Autoimmune diseases are evermore on the rise in our modern era. Conventional medicine rarely offers any solutions for autoimmunity beyond steroids to suppress the immune system. Many people who have been diagnosed turn to diet for solutions and relief.
The tenet behind nutritional interventions for autoimmune conditions is that when we eliminate inflammatory foods, we reduce an overactive immune response, bringing more balance and harmony back to the body. Commonly targeted foods include gluten, dairy, corn, soy and peanuts. Many resources suggest adding caffeine, refined sugar and alcohol to the exclusionary list. Still other approaches consider the nightshade family (foods like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and white potatoes) highly suspect and suggest elimination for symptom relief.
For the average person, eliminating any food from the diet completely and indefinitely can feel daunting. Being asked to eliminate a dozen or more foods can feel untenable, leaving us feeling like we’ve failed or are at fault for our health outcomes.
However, it’s important to remember that when we restrict our food choices, we’re not just impacting what we eat. We’re affecting how we socialize and celebrate; how we connect with our loved ones and peers. While diet changes can be a starting point on the path to health, over time it can create a high level of stress, even leading to feelings of isolation and/or anxiety.
When we go back to basic physiology, we discover that cortisol in the body manages two main functions – the fight or flight response and the immune system’s inflammation response. Evolutionarily, the stress response is more important (i.e., If you’ve been eaten by a saber tooth tiger, the sore knee really isn’t an issue anymore). Therefore, managing our response to stress actually has a huge physiological response to how our inflammatory pathways function.
What if shifting how you relate to the stressors in your world had a bigger impact on your inflammatory response than your diet? A much, much larger influence than you’ve realized ...
Autoimmunity, in simple terms, is the body attacking itself. Many of us spend a good portion of the day doubting or disparaging ourselves. When we add the fear or belief that we’re “doing it wrong” and tumble down the path of self-criticism, we mobilize new levels of that assault. Therefore, to effectively address any autoimmune issue, a foundation of self-love and care must be created and chosen each day. This creates the footing for new possibilities in your health and vitality.
The nervous system and the immune system are inextricably linked. Healing will be limited if we keep on acting as though the nervous system is less important than the gut or the heart or the lungs. Whatever you choose to eat, choose it in order to nourish yourself on every level. Savor the smell, the taste, the experience. Live your life more fully in presence and see what unfolds in your health!
Nicola Dehlinger is a naturopathic doctor at Pura Vida Natural Healthcare in Durango. She can be reached at 426-1684 or www.puravidahealthcare.com.