For the last few weeks I have been looking into autoimmune conditions as they are more and more common and unfortunatley more and more complex. The most known to everyone are allergies and intolerances , however other common conditions are type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis , MS . -Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus , IBD (Irritable Bowel Disease – Crohn’s disease , ulcerative colitis, Hashimoto thyroiditis and celiac disease.
Some of them do have genetic predispositions (like type 1 diabetes) but overall causes why they apear are not known. All of them need diagnosis and some medical interventions. Diagnosis is quite often complex and takes a long time, sometimes years leaving patients in great discomfort.
Quite often patients are put on long -term medications which they need to take till the end of their life. Unfortunately, many medications have side-effects and also they do not guarantee life free from further flare ups.
Looking at various research as well as Harvard Health document on inflammation, there is one common cause in a lot of autoimmune conditions which is a low-grade chronic body inflammation caused by different factors but predominantly by the lifestyle – stress, diet, lack of regular exercise, poor quality sleep. Without a doubt diet plays a great role but diet alone is not the only answer and one needs to look holistically at all vital elements of a healthy lifestyle as mentioned above.
Early Symptoms of autoimmune disease
It would be fantastic if I could write about the symptoms of inflammation in our body but this is almost impossible as it is difficutl to detect without professional equipment such as thermal body scanning.
Quite often the symptoms are quite common for many other different illnesses and therefore difficult to dignose with 100% certainity. e.g. celiac disease which is complete gluten intolerance can take a lot of time to diagnose and one has to actually eat a lot of gluten products before the tests.
Low-grade inflammation can start in our younger years but our body can cope well and only when we get older it may appear as an autoimmune condition. There exceptions in terms of the first symptoms like with rheumatoid arthritis which can appear as early as in our 30ies.
Quite often the low-grade chronic inflammation can lead to autoimmune conditions. Autoimmune conditions are among top ten cuases of death in women.
In autoimmune condition, body has either an abnormally low immune response to pathogens, or when the body’s immune system fails to distinguish the difference between pathogens and healthy body tissues. We need so some level of inflammation to fight of viruses and bacterias but once they are gone , the inflammation should go as well but sometimes it does not happen. Research indicates that in many case this happens due to compromised immune system.
The number of factors contribute to conditions including genetics, toxins from heavy metals, candida, nerve damage due to excessive exposure to neuortoxins and chronic inflammation related to food sensitivities particularly gluten intolerance.
Some of the symptoms of autoimmune conditions
Some of the symptoms can include the following: joint and/or muscle pain, weakness, tremors, weight loss, insomnia, heat intoleance, glandular imbalances such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, fatigue, hair loss, diarrhea, mouth ulcers, dry eyes/mouth /skin.
There are not known medical cures for autoimmune conditions so treatment focuses on using medications to surpress the immune response, leaving the individual vulnarable to sickness and disease and to manage symptoms
How to manage the autoimmune condition naturally and how to decrease level of inflammation to avoid it
There has been some research done showing that changes to lifestyle and diet can have positive effects to manage the symptoms , avoid flare ups and reduce medications. Reducing inflammation in our body even if we do not have an autoimmune condition should also be a priority to avoid any problems in the future.
It is not surprising as 80% of the immune system is directly connected to gut health so what we eat and drink, how we sleep and how we manage stress has tremendous impact on putting our body out of homeostasis (out of balance).
I will list only few possible recommendations which can bring good effects in studies done so far .
- Switch to whole foods plant-based diet. It has been shown in research (nutritionfacts.org) that high total intake of animal protein can adversly impact the gut due to sulfur containing aminoacids which bacteria in our gut turn into toxic, for colon, hydrogen sulfide. This in turn increseas the risk of IBD – Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. IBD diseases where not even known a century ago so what has changed so drastically that now many people suffer from IBD? The answer could be, the over consumption of animal protein. Whole foods (not processed) contain thousands of unique phytochemicals which will never be present in processed food or synthetic drugs.
Beneficial food groups to support imune system:
Zinc –This valuable mineral increases the production of white blood cells that fight infection and helps them fight more aggressively. It also increases killer cells that fight against cancer and helps white cells release more antibodies. Eat pumpkin seeds, seasame seeds, green peas
Vitamin C – increases the production of infection-fighting white blood cells and antibodies. Eat all the berries, peas , oranges broccoli, curly kale
Vitamin E – stimulates the production of natural killer cells, those that seek out and destroy germs and cancer cells. Eat avocado, almonds, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts
Eat food ich in beta-carotene: sweet potatoe, broccoli, kale ,spring greens, carrots, peppers
2. Daily intake of curcumin (from turmeric). Turmeric has amazing anti-inflammatory properties so should be part of the healthy diet every day. Add turmeric to your food whenever you can. Some research shows that liquid turmeric increases the chances of better absorption by the body.
