A diet high in refined carbohydrates negatively affects the balance of free radical generation and antioxidant defense leading to inflammation overload.121122123 A breakfast consisting of a bowl of corn flakes with skimmed milk, a piece of toast and a glass of orange juice converts almost instantly to 16 teaspoons of sugar. Sixteen teaspoons of sugar will increase the body’s oxidative stress and inflammation by 240%.124 A can of soda has 12 teaspoons of sugar.
The Gluten Connection
Patients with autoimmune inflammatory diseases have a high incidence of sensitivity to wheat gluten, as high as 10 times higher than normal individuals.127
Individuals with autoimmune inflammatory disease show higher than normal sensitivities to animal product antigens: 1200% higher for dairy, 600% for eggs, 460% for pork, and 400% for fish.127 If you have autoimmune disease or know you should be taking precautions to avoid autoimmune inflammatory disease it might be prudent to stay away from these sources of disease.
More On Milk
The link between dairy and autoimmune inflammatory diseases is multifactorial:128129 milk is immunosuppressive,130 it has many hormones which increase disease risk,131 milk is the source of many infectious agents (viruses and bacteria) that precipitate autoimmune inflammatory disease,132 it contains many antigens which initiate the autoimmune process,133134135136 and milk provokes and aggravates137 the inflammatory process.138
Go Big Red
Why is red meat red? Heme iron makes red meat red and red cells red. Heme iron increases the body’s sensitivity to oxidative stress and inflammation.139 Consumption of red meat increases the risk of autoimmune inflammatory disease by 130%.140 Epidemiological studies comparing the amount of meat eaten in countries around the world with how much autoimmune inflammatory disease the have show that with increased meat consumption there is increased disease.141 The message of course is, if you need an autoimmune inflammatory disease, eat more meat.
Many people these days are worried about whether or not they are eating enough protein in their diet. It is a bit of a mania. In fact it is actually hard to achieve a low protein diet. Protein, eaten in excess of body needs, increases the risk of autoimmune inflammatory diseases by 190%.140 (For more information on protein, please refer to our handout and presentation on osteoporosis.)
Many people these days are worried about whether or not they are eating enough protein in their diet. It is a bit of a mania. In fact it is actually hard to achieve a low protein diet.
Variety, The Spice Of Life?
Most people in developed countries like to eat a large variety of food at each meal as though they had to balance their entire life’s nutritional requirements at one sitting. Excessive antigenic load, as encountered in a complex meal comprised of multiple diverse foods, can provoke autoimmunity, allergy and inflammation.142
Eat To Live, Or Live To Eat?
Another instigator of the autoimmune inflammatory process is overeating. Overeating provides fuel for a bigger fire then can be healthfully managed. Excessive caloric intake is associated with increased body oxidative stress143 and increased incidence of autoimmune inflammatory diseases. On the other hand reduced caloric intake decreases autoimmune inflammatory disease risks.144
For the avoidance of these diseases, carrying extra weight is not ideal. Studies show that whole body inflammation increases with increasing body weight.145146 Being overweight increases the risk of acquiring an autoimmune inflammatory disorder by 275%.147
As a person gains weight, fat tends to gather about the abdomen. While much of this fat is external, a large portion of it is also internal, around the organs. This internal fat is termed organ or visceral fat. Visceral fat is another source of inflammation148 and oxidized fat. For each 1% increase in visceral fat, the risk for increasing inflammation goes up an additional 140%.149
A Case Of Mistaken Identity
Worms: could there be a case of mistaken identity? Trichinellosis, a parasite acquired from eating pork and bear, is associated with increased inflammation.150151 Musculoskeletal symptoms include muscle pain, joint pain, muscle weakness, and restriction of joint movements.152153
Trichinellosis is not the only infection implicated in autoimmune inflammatory conditions. Viral and bacterial infections are being implicated more and more in the development of autoimmune inflammatory diseases.154155156157 Autoantibodies increase with the number of infections a person has suffered in their lifetime.158 Numerous infections agents, including Salmonella,159 E. Coli, Streptococcus and Mycobacterium,160 have been linked to autoimmune inflammatory diseases. The most abundant source of these infectious agents is animal products.161162163164165
Needling The Immune System
There are some risky behaviors that may need to be avoided. One of these, about which more and more scientific evidence is emerging, is vaccination. For example receiving measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) vaccination significantly increases the odds of acquiring chronic inflammatory arthritis.166 Compared to receiving the common tetanus vaccine: receiving a hepatitis B vaccine increases the odds of acquiring multiple sclerosis by 420%, systemic lupus erythematosus by 810%, and rheumatoid arthritis by 1700%!167
It has been said, If you don’t find time to exercise, you will have to find time to be sick. When one sits around, its like a car idling; smoke and fumes build up. For the sedentary individual, inflammation builds up, increasing the risk for autoimmune inflammatory disease.168
How regular are you? I mean in your schedule? Studies show that extended and irregular shift work confers an increased risk of contracting an autoimmune inflammatory disease.169
Outcome Of Perturbing The Immune System
Once the immune system becomes off balance it can really fall a long way from normal resulting in signs and symptoms that culminate in autoimmune inflammatory disease. Besides all the well recognized autoimmune inflammatory diseases listed earlier there are other unhappy outcomes to letting the immune system fall into disarray. We will list just a few.
