There are four inflammatory foods you’ll want to avoid whether you want to prevent autoimmune diseases because you know it runs in your family, are newly diagnosed, or if you’ve been living with an autoimmune condition for a while.
Intestinal permeability is often referred to as leaky gut. More and more evidence suggests that leaky gut may be the precursor to autoimmune disease. It is believed to be caused by inflammation and the loosening of the junctions in the gut. Those critical junctions between cells are responsible for blocking the wrong molecules from entering the blood system. When the wrong molecules get through, it puts the immune system on high alert.
Immune System Response
Our immune system is the body automatically coming to the rescue when there is an injury or infection. It looks for anything that is not self. Once it identifies a non-self, it sends chemical messengers to kill off pathogens, clear out damaged tissue, and creates a healing environment. This causes inflammation. Inflammation is a normal response. It is a beneficial and efficient process when faced with an acute injury like a cut, broken bone, or a cold. However, if the non-self entity is introduced to the body repeatedly, the immune system can get worn down and inflammation becomes chronic and dysfunctional. It is kind of like a friendly-fire situation where the immune system attacks its own tissues. The cells in those tissues have a similar structure and look so similar to the non-entity that the body attacks itself. This is what is happening in an autoimmune condition.
Other factors that influence the inflammatory response includes: lack of sleep, poor gut health, excess weight, too little or excessive exercise, ongoing stress, toxins, pollutants, and medications. However, food plays a major role.
Typical western diets are very inflammatory. They are highly processed, artificial, loaded with sugar and unhealthy fats. These contribute to and continue the inflammatory cycle. To improve chronic inflammation there are few agreed upon foods to avoid. Most people with autoimmune conditions who avoid these foods find significant relief from their symptoms. Along with a healthy lifestyle and diet, avoiding these foods can help quiet down the inflammatory response and allow the gut lining to heal. Removing these foods shows a reduction in autoimmune flare-ups so there can be more good days than bad.
Four Foods You’ll Want to Avoid
Sugar is highly inflammatory. Although it doesn’t necessarily loosen the tight junctions in the gut, it can feed the bad bacteria. If the bad bacteria grow out of control other gut problems can arise. Sugar does however, contribute to the overall inflammatory and immune system burden on the body.
The amount of sugar most people consider normal is far more than it should be. Today it is estimated that the average American consumes about 168 pounds of sugar a year versus prior to the 1800s it was only four pounds per year.1 Today, we see high rates of diabetes, Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease, depression, autoimmune diseases and obesity compared to years ago when sugar consumption was a fraction of what it is today. Cutting back or completely removing sugar would do us all a world of good!
Plants protect themselves from the elements and insects with chemicals. These chemicals are inflammatory to humans when we eat them, can damage the gut lining and bind to important minerals, which then depletes important mineral stores. Lectins, phytic acid, zonulin are a few of those inflammatory chemicals that also loosen those tight junctions. They are found in wheat, barley, cereal grains and are found in cereals, breads, pasta, cookies, cakes, sauces, dressings, soups, added as thickening agents and so much more. Eating these items over time can increase intestinal permeability.2
More and more people are discovering they are lactose intolerant but some can also have reactions to the milk protein called casein. Studies showed that dairy can increase inflammation markers even more than eating high amounts of carbohydrates3. A dairy reaction can be subtle and people may just assume their allergies, acne or upset stomach are due to other things. One can get plenty of calcium from vegetables. It is a myth that says drinking milk is the only way to get enough to meet your daily requirements.
The FDA revoked soy’s status as a healthy food. These crops are genetically modified to withstand high dosages of the herbicide glyphosate. Glyphosate weakens the lining of the gut. It is also a legume containing lectins. Many people with autoimmune issues avoid legumes for this reason. Studies also indicate soy can cause thyroid-suppression4, hormone imbalances and even made Lupus worse in mice5! This once hearty-healthy food is certainly not considered gut healthy.
These four foods have been shown to contribute to inflammation. Preventing inflammation and leaky gut can help reduce autoimmune symptoms and may even help prevent them.
Take my free LEAKY GUT QUIZ to see how your health measures up!
On a personal note
I have personally omitted these foods from my diet. After being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, I wanted my body to have a chance to recover and prevent the disease from accelerating. I have found profound benefits to not eating these inflammatory foods. It is amazing how the body can respond by taking out the foods that cause inflammatory reactions. I didn’t realize how bad I felt, until I took those foods out and started feel better. As a health coach who has been there, I help clients who have decided to omit one or all of these foods adjust to transition and feel in control of their health again.
Schedule a free consultation to see how health coaching can help you make the changes you want to make. We all know the basics of healthy eating, exercise but often fail to keep up good habits. I can help you be more consistent and make healthy habits stick. I’d love to talk with you.