When you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system misidentifies healthy tissues and organs as being foreign. This causes the body to produce antibodies that attack your body’s own tissues.
Your symptoms might come on quickly or gradually. You may feel overwhelming fatigue, crippling pain, and debilitating weakness. Or you may feel dizzy and have brain fog.
You may feel miserable, like you’re on a roller coaster of good days and bad days with no end in sight. These diseases can be frustrating and isolating, but each experience is unique.
In fact, autoimmune diseases can show up in at least 80 different ways in all areas of the body.
But all autoimmune diseases share one common theme: an out-of-sync immune system that has turned inward, attacking parts of the body as if they were foreign invaders.
Your immune system is crucially important, serving the purpose of protecting your body from infections and bacteria. But when its functions are out of balance, your immune system can become dangerous.
Autoimmune diseases are on the rise in a significant way. Worldwide, up to 700 million people are estimated to be suffering from autoimmune disorders right now. And in the U.S., autoimmune diseases are the third most common category of illness, after cancer and heart disease. About 78% of autoimmune disease cases take place in women.
But as the science is showing, food can play a role in helping sufferers of autoimmune disease feel better and heal their bodies.
Every autoimmune disease is different. Yet science is pointing to the power of plants to help alleviate symptoms and heal the body. A 2014 research review published in the journal Current Allergy and Asthma Reports found that the symptoms of many autoimmune diseases — including fatigue in MS, pain and diarrhea in IBD, or the need of insulin in type one diabetes — may be “considerably affected” by food choices.
Keeping a journal of foods — what you eat, when, and any symptoms you experience —can help you identify patterns and triggers. Finding a dietitian to help with this process may be beneficial. Although your diet is highly influential, it’s not the only approach to relieving your unwanted inflammation.
Reducing stress, getting enough sleep, and avoiding unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking may also help you feel healthier and contribute to decreasing the symptoms of your autoimmune condition.
You should talk to your doctor or speak with a dietitian about your diet and other lifestyle modifications to help treat your condition.