Autoimmune Disease Anti Inflammatory Diet

Over the past year, it seems like I have been working with more and more people who have been diagnosed with an autoimmune condition. I work with each person to share recipe and menu ideas as well as resources to help them with autoimmune condition.  One of the resources that I like to share is a wonderful blog created and authored by registered dietitian, E. A. Stewart-The Spicy RD. 

I have followed E.A. on social media for several years and enjoy making her delicious recipes and I love all the great information she shares on food and health. On her blog she shares great information on foods and a healthy immune system including some great stuff on autoimmune disease and diet research. I recently asked E.A. to share her expertise and experience in an interview and she was so great to take time to talk! I hope that our conversation helps you gain a lot of insight on how food can affect our immune system. She has included one of her favorite recipes and how you can get her anti-inflammatory meal plan and shopping list on her website!

Relax. Eat Mindful. Enjoy.

You are what you eat when it comes to preventing autoimmune conditions. Find out more.

Vine Ripe Nutrition: E.A.-share with us a little about your private nutrition practice and your work with autoimmune conditions:

I’ve have a private integrative nutrition practice, specializing in autoimmune conditions, digestive health, and wellness nutrition, for the past 8 years. In addition to working one-on-one with clients, both virtually and in my office in San Diego, I have a popular food and nutrition blog, The Spicy RD, where I share easy, nourishing, and delicious gluten free and low FODMAP recipes. I absolutely love what I do-helping people live their healthiest, happiest, most DELICIOUS lives!

Vine Ripe Nutrition: Do you feel that there has been an increase in autoimmune conditions over the last 10 years or just a greater awareness?

According to research, there does appear to be a rise in the incidence of autoimmune conditions overall, with recent estimates that ~5-10% of Americans are affected, and with women being more likely than men to develop an autoimmune disease. In terms of awareness, I think we still have a long way to go. As someone who was diagnosed with Sjogren’s syndrome, one of the most common autoimmune diseases, I’m always surprised that most people, including fellow healthcare practitioners, have never heard of it.

Vine Ripe Nutrition: What is meant by an autoimmune condition? And what are some of the most common of these?

An autoimmune condition occurs when the immune system attacks healthy cells in the body, which leads to disease. To date, more than 100 autoimmune diseases have been identified. Some of the most common ones include: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Systemic lupus erythematosus, Type 1 diabetes, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, psoriasis, and Sjogren’s syndrome.

Vine Ripe Nutrition: Why are women more susceptible to autoimmune conditions?

Approximately 75% of Americans with autoimmune disease are women, and it seems likely that hormones, in particular estrogen, are one of the culprits. While autoimmune diseases can occur at any stage of life, some tend to occur later in life around the time of menopause, while others might occur post-pregnancy, as was my case, when estrogen levels plummet. On the flip side, higher levels of testosterone may provide protection against some autoimmune diseases. Some autoimmune diseases that have a much higher incidence in women include: Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Systemic lupus erythematosus, Sjogren’s syndrome, Primary biliary cirrhosis, Autoimmune hepatitis, and Graves’ disease.

Vine Ripe Nutrition: Gluten is a food that some people are sensitive to when it comes to autoimmune conditions. What contributes to this? (we might want to add here the fact that people who have celiac disease often have 2-3 autoimmune conditions before they are diagnosed)

There’s still so much to learn about the association with gluten and autoimmunity. Certainly, celiac disease and other autoimmune diseases, including Type 1 Diabetes, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, MS, Sjogren’s syndrome, and others occur more commonly together. However, the potential link between autoimmunity and gluten/wheat sensitivity is less clear. That being said, there is research being done in this area, so stay tuned! In the meantime, if you suspect gluten may be an issue, a gluten free diet trial may be a good idea. Just be sure and get tested for celiac disease first {very important!} because you need to be eating gluten for the blood test to be accurate. If it comes back negative, then you can still try a gluten-free diet, ideally with the help of a dietitian trained in digestive health. I have been following a gluten free diet for over 8 years now, so please feel free to reach out with any questions!

Vine Ripe Nutrition: Tell me more about “leaky gut” and its relationship to autoimmune conditions. People are always talking about a healthy gut and our immune system, how can we improve gut health?