3. Beetroot juice – beetroots have all round amazing health benefits especially for lowering blood pressure and for heart conditions. They contain the betalain (what gives them red pigmentation) which has an ability to interfere with the inflammatory signaling process and it is so good that it can rival the benefits of synthetic drugs. I know that not everyone is keen on earthy taste of beetroots – the tip is to add some lemon juice either to salad, hummous or juice.
4. Eliminate sugars , processed food (all white products such as pasta and rice also), reduce caffeine and alcohol – this is a standard selection of most common foods and drinks which cause inflammation in the body so I will just leave it here.
5. Learn and use essential oils – oils have some of the best natural compounds free from pesticides and readily bioavailable. Quality oils are absorbed by the body quickly and when used regularly help the body to function at the optimum level. The best oils for managing autoimmune conditions are: lemongrass – stimulates nerves and supports digestion; juniper berry – antioxidant and supports digestion, copaiba – anti-inflammatory anti-infectious, pain reliever, ginger – invigorates nerves and cleanses, clary sage invigorates nerves and supports endocrine system, turmeric – antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
6. Look after your gut health – this is the key and making sure your microbiome is in order has never been more important. Eat food rich in probiotics or take supplements, however without prebiotics (whole foods) the good gut bacteria will have nothing to thrive on. to chekc the state of your gut health it may be necessary to work with Nutritionist or Functional Medicine Practitioner. I recommend gut healing broth – super nutritious soup which you can use in other recipes as well.
Aside of food the emotional side of our health is also a key. Many people notice that their autoimmune condition goes worse when they have a lot of stress or life events outside of their control. We can’t live without stress , however we need to learn for it not to consume us. Meditation, journalling and general self-care activities prove to be very effective when done consistently.
Bulding healthy habits for better life is something I advocate a lot. It may not always be easy and we all need accountability to work on ourselves, learn habits so that we can have optimum health as long as we can. Without health it is difficult to enjoy the life so do not put it on hold or to do the other day. Inflammation can lead not only to autoimmune conditions but can be an underlying cause of other serious diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, asthma or even Alzheimer’s.
I have a specialist auto-immune protocol which I provide on 1:1 basis as it is very specific to an individual and can work along your primary care providers so that you can manage your condition better and enjoy life more.
Book 1hr consultation with me to understand the Program and how we can work together.
Recipe for immune boosting soup
Mushroom and Cannellini Bean Soup
delicious soup. The fibre ensures the soup feels nourishing and filling without the
need for further carbohydrate such as bread.
- 20 g dried mushrooms
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 large red onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 tbsp fresh thyme
- 100 g fresh Shitake mushrooms, sliced
- 300 g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
- 700 ml vegetable stock
- 400 g can cannellini beans, drained
- seasoning to taste
- 1 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
- 1 dsp Extra virgin olive oil
- a few drops of truffle oil
- fresh thyme leaves
1. Soak the dried mushrooms in 150ml of warm water for at least 45
minutes. Drain the dried mushrooms reserving the liquid.
2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan on a medium heat. Sauté the red
onion for five minutes. Add the garlic and thyme. Cook for one
minute, then add the sliced fresh mushrooms.
3. Cook the mushrooms until they are starting to turn golden. Add the
drained (rehydrated) mushrooms and gently cook for a further seven
4. Add the stock and the reserved, strained mushroom liquid (be careful
not to add any granular bits, sometimes dried mushrooms leave when
they are refreshed in water). Simmer gently for 10 minutes.
5. Add the drained cannellini beans and season to taste (be careful with
salt if you are using a stock cube and not fresh stock as this will often
have added salt). Cook for 10 minutes, partially covered.
6. Blend the soup until smooth. Check the seasoning. Return to the
saucepan and simmer until ready to serve.
7. Toast the pine kernels in a dry frying pan until golden. Garnish the soup with the pine nuts and a drizzle of olive oil (or truffle oil as a treat). Recipe by Heather Cuthbert and adapted for Vegan Natural Chef
nutritionfacts.org – a library of various evidence based videos and blogs by dr Greger.
College of Naturopathic Medicine – my nutritional Chef course materials
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I am a Health Coach and Plant-Based Chef. I work with people who are fed up with dieting and I help them to build healthy habits so that they do not have to diet ever again.
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