I have always been interested in alternative ways to address health issues effectively. At the same time I'm all about the science.
The Autoimmune Protocol
One subject I have a passion for because it has helped me avoid the pain, debility and mental dysfunction of autoimmune diseases is the Autoimmune Paleo Protocol. Sadly autoimmune conditions are on the rise with a roughly 500% increase since the 1950's. There are many contributing factors to this. Stress and toxins within the environment and our food supply are near the top of the list. Other contributing factors are mold, NSAIDs or pain relievers, lack of sleep, adrenal dysfunction, and hormonal imbalances. Over the past 10+ years within the paleo nutrition research, scientists have identified several factors in foods that negatively affect our digestive system and contribute to autoimmune disease. The basic explanation is that certain chemicals in these identified foods act as poison to sensitive individuals. The poisons come with names like phytates, lectins, saponins, and glutens. Many people scoff at gluten sensitivity as "just a fad" diet. But in truth, there are roughly 12 different ways that gluten breaks down in the body and can affect your skin, your joints, your organs and most importantly your brain stem. For me, it attacked my thyroid, my joints and caused overall brain fog. But eliminating gluten wasn't enough. I didn't know that there are other foods that my body saw as poison until I went through the paleo literature obsessively and found all sorts of nuggets. In one paper by Loren Cordain, I found out that undigested dairy proteins, in this case, Bovine growth hormone, can slip through the holes created by intestinal permeability (leaky gut) which the immune system recognizes as collagen. Then the white blood cells charged with destroying invading pathogens start attacking joints and dismantling cartilage. This is known in autoimmune circles as Rheumatoid arthritis. Another key factor in this equation was that Nightshade vegetables contain a saponin called Solanine that is a neurotoxin. Nightshades are called that because of their poisonous cousins the deadly nightshades. In those plants, Solanine levels are high enough to kill a person outright. But tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, eggplant, tomatillo and many herbs (ex: goji berries, ashwagandha, tobacco) contain smaller amounts of solanine. For people with autoimmune disorders and leaky gut, even that smaller level of solanine is a major problem. Solanine locks open pores within the digestive tract allowing more undigested food particles into the bloodstream including undigested solanine which then slowly poisons the body with its neurotoxic effects over a long period of time. Yay. Yes, I know that nightshades are a major part of our food supply and they are delicious. I just remind myself that poisons are tasty otherwise people would never eat them, but they are still poison and move on. What I read in the literature was fascinating; people in Europe before, the advent of nightshades from the New World, never ate nightshade plants because of the knowledge that these were poisonous plants. In fact, for many people, it took a great deal of convincing to get them to eat these new foods. But once that happened the incidence of rheumatoid arthritis skyrocketed with the first known documented incident being a painting of a young woman with twisted fingers in the 1600's. Further digging revealed that even archaeological studies of Native Americans showed similar bone destruction associated with rheumatoid arthritis going back thousands of years. I know a young Hispanic woman with rheumatoid that I am working with, but she is very reluctant to give up traditional foods. I tell people that unless you stop feeding fuel to the fire, the damage will continue no matter what palliative care I can provide. But then once you remove the poisons the damage stops. My own knuckles have ceased growing nodules since removing nightshades, and I rarely have pain now, nor do my blood tests show rheumatoid antibodies anymore. I know first hand that these poisons, however miniscule, really do impact our bodies.
There are amazing food intolerance panels out there that can determine which foods are your specific kryptonite. I highly recommend getting that test done. It is generally not covered by insurance, BUT it is the best money you can spend on your health. However many practitioners claim that a person only needs to eliminate the offending food for a short period of time and then can add that food back in once the damage is healed. I was able to add dairy back in once the holes in my intestines from glutens, nightshades and NSAIDs were healed. SO in some cases, you can add certain foods back into your diet because they are not the true root of the issue, but merely a problem due to leaky gut. But those foods that are literally poison must be eliminated permanently.
The list of AIP foods is fairly long and typically elicits groans as people realize their favorites are on that list. But when you realize that these things may be your specific kryptonite, then it makes it easier to say goodbye to whatever food is the problem, especially when you can feel incredible once your immune system normalizes. The list includes:
Glutens: (I recommend eliminating all grains, but gluten-free is a baby step)
Pseudo-grains: Buckwheat, Amaranth, Chia, Quinoa
Soy: extremely toxic to your thyroid, your brain, and your hormones. Soy is 1200x stronger than human estrogen for its effect on your hormones.
Dairy: whether its a primary or secondary problem is determined on an individual basis
Seeds & Seed Oils
Nuts & nut oils
Artificial sweeteners: you may tolerate some
Eggs; THey contain zonulin which can also lock open holes in your gut., But many store-bought eggs contain soy
Coffee: it's actually the mold in coffee that is a problem. Organic single source coffee is less likely to have mold. look up Bulletproof coffee
high glycemic foods: people with autoimmune disorders do better on a low carb/ high fat diet, which may mean their genetics are closer to that of hunter-gatherer paleolithic ancestors than neolithic ancestors
If you need help navigating this way of eating, I am more than happy to help. Once I returned to the eating habits of my ancient Scandinavian ancestors my health greatly improved. Let me help you dial in your nutritional needs.