In the 1950s the concept of autoimmunity was unknown and doctors were dealing with diseases like systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis without knowing the nature of the diseases. It became more perplexing because these diseases affect not only one particular organ or system, but involve multiple different systems. It is not until later years when studies have shown evidence of antibodies attacking a person’s own tissues were the cause of the aforementioned maladies.
An autoimmune disease is a condition in which the body’s own immune system attacks its own body. In normal circumstances, our own immune system, specifically the antibodies, senses foreign invaders, namely the viruses and bacteria and sends signals to recruit an army of white blood cells to fight the invaders and elicit an inflammatory response. They are highly efficient in differentiating foreign invaders and cells of our own body. However, due to errors in the development of the system, the cells do not acquire the capacity to differentiate the body’s own cells. This results in some diseases having multisystemic manifestation that can practically involve any organ, the joints, the kidneys, the lungs, the brain and the heart. While some others like diabetes mellitus affect only the pancreas.
Some of the more common autoimmune diseases are, diabetes mellitus, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, Grave’s disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, inflammatory bowel disease and multiple sclerosis. There are a few proposed theories for the development and aggravation of the autoimmune disease. And among them are attributed to foods. Hence we shall discuss what is autoimmune diet or more recently known as AIP, autoimmune protocol diet. The aim of this diet is to reduce the incidence and intensity of inflammation in the body. This idea has surfaced due to some known diets like a typical Western diet which is high in fat, processed sugar and salt, is linked to inflammation and can trigger an unwanted immune response.
The basics of an autoimmune diet are mostly avoiding foods believed to trigger inflammation, ergo, resetting your body’s immune system, putting your autoimmune condition into remission whilst supplying the body with nutrient-rich foods.
What you have to do, is to follow the strict eating plan for a couple of weeks, and then you can slowly add the foods not included in the diet. It takes time to add new foods, they should ideally be added over a period of time, and if there is a noticeable reaction to it, take it out of your diet and note down the foods that are triggering your immune response.
These are a list of foods you should avoid in an autoimmune diet:
Legumes (beans, soy, peanuts, hummus, etc.)
Dairy products (including raw products)
Nuts and Seeds, (and this too includes coffee and chocolate), and some spices (coriander and cumin)
Some vegetables (tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, potatoes)
Emulsifiers and food thickeners
Foods that you can and are encouraged to eat more are meat and vegetables other than the ones mentioned above:
Coconut products, including coconut oil
Variety of vinegar, so long as they have no added sugar
Small portions of honey or maple syrup
Looking at the list, it may seem that the autoimmune diet is very restrictive and quite frankly, difficult to adhere to, especially if it had been your diet all this while. Alternatively, it is possible that you can try adapting to the diet by eliminating some of the foods and can still experience beneficial results. However, it is essential that you avoid a diet with high fat, sugar and cholesterol.
To end, you may find the benefits of the autoimmune diet outweigh the burden of all its restrictions. The focus of the diet is to promote healthy eating so on a positive note, your body will react positively to the change and further motivate you to eat more healthily over time.