A Functional and Sustainable Autoimmune Diet Protocol…

DISCLAIMER: CONSULT WITH A DOCTOR BEFORE DECIDING ON A TREATMENT PLAN FOR ANY DISEASE OR INJURY.

Diet is the base of any healing protocol for any disease. While some people may experience some minute benefits from using the treatments in this book without adopting healthy, appropriate dietary practices, most patients see the most positive changes when they choose to make dietary changes. The Autoimmune Disease Diet doesn’t have to be boring, and to be clear, following this diet doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to give up your favorite foods. It does require some creativity, in some cases, to “remake” the foods that bring you joy (feeling happy is important for healing, too, after all), but I find that the vast majority of so-called “comfort” foods are attainable with healthy, whole ingredients so long as you have an open mind and a willingness to experiment. 

 

The Autoimmune Disease Diet is set up to deliver the most nutrients and the fewest toxins. I’ve written out the key guidelines below that should be followed while you’re on this diet. I’ve also written about some key foods to include and avoid, and included information about other diet plan options that have similar guidelines and benefits. 

The Basic Rules of the Autoimmune Disease Diet

People who want to cure their autoimmune disease should follow these basic rules for healthy eating: 

 

  1. No processed, refined foods / Only whole foods – What is a processed, refined food? And what’s a whole food? A processed, refined food is a food that is far from what it originally was, or perhaps, it’s actually suspicious if it’s made from real ingredients at all. This includes things like Oreo cookies, flavored tortilla and potato chips, and Hamburger Helper. But, it also can include more devious items like white bread (and most breads, in fact, in the US at least), flavored nuts and popcorn, and granola bars. Some nut milks or vegan products especially that are marketed as healthy can also be “dangerous”. These last things seem like healthier options on the surface, but a quick look at the ingredients tends to prove that even these are likely to be filled with corn syrup, artificial flavors/sweeteners/colorings, preservatives, and other toxic ingredients.

    So then, what is a whole food? A whole food is a food that’s… whole. It’s simple. One ingredient. Apples are a whole food. Oats are a whole food. Chicken breast (cooked, of course) is a whole food. The goal of the Autoimmune Disease Diet is to eat only whole foods as much as possible. If you choose pre-made products, such as snack bars, the ingredients should be made up of only whole foods. For example, a snack bar that contains dates, pumpkin seeds, raisins, coconut, almonds, and nuts is acceptable. If, however, that snack bar has “natural flavorings” or “preservatives”, it’s not an option.
  2. Cook at home, from scratch – Cooking at home from scratch is one of the first things that I recommend to anyone who’s trying to improve their diet. Why? Because the simple act of cooking a meal from scratch (meaning that you don’t use any pre-prepared stuff, like marinara sauce from the store or refried beans from a can, for example) generally eliminates the vast majority of problem foods right away. It doesn’t get rid of all problematic ingredients, but most people do tend to see an improvement in their health when they start doing this. When you cook at home, you know exactly what you’re eating and how it’s been cooked, so you can be sure that you’re eating well and according to the dietary principles that you want to follow for healing. Even if you make special requests at restaurants or when ordering in, the reality is that you never know if the food establishment making your food will actually make that food the way that you want for it to be made.

    It can be difficult to cook at home, especially when you’re busy or not feeling well, but it’s important to prioritize it and adapt your life to make this possible. Making food in advance and freezing it is an option, if you’re especially busy during the week. If you feel fatigued, perhaps consider getting a tall desk chair, or any chair with wheels, for the kitchen so that you can sit while you chop veggies or watch a meal cook. Plan your meals in advance for the week (or just a few days perhaps) so that you can take some of the think-work out of cooking.
  3. Don’t heat your oils, and only use unheated oils – When cooking at home, it’s important to avoid heating oils. Don’t deep fry, and don’t use oils in stir fries. Only eat oils like extra virgin olive oil, unrefined avocado oil, and extra virgin, unrefined coconut oil (hint: if your coconut oil isn’t hard when cold or if it doesn’t smell like coconut, then it’s not extra virgin). This is because unheated, cold-pressed oils like these are “living”. All of the cells in our body have an outer lipid membrane that’s made up of fats, the fats that we eat. When we eat oils that haven’t been heated, oils that are natural and “alive”, this increases the electrical conductivity of our cells by improving the health and conductivity of this lipid membrane. In contrast, oils that have been heated aren’t as conductive and result in less healthy lipid membranes.

