6 Best Foods to Eat if You Have an Autoimmune Disease
The food you eat plays a HUGE role in the development of chronic illness. Food can also be used to halt or reverse disease progression. Food is your primary source for the nutrients needed to achieve optimal health. Unfortunately, nutrient deficiencies are one of the main underlying causes of autoimmune disease and its progression. If you are on the autoimmune spectrum, you’re more likely to be deficient in nutrients such as vitamin D and B12, both of which are crucial for immune function. With simple changes to your diet, and the use of these best foods for autoimmune disease, you can find relief from conditions including lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Hashimoto’s.
In working with thousands of autoimmune patients I found that ensuring optimal nutrition is the #1 way to reverse chronic conditions and get relief. In this article, I’ll cover how to prevent nutrient deficiencies linked to autoimmune disease with the best food sources of essential vitamins and minerals. Eating these foods can improve your overall health and give you more energy. Including them may even help you feel better in your body every day.
1. Grass-fed Lamb
Getting enough high-quality animal protein is essential to build and repair tissues, make hormones, and support healthy muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood.1 It’s why I recommend eating meat to anyone with an autoimmune or thyroid condition. Animal protein contains the essential amino acids that are the building blocks for immune function and thyroid hormones. Unfortunately, these amino acids can be difficult to get from other sources.
Vitamin D stimulates your T cells and teaches your immune system not to attack your body’s own cells. The “sunshine vitamin” also helps fight off viral and bacterial infections, which can trigger or make autoimmune conditions worse.
Medical experts dispute how much vitamin D you need each day to maintain optimal health. Studies show that 25-100 micrograms or 1000-4000 IU is required per day. However, the RDA is a mere 10-20 micrograms, or 400-800 IU daily.
Lamb is also a good source of the following essential nutrients:
- Amino acids (such as L-Tyrosine and L-Glutamine)
- Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)
- Alpha Linoleic Acid (ALA)
2. Wild-caught Fatty Fish
Fatty fish are a major source of Omega-3s. Omega-3s enhance B-cell activation and antibody production, which can reduce inflammatory responses and help your immune system fight off pathogens.5
The Omega-3 content of fish varies widely. Cold-water fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines contain high levels of Omega-3s. Fish such as tilapia, cod, and bass, as well as shellfish, contain less.6 To get the daily recommendation of Omega-3 fatty acids, you would only need to eat about 5 ounces of salmon, yet 2 pounds of lobster!
Wild-caught fish and farmed fish also have different properties to consider when choosing the best food source of Omega-3s. The quality of farmed fish depends on the type of fish pellets they use. Farmers often feed young salmon pellets made from plant and animal sources. Then they add more fish-oil-enriched pellets later in life to fatten them up. This means they spend more time eating a lower quality diet and provide you with fewer nutrients. Wild-caught salmon eat a natural, healthy diet of insects, plankton, and other fish their entire lives. This keeps them lean and packed with antioxidants, including free-radical scavenging astaxanthin.7 Not only can you see the effects of this natural diet in the brilliant red color of wild-caught salmon, you can taste it, too!
Avocados are incredibly nutritious and delicious. They’re full of good fat, fiber, vitamin E, copper, and potassium. Furthermore, they are beneficial for your immune system because they are so high in B vitamins. A variety of B-vitamins is helpful for an overall boost in immune function.8
One-third of a medium avocado provides a wide range of B-vitamins, including:
- 4% of the RDA of thiamin (B1)
- 8% of the RDA of riboflavin (B2)
- 6% of the RDA of niacin (B3)
- 15% of the RDA of pantothenic acid (B5)
- 6% of the RDA of pyridoxine (B6)
- 10% of the RDA of folate9
I often carry an avocado in my purse when I travel. That way I can enjoy an autoimmune-friendly snack that comes in its own handy package!
Garlic is a prebiotic, so it feeds good bacteria in your gut. This can be helpful if you’re suffering from an autoimmune disease because your gut and your immune system link together.10,11 Friendly gut bacteria bolsters your immune system, and keeps bad bacteria and yeast in check.
