factors Trigger Autoimmune Conditions

The gut microbiome is a network of microorganisms that can directly affect physiology. One slight error can cause a disruption.

Studies that focus on genome sequencing of the microbiome address the inherited risk of developing autoimmune disorders.

This could transform the way physicians diagnose and treat diseases (2). Removing environmental stressors rebalances the gut microbiome to a functional state and promotes a healthy immune system.

By removing certain environmental irritants like certain household chemicals and products that release VOCs and processed foods made with conventionally farmed grains and dairy products, autoimmune sufferers can see improvements in their health.

preventing autoimmune disorders

Common Environmental Stressors

It is important to note that no two bodies are alike, and others do not tolerate things that are well-tolerated by some people. It is vital to discover the best foods for autoimmune conditions for your personal health journey. Here is a list of everyday environmental stressors.

  • Antigen-presenting pathogens (viruses, bacteria, parasites, blood that is not your own, cancer cells)-(8)
  • Diet (processed foods, conventionally farmed and processed grains (gluten sensitivities, high-fat, high-sugar “fast” foods, other inflammatory trigger foods.)-(9)
  • Drugs (antibiotics, and many medications have been known to induce autoimmunity.)-(10)
  • Environmental toxins and pollutants
  • Psychological stress-(11)

Problems in the Gut and Autoimmune Disorders

The complex gut microbiome affects calcium and vitamin D absorption, hormones, and immune response (12). 

Now considered an essential organ, the microbiome communicates with the immune system and directly affects its mechanisms (13).

The health of the microbiome is essential to regulating metabolism, fighting pathogens, and adequately digesting food.

When triggered by environmental stressors, the gut microbiota can enter a state decline, also referred to as dysbiosis.

This imbalance can decrease the diversity of the microbiome and increase the prevalence of problematic bacteria (14). Dysbiosis of the gut microbiota causes a myriad of chronic and autoimmune issues.

Autoimmune conditions are classified by extreme autoantibody production that is likely caused by changes within the gut microbiota from environmental irritants from diet and the use of antibiotics, for example (15).

Technology in the field of genomics has provided great insight into the human microbiome. There is an essential link between gut microbiome problems and the onset and progression of autoimmune disease (6).

For example, chronic health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease have distinct gut microbiomes (6, 16, 15). These diseases are identified by looking for specific microorganisms.

Therefore, it is significant that autoimmunity is dependent upon the health of the gut microbiome.

For example, chronic health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease have distinct gut microbiomes (6, 16, 15). These diseases are identified by looking for specific microorganisms.

Inevitably, a person with an unhealthy gut microbiome will become ill.

An imbalanced gut ignites a list of inflammatory diseases and causes inflammation in the intestinal epithelium, leading to chronic intestinal inflammation (14).

Inflammation of the intestinal lining, a condition known as “leaky gut,” can lead to holes that allow undigested food, pathogens, and toxins to pass through. In this case, the underlying tissue becomes inflamed, and that can wreak even more havoc on the gut microbiota.

Modernly, this is a prevalent condition with people on a Western diet. This syndrome often accompanies many chronic conditions such as mental illnesses, asthma, allergies, gluten intolerance, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, arthritis, acne and obesity, and autoimmune disorders such as lupus, type 1 diabetes multiple sclerosis (17).

Importantly, people must work with their physicians to address the gut microbiome’s state to prevent a possible onslaught of autoimmune disorders.

Pendulum makes medical-grade probiotics without a prescription that have been shown to improve and repair the gut microbiome. I have experienced some positive changes in weight and digestion with this supplement. Talk to your doctor and learn more about Pendulum here. – Tara

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preventing autoimmune disorders

Diet Changes the Gut – For Better or Worse

Changes in environmental factors such as diet can have a noticeable impact on the gut microbiota’s health. In the United States and other western countries, diet-related chronic diseases are the single largest cause of morbidity and mortality (18).

Unsurprisingly, these diseases did not exist in hunter-gatherer tribes or modernly in tribes outside Western countries.

Obesity and other chronic health concerns arose with modern agriculture and animal husbandry practices and increased with food production advancements such as packaged items and “fast food.”

Western diets affect the balance of the gut microbiota and increase autoantibodies production, leading to autoimmune and inflammatory diseases such as multiple sclerosis (19).

Obesity, now commonly referred to as type 3 diabetes, is a chronic health epidemic across most Western countries. According to new research, diets with high fat and salt alter the gut microbiota’s composition by lowering the count of bacteria found in non-obese patients (20).

