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Thriving in life – nutrition guidelines to prevent and heal disease

October 21st, 2011

Howdy! This is the 2nd blog from my beautiful friend, Elisa. You met her just one blog back. She is a dietitian, vegetarian, and oh, yeah, she has lupus. Making lifestyle changes with or without disease is challenging. If you have what it takes, here you go! This is rich, full, juicy, and challenging but oh, so, so, so healthy for you. (NOTE: this blog is NOT just about autoimmune disease – we should ALL be concerned with inflammation in the body, which is the basis of ALL diseases.) Go ahead, read it………

Once officially diagnosed with lupus in 2008, I wasted little time heading straight to my computer.  I typed into the search engine: “lupus,” “lupus treatment,” “lupus nutrition,” and so on…

I recall doing this repeatedly pre and post diagnosis, but I didn’t find anything useful at the time – no matter the phrases I typed.  Perhaps my cyber search skills were lacking, but I couldn’t believe there weren’t more non-pharmacological facts out there.  It seemed, at least then, that I was destined to use the meds prescribed.

Naturally, when I created my blog – I did so with the intent to provide more specific, useful information to those of us with an autoimmune condition seeking answers.  I recently realized, that if I want EatUrVeggies to show up in the search engines where people can benefit from the info, then I’m going to have to spill the beans!

Here’s what I encourage autoimmune (AI) patients to do in order to:

  • Reduce inflammation
  • Minimize symptoms
  • Enhance energy and activity levels
  • Decrease overall body weight (therefore reducing inflammation in the body)
  • Prevent other diseases from manifesting
  • Improve overall health and well-being
  • Potentially pause, if not reverse the disease process

I’ve assembled this information based on physicians’ patient experiences, patient reports and my own success in living with lupus.

I believe it’s all worth considering and implementing to see if it makes a difference for you.

What do you have to lose?!

Many people are intimated by these guidelines and what they perceive as too many limitations.  However, those of us who’ve been desperate enough to give it a fair chance, those of us who’ve eventually learned to embrace the lifestyle – those of us emerge with a new-found appreciation not only for our restored health, but also for an altered perception of food and it’s true intent: to nourish us.

So check it out, it’s not soooo bad.  If you want to take baby steps, start with number one below.  That’s the number one priority. Once you master that, work your way down the list over time.  If you want guidance and encouragement through this process – consider working with me or Diana one on one, but only if you’re willing to do whatever it takes. (Elisa doesn’t like working with wimps.)

With that said, anytime you change your diet, exercise, medicine or supplement routine – it’s a good idea to seek guidance and wisdom from a physician or a credentialed healthcare practitioner who’s goals are in line with your own.

If you have an autoimmune disease and you’re reading this now, I thank YOU for your strong spirit, to keep searching for answers, to do what you did to get to this page. Here. Today.

Brief facts about Autoimmune (AI) Disease:

  • AI diseases are the 4th leading cause of disability
  • 75% of AI diseases occur in women
  • There are 80 other AI diseases besides lupus and rheumatoid arthritis
  • All AI issues can be addressed with a similar diet/lifestyle!

Nutritional Causes of AI Disease:

  • Oxidative stress
  • Increased free radicals
  • Fatty acid imbalance
  • Bacterial challenges
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Excess caloric environment

Research on diet and AI Disease indicates:

  • High cruciferous vegetable intake
  • Plant-based diet from whole foods
  • Vitamin D adequacy
  • Fish oil

AI Disease and Genetics:

  • Genetic inheritance is not the central determinant for AI disease
  • Most researchers believe that the dramatic increase in AI in the last 50 years is environmental and dietary
  • Genetic defects control susceptibility to environmental challenges so they contribute, but do not determine disease

AI Disease and Drugs:

1,773 patients tracked for 10 years and they found a 400% increased rate of cancer in the treatment group in the 10-year period compared to controls. (Asten P, et al.  Risk of developing certain malignancies is related to duration of immunosuppressive drug exposure in patients with rheumatic diseases.  J Rheumatol 1999 Aug; 26(8):1705-14.)

 Autoimmune Nutrition Protocol

1. Keep a detailed daily food/symptom log.  Track your weight, food intake, exercise habits, symptoms, supplements, medications and progress to observe patterns and to determine what works best for your body.

2. Avoid animal products and processed, packaged foods.  Animal products contain hormones, steroids, antibiotics, bacteria, toxins (such as mercury, PCB’s, and dioxins), saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol.  Flesh is also acidic and pro-inflammatory in the human body.

Processed foods contain pro-inflammatory oils, additives, preservatives, artificial ingredients and fewer nutritious properties than whole foods in their natural state.

