Part 2: Nutritional Stop and Starts for Autoimmunity (and related conditions like PCOS)
What to Avoid Eating With Autoimmunity + What to Focus On (Stops and Starts Part 2)
Part 1 of "Stops and Starts for Autoimmunity" addresses the starting place for autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto's, Graves, RA, and so on, which can be found here. While this does focus on autoimmune situation, please note that it can also apply to PCOS and endometriosis, but it will not be entirely comprehensive if you have SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).
In this part 2 of 3 series, I will be addressing what can be done in terms of food choices if autoimmunity is present. These recommendations are based upon research, 1:1 work with clients over the years, and my healing journey from recovering from autoimmunity. While there is always room for custom adjustments (i.e., lowering histamine-rich foods if estrogen and histamine are high, which is often found in autoimmune patients), this list serves as a great outline for things that should be "stopped" and "started" for most individuals.
For Autoimmunity, I Suggest Avoiding:
Gluten - while not everyone absolutely needs to ditch gluten, it will help most with autoimmunity if they significantly reduce gluten intake. Gluten can trigger autoimmune activity, so avoiding or limiting gluten is highly advised. Nutritionally speaking, I am much more of a fan of root veggies vs. grains as a primary carbohydrate source, so you will not find many if any recipes on Worthy Womanhood. If anything, sourdough might be mentioned, which can be ok in moderation for those who have no autoimmunity or who have gone into remission.
Excess grains - kind of like the gluten situation, grains can be damaging to the gut, and most people with autoimmunity will not respond well to grains. Soaked/sprouted white rice is typically a good option for even those who have autoimmunity, but many grains (rice, corn, barley, etc.) are not a good choice if you are currently struggling. Once again, root vegetables will typically be a better option. Grains are also often high in mycotoxins, which can be very triggering for those who have autoimmunity, as those who have autoimmunity are typically either dealing with high levels of mold, or are mold sensitive.
Excess nuts - nuts are high in mycotoxins (the off-gasses of mold)and phytic acid (and some are high in oxalates), compounds that can be a roadblock for those with autoimmunity.
Excess legumes - though technically nutrient-dense, legumes (beans, lentils, etc.) contain a high level of anti-nutrients, which can burden those with autoimmunity. While some individuals might respond well to legumes while dealing with autoimmunity, the majority will not.
Most raw vegetables - many who struggle with autoimmunity also deal with low enzyme production, low stomach acid, and slow metabolism that is not "asking" for excess cold, raw foods. By eating cooked vegetables (tip: cook them in grass-fed butter for fat-soluble vitamins), you will experience more benefits from the compounds in the veggies vs. eating them alone. While vegetables are beneficial, excess vegetables and raw vegetables will often potentially worsen autoimmune symptoms. For some of my autoimmune clients, a successful day of eating (in regards to vegetables) looks like: a handful of organic spinach sauteed in butter, cooked yams with coconut oil, roasted beets with a drizzle of olive oil, and a lightly cooked carrot on the side with dinner.
Side note: I always suggest avoiding vegetable oil and additives. For a comprehensive overview, please click here.
For Improving Autoimmunity, I Suggest Focusing On:
Tropical fruit - tropical fruits are rich in vitamin whole food, vitamin C, minerals, and enzymes. While sugar has been demonized for so long (and maybe you have been told to quit the sugar), the truth is that every cell in our bodies needs sugar. In my practice, I see a need for adjustments and modifications all the time (as in someone has food allergies, currently cannot properly break down histamine, etc., so they might need adjustments), but all in all, most people with autoimmunity will respond will to tropical fruit. Some of my favorites include kiwi, mango, and pineapple (the juice is best if you get sores from eating pineapple. Be sure to have it with protein!)
Organ meats might sound strange, but organ meats are nutrient-dense and so potent for healing. Add ground beef liver and heart into your ground beef as a beginner's way of gaining the full effects of the whole animal. Muscle meat is good, but organ meat + muscle meat is a powerful combination.
Raw dairy (in moderation) - although you might have heard that dairy is inflammatory, it can be healing in its raw form for those with autoimmunity. It's a bold decision that has to be made at your own risk due to the unpasteurized nature of the dairy, but in moderation, raw cream, raw milk, raw yogurt, and raw butter can bring a lot of relief to those suffering from autoimmunity.
Root vegetables - root vegetables and autoimmunity are like a match made in heaven. There genuinely aren't any compounds in root veggies that will be upsetting. Although no food is perfect, root veggies do fulfill two purposes.
Herbs and spices - turmeric, nutmeg, paprika, dill, parsley, cinnamon, ginger, and so on - these are just a few of the spices that can be so healing while being an easy addition. Instead of spending hundreds trying to build a spice collection in one day, start with a few (3-5) of your favorites, and aim to be intentional to add them into your meals/snacks and drinks. This is just one simple way to help food be medicine.
Next week, I will be going over which supplement mistakes to look out for if autoimmunity is present (or if you have a condition that can lead to autoimmunity, like PCOS or endometriosis). For now, try to take part 1 + these nutrition tips above to heart.