In the previous article, How To Avoid Autoimmune Disease – Part 1, we discussed what factors can reduce your immune system response and in Part 2 we will cover general steps of how to avoid autoimmune disease.In the previous article, How To Avoid Autoimmune Disease – Part 1, we discussed what factors can reduce your immune system response and in Part 2 we will cover general steps of how to avoid autoimmune disease.
Sounds like a no-brainer, but sadly many people never stop to consider what effect the food and drink they consume is having on their health.
Health Enemy No. 1 is Sugar
Obviously added sugar in teas, coffee and cereals is not healthy for you and should be eliminated or minimised, but sugar includes all the sweet stuff, especially high fructose corn syrup, added to virtually ALL processed food including canned goods, baked items, frozen meals, etc. Sugar is also in everything that breaks down and converts to glucose in our bodies, such as all grains (whether or not they claim to be gluten-free) and all foods derived from processed grains, i.e. breakfast cereals (which also contain masses of added sugar), all forms of bread, pasta, baked goods and biscuits. If you have any form of disease, meaning that your body is not perfectly healthy and/or you are overweight, then reducing your overall sugar intake is essential to regain full vibrant health.
Health Enemy no. 2 is Dairy
Many people know they have a problem with dairy. The benefits of avoidance for them are self-evident. But many people do not know they have a problem because their symptoms may not appear as discomfort in the gut and could easily be inflammation in other parts of the body such as joints or could present as a weaker immune system, so that they get colds and flu more often than they should.
The 30-Day Challenge
If you have ANY disease, pain or discomfort, the biggest change you can make, and expect to see an improvement of symptoms, is to go grain and dairy free for 30 days.
During this time you can eat as many plant-based foods (preferably organic or spray-free) as you like together with moderate amounts of good quality organic protein, including eggs, meat, fish, nuts, seeds and legumes. For maximum benefit, cutting out alcohol (which also contains a lot of sugar) during this challenge would be a good idea. If you are a coffee-lover, and have more than two cups per day, reducing your intake will also be highly beneficial. We know it might seem boring, but the best drink to have during these 30 days is plenty of pure, room temperature, non-sparkling mineral water or pure filtered water. Most people are dehydrated and coffee and tea just make the dehydration even worse. You can spice up the water with slices of lime, lemon or mint. Your body will thank you for drinking lots of pure water.
After 30 days when symptoms have improved, you can try adding back a bit of dairy. Start with cheeses first because these are fermented and the fermentation process changes and reduces the potential impact of lactose and casein on your system. If all is good with dairy, then add back a moderate amount of grains, but not wheat, rye and barley, since these contain the forms of gluten that most people will commonly react to and they are also the most likely to be GMO (genetically modified organisms).
Really listen to your body and notice how it feels after adding back foods. All too often you will hear people say I always feel bloated after eating _______ (fill in the blank). So why eat that food? Why not listen to your body and avoid things that do not make it feel good. Food should be nourishing to us and not make us feel sub-optimal.
Optimise Gut Health
As we saw in How To Avoid Autoimmune Disease – Part 1, the health and diversity of one’s gut micro-biome (the various strains of bacteria that co-exist in the gut) is essential to having a fully functioning immune system. The gastro intestinal tract is where the heavy lifting is done to extract all the vitamins, minerals, enzymes, energy and other bacteria that we require. But if one does not eat optimal foods to keep the populations of bacteria in balance, then the ability of the gut to do this really important job will decline. Every strain of bacteria requires specific nutrients for its own development and if denied those nutrients then that strain will diminish or be crowded out by another strain that has received more of the foods that it likes.
This is the vicious cycle that too many people find themselves in. Their gut bacteria cannot extract all the goodness they need from food, but the food they eat does not support good bacteria and in fact makes the bacterial balance worse, so they can extract even less goodness from their food. Someone chronically obese is actually starving because they cannot extract what their body needs. The worst offender in crowding out good strains (rather like a bully in a playground) is candida albicans, which thrives on sugar. No prizes for guessing why sugar from all causes is so detrimental to good immune function. In order to break this vicious cycle, drastically reducing sugar from all sources is essential—together with calming the inflammation that has arisen in the GI tract.
