Functional Nutrition for Autoimmune Disease: How Diet Can Help Heal and Manage Symptoms in Women

by | Oct 17, 2023

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Functional nutrition plays a crucial role in managing autoimmune diseases, and it can be particularly beneficial for women who are more susceptible to many autoimmune conditions. Autoimmune diseases occur when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissues in the body. While there is no cure for most autoimmune diseases, diet and nutrition can help manage symptoms, reduce inflammation, and improve overall well-being. Functional nutrition for autoimmune disease involves both nutrition and lifestyle support, as well as guidance from a certified healthcare professional.

Here are some key principles and dietary strategies for women to utilize functional nutrition for autoimmune disease:

Functional Nutrition Support

Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Many autoimmune diseases are characterized by chronic inflammation. An anti-inflammatory diet can help reduce inflammation and alleviate symptoms. Focus on foods rich in anti-inflammatory compounds such as omega-3 fatty acids (found in fatty fish like salmon), antioxidants (found in fruits and vegetables), and turmeric. The Autoimmune Protocol is a diet that removes many trigger foods and slowly integrates them back in to help find the source of inflammation. It is suggested to do this only under the supervision of a nutrition professional to avoid any further inflammation or nutrient deficiencies.

Balanced Macronutrients & Nutrient Intake

Some autoimmune diseases may lead to nutrient deficiencies, so it is important to eat enough overall calories and enough macro and micro nutrients. Ensure your diet is balanced with a mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats, as well as vitamins and minerals from fiber rich fruits and vegetables. Choose complex carbohydrates like whole grains, lean proteins like poultry and fish, and healthy fats like avocados and olive oil.

Gut Health

The gut microbiome plays a significant role in autoimmune diseases. Supporting the gut and addressing any dysbiosis also goes a long way in allowing as many foods as possible into the diet without restriction. Many food intolerances or sensitivities are due to gut imbalances and can lead to further nutrient deficiencies. The goal is always to allow as many foods as possible into the diet as tolerated to ensure adequate nutrient intake. This starts with healing the gut.

Functional Lifestyle Support

Utilizing functional nutrition for autoimmune disease goes beyond just what you eat to the environment you are eating in, both externally by considering where you are and what you are putting into your body and internally through supporting a parasympathetic response to aid in digestion and nutrient absorption.

Stress Management

Chronic stress can exacerbate autoimmune symptoms. Incorporate stress-reduction techniques like meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, and regular physical activity into your routine.

Nervous System Support

This goes beyond stress management to whole body support to help the body know when to react to stressors and when to prioritize a parasympathetic equilibrium state. When the nervous system knows what a true threat is, it will react less frequently to smaller incidences and triggers. A regulated nervous system also knows how to restore homeostasis and return to a state of calm after a state of stress. In addition to stress management techniques, prioritizing boundary setting, a regular gratitude practice, somatic exercises to process triggers, therapy, and journaling are all supportive to regulating the nervous system response.

Genes & Environment

While there are genetic predispositions to autoimmune disease, environment also plays a role in activating those with genetic susceptibility. Environment includes the air you breathe, so a home air filter may be beneficial. It also includes the water you drink, the types of foods you eat, the soil the food was grown in, the chemicals on those foods and on the packaging the foods come in. We cannot control all of these factors, but being aware of their influence and minimizing triggers where we can do so will go a long way in supporting optimal health with autoimmunity.

Individualized Approach

Remember that every person with an autoimmune disease is unique. What works for one person may not work for another. It’s important to work closely with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian to develop a personalized nutrition plan. Functional nutrition for autoimmune disease can be extremely supportive in optimizing energy and minimizing flares if approached safely and with consideration for individualized needs.

In conclusion, functional nutrition can be a powerful tool for managing autoimmune diseases in women. A well-balanced, anti-inflammatory diet, along with other lifestyle modifications, can help reduce symptoms, improve overall health, and enhance the quality of life for women with autoimmune conditions. Always consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian for personalized guidance and recommendations tailored to your specific condition.

Further Resources on Functional Nutrition for Autoimmune Disease

Ready to utilize functional nutrition for autoimmune disease? Grab my free guide to understanding the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet along with supportive recipes and a meal plan. You can download your copy on my resource page.

Hi, I’m Stephanie! I help everyday active women nourish their goals and fuel their lives.

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