Garlic also contains selenium, which helps regulate excessive immune responses and chronic inflammation in people with autoimmune diseases.12 Additionally, selenium is a vital mineral for supporting your thyroid. Studies have shown that people with Hashimoto’s who increase their selenium intake can decrease thyroid antibodies by almost 64%!13 To ensure optimal selenium levels, add garlic, grass-fed beef and poultry, and fatty fish such as salmon to your diet.14
5. Grass-fed Beef
One of the most important nutrients in preventing or reversing autoimmune conditions is zinc. Zinc supports your immune system in many ways, including regulating your lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) and protecting you against pathogens.
While following The Myers Way®, zinc can be hard to come by, especially if you are not already taking a daily multivitamin. That’s because zinc is primarily found in foods such as whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds—all of which can cause immune flare-ups. One of the best autoimmune-friendly sources of zinc is grass-fed beef. A single serving of beef contains roughly half of your daily requirements for zinc.
I recommend organic, grass-fed beef over conventionally raised meat. Conventional livestock is exposed to GMOs, added hormones, and antibiotics. Plus, studies show that animals raised on a healthy, natural diet of fresh grass are higher in vital nutrients, including anti-inflammatory Omega-3s.15 The less inflammation you have, the fewer symptoms you experience.
6. Leafy Greens
Eating plenty of greens is a key part of an autoimmune-friendly diet. Leafy greens are rich in magnesium, which is important for healthy immune function. The average American diet contains barely 50% of the conservative RDA for magnesium. It’s estimated that around three-quarters of the population may be deficient.16,17,18 Magnesium deficiency has been shown to increase the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which raise inflammation levels, therefore contributing to autoimmunity.19
The current RDA for magnesium is 420mg.20 Just 1 cup of cooked spinach provides 157 mg or 39% of the RDA. It’s fairly easy to get enough if you make leafy greens part of your everyday diet. Other sources of magnesium include Swiss chard and kale, providing 36% and 18% of your RDA respectively. My nutritional powerhouse Organic Greens Superfood Juice Powder is a surefire way to get all the benefits greens have to offer including magnesium, B vitamins, and other essential nutrients. The convenient powder is also delicious in a smoothie or even a glass of water! Plus, it’s a cost-effective way to obtain these nutrients from all organic produce, without any GMOs that can exacerbate autoimmunity.
Optimal Nutrients for Autoimmune Disease
I have seen it time and time again after working with autoimmune patients from all over the world—eating foods rich in the essential vitamins and minerals is the first step to reversing your condition. You need them for optimal immune function! My bestselling book The Autoimmune Solution Cookbook is an excellent resource for learning how to create autoimmune-friendly meals. It even uses the 6 foods featured in this article! You will find that The Autoimmune Solution Cookbook is so much more than just a cookbook—it is a roadmap for preventing and overcoming autoimmune disease. I offer you step-by-step guidance to make The Myers Way® a way of life with mouth-watering plates worth showing off!
Achieving optimal nutrition is key to preventing and reversing autoimmunity and other chronic conditions. Let’s face it though—even the healthiest eaters sometimes have less than optimal levels of essential vitamins and minerals. This could be for various reasons, including:
- Sometimes you just don’t have the time to cook up complete, autoimmune-friendly meals.
- Our food isn’t what it used to be nutritionally thanks to soil depletion and environmental toxins.
- You may be struggling with leaky gut, SIBO, or other disorders that keep you from absorbing all the nutrients you get from food.
You don’t want to just want to meet the minimum RDA needed to prevent deficiency-related issues, you want to exceed it! That’s where supplements come in!
Supplement with the Best(sellers)!
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- Collagen Protein: packed with amino acids to help maintain and promote optimal gut health
- Organic Greens: provides all the benefits of leafy greens, including B vitamins, magnesium, phytonutrients, and antioxidants in a convenient powder form
- The Myers Way® Multivitamin: promotes optimal levels of selenium, zinc, iodine, and other essential nutrients for thyroid health, immune function, and general wellness
- Paleo Protein (all flavors): contains 21g of protein to build and repair tissues, make hormones, and support healthy muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood
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