Autoimmune diseases are one of the leading causes of suffering in the world, and they have practically become an epidemic. But these are the best nutrients that everyone with these types of diseases should be considering. These are the reasons.
To put the pervasive nature of this huge health problem into perspective, in the US alone, there are now twice as many people with autoimmune diseases as there are heart disease, according to the American Association for Autoimmune Diseases.
The good news is that there is a lot you can do to take control of your health. Research suggests that genetics account for only about a third of autoimmune disease factors.
Environmental triggers, diet, and lifestyle are probably primarily responsible for triggering and / or worsening autoimmune disease.
This is good news for sufferers because it means that they can help themselves to be in control of their health by dampening inflammatory attacks and even sending the dreaded autoimmune response into remission.
As Hippocrates, the father of medicine, once said: "Let food be your medicine, and medicine your food." When there is a lack of nutrients in the food you eat, the genetic switch for autoimmunity can be activated, but that works both ways.
Top 5 Nutrients for Autoimmune Disease
Filling our bodies with the nutrients it needs could turn off this switch.
Here are some of the top and best nutrients and dietary medications recommended for people suffering from autoimmune diseases:
1. Vitamin A to calm the immune system
Vitamin A is essential for a strong immune system, and vitamin A deficiency has been associated with autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. As you can see, this is one of the best nutrients that should not be lacking in your diet if you suffer from autoimmunity.
Researchers suspect that the reason has to do with our dendritic cells, which send a "red alert" at the sign of a suspected invader, to stimulate immunity, or a "calm" message that attenuates excessive and harmful immune reactivity. The "calm" message needs vitamin A.
Food Medicine - The true vitamin A, called retinol, is only found in animal products such as fish, shellfish, fermented cod liver oil, liver, and fat from grass-fed cows.
Vegetable carotenes, precursors to vitamin A, are found in sweet potatoes and carrots, but the conversion rate to usable retinol is very low. In fact, research suggests that in healthy adults, only 3% of beta-carotene is converted.
2. Vitamin D for better immune function and less inflammation
Known as the 'sunshine vitamin', this nutrient is essential for many metabolic and immune functions in the body, but specifically, vitamin D works in conjunction with vitamin A and has been shown to synergistically dampen the inflammatory response of Th17 cells which are T cells that produce a series of inflammatory chemicals, such as interleukin-17.
With autoimmune conditions like inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, and rheumatoid arthritis, Th17 cells go haywire, but vitamin D can help quell this inappropriate response.
Food medicine: As with vitamin A, vitamin D is more abundant in animal fats and dairy, but the best way to obtain it is by taking a little sun, about 20 to 60 minutes a day, depending on your complexion.
Consider getting tested every few months to make sure your vitamin D levels are within a healthy range.
3. Vitamin K2 one of the best nutrients for brain and spinal cord healing
A study in the Journal of Neuroimmunology found that vitamin K2 was effective in inhibiting pro-inflammatory iNOS (nitric oxide) in the spinal cord and brain immune system in rats that had multiple sclerosis symptoms.
This suggests that it could have the same effect in humans, but unfortunately, K2 deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the Western diet.
Fortunately, you can fix this with the correct "food medicine".
Food Medicine: Vitamin K2 is best combined with other fat-soluble vitamins, A and D, in the form of whole foods such as free-range animal butter or organ meat.
4. Iron to replenish deficits
Iron deficiency anemia (IDA) is linked to many autoimmune diseases, but how much of this is a cause and how much is an effect is unclear. One likely reason is that ferritin (stored iron) is absorbed primarily from the intestines.
When absorption is compromised by inflammation and autoimmunity, iron stores can fall too low, and as you already know, damage to the intestinal lining and leaky gut syndrome are considered (in functional medicine) as preconditions for autoimmunity.
Food medicine: Once the gut heals, iron-rich foods like grass-fed beef, liver, and spinach can be effective, as can cooking with cast-iron cookware.
5. Micronutrients to calm inflammation and promote optimal function
Micronutrient deficiencies, especially selenium, magnesium, and zinc, are associated with several autoimmune diseases. This is likely primarily due to chronic inflammation, which decreases the absorption of these vital nutrients.
However, these micronutrients are necessary for healthy thyroid hormone production and conversion, and thyroid problems like Hashimoto's disease are some of the more common autoimmune conditions that affect them.
Supplementation with these micronutrients can help return thyroid problems to normal as you work on healing the gut and decreasing inflammation to increase micronutrient absorption.
Food Medicine: A variety of nuts and seeds such as Brazil nuts, as well as oysters, are good sources of these nutrients.
What else can you do along with acquiring the best nutrients
If you're having trouble with the symptoms of an autoimmune disease, what else can you do besides increase your nutrient intake? Here are some specific steps to consider:
1. Monitor your nutrient levels
A good start is to do blood tests to check how your nutrient levels are. This can help you orient your diet and any supplementation where you need it.
2. Control your nutrient absorption problems
You may be eating all the right foods, but that won't help you if you aren't absorbing their nutrients.
It's best to get thorough testing to address any potential inflammatory microbiome issues, such as leaky gut syndrome, that may be preventing optimal nutrient absorption.
Try that first so that food medicine can help you.
3. Avoid your trigger foods
Autoimmunity can cause an immune response from virtually any food. For example, nuts can be a great source of micronutrients in theory, but your body may not agree with them in particular.
Knowing what your body reacts to will help you personalize your diet. Ask your doctor about tests to observe the reactivity of foods, so that you can discover which foods to avoid as you recover.
4. Lead an anti-inflammatory lifestyle
There are many natural tools you can use to help dampen inflammatory immune responses, such as avoiding gluten, getting enough sleep, and managing stress.
5. Consider an evaluation for functional medicine
Functional medicine can help you discover and implement sustainable strategies for a good recovery.
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