There is a link between gut dysbiosis due to a diet high in fats and salt and illnesses such as obesity, hypertension, inflammation, and autoimmunity. High fat and salt intake alter the gut microbiota and affect IgA responses, which induces autoantibodies production (19). 

These new insights into the gut microbiome’s biochemical pathways clarify how rapidly changes can occur.

This information is key to controlling the development of autoimmune disorders and chronic illnesses because positive changes to the gut microbiota can be as quick as disruptive changes.

Since consumption can rapidly change the microbiome’s composition, diet intervention is a promising tool for treating disease.

Diet as an Effective Tool for the Preventing and Treating Autoimmune Disorders

Autoimmune problems occur due to a combination of genetics and environmental stressors. An individualized diet successfully helps identify and eliminate some of these stressors.

According to research, the Western diet consists of refined sugars, salts, fatty meats, and dairy products that have caused nearly all chronic diseases since the Neolithic and Industrial eras.

Furthermore, we genetically adapt to our environment. These changes take time. Unfortunately, swift changes like the way we produce and package foods result in chronic diseases due to the inability for us to adapt quickly (18).

Processed foods often contain contaminants that disrupt the gut microbiota. Several minor food components are shown to significantly affect the gut microbiome (21). Recently, more products that line grocery shelves contain numerous additives.

The United States Food and Drug Administration claims, “Because of inherent limitations of science, the FDA can never be absolutely certain of the absence of any risk from the use of any substance (22).” These products can be dangerous to sensitive individuals.

Many of the products made for human consumption contain non-food additives, so should they even be considered food?

Food has a significant impact on the immune system by how it affects the microbiome of the gut. A recent study showed that unhealthy diets really messed up the microbiome of the esophagus and caused an increase in bacteria associated with chronic gastrointestinal diseases (23).

diet to prevent autoimmune

What is the Best Diet for Autoimmune Disorders?

Yes, diet is a HUGE factor in health. According to new research, diet contributes over 50% of the structural variations in the gut microbiome.

Evidence revealed that short-term diet interventions quickly alter gut microbiota diversity in humans (24). Although multiple environmental factors influence gut health, this study showed just how substantial diet is. However, this is great news if you would like to improve your health.

Every meal is an opportunity to make quick and lasting changes.

Incorporating foods of high nutritional quality and reducing problematic foods is a simple way to reduce symptoms and change the course of illness.

A diet rich in plant-derived proteins, polyphenols, and fiber and short-chain fatty acids found in fermented foods increase good bacteria and counter inflammation (19).

Similarly, it is noted that gluten, selenium, and iodine increase autoantibody production (19).

The replacement of foods high in animal fats, refined sugar salt, gluten and grains, dairy, alcohol, and additives with nutritionally dense organic fruits and vegetables, wild game, and fish is the key to preventing autoimmune disorders and improving the quality of life.

How will you use this information? You have the power to change your future and the future of the ones you love. Embrace health and choose a nutrient-dense diet as a part of your defense to chronic disease and preventing autoimmunity.

This post was all preventing and healing autoimmune disorders with appropriate changes to your diet and environment.

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References and Recommended Reading

