This informative post was written by Goji Man (a.k.a. Simon Hammett), who is from the UK and is currently studying a Masters in Food, Nutrition & Health. He runs a blog called gojimannutrition.com which focuses on plant based nutrition and health which I encourage you to check out! You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Autoimmune diseases are caused when your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body. There are well over 80 different types of diagnosable autoimmune diseases and many have very similar characteristics and symptoms which makes it very difficult for doctors to diagnose.

The most common autoimmune diseases are: rheumatoid arthritis (joint inflammation), lupus (can effect skin, joints, kidneys and other organs), celiac disease (caused by a reaction to gluten resulting in intestine damage), pernicious anaemia (reduced red blood cells due to inability to absorb vitamin B12), vitiligo (loss of pigment in skin), psoriasis (skin condition), Hashimoto’s disease (thyroid inflammation) and type 1 diabetes (caused when pancreas is destroyed).

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The standard medical approach to dealing with autoimmune diseases are medications (with a multitude of serious side effects):

  • it is common for Rheumatologists to prescribe strong immunosuppressive medications when a person is diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. These medications reduce immune function and actually destroy the immune system itself. This then creates further complications in that the body is compromised and is susceptible to serious infections.
  • Many people don’t realise that many of the medications prescribed for autoimmune diseases actually contain chemotherapeutic agents that are toxic to cells. These treatment methods are similar to those offered when treating patients with cancer. And these cytotoxic agents carry some heavy risks. In 2009, for example, the FDA in the United States issued a warning for Remicade. Remicade is a routinely prescribed medication for a number of different autoimmune diseases. The FDA warning stated that the drug increased the risk of developing cancer (especially lymphoma) as well as causing a dramatic reduction in white cell counts which then left patients susceptible to fatal infections (1).
  • But it’s not only Remicade that increases cancer risk among autoimmune patients. A ten year leading study showed a 400% increased cancer risk for those who regularly took immunosuppressive medications (2).
  • Other immunosuppressive medications, like those used to manage rheumatoid arthritis, have also been shown to induce liver disease and other serious conditions (3).

The Alternative

Luckily for sufferers of autoimmune diseases there is a plan B that doesn’t involve medication and is far safer. Lots of leading studies (4,5,6,7,8) have demonstrated that vegan and vegetarian diets are very effective and safe for treating autoimmune diseases. This is because these diets are superior at removing unwanted toxins from the body. They also provide high levels of phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals that help fix malfunctioning immune systems.

Intermittent fasting has also been shown to offer additional relief for sufferers. There have been case studies, (like (9) from Dr Joel Fuhrman) that have shown intermittent fasting is very effective at putting autoimmune diseases into remission.

It appears that autoimmune type diseases are very similar to other western diet type diseases (heart disease, strokes, cancer etc) in that the main causes are generally a lack of adequate nutrition. By fixing these deficiencies, diseases reversal is possible in most cases.

The latest science is clear – if people adopt high plant based diets, many who suffer from autoimmune diseases are able to make significant improvements or reverse their illnesses.

References

  1. http://www.fda.gov/Safety/MedWatch/SafetyInformation/SafetyAlertsforHumanMedicalproducts/ucm175843.htm
  2. http://wwwncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10451066
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21263458
  4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7656463
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11156742
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11252685
  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11890437
  8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2868255
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12126162

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