Paleo Diet for Autoimmunity: Can Your Food Really Heal Your Autoimmunity?
Are you looking for a natural way to manage your symptoms of autoimmunity? As an autoimmune specialist for women, I often get asked if it’s possible to heal from autoimmune diseases through a dietary approach.
My answer? A resounding “Yes!”
While not a cure, a dietary approach can significantly relieve symptoms, reduce inflammation, and lead to a better quality of life.
But which approach is best? Personally, I’m a big fan of the Paleo diet for autoimmunity healing. In this blog post, I’m sharing what I know about the Paleo diet and how it can help you manage your condition and reclaim your life.
Let’s dive in!
Paleo Diet for Autoimmunity: Do You Have to Eat Like a Cavewoman?
The Paleolithic (“Paleo”) food approach is to eat as our human ancestors did for millions of years before the Neolithic Revolution, which was only ten thousand years ago. Until then, humans ate whole, unprocessed foods — like meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. In the Neolithic period, humans began settling down to farm the land and raise animals for food. This is when we shifted to regularly eating grains, legumes, eggs, and milk.
While these “new” foods are definitely tasty and added some serious flair to our cavewoman diets, not everyone is well-adapted to them. Immunology research shows that people can create antibodies against these foods. This can increase the risk of tagging self-tissue, which is an autoimmune process.
Some Neolithic food protein structures are thought to resemble the protein sequence of different body tissues. In the process of attacking the food protein, your immune system can easily attack similar tissue in your body. This is called molecular mimicry1 — and it’s not something to take lightly.
Enter: our not-so-good friend, inflammation.
But don’t worry — that’s where the Paleo diet comes in!
By focusing on whole, unprocessed foods that our ancestors would have eaten, this dietary approach can help reduce the risk of autoimmune disease and other inflammatory conditions. Many people with autoimmune diseases have reported significant improvements in their symptoms after adopting a Paleo diet.
Now, I know what you might be thinking… “But Laura, I don’t want to eat like a cavewoman!”
Don’t worry, sister — you won’t have to. We live in a modern world, and we have access to all sorts of foods and culinary techniques that our ancestors didn’t.
Plus — today, milk is homogenized, pasteurized, and pumped with hormones and antibiotics. Grains and legumes are genetically modified and laced with harmful chemicals like Roundup. The foods we eat now are far from what we would find in the wild during the Paleolithic era.
While following a Paleolithic-style diet may seem like the solution to our modern-day woes, it’s not entirely feasible. So when I talk about the Paleo diet, I’m really talking about a general approximation of how our ancestors ate. Paleo is a framework that can help guide us toward a healthier, more nutrient-dense way of eating.
Paleo Diet for Autoimmune Diseases: It’s Worth Trying!
There’s good research, anecdotal data, and plain ol’ common sense behind this approach. With a diet rich in whole foods and nutrient goodness, it just makes sense that your gut will be happy and healthy!
In fact, it’s been proven — diets that are more Paleolithic can reduce inflammation.2 And if you’re a woman who wants to manage your autoimmune flare-ups… that’s the dream, right?
But before you jump headfirst into the Paleo lifestyle — you should know that a diet overhaul can be overwhelming and confusing at first. The Paleo diet can be notoriously difficult to follow and requires a good bit of planning and preparation.
However, with a bit of guidance and support, it’s definitely doable. The key is to find a guide or a group that can help you navigate the process and provide you with support and motivation. Pssst… have you heard about my free online community?
The Paleo Diet: Don’t Get Stuck
Many people find themselves stuck in the elimination phase — the “strict version” — of the Paleo diet. After eliminating inflammatory foods from their diet, they feel so good that they hesitate to expand and re-introduce foods.
Don’t get stuck here! Step two of the process is crucial. When you gradually reintroduce foods and diversify your diet, you’ll gain a sense of what your body likes and can tolerate.
It’s important not to stay in the elimination phase due to fear. When you KNOW what works for you — and what doesn’t — you can make clear choices in your daily life and finally stop wondering. It’s unbelievably empowering and freeing!
Paleo Diet for Autoimmunity: A Plant-Forward Approach
One of the great things about the Paleo diet is how it emphasizes whole, nutrient-dense, and unprocessed foods. This means that you’ll be eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, and seafood, which can help increase your nutrient intake and improve your overall health.
It’s also worth noting that the Paleo diet isn’t just about meat. While meat is an important part of the diet, it’s also possible to follow a plant-forward version of the diet that emphasizes nuts, seeds, fruits, vegetables, and root vegetables. This is a great option for people looking to reduce their meat intake or follow a more vegetarian or vegan diet.
The Paleo Diet: It’s Not Forever
While it’s true that the elimination phase of the diet can be strict, it’s important to remember that it’s only temporary. Once your autoimmune symptoms improve, it’s time to start reintroducing foods to see which ones are well-tolerated and which foods trigger flare-ups.
This is a crucial step that shouldn’t be skipped! It lets you personalize the diet and find what works best for you. The restrictive phase of the diet is not meant to be followed forever. Once you have identified which foods work for you, you can start incorporating them back into your diet in moderation.
Many people — including myself! — end up with an 80% Paleo template and allow for 20% exceptions. This lifestyle creates some flexibility while traveling or eating out. The important thing is to go through the process of identifying what works for you and your life.
Autoimmune disorders can be debilitating and overwhelming, but there are natural ways to heal.
The Paleo diet for autoimmunity has helped many women improve their symptoms and overall health. But before making big changes to your diet, it’s essential to work with a professional and not get stuck in the elimination phase. The approach should be individualized, and the goal should be to identify what works for you — so you can feel empowered in your daily nutrition choices.
I’m Dr. Laura Paris, an autoimmune specialist for women — and I’m here to help you get in the driver’s seat and stop letting your flare-ups run your life. In my four-month holistic program, Road to Remission, we’ll create a personalized plan for your new anti-inflammatory lifestyle, heal your gut, and so much more. Click here to sign up!
You can stop worrying. Relief is here!
1 Manuel Rojas, Paula Restrepo-Jiménez, Diana M. Monsalve, Yovana Pacheco, Yeny Acosta-Ampudia, Carolina Ramírez-Santana, Patrick S.C. Leung, Aftab A. Ansari, M. Eric Gershwin, Juan-Manuel Anaya, Molecular mimicry and autoimmunity, Journal of Autoimmunity, Volume 95, 2018, Pages 100-123, ISSN 0896-8411, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaut.2018.10.012.
2 Whalen KA, McCullough ML, Flanders WD, Hartman TJ, Judd S, Bostick RM. Paleolithic and Mediterranean Diet Pattern Scores Are Inversely Associated with Biomarkers of Inflammation and Oxidative Balance in Adults. J Nutr. 2016 Jun;146(6):1217-26. doi: 10.3945/jn.115.224048. Epub 2016 Apr 20. PMID: 27099230; PMCID: PMC4877627.