  1. Chu, F., Shi, M., Lang, Y., Shen, D., Jin, T., Zhu, J., & Cui, L. (2018). Gut Microbiota in Multiple Sclerosis and Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis: Current Applications and Future Perspectives. Mediators of Inflammation, 2018, 1–17.
  2. Fugger, L., Jensen, L. T., & Rossjohn, J. (2020). Challenges, Progress, and Prospects of Developing Therapies to Treat Autoimmune Diseases. Cell, 181(1), 63–80.
  3. Wahls, T. (2014). The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles (Illustrated ed.). Avery.
  4. Bland, J. S., & Hyman, M. (2015). The Disease Delusion: Conquering the Causes of Chronic Illness for a Healthier, Longer, and Happier Life (Illustrated ed.). Harper Wave.
  5. Exclusive Interview with Jeffrey S. Bland, Ph.D., FACN, CNS. (2018, April 10). YouTube.
  6. Dutta, S. K., Verma, S., Jain, V., Surapaneni, B. K., Vinayek, R., Phillips, L., & Nair, P. P. (2019). Parkinson’s Disease: The Emerging Role of Gut Dysbiosis, Antibiotics, Probiotics, and Fecal Microbiota Transplantation. Journal of Neurogastroenterology and Motility, 25(3), 363–376.
  7. Zhou, B., Yuan, Y., Zhang, S., Guo, C., Li, X., Li, G., Xiong, W., & Zeng, Z. (2020). Intestinal Flora and Disease Mutually Shape the Regional Immune System in the Intestinal Tract. Frontiers in Immunology, 11, 1–14.
  8. Autoimmune disorders. (2021, November). Medline Plus. Retrieved January 4, 2022, from
  9. Manzel, A., Muller, D. N., Hafler, D. A., Erdman, S. E., Linker, R. A., & Kleinewietfeld, M. (2013). Role of “Western Diet” in Inflammatory Autoimmune Diseases. Current Allergy and Asthma Reports, 14(1).
  10. Garza, A. P. (2021, March 8). Drug-Induced Autoimmune Diseases. Pharmacy Times. Retrieved January 4, 2022, from
  11. Karl, J. P., Hatch, A. M., Arcidiacono, S. M., Pearce, S. C., Pantoja-Feliciano, I. G., Doherty, L. A., & Soares, J. W. (2018). Effects of Psychological, Environmental and Physical Stressors on the Gut Microbiota. Frontiers in Microbiology, 9.
  12. Locantore, P., Del Gatto, V., Gelli, S., Paragliola, R. M., & Pontecorvi, A. (2020). The Interplay between Immune System and Microbiota in Osteoporosis. Mediators of Inflammation, 2020, 1–8.
  13. Zhang Z. (2020). Predictive analytics in the era of big data: opportunities and challenges. Annals of translational medicine, 8(4), 68.
  14. Weiss, G. A., & Hennet, T. (2017). Mechanisms and consequences of intestinal dysbiosis. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, 74(16), 2959–2977.
  15. Xu, H., Liu, M., Cao, J., Li, X., Fan, D., Xia, Y., . . . Zhao, H. (2019). The Dynamic Interplay between the Gut Microbiota and Autoimmune Diseases. Journal of Immunology Research, 2019, 1-14. doi:10.1155/2019/7546047
  16. Van den Hoogen, W. J., Laman, J. D., &’ t Hart, B. A. (2017). Modulation of Multiple Sclerosis and Its Animal Model Experimental Autoimmune Encephalomyelitis by Food and Gut Microbiota. Frontiers in Immunology, 8, 1–24.
  17. Campos, M. (2019, October 24). Leaky gut: What is it, and what does it mean for you? Harvard Health Blog.
  18. Cordain, L., Eaton, S. B., Sebastian, A., Mann, N., Lindeberg, S., Watkins, B. A., O’Keefe, J. H., & Brand-Miller, J. (2005). Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 81(2), 341–354.
  19. Petta, I., Fraussen, J., Somers, V., & Kleinewietfeld, M. (2018). Interrelation of Diet, Gut Microbiome, and Autoantibody Production. Frontiers in Immunology, 9. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2018.00439
  20. Seck, E. H., Senghor, B., Merhej, V., Bachar, D., Cadoret, F., Robert, C., Azhar, E. I., Yasir, M., Bibi, F., Jiman-Fatani, A. A., Konate, D. S., Musso, D., Doumbo, O., Sokhna, C., Levasseur, A., Lagier, J. C., Khelaifia, S., Million, M., & Raoult, D. (2018). Salt in stools is associated with obesity, gut halophilic microbiota, and Akkermansia muciniphila depletion in humans. International Journal of Obesity, 43(4), 862–871.
  21. Roca-Saavedra, P., Mendez-Vilabrille, V., Miranda, J. M., Nebot, C., Cardelle-Cobas, A., Franco, C. M., & Cepeda, A. (2017). Food additives, contaminants, and other minor components: effects on human gut microbiota—a review. Journal of Physiology and Biochemistry, 74(1), 69–83.
  22. Food Additives & Petitions. (2020, January 13). U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
  23. Kaakoush, N. O., Lecomte, V., Maloney, C. A., & Morris, M. J. (2017). Cross-talk among metabolic parameters, esophageal microbiota, and host gene expression following chronic exposure to an obesogenic diet. Scientific Reports, 7(1), 1.
  24. Leeming, E. R., Johnson, A. J., Spector, T. D., & Le Roy, C. I. (2019). Effect of Diet on the Gut Microbiota: Rethinking Intervention Duration. Nutrients, 11(12), 2862.

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