Benefits Of A Plant Based Diet For Those With Autoimmune Disease
There is growing evidence that plant-based diets are beneficial for people with autoimmune disease, positively impacting the individuals daily life while reducing or even totally reversing their autoimmune disease.
Autoimmune disease is a condition where healthy cells are attacked by the body’s own immune system.
A healthy immune system will defend the body against bacteria, diseases, viruses and infections, but with an autoimmune disease, the immune system unfortunately does not distinguish between healthy and normal cells and invaders.
There are more than eighty different types of autoimmune diseases such as Lupus, Graves Disease, Hashimoto’s, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Type 1 Diabetes, Coeliac Disease, and Multiple Sclerosis (MS).
What is a plant based diet?
Plant-based eating focuses on eating mostly plants and foods naturally derived from plants. This includes fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, oils, whole grains, beans and legumes. These highly nutritious foods can provide the body with carbohydrates, simple sugars, essential amino acids, healthy fats, and so many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
What is the difference between vegan and plant-based?
Plant-based diets are predominantly made up of minimally processed and whole plant foods. Plant-based diets usually focus on eating foods that are close to it’s natural state as possible, and has undergone little to no processing. Animal-derived products are also limited or not consumed, depending on the individuals choice.
Vegan diets on the other hand eliminate all animal products including dairy, eggs, poultry, seafood, meat, and even honey.
Can a plant based diet help with Autoimmune Disease?
Research suggests that nutrition and diet can impact the immune system and can affect the microbiome, gut function, white blood cell function and inflammatory processes.
Inflammation is a major characteristic of autoimmune diseases. There are specific dietary recommendations for individuals with autoimmune disease, as there are certain foods that have the potential to cause inflammation and trigger autoimmune symptoms. An individuals trigger foods will vary, depending on their autoimmune disorder. Some of these foods include gluten, red meat, eggs, processed foods, refined sugars, alcohol, coffee, nightshades, and dairy products.
Some individuals are asked to go on an elimination protocol which includes removing foods for a period of time and then reintroducing them again slowly to determine what foods may cause an autoimmune response.
This is why plant-based diets are recommended for those individuals with autoimmune disease, because plant-based eating usually eliminates most of these trigger foods and can lower levels of inflammation. A diet too high in animal products and saturated fats can cause inflammation in the body.
Plant foods also contain antioxidants and nutrients that help support the immune system.
One particular autoimmune disease is Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) which is a chronic inflammatory autoimmune disease. Rheumatoid arthritis commonly affects the wrists, hands, knees causing joint pain, stiffness, swelling, and inflammation in the body.
Many studies have shown that a plant-based diet full of vegetables, fruits and fibre have anti-inflammatory properties and can significantly improve symptoms with rheumatoid arthritis. The dietary fibres found in plant-based foods can help to improve beneficial gut bacteria and help repair gut mobility.
Food and diet plays a very large role in our health, and a diet that limits sugars, promotes good gut health, includes seasonal produce, and is rich in whole foods can be so important.
So too are other lifestyle factors that cause inflammation in the body which in turn leads to poor health and an autoimmune response. These lifestyle factors include stress, consuming alcohol, smoking cigarettes, and not getting enough exercise or restful sleep, which are all very big offenders for autoimmune disease.
There are countless individuals who have claimed that a predominantly plant-based diet has reduced their autoimmune symptoms, or reversed their autoimmune disease entirely.
Sophie Steevens is one woman who reversed her autoimmune disease naturally through eating a plant-based diet. Sophie is the Mother of three young boys and the family happily lives a plant-based lifestyle. She shares her story of recovery through her instagram ‘Raw and Free’, as well as sharing wholesome plant-based recipes to inspire others.
Sophie was diagnosed with Graves disease, which is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system creates antibodies to attack the thyroid gland, causing it to produce an excessive amount of thyroid hormone and become overactive. This puts the body into overdrive, resulting in a number of symptoms, including a rapid heartbeat, excessive sweating, hand tremors, nervousness, anxiety, weight loss and sleep problems. Sophie was put on medication and was told that she had no option left but to destroy her thyroid through radioactive iodine treatment or surgery, then take thyroxine medication for the rest of her life.
Sophie began eating a plant-based diet and now after many years, she is medication free and still has completely normal thyroid function and antibodies.
You can follow Sophie on her instagram @rawandfree
I have personally felt the positive effects and benefits of plant-based eating with my own health and Autoimmune disease. Once I reduced my meat consumption slightly, cut out gluten and dairy (which were big flare up culprits for me), reduced processed foods and sugar, and focused on eating primarily plants with a range of colourful fruits and vegetables, than I could feel a change in my overall energy and well-being. My inflammation markers became normal, I noticed less joint pain, the whites of my eyes became brighter, and I could feel a reduction in some of my symptoms such as bloating and digestive issues.
I love to eat an array of plant foods, as it has helped propel me into health, wellness and prosperity.
Eating a plant-based or even a vegan diet could potentially leave the body short on nutrients like calcium, omega-3’s, zinc, and vitamin B12 if you don’t pay attention or focus on eating a variety of plant foods.
It’s a good idea to educate yourself and learn about foods so that you know what plant-based foods you can eat to substitute many of these nutrients, or to speak to a nutritionist or health professional for guidance and support when transitioning to a plant-based diet.
Do you have an autoimmune disease and have your own plant-based transformation? Here at Love Your Health, we’d love to know if a plant-based diet has changed your life and health. Feel free to comment below and let us know!