3. Dietary avoidance of salt, wheat, and oil.  Sodium, an electrolyte that our bodies require to function is found naturally in plants.  Additional man-made table salt increases blood pressure, predisposes you to high blood pressure and heart disease – your AI disease predisposes you to an increased risk – and it desensitizes your taste-buds making nourishing foods less appealing. Vegans consuming salty foods have a higher risk of hemorrhagic stroke, so it’s important to tune into your sodium consumption.

Wheat is a pro-inflammatory grain and a common food sensitivity in those with an AI disease. Wheat contributes to the “leaky gut” phenomenon which results in systemic inflammation and symptoms such as body aches and joint pain.

Oil is processed, nutrient poor, and costly at 120 empty-calories per tablespoon.

4. Whole food, plant-based (vegan) diet, rich in greens and crucifers – Eliminate pro-inflammatory animal products and replace with anti-inflammatory plant foods rich in antioxidants, phytochemcials, and omega-3 fatty acids.  Consume dark leafy greens and cruciferous veggies such as kale, collards, bok choy, watercress, arugula, broccoli, cabbage, radish, etc… Read more about their benefits here.

5. Make vegetable/fruit smoothies and blended soups.  Use these as staples for quick nourishing meals to significantly increase your produce consumption daily.

6. Enjoy fresh juice with veggies! Include carrots, beets, parsley, and kale to maximize your nutrient consumption by drinking the nutrients from large amounts of organic produce in the form of delicious juice.

7. Take EPA and DHA (fish oil) to reduce inflammation.  Use 1 teaspoon of Metagenic’s high concentrate fish oil EPA/DHA as a therapeutic loading dose for 1-3 months. Use as needed during periods of inflammation or flares.  During times of remission or maintenance use an algae-based DHA supplement along with 1 tablespoon ground flax seed daily.

8. Take beneficial bowel flora to promote gut integrity.  Use VSL#3 pharmacologic probiotic (30 pack supply) for one month to essentially help plug “leaky gut” junctures while usingMetagenic’s fish oil to simultaneously reduce inflammation.  Once the VSL#3 is completed, use a lower-dose probiotic daily to protect against environmental insults while establishing and maintaining healthy gut integrity.

9. Supplement with B12 and vitamin D3 daily. Consume 30-50 mcg B12 daily and 2,000 IU Vitamin D3 with a moderate (400mg) amount of calcium for enhanced absorption such as Dr. Fuhrman’s Osteo-Sun with D3 (cholecalciferol is the most potent and efficient form of vitamin D but it isn’t vegan).  Try Nature’s Bounty High Potency D3 for a cheaper D3 alternative without the calcium.

10. Increase omega-3 whole food sources. In order to reduce inflammation within you body, you want to consume more omega-3 whole food sources such as: edemame (soybeans), ground flax seed, walnuts, hemp seeds and chia seeds.

11. Avoid omega-6 snacks. Many processed foods, like tortilla chips, contain the pro-inflammatory “S” oils: safflower, sesame, soybean, sunflower, oh, and corn oils.  Avoid these as they raise the omega-6:omega-3 ratio and result in excessive inflammation in your body.

12. Avoid nightshade vegetables (eggplant, pepper, tomato, potato) as needed.  Pay attention to your symptom log and note any patterns after consuming these foods.  If you experience an increase in symptoms after ingestion – avoid the trigger item.  Some people notice a connection, others do not.

These, among other, lectin containing foods may lead to inflammation and gut permeability when bound to carbohydrates embedded in the intestinal wall.  Read more about Lectins: the Anti-Nutrienthere.

13. Juice and/or water-fast when appropriate.  Juice fasting is useful when using minimal medications, weaning off medication, working to lose weight, reducing toxins and inflammation and trying to resolve chronic symptoms.  Water fasting does this in an expedited fashion but should only be attempted when consuming the AI protocol for 3 months or more, under the supervision of a physician trained in water-fasting, and when all medication has left your system.

Read this book for more information on Fasting & Eating for Health.  It’s also been said that colon hydrotherapy or warm water enema’s during a fast may help to remove toxic waste and die off from the colon wall while alleviating agitation and restlessness.

14. Avoid any food sensitivities that are unique to you!  I often have clients report that they have noticed some sensitivity to certain items such as peanuts, soy, wheat, corn, etc… So when they continue to eat those foods, it baffles me. I’ll admit, I’ve done the same silly thing!  If a food generates any sort of inflammatory response (rashes, itching, redness, warmth, irritation) – stop consuming it and make sure you’re using a quality probiotic and DHA supplement as discussed previously.