The presence of an autoimmune inflammatory disease is a good sign that the immune system is probably going to have trouble performing its usual function with success. Most autoimmune disease is associated with immune suppression or dysfunction. People with autoimmune inflammatory disorders are 85% more likely to acquire serious life threatening infections. The most common sites of infection include, joints, skin, soft tissues and the lungs.170
Despite increased medical treatment options, patients with autoimmune inflammatory diseases do not enjoy lengthy lives.171 Pneumonia, tuberculosis, and liver disease are significantly increased as causes of death in these patients.172
Chest pain: should autoimmune inflammatory disease patient be worried? Inflammatory disease not only affects bones, connective tissue and joints, but blood vessels and heart muscle as well. Patients with autoimmune inflammatory disease are 90% more apt to have congestive heart failure,173 95% more likely to die of sudden cardiac arrest, and 220% to have a heart attack.174
Many autoimmune inflammatory disease patients suffer from osteoporosis, (thinning of the bones), making them more susceptible to fractures. The inflammatory process involved in autoimmune disease is also a major player in osteoporosis.175
Many of the medications with which autoimmune inflammatory disease are treated also cause osteoporosis.
Cancer is also often the result of a deficient immune system. Immunity is a function of white blood cells. As a consequence of inflammation and immune compromise, the risk of leukemia (blood cell cancer) increases 150%.176
Restoring And Maintaining The Immune System
Let’s change gears now and talk about how to restore a failing immune system and maintain it in a condition to assure the avoidance of further inflammatory disease, its complications, and its pain.
Fresh Morning Air
Occupations involving physical work in the open air are protective, while working in artificial, air conditioned environments increase the risk of contracting an autoimmune inflammatory disease.177178 One of the most effective immune boosters is an early morning walk in the fresh air near a body of water as the sun is just coming up.179
Have You Seen The Smiling Sun Recently?
Sunlight exposure reduces inflammation in the body.180181182 Sunlight exposure is a major source of vitamin D.183 Vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of many common cancers, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, cardiovascular heart disease, and type I diabetes.184 It is recommended that at least 25% of your skin be exposed to the sunlight for 20 minutes each day, and longer if you have darker skin.
What About Exercise?
But I can’t exercise, I have pain! you may be thinking. Exercise tips the inflammatory / anti-inflammatory balance in favor of reduced inflammation and reduced disease risk.185186187188 With few exceptions, sufferers of autoimmune inflammatory diseases benefit significantly from physical activity, which leads to significant improvements in strength, pain, and fatigue without making the disease worse.189190191192193
As individuals age their immune systems declines. Being physically fit helps to slow this decline. The immune system responds positively to moderate exercise, while too much exercise tends to suppress it.194
While you are out exercising, as I know you will be, loose clothing is of greater benefit than clothing that restricts movement and blood flow. Tight clothing has been shown to interfere in body temperature variations, blood flow and hormone levels, factors implicated in autoimmune inflammatory disease.195
Circadian Rhythms: The Bodies Internal Clock
Our bodies run on clocks. The anti-inflammatory / inflammatory balance cycles on a clock called your circadian rhythm.196197 The anti- inflammatory circadian clock malfunctions when: meal times are varied or meals are taken late in the evening,198199 sleeping times are varied,200 insufficient or shifted to a late bedtime and/or late rise time, a job requires shift work where daily schedules vary on some days, such as on days off or weekends.201 Regularity in sleeping hours improves overall sleep quality and anti-inflammatory effect. For the autoimmune inflammatory patient, we recommend a strict schedule for sleeping hours with a set nightly bedtime no later than 9:30 p.m., and a set regular rise time between 7.5 and 8 hours later on all weekdays and weekend days.202 We recommend regular mealtimes every day of the week not varying by more than 5 minutes with no meal later than 5:30 p.m. We recommend regularity in exercising every day of the week including days off and weekends.
