Our body’s immune system protects us from infections and diseases. When the immune system begins attacking healthy cells and tissues in the body, this can trigger autoimmune diseases. These disorders tend to run in families and women, particularly prevalent in Hispanic-American, Native American and African-American people.
Treatment involves attempts in controlling the progression of the disease, as well as reducing the symptoms. Medications and supplements can be effective, while some choose to rely on changes in their nutritional intake. Paleo is one of the most controversial nutritional diets today, but many who suffer from autoimmune diseases strongly endorse this diet due to its effectiveness with their conditions’ reduced symptoms.
Autoimmune disorders occur when the immune system produces an abnormal response against substances that are normally present in the body. The immune system becomes incapable of differentiating healthy body tissues and antigens, which result in the destruction of normal body tissues. This is usually characterized by hypersensitivity reactions, almost identical to the response in allergic conditions.
The cause of the autoimmune disorders is still unknown, however, there is a theory stating that some microorganisms or drugs may trigger these changes, which can also affect one or multiple organs or tissues. Some of the most commonly affected areas of the body include joints, muscles, skin, blood vessels, red blood cells, nerves and connective tissues.
Examples of autoimmune disorders include:
- Multiple Sclerosis – is an autoimmune disorder that affects the central nervous system, including the spinal cord and brain.
- Addison’s Disease – is a disorder where the adrenal glands produce limited hormones, which are not sufficient for the body.
- Pernicious Anemia – is a blood disorder causing a decrease in red blood cell production because of the inability of the intestines to absorb vitamin B12.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis – is a long-term disease that affects the joints and surrounding tissues. It is usually characterized by inflammation and joint pain.
- Dermatomyositis – is a muscle disease that triggers inflammation, muscle weakness and purple-red skin rashes.
Paleo diet for Autoimmune Disorders
Making nutritional changes can help in treating autoimmune disorders. One of the most celebrated diets that has been found effective is the Paleo or primal diet. Paleo diet is based on eating the same diet consumed by our ancestors during the Paleolithic period. These include fish, grass-fed meats, eggs, vegetables, roots and nuts. Eating natural, unprocessed foods is the basic idea with the Paleo diet.
By making a few changes in the Paleo diet, a new diet plan emerges that focuses on treating autoimmune disorders. This diet plan is called Paleo Autoimmune protocol. This plan can be confusing due to numerous information and ideas coming from different sources; however, the main idea consists of following this food plan’s dietary recommendations and restrictions as rigorously as possible. For other people following the paleo diet, they may be able to enjoy eating non-Paleo food occasionally, but for those suffering with autoimmune diseases, the set diet plan should be strictly followed. Here are a few guidelines on Paleo food choices for those with autoimmune diseases:
- Vegetables – artichoke, arugula, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, cucumber, kale, leek, lettuce, mushroom, spinach and watercress
- Root crops – beet, carrot, onion, parsnip, turnip, radish, shallot and yam
- Fats – animal fat (grass-fed animals), lard, coconut oil, olive oil and palm oil
Meats – beef, bison, buffalo, lamb, fish, shellfish, chicken, duck, pork, rabbit and venison
- Fruits – apple, apricot, avocado, blackberry, blueberry, cantaloupe, coconut, date, guava, honeydew, kiwi, lemon, lime, mango, orange, plum, pear, pomegranate and strawberry
- Spices – cinnamon, garlic, ginger, saffron, sea salt and turmeric
- Herbs – basil, bay leaves, chamomile, lavender, chives, cilantro, dill, tarragon, lemongrass, sage, mint, parsley, rosemary and thyme
- Pantry items – apple-cider vinegar, anchovies, coconut flour, dried fruit, olives, sardines and tuna
Foods to Avoid
- Grains – barley, corn, buckwheat, millet, wheat, oats, rice, quinoa, spelt and teff
- Beans and Legumes – black beans, chick peas, lentils, lima beans, peanuts, kidney beans and soybeans
- Seeds – anise, canola, chia, fennel seed, coriander, cumin, mustard, nutmeg, sesame, pumpkin and sunflower
- Eggs – chicken, duck and goose
- Nightshades – cayenne, eggplant, goji berry, habanero, jalapeno, paprika, potato, tomato and wolfberries
- Nuts – almond, coffee, cocoa, hazelnut, pecan, macadamia and walnut
- Dairy – butter, cheese, cream, milk, yogurt and cream cheese
- Alcohol – all kinds
- Processed foods – cookies, pretzels, protein bars, energy drinks and sweetened sodas
David Novak is a syndicated columnist, appearing in newspapers, magazines, radio and TV. David is a specialist at health, wellness, exercise and diet, and he is a regular contributing editor for Healthline.