    Eat oils. Enjoy your oils. Make tasty sauces to put on top of veggies or salads or to mix into soups (after cooking the soup) to add richness. Just be sure that you’re a) choosing oils that are unrefined and cold-pressed, and b) that you’re not heating the oils.
  4. Boil, steam, or bake foods (or eat them raw) – On the Autoimmune Disease Diet, maximum nutrition is key. For this reason, we recommend sticking to boiled, steamed, or baked foods only. In fact, steaming food is one of the healthiest ways to eat most foods because it makes the digestion of foods a bit easier, but still maintains the vast majority of the foods’ nutritional qualities. Raw foods are also extremely healthy. Dr. Johanna Budwig recommended boiling vegetables “in their own juices” as another especially healthy option (so, for example, one could boil veggies using a puree of tomatoes as a liquid base; this can also add a lot of flavor). Baked foods can also be very healthy, just be sure to not add oil since it’s essential to avoid heated oils while following this diet.
  5. Avoid all of the foods in the “Foods to Avoid” category below. I discuss the reasons behind why we recommend avoiding these foods, and alternative options where applicable, in the next section. These foods that should always be avoided include refined sugar, artificial and natural flavorings/colorings/sweeteners, and certain types of fish, among others.
  6. Consider incorporating the foods in the “Foods to Eat” category. While these aren’t exactly obligatory foods to include in the Autoimmune Disease Diet, we recommend trying to include them when you can because they have specific benefits for people with autoimmune disease.
  7. Eat animal products, but choose wisely, and limit intake – We don’t recommend that patients on the Autoimmune Disease Diet swear off animal products entirely, since certain nutrients in these foods, like vitamin B12, for example, are extremely important for health and healing and simply can’t be obtained from a vegan or vegetarian diet. We do, however, advise patients to limit their intake of animal products during the healing process. This is primarily because animal products require more bile and pancreatic enzymes in order for the body to digest them properly. And, because both bile and pancreatic enzymes are extremely important in the healing process for autoimmune disease patients, it’s helpful to avoid using up too much of either of these substances unnecessarily.

    When choosing animal products, you should ideally be eating organic, grass-fed/free-range foods. Check your sources carefully, and don’t be afraid to ask if your sources use antibiotics, organophosphates, or added hormones. Some locations offer tours. If you’re able to take a tour of a particular facility that offers healthy animal products, this can be a good idea, especially if you’re in the US or another developed country, in order to ensure that you’re actually getting what you’re paying for (which should be organic, grass-fed/free-range, antibiotic, organophosphate, and hormone free animal proteins).

    If you’re not able to access grass-fed cow’s milk products, beef, etc., stick to free-range eggs and chicken. Grass-fed goat meat and milk products also tend to be somewhat more available and budget-friendly. Do not consume cow-based or any animal-based product that is not explicitly grass-fed, organic, and 100% free of toxins. These animal foods can cause serious health issues, and may actually make your autoimmune disease worse (or at the very least, they’ll hinder healing).

    Finally, if you’re vegan/vegetarian or have been in the past, consider incorporating a daily dose of healthy animal proteins into your diet for the first month or so of the Autoimmune Disease Diet. For example, this may be a fried egg or two every morning for breakfast, goat’s milk kefir as an afternoon snack, or chicken breast or scrambled eggs as part of dinner. If, however, you’re not vegan or vegetarian and eat animal proteins on a regular basis, consider instead eating an animal protein item every 2-3 days at first. If you feel like you need more than this (and some people do), again, be sure to stick to healthy animal proteins, and take ox bile and pancreatic enzymes with every meal (which, if you’re following what describe here, you should be doing anyway).
  8. Eat a variety of foods – Don’t just eat pasta and tomato sauce every night for dinner, or only veggie sandwiches for lunch. Try to make some variety in what you eat. For example, eat lentil soup one night, veggie pasta with homemade tomato sauce the nxt night, grilled chicken breast with homemade mashed potatoes the next night, etc. Each day, try to eat some fruits, veggies, legumes and/or seeds and nuts, healthy oils, and animal protein (if this applies). Try to change/vary which fruits and which veggies (and which legumes and which nuts) you eat from day to day. This will not only keep your diet more interesting and enjoyable, but it will also increase your nutrient intake, since different foods have different nutrients.
  9. Take seawater supplements – Though seawater supplements aren’t technically a food, this is a key part of the Autoimmune Disease Diet to include here. You should be incorporating sea water supplements, about 1 teaspoon per every 8 ounces of water, into all of the water that you drink during the day. This is because seawater supplements supply essential trace minerals to the body in a bioavailable way. Trace mineral deficiency is a serious issue, and can lead to the symptoms of autoimmune disease or to the worsening of autoimmune conditions. In addition to being a way of supplementing trace minerals, though, seawater supplements also increase hydration and specifically help hydrate the fascia (a kind of “skin suit” that lies between the skin and the muscles, and that can get wrinkled and cause pain and poor electrical conduction throughout the body when improperly hydrated).

    Some people are picky about their water flavor, in which case there are 2 alternative options that work instead of putting a small amount of seawater into all of your drinking water. The first option is to take a few small glasses of a more concentrated seawater drink throughout the day (perhaps take 1 glass of ⅛ cup of seawater with ¾ cup of plain water in the morning, another dose around noon, and a third dose in the evening). A second option to consider, perhaps in addition to at least one dose of a concentrated seawater drink, is a daily bone broth or vegetable broth “drink” that includes seawater as the primary salt/flavor enhancer. 

 

 

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