Published May 10, 2023 “Autoimmune disease” feels like a buzzword these days, but for those who suffer from any of the plethora of difficult-to-diagnose conditions, it’s very real. So real, in fact, that autoimmune diseases are 75% more common in women than men. Symptoms can often be fuzzy, like fatigue or anxiety, which can have a compounding effect on quality of life as well as how strategic we get with our healing journey. If you’re feeling hopeless about your situation we’ve got some positive news: while autoimmune conditions can’t be cured, lifestyle modifications have proven hugely helpful in reducing flare-ups. As one of our podcast guests Marc Ryan said, Inflammation is the root of all evil — and it should come as no surprise that inflammation goes hand in hand with autoimmunity. Whether you’re dealing with a condition like Psoriasis or Hashimoto’s, here are a few simple tips to support your immune system and reclaim your life. FOCUS ON YOUR GUT & CORRECT YOUR MICROBIOME The first and perhaps most important step in healing your immune system is healing your gut. It makes a lot of sense since 80% of our immune cells are located in the gastrointestinal tract. So how can you repair the gut in order to alleviate autoimmune symptoms? Here are a few tips to starting your gut healing journey: Eliminate trigger foods: some common trigger foods when it comes to inflammation include corn, soy, gluten, and dairy. You can try eliminating these foods for 30-60 days, noting how you feel, and then slowly reintroduce these foods (one at a time) and note what your triggers areGI mapping: If you have the resources to do so and are working with a qualified practitioner, getting a GI map can be really insightful. These tests (many of which you can do from home) offer an amazing window into your digestion, nutrient absorption, inflammation, and immune function — allowing you to pinpoint the exact issue at hand. Eat a diverse array of fruits and vegetables: One of the best ways to support healthy gut bacteria is by introducing an array of plant nutrients through different fruits and vegetables. Aim for fruits and vegetables that are colorful!Add fermented foods: Think foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, etc. These are simple ways to start building healthy gut diversity. You can also add a high-quality probiotic supplement to your regimen. ADD MUSHROOMS INTO YOUR DIET Mushrooms have incredible anti-inflammatory and immunomodulating properties that can suppress autoimmune symptoms. They contain both beta-glucans that modulate the immune response and triterpenes that are antiviral and anti-inflammatory — and unlike certain herbs such as elderberry and echinacea that can be a bit stimulating , they won’t put your immune system on high alert. The goal when utilizing mushrooms, with their gentle intelligence, is to support immune modulation by bringing the immune system into normal balance and homeostasis, no matter which side of the coin you’re on. These brilliant life forms support the body’s normal production of Regulatory T cells (Tregs), which encourages responsive, yet stabilized immune health. ImmuneShroom, our powerful formulation of five adaptogenic mushrooms, is an easy way to get shrooms into your daily wellness routine. This formula includes mushrooms like Reishi and Turkey Tail that have been researched extensively. Integrating mushrooms into meals is another easy and delicious way to reap the benefits of mushrooms. You can really elevate any broth with mushrooms. In fact, broths are one of the best ways to prepare mushrooms since many of the nutrients in mushrooms are water-soluble. Here are two of our favorite mushroom recipes on the blog: Immune-Modulating Medicinal Mushroom BrothNick’s Mushroom & Steak Soup FOCUS ON COOKED FOOD You’ve likely been fed the narrative that raw foods are closer to nature than cooked foods (true), thus they’re better for you (this is where we’ll play devil’s advocate). Eating too much raw food can deplete your body’s vital energy, especially if you’ve been chronically ill and are feeling weak from an autoimmune condition. In this scenario, cooked foods can lessen inflammation and give you the nutrients you need in a gentler manner. Cooked foods are easier to digest, and as we noted above, digestion and gut health are critical parts of proper immune function. Light, quick cooking (like steaming) is best since it preserves the enzymes and tastes delicious. Best of both worlds. ELEVATE YOUR DIET WITH HERBS If you’re not making dietary changes, herbs likely won’t do their job to the fullest. But if you’re adding in all the right foods to heal your gut and reduce inflammation throughout the body, herbs can help catapult you towards full-body health. As noted above, when it comes to using herbs for autoimmune conditions we tend to lean on more gentle herbs that help modulate inflammation instead of stimulating herbs. There are three herb categories to focus on for autoimmune conditions: Immunomodulating herbs: Herbs in this category work to regulate immune response whether it is over or underactive. Mushrooms shine the brightest in this category and some of our top picks include Reish, Chaga, Turkey Tail, Cordyceps, and Shiitake. Antispasmodic herbs: As the name suggests, these are herbs that help with pain and cramping that often comes with autoimmune conditions. Herbs in this category can help with anything from muscle and joint pain to stomach cramping and discomfort. These include Chamomile, Catnip, Lemon Balm, Passionflower, and Cramp Bark. Adaptogens: This class of herbs helps the body adapt to stress while also promoting a greater sense of resiliency. This is an important category of herbs since a lot of inflammation is either driven by or exasperated by stress. A few gentle adaptogens you can lean on for support include Ashwaghadna, Tulsi, and Licorice. CHECK FOR NUTRIENT DEFICIENCIES If it’s available to you, check for nutrient deficiencies via labs. The top deficiencies linked to autoimmune disease are the following: Vitamin D Vitamin D plays a crucial role in immunomodulation. It regulates and prevents autoimmunity by stimulating regulatory T cells (Tregs), which are responsible for differentiating between what is foreign (invaders) and what is of the self. When Vitamin D stimulates the production of these cells, it teaches your immune system to develop tolerance towards your own tissue. Food sources include fatty fish, grass-fed or pasture-raised beef, and organ meats. Omega 3’s Studies have shown that omega 3 oils enhance B-cell activation and select antibody production, which can lower the inflammatory response present in autoimmune disease. You can either supplement with a trusted source or up your intake of wild fatty fish such as sardines, salmon, etc. Magnesium Magnesium deficiency has been shown to cause an increased production of proinflammatory cytokines (such as IL-6 and TNF-α), which raise systemic inflammation and contribute to the development of autoimmune disease. Food sources of magnesium include leafy greens, dark chocolate, almonds, and pumpkin seeds. Most importantly, magnesium is greatly depleted by sugar so you know the old saying – waste not, want not! If you decrease the amount of added sugar in your diet, you won’t burn through your magnesium nearly as fast.* *Source: “What Do White Spots on Your Fingernails Mean?” Whether you’re just beginning to improve your diet or looking for a much-needed boost, food therapy is a crucial step toward achieving a healthier, happier, and less symptomatic life. As always, consult with your doctor before making any significant changes.