Paleo Diet for Autoimmune Diseases

The immune response

When everything is going right in your body, your immune system is a fantastic defence system which protects against injury and infection through a complex communication system that takes place between your body’s cells and the chemical signals that they produce.

In a compromised immune system it mistakes certain parts of our own bodies as foreign invaders, and in its effort to heal us, unintentionally hurts us instead. The result is damage to the body’s tissues and the development of an autoimmune disease.

Autoimmune diseases

What causes symptoms of these autoimmune diseases is the build-up of damage to cells, tissues and organs in the body – the damage that is caused by your own immune system attacking these cells.

There are different types of autoimmune diseases and what separates one from the other is which cells or where in the body they are attacked. For example:

  • Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis is a disease where the thyroid gland is attacked. 
  • In Psoriasis, proteins within the layers of cells that make up your skin are attacked.
  • In Rheumatoid arthritis, the tissues of your joints are attacked.

The root cause of these all stay the same, i.e. an issue within the immune system.
Autoimmune diseases can affect nearly every part of the body and Scientists have identified more than 80 clinically distinct autoimmune diseases, see list below (please note, not all autoimmune diseases are listed):

SYSTEMIC AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES

LOCALIZED AUTOIMMUNE DISEASES

Rheumatoid arthritis (joints; less commonly lung, skin)

Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus (pancreas islets)

Lupus (Systemic Lupus Erythematosus) (skin, joints, kidneys, heart, brain, red blood cells, other)

Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Graves’ disease (thyroid)

Scleroderma (skin, intestine, less commonly lung)

Celiac disease, Chrohn's disease, Ulcerative Colitis (GI tract)

Sjogren’s syndrome (salivary glands, tear glands, joints)

Multiple sclerosis, Guillain-Barre syndrome (brain)

Goodpasture’s syndrome (lungs, kidneys)

Addison’s disease (adrenal)

Wegener’s granulomatosis (sinuses, lungs, kidneys)

Primary, biliary sclerosis, Sclerosing cholangitis, Autoimmune hepatitis (liver)


There are no cures for any autoimmune diseases (once the body learns to attack itself, it doesn’t know how to un-learn this problem). However most of these diseases can be put into remission and often permanently, though this depends on a few factors such as how long you have had the disease, how aggressive it is and if there is any permanent damage.Where conventional medicine has failed to find answers for these diseases, many people have discovered that diet and lifestyle changes have a huge impact on their autoimmune symptoms, with clinical trials backing these claims.

The Paleo Diet

The Paleo diet works on multiple levels, calming our immune system, reducing body-wide inflammation, healing leaky gut (related to a cause of autoimmune diseases) and even turning harmful genes off through the power of epigenetics (explained in this research article: http://thepaleodiet.com/paleo-diet-q-a-epigenetics-flaxseed-oil/

In layman’s terms we can’t change our genes, but we do have the power to affect how they express themselves, and following a Paleo lifestyle is one of these ways. Choosing to eat nutrient-dense foods that support optimal gut health will provide all of the building blocks that your body needs to:

  • Properly regulate the immune system, 
  • Help resolve inflammation. 
  • Support organ function. 
  • Heal the gut.
  • Regulate hormones.
  • Address micronutrient deficiencies.
  • Restore normal, health gut microorganisms.

It creates an environment in your body that is conducive to healing.

The Paleo diet is appropriate for everyone with diagnosed and suspected autoimmune diseases as it is not only an extremely nutrient-dense diet but it is also devoid of foods that irritate the gut and cause gut dysbiosis thus activating the immune system. You will definitely not be missing out on any nutrients and this diet is absolutely appropriate to follow for the rest of your life, in other words, as a lifestyle. If you have a specific autoimmune disease that causes extra food sensitivities, this should be taken into account with regards to your food choices.

Healing takes time

It’s vital to remember that autoimmune diseases take many years to develop, and then we’re often sick for years before we’re ready to take our health into our own hands. It can take a long time to heal.

‘Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.’ - Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, The Physiology of Taste, 1825 French gourmet & lawyer (1755 - 1826)