15. Special lupus considerations: Avoid ALL sprouts (especially alfalfa) and figs due to chemicals which are known to trigger flares in lupus patients.  This means any sprouted beans, grains, or plants.  Consume at your own risk and if you do – monitor your symptoms.

Each day try to consume the following items.  Remember, you’re using food as thy medicine:

1)  Watercress – 2 tablespoons twice daily, minced and chewed very well.  This can be included in soup, salad, juice or a blended drink. Watercress is cruciferous so anytime you want to reap the benefits of crucifers, you must cut or blend thoroughly prior to heating gently.  This allows the heat-sensitive enzyme myrosinase to work effectively.

2)  A large salad – Leafy greens, arugula and a variety of cruciferous vegetables, a homemade nut-based dressing to aid in the absorption of nutrients – chew well

3)  Blended salad smoothie – Dark leafy crucifers, frozen fruit, water, flax

4)  High cruciferous soup – When blending, blend first – then heat gently

5)  Glass of fresh vegetable juice – Kale, broccoli, parsley, beet, carrot, apple

6)  Steamed greens – Kale, collards, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, kohlrabi, cabbage, bok choy, etc..

7)  Anti-inflammatory herbs/tea – Ginger, holy basil, turmeric, rosemary and organic decaf green tea

Sample Daily Menu:

Breakfast – Blended salad smoothie with 1-2+ cups frozen kale or collards, 1 handful of watercress, 1 orange, 1/2 cup of blueberries, water to obtain desired consistency, 1 tablespoon ground flax, 8 drops of liquid Stevia (optional) or 1-2 dates for sweetening

A.M. Break – Organic, decaf green tea

Lunch – Large green salad with watercress, arugula and a variety of raw veggies, nut-based salad dressing; 4-8 ounces of cruciferous soup; 1/2 cup no-salt beans in the soup or salad; fresh fruit

P.M. Snack – Fresh vegetable juice

Dinner – Steamed or water-sauteed stir-fried veggies with dark leafy greens, crucifers, variety of veggies (garlic, onion, pepper, mushrooms, broccoli, snap peas, etc…), tofu/tempeh/or no-salt beans, nut-based sauce/vinegar/or salt-free seasonings with nutritional yeast and anti-inflammatory herbs; frozen fruit whip for dessert (Banana WhipCherry Cocoa Whip, or Tropical Whip)

Follow these guidelines, be patient, persistent and your body will thank you!

If you found this article useful, you might also enjoy: Plant-based Options for Autoimmune Diseases.

And stay tuned…..Elisa has more to say.

6 Responses to “Thriving in life – nutrition guidelines to prevent and heal disease”

  1. Diana – thank you for sharing my message! As we’ve talked about, my guidelines do sound daunting initially but once I work through them with folks the results are mind boggling!!

    For instance, last week my Boston based client learned that she had normalized her lab values for autoimmune Hashimito’s Thyroiditis with a vegan diet!

    She was told she’d have to take thyroid hormones for the rest of her life, but her levels have been normal since May without any medication. She began a vegan diet in February. Sweet success!

    This morning I learned that my sunny CA client who has normalized her elevated liver enzymes (from lupus) for the first time in 7 years with a whole food plant-based diet and my autoimmune nutrition protocol!!! Fantaaaastic news for a Friday :D

  2. Diana says:

    I agree, happy news on both accounts. I’m honored to have your expertise showcased in the blog, Elisa. I’m looking forward to sharing the other 2!

  3. lisa knutsen says:

    I am sharing your blog with a friend who has lupus. Are you familiar with swelling feet and then a red splotchy burning rash that starts at feet and goes up calf and even into thighs? She has had that issue on and off for many years? She doesnt knows what brings it on. Thanks for any info you may have!

  4. Diana says:

    Not knowing anything about your friend, but knowing that one way lupus presents in some people is via rashes. I would say this is the way her body flares with the condition. Her approach to taking care of it is to take care of her lupus either medically in ways she and her doctor have discussed, or by beginning a different nutritional approach, much like what Elisa teaches here in these blogs. I’d love to be updated – good luck and keep me posted.

  5. My spouse and I absolutely love your blog and find the majority of your post’s to be exactly I’m looking for. can you offer guest writers to write content to suit your needs? I wouldn’t mind composing a post or elaborating on some of the subjects you write in relation to here. Again, awesome blog!

  6. Diana says:

    Hi Bert, of course I would be delighted to receive guest blogs depending on content. You may have enjoyed Elisa’s guest posts on nutritional approaches to lupus and other autoimmune diseases. You can email me at diana@namastenutrition.net with your suggestions.

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