A study was performed comparing four diets: (1) fats and processed meats diet (fats, oils, processed meats, fried potatoes, salty snacks, and desserts) the western diet, (2) beans, tomatoes, and refined grains diet (beans, tomatoes, refined grains, and high-fat dairy products) a Mediterranean like diet, (3) vegetables and fish diet (fish and dark-yellow, cruciferous, and other vegetables) sea food diet, and (4) whole grains and fruit diet (whole grains, fruit, nuts, and green leafy vegetables) vegetarian vegan diet. The western diet raised three markers of inflammation, the Mediterranean diet raised one marker of inflammation, the seafood diet lowered one marker of inflammation and the vegetarian vegan diet lowered four markers of inflammation; showing the superiority of the vegan diet in addressing autoimmune inflammatory diseases.203
A vegetarian diet has been found to have an anti-inflammatoryeffect on patients with active autoimmune inflammatory disease.204205206207 A vegetarian diet stimulates the immune system, improves tolerance to noxious antigens found in less ideal diets,208 and is loaded with anti-oxidant anti-inflammatory vitamins and phytochemicals. Another advantage to the vegetarian diet is its high content of natural anti-oxidants. Studies show that patients suffering from autoimmune inflammatory diseases eat significantly fewer anti-oxidant foods.209 On the other hand studies show that high anti- oxidant intake decreases the bodies inflammation.210
There is a real advantage to eating fruit and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are high in flavonoids,211 phytochemicals and anti-oxidants that have been found to lower the oxidative stress, inflammation and oxidation of lipids (fats) in the body.212 Fruits and vegetables are high in vitamin A. Deficiency in vitamin A leaves the body unguarded against oxidative stress and autoimmune inflammatory disease.213214 Good sources of vitamin A include sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, spinach, winter squash, cantaloupe and broccoli.
Whole grains and fiber are also a part of an autoimmune inflammatory disease fighting diet. Diets high in whole grains have been shown to have a protective effect against systemic inflammation reducing the risk of autoimmune inflammatory disease.215216 Fiber, as found in whole grain products and bran, reduces inflammation in patients with inflammatory disorders.217
What about a low carb diet for reducing inflammation? To the contrary, low fat, high carbohydrate diets have been shown to significantly reduce whole body inflammation.218
What diet provides the maximal amount of anti-oxidant, anti- inflammatory benefits? Fresh food, that taste of Eden, is most effective. Fresh food is an uncooked vegan diet consisting of berries, fruits, vegetables and roots, nuts, germinated seeds and sprouts, i.e. rich sources of carotenoids, vitamins C and E, (some call this a raw food diet). People on a fresh food diet have been shown to enjoy improvements in symptoms of autoimmune inflammatory disease including: pain, joint stiffness, quality of sleep, health quality, cholesterol and weight management.219220
Another consideration is the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are associated with decreased inflammation, improvement in disease symptoms and reduced risk of acquiring autoimmune inflammatory disease.221222 Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids are a vegetarian diet, olives, and flax seed. Olives and olive oil, with their high levels of anti-oxidants, omega-3 fatty acids and phytochemicals, have been found to be helpful in the prevention and treatment of autoimmune inflammatory disorders.223224225226 The most preferable way to obtain the olive oil is from the eating of whole olives. Results are not immediate but usually felt within 12 weeks.227
Another single food we want to mention is lemon juice and citrus. Citrus contains many bioflavonoids, phytochemicals, and anti-oxidants that have been found to reduce inflammation228229230 and improve symptoms of autoimmune inflammatory disease.231232233
We mentioned that too much protein has deleterious effects for the would-be autoimmune inflammatory disease survivor. But not all proteins are created equal. Soy protein reduces the risk of autoimmune inflammatory disease by 60% compared to a diet high in animal protein.234235
Are you a python? Do you swallow your food whole?
Chew Your Food
Are you a python? Do you swallow your food whole? A better method is to chew your food well and savor every bite. The immune tissue in the mouth and throat (tonsils), tests substances coming into the body to let the body know what is food.236237238239240 Allergy and autoimmune inflammatory diseases are more likely to flair up when food is not chewed long and well, when the body has not had a chance to recognize the antigens.241242
Temperance: Abstinence From Things Harmful, Moderation In Things Good
A program designed to benefit patients with autoimmune inflammatory disease will most surely include methods for eliminating the use of such stimulants as tea, coffee, caffeine, tobacco and alcohol.
Another aspect of temperance is the eating moderate amounts of food. When more calories are consumed than are needed, inflammation increases. On the other hand, reducing calorie intake reduces the body’s inflammatory responses.243244 The goal is to match caloric intake to body energy needs.