The best supplement that we have come across to achieve this is Biohawk Relief Ginger Enzyme. This enzyme is produced in Brisbane, Australia by Professor Cliff Hawkins, a noted bio-chemist. He has developed this natural food supplement from three members of the ginger family, and has many clients who have seen marked improvement in their health, including autoimmune conditions, merely by improving the functioning of their gut. If you have a serious health issue, this is a really good starting point on your journey to recovery.
Eat Bacteria to Build Bacteria
The next important change to make in your dietary habits is to include fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and kefir (fermented milk). These foods will serve up to your gut a wide variety of bacteria that are needed to help repopulate the strains of bacteria that could have taken a bit of a hit after years of a high sugar content diet. In addition, you can take good quality pre- and probiotic supplements to add even more bacterial variety. Look for varieties of probiotics that have the colonising strains of bacteria lactobacillus acidophilus, lactobacillus plantarum and bifidobacterium lactis. These will actually recolonise your microbiome and when gut health has been restored you will not need to continue taking them.
Reduce Your Toxic Load
You immune system has enough to cope with from health assaults without having to deal with all the toxic chemicals that we lather onto our bodies or our faces every day. Please find natural alternatives without the parabens, additives and thoroughly unnecessary chemicals that all the conventional body care, cosmetic and fragrance products contain. Here are some other tips:
⦁ Wear natural fibres not synthetics.
⦁ Open all windows before getting into a hot car that has been sitting in the sun.
⦁ Keep your home well ventilated (assuming you do not live in a highly polluted environment).
⦁ Get your daily dose of vitamin D from the sun (or cod liver oil, if you live somewhere that is sun-challenged). If you must use sunscreen, please find a natural one. The best sun protection is to limit the time in the sun so that you do not burn.
⦁ Use glass containers to store food in and NEVER freeze water in a plastic bottle to drink in the hot summer. Freezing releases bisphenol products contained in the plastic into the water, which you then drink.
⦁ Similarly NEVER heat or reheat foods in a microwave in a plastic container or covered with cling film. The extreme heat of the microwave will deposit nasty plastic compounds into your food. Preferably, do not use microwaves at all due to the damage these can impart to the molecular structure of food – they do not merely excite water molecules in food and thereby heat it.
⦁ Avoid or minimise all processed foods. These contain way too many additives, colourants, flavour enhancers, preservatives etc. Natural is best. Buy organic or spray-free veggies and fruits. Glyphosphates are now ubiquitous in the foods served up to us by supermarkets unless they are organic.
⦁ Same goes for meats which must be grass fed, and chicken really does need to be organic and free-range in view of the large amounts of hormones and antibiotics these poor birds are fed in confined growing conditions.
⦁ Get your lymph system working by regular movement and exercise. Bouncing on a mini trampoline for at least 10 minutes per day is really effective. Remember your lymph system is what helps to remove waste from around your body, but there is no pump to drive movement within it, which is why walking, bouncing and exercise are essential.
These are just a few of the things you can think about in terms of minimising toxicity in your life. There are many more that you will learn about when you conduct a bit of research.
Combatting stress cannot be overemphasised as a really important part of how to avoid autoimmune disease. Stress literally turns off your digestion system and hence your immune system. This is due to the fight-or-flight response in the body channelling all available energy to muscles and away from unnecessary energy expenditure like the digestive system. This response is fine when actually required, but due to high levels of stress in people’s lives it has almost become the norm with really adverse consequences for our digestion and ability to extract all the nutrients we need.
Be kind to yourself and try to make a little time each day that is just for you, when the phone isn’t ringing or kids aren’t demanding attention or FaceBook can be ignored. Just try to be in the moment, by walking in nature, reading a book, meditating, singing or anything that can help to turn your busy brain off and let you relax. Giving yourself plenty of time away from this busy world is a crucial part of how to avoid autoimmune disease.
Tim Cragg is a principal participant of CoolWellbeing Foundation