When autoimmunity is present, the body’s immune system becomes dysregulated and starts attacking its tissues, mistaking them for foreign invaders. This immune response can extend beyond targeting the body’s own tissues and also include reactions to certain foods. There are a few reasons why autoimmunity might lead to the body seemingly reacting to foods:
- Molecular Mimicry: Some foods contain proteins or other molecules that resemble the body’s own tissues. When the immune system is already attacking specific tissues due to autoimmunity, it can also mistake similar proteins in foods as threats and launch an immune response against them. This phenomenon is known as molecular mimicry.
- Leaky Gut: Autoimmunity can lead to a condition called “leaky gut,” where the intestinal barrier becomes compromised, allowing undigested food particles and other molecules to enter the bloodstream. These molecules may trigger an immune response because they are not supposed to be in the bloodstream, further exacerbating inflammation and autoimmunity.
- Dysregulation of Tolerance Mechanisms: Normally, the immune system maintains tolerance to the body’s own tissues and harmless substances like food proteins. In autoimmunity, this tolerance mechanism is disrupted, leading to the immune system becoming more reactive and potentially attacking harmless foods.
- Immune System Priming: In some cases, a viral or bacterial infection can trigger an immune response that cross-reacts with certain proteins found in both the pathogen and certain foods. This can lead to the development of autoimmunity and an immune reaction to those foods.
- Genetic Predisposition: Genetic factors play a role in the development of autoimmune diseases. Some individuals may have genetic predispositions that make them more likely to develop both autoimmunity and food sensitivities.
It’s important to note that while certain foods may trigger symptoms or worsen inflammation in individuals with autoimmune conditions, the foods themselves do not cause autoimmunity. Autoimmune diseases are complex and multifactorial, involving a combination of genetic, environmental, and immune system factors.
If you suspect that certain foods are exacerbating your autoimmune symptoms, it’s essential to work with an NTP like me, a holistic doctor or a nutritionist. They can guide you through an elimination diet like the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) to identify trigger foods and develop a personalized plan that supports your overall health and well-being. If you want to work 1:1 with me, book your call.
How Does the Autoimmune Protocol Help Manage Autoimmune Symptoms?
Elimination diets, such as the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), are designed to help identify and remove specific foods that may trigger inflammation or immune responses in individuals with autoimmune conditions. The primary goal of these diets is to reduce the frequency and severity of autoimmune flares and improve gut health. Here’s how the AIP and elimination diets can help achieve these objectives:
- Identifying Trigger Foods: Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissues. Certain foods may trigger this immune response in susceptible individuals. The AIP aims to eliminate common inflammatory foods, such as gluten, dairy, grains, legumes, nightshade vegetables, eggs, nuts, and seeds. By removing these potential triggers, individuals can assess whether their autoimmune symptoms improve during the elimination phase.
- Reducing Inflammation: Inflammation is a central feature of autoimmune diseases. The AIP focuses on anti-inflammatory foods like nutrient-dense vegetables, fruits, and high-quality meats and fish. These foods are rich in antioxidants and essential nutrients, which can help to dampen inflammation and support the body’s healing processes.
- Healing the Gut: The AIP encourages the consumption of gut-healing foods, such as bone broth, fermented vegetables, and other nutrient-dense sources that can help repair the intestinal lining. The gut plays a critical role in the immune system, and a compromised gut barrier (often referred to as “leaky gut”) can exacerbate autoimmune symptoms. By supporting gut health, the AIP aims to improve immune function and reduce autoimmune flares.
- Reintroduction Phase: After the elimination phase, individuals can gradually reintroduce one eliminated food group at a time. This process helps identify specific trigger foods that may worsen autoimmune symptoms. By identifying and avoiding these trigger foods, individuals can tailor their diet to suit their specific needs and reduce the risk of flares.
- Managing Food Sensitivities: Some individuals with autoimmune conditions may have undiagnosed food sensitivities that contribute to inflammation and gut dysfunction. The AIP can help pinpoint these sensitivities and guide individuals toward a personalized diet that supports their health and reduces the risk of autoimmune flares.