Autoimmune conditions, in which the body’s immune system attacks itself, are sweeping the nation. Not only is conventional (and even many alternatives) medicine failing to heal people, but often time they cannot even suppress the symptoms to provide short term relief to their patients, and are even making symptoms worse. Presently there are about 200 known diseases in the category of autoimmune, which include Eczema, Celiac, Colitis, Crohn’s, Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes, Grave’s, Hashimoto’s, Leaky Gut, IBS, Lupus, and Arthritis.
Today we are doing to explore the incredible recent scientific breakthroughs in the realm of autoimmunity and bridge the gap between ancient wisdom and modern science: using diet to heal.
Dieting for Autoimmune Diseases
Food is medicine, and the impact that your diet has on your health is not only about what you’re putting in, but also about what you’re not putting in. Many autoimmune protocols focus on removing certain inflammatory and gut-irritating foods from your diet, to allow the body to heal. They include the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet and the Gut and Psychology (GAPS) diet. Both are nutrient dense, ancestral diets that focus on whole foods and avoiding inflammatory foods like grains, legumes, refined foods, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, soy, coffee, and dairy.
Many of the off-limit foods from autoimmune-friendly diets focus on removing inflammatory and gut-irritating foods, which gives the body a chance to begin healing. My approach includes a multi-therapeutic diet, that not only removes trigger foods but harnesses the power of ketones to heal the body.
Keto-Adaptation Diet for Autoimmune Conditions
Keto-adaptation (also known as fat-adaptation) is the process in which your body goes from using primarily glucose for energy to using primarily fat for energy. You achieve this either by fasting or by going on a ketogenic diet. The keto diet is high fat, moderate protein, low carb diet, which in time forces the body to generate ketone bodies as a way to metabolize fat. Technically the body is always using a combination of the two (glucose and ketones), but in a non-keto adapted state, the body will reach for glucose first, and there will be very little ketones circulating in the blood.
Keto-adaptation was studied and used as a method to manage and treat diabetes and drug-resistant seizures as far back as the 1920s. This diet-intervention has re-emerged lately showing promising results not only for diabetes and seizures, but also for weight loss resistance, metabolic syndromes, neurodegenerative brain conditions, autism, severe gut disorders, and autoimmune conditions like Celiac and Crohn’s disease.
Healthy Fat for Autoimmune Disease
Fat has been demonized by healthcare practitioners for a long time, but new science is showing that in fact, fat does not make you fat, and far from it. Healthy fats are a source of essential fatty acids that our hormones need to function, and cannot be produced endogenously. They carry nutrients like fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, which are abundant in pasture-raised, organic, animal fats. These fats help your hormones operate optimally, and play a crucial role in healing the gut, as well as promoting healthy body composition. Keto-adaptation requires a high-fat approach, which floods the body with these often lacking nutrients.
Lowering Carbohydrates & Autoimmune Conditions
A standard keto-adaptation macronutrient ratio is approximately 75% fat, 20% protein, and 5% carbohydrates. Keeping carbohydrates heavily restricted and protein moderately restricted prevents the body from needing to secrete insulin all day long. Insulin is the hormone produced by the pancreas that enables your body to use sugar (glucose) for energy. As we have explored, a keto-adapted body uses predominantly fat for energy, and thus uses ketones instead of insulin. When your blood sugar roller coasters throughout the day (a bi-product of a high carb diet), not only are your energy levels up and down, but your hormone receptors become dulled- meaning they don’t function optimally. This manifests itself in many ways including a loss of appetite control (incessantly hungry/ can’t get full), lethargy, and weight loss resistance. This whole process is also associated with chronic inflammation, which is a major contributing factor fuelling autoimmunity.
Rheumatoid Arthritis & Dieting
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune condition for which there is no known medical cure. Behind most chronic diseases and autoimmune diseases (such as arthritis), is a high amount of inflammation, and its associated pain. One of the many benefits of a keto-adaptation diet is the profound anti-inflammatory effect, which provides relief for these highly inflammatory diseases. The magic is a combination of taking away the inflammatory, free-radical causing sugars (that spike your insulin), as well as the therapeutic boost of ketones. One all-star ketone in is called beta-hydroxybutyrate, and research shows that this ketone can block what is called the NLRP3 inflammasome, which is an immune system receptor that is linked to inflammation.
What Foods To Avoid For Autoimmune Diseases
Alongside a keto-adapted (high fat) diet, there are certain key foods you want to avoid to ensure your body can heal. The goal is to remove foods that trigger the immune system to inflame.
Here are some foods and drinks to avoid:
- legumes (beans, soy, peanuts, chickpeas, etc)
- lectins (nightshade vegetables),
- all refined/ processed foods (flour, sugar, packaged foods)
- industrial seed oils (vegetable or canola oils)
- seeds (including chocolate)
- artificial sweeteners
- emulsifiers and thickeners
The list is extensive, but once your gut is properly healed and you have no more symptoms of autoimmunity, it is possible to slowly reintroduce the off-limits whole foods (one at a time) to test your immune response. If all is clear (you should wait 72 hours to make sure there isn’t a delayed response), you can continue to consume the food(s) in question. Certain foods, like seed oils, soy, artificial sweeteners, and highly refined foods/ grains should be avoided long term for optimal health.
- Autoimmune-related diseases are fuelled by highly inflammatory diets;
- A keto-adapted diet supports health and heals autoimmunity by reducing carbohydrates (which regulates blood sugar, decreases inflammation, and increases hormone sensitivity), and by increasing healthy fats (which support healthy hormones, and reduce inflammation through ketosis);
- Ketone bodies are associated with multiple regenerative factors, especially beta-hydroxybutyrate which is a highly anti-inflammatory ketone;
- Combining an elimination-diet style autoimmune diet with high fat, moderate protein, low carb keto-adapted diet is a way to naturally heal the body from autoimmune symptoms.
Learn more about Dr. Pompa’s approach to maintaining a holistic diet.