Leaky gut or increased intestinal permeability as it is more commonly referred to by the medical community, occurs when the layer of cells lining the intestines becomes inflamed or disrupted. This causes increased permeability of the gut, and proteins and microorganisms may “leak” from the intestines into the bloodstream causing disease or a whole host of potential symptoms including fatigue, gas, bloating, muscle aches, joint pain, skin rashes, and confusion.
Recommendations to improve gut health will be individualized, however a good place to start is by following an anti-inflammatory diet, staying away from food additives, which have been linked to increased intestinal permeability, and minimizing alcohol and NSAID use. Beyond that, work with your healthcare provider to identify any food allergies, intolerances, or sensitivities that you may have, and practice stress management techniques, as stress has been shown to lead to increased intestinal permeability.

Vine Ripe Nutrition: Where should someone start to get help if they are concerned that they are having an autoimmune condition? What type of training should their health care provider have?

Number 1, don’t “google diagnose”! I’m guilty of having done this when I had my first symptom (my big toe went numb 3 months after the birth of my daughter), and I convinced myself I had everything horrible imaginable. The anxiety I developed definitely didn’t help my symptoms. On the flip side, when I finally did go to the doctor, it took over 2 years and 5 doctors for me to finally get a diagnosis. And, the frustrating thing is that for many people, it takes even longer than that to be diagnosed!

If I had to do it all over again, I would start by asking friends and family for a referral to a physician who specializes in autoimmune disease, and, if someone is interested in exploring a combination of traditional and integrative approaches, I suggest looking into working with a physician who is trained in functional medicine. Also, finally, look for someone who has a collaborative approach, and will partner with other healthcare providers, including, of course, a registered dietitian ☺

Vine Ripe Nutrition: How can a registered dietitian be an important member of the health care team when it comes to autoimmune conditions?

A registered dietitian who specializes in autoimmune conditions, can be a great asset to your healthcare team. Because there is no “one diet fits all” approach, as mentioned above, when it comes to treating autoimmune conditions, look for a dietitian who not only works with a wide variety of dietary approaches, but also someone who will take your lifestyle, food preferences, and overall health into consideration. She/he should help you identify the diet that not only has the most evidence for treating your condition, but also be able to help you put that into practice with recipes, meal planning strategies, and healthy cooking tips. If you are looking for a dietitian who has a more integrative approach, you can search the DIFM (Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine) Website. If you can’t find someone, please get in touch with me-I’m happy to help!

Vine Ripe Nutrition: Why is the Mediterranean Diet or the Mind Diet types of eating plans that can help prevent and manage autoimmune conditions? 

Both the Mediterranean Dietand the MIND Diet (a combination of the Mediterranean diet and DASH diet that has been shown to boost brain health and cognitive function, as well as reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by up to 53%) are anti-inflammatory eating plans. While there has been very little research done on the best type of diet for autoimmune disease, as I mentioned earlier, an anti-inflammatory diet is a good place to start.

While there are certain foods that are minimized on a Mediterranean diet-highly processed foods, sweets, red meat, foods high in saturated fat-there are still so many delicious foods to eat! These include fruit, vegetables, whole grains, extra virgin oil, beans, nuts, herbs, spices, and more. You can learn more about the Mediterranean diet here, and the MIND diet here.
I would love to know a little more about the recipe that you shared and how it can be a good one to strengthen our immune system. (if you want to talk about a sample day that might be helpful also or just refer us to what you have up on your site!)
These Crunchy Lentil Tacos are one of my favorite recipes, not only because they’re easy to make, but also because my family devours them every time I make them! Made with lentils, whole grains, veggies, spices, and healthy fats, they’re a delicious way to start experimenting with an anti-inflammatory diet.

If anyone is interested in more recipes, you can download a free anti-inflammatory meal plan and shopping list when you sign up for newsletter.. Cheers!

Meatless Monday Tacos

Eating healthy food is a great way to health prevent autoimmune conditions.

Thank you-E.A. for all the great information! I know that sharing your great wealth of information is an inspiration to others and I am so happy that I had a chance to talk with you about autoimmune conditions which is affecting more of us than ever before, especially women. You answers a lot of questions that people may be having on autoimmune conditions and have given us some great resources for autoimmune shopping list and autoimmune diet recipes to help! Be sure to check out all the great things she has on autoimmune disease and the anti inflammatory diet.

Tacos with Lentils as Filling

Thank you E.A. Stewart for sharing your taco recipes and pictures with your interview!

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