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Eating for Autoimmune Conditions: 11 Tips to Improve Gut Health

Tray of fish, fruit, eggs, avocado, and nuts

A healthy diet can make a world of difference in how you feel, and that’s especially true for those living with autoimmune conditions. Eating foods with anti-inflammatory properties can help alleviate the painful symptoms. In a special selection from her book MEALS THAT HEAL, author Carolyn Williams, PhD, RD, shares 11 areas to focus on when you’re eating to manage autoimmune conditions and improve your gut health.

Eating for Autoimmune Conditions

An autoimmune condition is a dysfunctional state where the body is inflamed, confused, and attacking the structure or proper functioning within itself. Basically, the system that is responsible for inflammation is itself inflamed.

This creates a very delicate, self-debilitating state that is very susceptible to further irritation and inflammation, causing a cascade of effects. Unlike some inflammatory conditions that progress slower—like diabetes or heart disease—autoimmune conditions are either exacerbated or calmed by food and lifestyle habits; individuals with these conditions can usually feel the impact immediately.

The anti-inflammatory protocol will be specific to each autoimmune condition, and it’s important to identify the key diet and lifestyle factors that both negatively and positively impact symptoms. Once identified, then inflammation in the body can be reduced to help manage the disease and ease symptoms and side effects.

Essential Focus Areas

• CONSUME a minimum of 5 servings of produce each day (approx. 2 1/2 cups).

• CONSUME only whole or minimally processed foods when possible to eliminate any unnecessary additives like colorings, artificial sweeteners, chemicals, and pesticides.

• ELIMINATE gluten for several weeks before reintroducing, and avoid if potential sensitivity is identified.

• EAT fish rich in omega-3 fats two to three times a week.

• SUBSTITUTE omega-3-rich foods when possible to improve omega-6 to omega-3 intake ratio (see page 32 of MEALS THAT HEAL for a list).

• CONSUME nuts (approx. a 1-ounce serving) 5 to 7 days per week.

• GREATLY LIMIT processed foods, trans fats, fried foods, refined grains, highly processed starch sources, and foods with high amounts of added sugars.

• LIMIT added sugar content in foods to less than 2 grams per serving.

• INCREASE intake of probiotic and prebiotic foods (see page 18 of MEALS THAT HEAL for a list).

• INCREASE the proportion of plant-based proteins compared to animal-based proteins.

• STEP UP flavor with fragrant spices, herbs, garlic, and onions.

For additional considerations when eating for autoimmune conditions, plus step-by-step recipes for anti-inflammatory meals, pick up a copy of MEALS THAT HEAL by Carolyn Williams.

Want more? Discover Summer’s 7 Best Foods to Reduce Inflammation

Excerpted from MEALS THAT HEAL by Carolyn Williams. Copyright © 2019 by the author. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.


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