Taken a step further, fasting is a quick way to get an energy imbalance under control.245 Fasting has been found to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, and improve symptoms of autoimmune inflammatory disease.246247
The outcome of caloric restriction could have another desirable result for some; that being weight loss. Being overweight is associated with increased risk of autoimmune inflammatory disease. Weight loss is associated with a decrease in oxidative damage to lipids (fats) and proteins and decreased inflammation.248249250
Water Consumption: I’ll Drink To That
Studies show that optimal water intake can lower the risk of autoimmune inflammatory diseases by as much as 60%. On the other hand, dehydration (being low on water) enhances the inflammatory response of the body to hostile antigens.251
We recommend 8-12 eight ounce glasses per day.
What water should I drink? We have a saying; friends don;t let friends drink tap water. Contaminated water is also a source of inflammation.252253 Water should be obtained which is pure and free from all substances, which can potentially induce inflammation. Depending on your water condition, filtering, distilling or other treatment may be necessary.
Drinking it is not the only beneficial use of water. Many people have discovered the benefits of hydrotherapy; the use of water for treatment of disease and maintenance of health. Acute inflammatory pain can be treated with either superficial heat for reducing guarding (fear and tensing) or with cold for reducing pain.254 The application of heat or cold to inflamed joints tends to improve pain, joint stiffness and joint function. The application of cold tends to raise the pain threshold.255 Contrast (alternating hot and cold) hydrotherapy tends to improve circulation, greatly lowering inflammation.256257
Avoiding The Obvious
The avoidance of heavy metal exposure is key to reducing the risk of and/or symptoms of autoimmune inflammatory disease. If a high level of exposure has been experienced in the past, it may be necessary to take steps to eliminate these toxins from the body.
Repeated over stimulation of the immune system, as in immunizations, can result in immune fatigue and burnout resulting in increased risk of autoimmune inflammatory disease.
Should I Do A Cleanse?
When toxin accumulation is the cause of immune dysfunction, toxin elimination may be the only way to get the immune system back in balance. Sweating, something we don’t like to do in this day and age, may be just what is needed to expel the aggravating toxins.258 Skin brushing (exfoliation) can also be a part of this elimination process. Chelation is another effective way to get rid of especially heavy metals.259 This can often be accomplished with dietary modifications. Sometimes a diet totally devoid for a while of the toxin to be expelled can accomplish the same goal.260 Some have even found a colon cleanse beneficial.261 I knew of a patient who was successful at managing their inflammatory arthritis if they did a colon cleanse once a quarter (which made me wonder what they were doing the rest of the time to pollute their colon again).
Another useful modality for the removal of toxins and inflammation is charcoal. Charcoal can be used for inflammation as an oral supplement,262 and as a topical treatment.263264 Studies show that it is effective265 in reducing the symptoms and signs of autoimmune inflammatory disease.
Mind Body Connection
Trust in Divine power: spirituality is associated with less depression and increased feelings of health in patients with autoimmune inflammatory disease.266267 Studies reveal that religious intervention such as intercessory prayer increases immune function, improves rheumatoid arthritis, and reduces anxiety.268 In a study of autoimmune inflammatory patients, six hours of one-on-one intercessory prayer was associated with significant overall improvement in disease that lasted the entire subsequent year of the study’s duration.269
Given the relationship between stress and autoimmune inflammatory disease, stress reduction should be a priority with autoimmune270271 disease sufferers. The dietary changes we advocate have also been found to reduce the psychological symptoms of stress.272 Improved spiritual health has been shown to be a valuable aid in stress management.273 Has not God said, Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.274 He is the great burden bearer; trusting in Him alleviates stress.
And what dietary program are we really talking about? The original Bible diet! Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And you will eat the plants of the field.275 Should it be any surprise that the Maker of this marvelous immune system, which is designed to protect this marvelous body we have been given, should have the best lifestyle prescription necessary for its upkeep?
As you engage in an autoimmune inflammatory disease recovery program you will find it helpful to eliminate all:
- Animal products including dairy and eggs.
- Possibly wheat gluten.
- Oxidized oils or cholesterol.
- Refined foods: sugars, starches, grains, and oils.
- Excess dietary calories.
- Foods or drinks created by aging or fermentation.
- Stimulants: coffee, tea, tobacco and alcohol.
- Strong irritating spices.
- Excess body weight.
- Tight clothing and clothing that does not provide adequate and evenly distributed warmth.
- Excessive meals (fasting may be helpful).
As you engage in an autoimmune inflammatory disease recovery program you will find it helpful to:
- Have a regular schedule throughout the day for sleep, meals and exercise.
- Eat a whole plant food diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, omega-3s and fiber.
- Chew your food thoroughly and swish it around your mouth.
- Make use of pure water: drink plenty, bath often, and perform hot and cold treatments.
- Make wise application of charcoal as poultices and taken by mouth.
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