The interaction between nutrition and the immune system has led to increased interest in the impact of different foods, on their ability to promote either health or illness.
Inflammation and Autoimmunity
Inflammation is the immune system’s response to harmful stimuli such as a physical injury, allergy, infection, or other cause. Fatty acids are released from cell membranes when the immune system is triggered. They serve as substrates for signaling molecules that determine how the body responds to these insults by initiating and eventually resolving the inflammatory process.
The term ‘autoimmunity’ refers to a harmful immune response. The immune system helps us fight off dangerous invaders such as viruses and bacteria in most cases. However, when the body mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissues, this is known as
autoimmunity or an autoimmune disease.
While factors that may increase inflammation, such as age and hereditary, are out of control, physical activity, dietary choices, and chemical exposures are within our control. Because inflammation can be at the root cause of many diseases, ranging from cardiovascular to neurological to metabolic, it’s essential to downregulate the inflammatory response when we can. Foods are linked to autoimmune conditions because nearly 75% of our immune system resides in the lining of our gut. Some have theorized that the interaction between the gut and the immune system can result in either a healthy inflammatory response or chronic low-grade inflammation.
Study – A 2018 study looked into the immunological outcomes of healthy elderly subjects when following a Mediterranean-style diet rich in omega-3 from vegetables and fish. The study records the effects of this particular dietary pattern on chronic low-grade
inflammation and the decline in immune function commonly associated with aging. After one year of a tailored intervention, researchers observed the modification in a variety of immune function parameters leading them to suggest that these dietary changes later in life “could improve aspects of innate immunity, and thus it could aid the design of strategies to counteract age-associated disturbances.”
– Heavy metals
– Smoldering infections
– Antioxidant depletion
– Pesticides, plastics, food allergies, or vitamin D deficiency
– Imbalance of gut bacteria
Foods and dietary components can include gluten, sugar, dairy, eggs, and nightshade vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, white potatoes, paprika, salsa, chili peppers, cayenne, chili powder, and goji berries. It’s no surprise that foods are linked to autoimmune conditions because nearly 75% of our immune system resides in the lining of our gut.
Trigger foods often damage without causing obvious digestive distress or immediate symptoms, making them stealthy triggers. The biggest culprits are often the foods we eat regularly.
Decades of research conclude that supplementation with antioxidants may improve a range of immune responses. Antioxidants are naturally found in plant foods such as fruits and vegetables. However, the standard Western does not supply adequate amounts of these nutrient-dense foods.
Some antioxidants associated with immune support include vitamins A and E, and minerals such as selenium.
- Vitamin C is one of the key water-soluble antioxidants in the body. Research shows that vitamin C supports numerous aspects of both innate and acquired immunity.
- As a lipid-soluble antioxidant, vitamin E protects the cells from lipid peroxidation, including those of the immune
system. Immune cells are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids, which increases the risk for oxidative damage.
- Selenium deficiency is linked to impaired innate and acquired immunity and appears to increase susceptibility and progression of viral infections.
Following an anti-inflammatory diet may help reduce body-wide inflammation. While there is no specific diet for people experiencing autoimmunity, there are well-studied foods that can either trigger or inhibit inflammation. Immunity triggers the inflammatory response to help the body stop the spread of harmful pathogens. This occurs in autoimmunity as well. However, because healthy tissue is being ‘attacked,’ chronic inflammation results.
Most of the foods recommended to eat and avoid is being associated with the Mediterranean diet.
Foods to reduce inflammation
- Fish, such as salmon, tuna, sardines, anchovies, and other cold-water fish, are rich in inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammatory proteins in your body. Aim for at least 3 to 4 ounces, twice a week.
- Look for colorful fruits and veggies such as blueberries, blackberries, cherries, strawberries, spinach, kale, and broccoli to add to every meal.
- Walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios, and almonds are full of inflammation-fighting monounsaturated fat, protein, and filling fiber. A handful a day will go a long way!
- Beans are an excellent source of several antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds. They’re a low-cost source of fiber, protein, folic acid, and minerals such as magnesium, iron, zinc, and potassium. Your goal should be at least one cup twice a week.
- Nightshade vegetables—eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes—are central to Mediterranean cuisine. Note: if you know this is a trigger for your autoimmune, they are best avoided
- Among the many herbs and spices used to foster gut health is oregano. Most known for its aromatic use in culinary dishes, oregano also has a history of medicinal application. Many culinary herbs used for flavoring are essential
micronutrients, which benefit overall health.
Foods to avoid
Foods on the do not eat list include processed snacks and meals. These items are typically made with unhealthy fats and added sugars, both of which can trigger inflammation.
A detox diet can help
Some signs that you can benefit from a detox include:
– Feeling tired all the time, blue, or low moods
– Brain fog or finding it hard to focus
– Sore joints and muscles
– Having trouble sleeping
– Cravings for unhealthy carbs or sugar
– Bloating or digestive issues
– Impaired Immune system
The good news is that a detox diet that avoids processed foods and environmental toxins will go a long way to detoxifying the human body. The first step is reducing your toxic load. Nutritional status plays a significant role in how well we detoxify, so assessing
functional nutrient deficiencies is a good idea. In particular, the following compounds are critical to aid the body’s detoxification pathways: vitamin E, selenium, glutathione, glycine, and vitamin C.
Contact our office or schedule online to discuss how we can help with detoxification and nutrition planning.