You might know that the foods we eat can make a big difference to our long term health. For better or worse. But, did you know that a healthy diet can reverse autoimmunity? If you have an autoimmune condition this might surprise you because generally, your doctor wouldn’t mention this. Yet, scientists found that food is an effective autoimmune disease natural treatment. In fact, the diet they tested, helped 73% of people with inflammatory bowel disease, in just six weeks.
What is inflammatory bowel disease?
The inflammatory bowel diseases are ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. In these diseases something triggers the immune sytem to attack the tissues of it’s own body. So, inflammatory bowel disease is an autoimmune condition affecting the gut.
Autoimmune conditions often run in families. So, some people have a greater risk of these diseases due to their genes. This does not necessarily mean that if someone in your family has an autoimmune condition you will also develop it. Rather, scientists are learning that while your genes may make you susceptible, other factors may be much more influential.
We have seen a huge increase in autoimmunity such as inflammatory bowel disease. So it is likely that environmental factors also play a role in whether a disease develops. These factors include diet, quality of sleep, toxin exposure, and so on.
A typical western diet, is:
- high in refined carbohydrates, omega-6 fats and saturated fats
- low in fibre, vitamins and other micronutrients
This type of diet has been associated with an increased risk of inflammatory bowel disease. Yet, with guidance people can often make changes that lead to incredible improvements in long term health.
Conventional medicine focuses on medications, suppressing the immune system to relieve symptoms. Yet, practitioners like myself have used elimination diets with success in autoimmune conditions. Unfortunately there are few studies on specific diets and disease progress to go on. However, this new research is helping to change that.
The autoimmune diet
Researchers asked people that had active inflammatory bowel disease to take part. On average, those enrolled had suffered with their disease for 19 years. They were all asked to continue with their medication during the trial.
The six week elimination phase
The study involved elimination of certain food groups or additives, known to cause problems. Such as anything that can trigger intestinal inflammation, dysbiosis or food intolerance. The elimination was done in stages over the six week period.
Participants were encouraged to follow a diet that excludes:
- nuts and seeds
- refined and processed sugars and oils
- food additives
Participants were encouraged to include:
- fresh, nutrient dense foods
- both broth
- fermented foods
The five week maintenance phase
Participants were asked to continue with the diet for five more weeks, without adding in any other foods.
The study participants received a lot of support. With guidance on shopping, food preparation and nutrition. Sleep, exercise and stress management were also part of the protocol they received.
The number of participants was small. Yet, those that completed the study had significant improvements. 73% of participants had remission of symptoms within the first six weeks. And, continued for those people through the maintenance phase of the study.
Researchers concluded that the study, though small, demonstrated the efficacy of dietary intervention. Eliminating potential trigger foods may improve symptoms and reduce gut inflammation. Providing a useful adjunct to conventional therapy. In fact, they say that for a subset of people, dietary and lifestyle modification alone may be enough.