Diet diary: Manage autoimmune disorder with diet

Research suggests environmental triggers, diet and lifestyle play a crucial role in autoimmune problems.

Autoimmune disorders have become one of the leading causes of suffering. Some common auto-immune disorders include Hashimoto’s thyroid disorder, one of the fastest-growing autoimmune diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, alopecia (hair loss), arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, autoimmune liver and kidney disease, skin conditions like psoriasis and lichen planus and Type 1 Diabetes.

Billions of dollars are being spent on research and in managing people with autoimmune problems. Research suggests that genetics account for only about one-third of autoimmune disorders and environmental triggers, diet, and lifestyle play a significant role.
Among the recent findings is the role of gut microbiome, food sensitivities and inflammation in development of autoimmune disorders.
When there is a lowering of nutrients or deficiencies in diet or malnutrition due to malabsorption by the gut, the genetic switch for autoimmunity could be triggered. This means that individuals with autoimmune diseases can manage their health by working on their gut flora along with achieving optimum nutrients with an anti-inflammatory diet. According to some studies, this approach may help keep the disease in remission.

Some key nutrients that can be beneficial in addressing autoimmune conditions are Vitamin A, D, K, B, magnesium, selenium, zinc, iron and essential fats

* Vitamin A is important for calming the immune system and its deficiency has been linked to rheumatoid arthritis and type 1 diabetes. It is found in eggs, fish, shellfish, cod liver oil, liver, butter and ghee.

* Vitamin D is beneficial for lowering inflammation and enhancing immune system and can be beneficial in autoimmune conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis. It is found abundantly in animal and dairy fats, but the best way to get it is by spending time in the sun.

* Iron deficiency anemia (IDA) is linked to many autoimmune diseases. One likely reason is that ferritin (stored iron) is mostly absorbed in the intestines. When absorption is compromised by inflammation, damage to the gut lining and leaky gut syndrome, iron stores may fall. Iron levels can be restored by consumption of leafy vegetables, beetroot, carrot juice, black gram and watermelon.

* Micronutrients too help combat inflammation and manage autoimmunity

Other micronutrient deficiencies like selenium, magnesium, zinc and essential fatty acids (omega-3) are associated with autoimmune diseases. Optimum levels of micronutrients can help in healing the gut and decreasing inflammation. It is best to work with a qualified medical practitioner to address these issues.

(Author is a clinical nutritionist and founder of and Whole Foods India)

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