Holistic Nutrition for Autoimmune Condition Reversal: Is That Possible?
By- Akanksha Mahajan (Final year MBBS, GMC Amritsar)
An individual’s nutrition status, state of nourishment, and patterns of food intake can impact the overall functioning of the immune system; this interaction between the food consumed and the immune system occurs at the level of physical barriers (e.g., skin, intestinal mucous membranes), the microbiome, the innate immune system (e.g., macrophage function and polarization) and the adaptive immune system (e.g., T- and B-cell function). Conversely, the immune system also impacts the nutrition metabolism and further influences the physiological response to food. Moreover, much of the immune system is located within the GI tract, since it must deal with the enormous antigenic load introduced with food. (1), (2) Various recent studies have described the impacts of single nutrients on markers of immune function and the role of nutrition in autoimmune disease reversal, however, the currently available information is not sufficient to demonstrate the impact of specific dietary patterns on immune-mediated clinical disease endpoints.
To be honest, this is not a scientific article or anything. The Following write-up is simply based on a personal experience. So, I would like to begin with a brief disclaimer first. If you or someone you know is also suffering from a similar condition, I would strongly suggest not to follow anything in this write-up blindly without seeking professional guidance regarding the same.
This is an article about my mother who has had rheumatoid arthritis for like 10 years and was on the medication for the past decade. But her condition couldn’t exactly be controlled. She had deformities in her fingers and had to take steroids frequently to manage her flare-ups. So, we came across someone with a similar condition who claimed that she had been able to manage her condition really well and didn’t experience any flare-ups within the past 2 years. She recommended that we should seek help from a holistic nutritionist who basically specialized in autoimmune disease reversal.
So, we began with the holistic diet because you would obviously do whatever it takes to save yourself from suffering, right? All we thought was that there might not be any proof that it will work but one thing was sure that what harm could it have possibly done…!
Before I let you know about the nutritionist’s recommendations, you must know what holistic nutrition actually refers to. So, holistic nutrition is not just about diet. It integrates the role of appropriate nutrition, exercise, and also last but not least, mental well-being, i.e., stress management. The overall goal is to reduce the levels of inflammatory markers in the body. So, first of all, that holistic nutritionist made my mom change her entire routine completely. “8-10 hours of sleep was a must to get the results.” she said.
The day was supposed to be begun with a glass of lukewarm water with freshly peeled aloe vera. Aloe vera is basically known to increase nutrient absorption from the gut and enhance bowel function and is also known for its anti-inflammatory properties. This aloe vera juice was to be taken along with 10 almonds on an empty stomach.
This was followed by half an hour of yoga and breathwork, involving really gentle body movements and pranayam consisting of 15 minutes of anulom vilom (alternate nostril breathing) and brahmari pranayam (humming sound pranayam), both of which are a part of the traditional Indian system of medicine, known for their soothing effects over body and mind. This was to be repeated in the evening as well.
The breakfast comprised of 2 eggs mandatorily along with fresh fruits and a source of carbs such as poha (flaked rice), sago, ragi, or oats. Gluten was strictly prohibited in the diet because it is believed to be one of the major culprits for raising the levels of inflammation in auto-immune conditions. Gluten-free grains such as quinoa, brown rice, and oats were encouraged. The lunch and dinner involved various gluten-free grains (mentioned above) as the source of carbs with the double amount of veggies.
The dairy milk was replaced with almond milk, probably due to the presence of saturated fats that may cause inflammation. Sugars weren’t allowed at all and were replaced with date syrup.
A glass of lukewarm water was recommended to be drunk once every 1-2 hours to enhance the overall gut health, along with a cup of green tea, especially, after breakfast and lunch, around 2-3 times a day, in order to benefit from it’s anti-oxidant properties.
I won’t deny the fact that it was definitely extremely hard to replace everything that someone had consumed throughout their life with such a diet. So, was it worth it? For the start, it didn’t seem at all, because it is not an allopathic medication that works immediately, however, fortunately, we were able to see the results after a year or so. The frequency of flare-ups was reduced to a great extent. Yes, the medication for chronic conditions definitely needs to be continued for the lifetime, however, it’s been like 3-4 years and I haven’t seen my mom taking those painful high dosage steroidal injections. So, I guess, I can confidently say that all those extensive lifestyle changes weren’t in vain, after all.
1. Venter C, Eyerich S, Sarin T, Klatt KC. nutrients Nutrition and the Immune System: A Complicated Tango. 2020; Available from: www.mdpi.com/journal/nutrients
2. Mazzucca CB, Raineri D, Cappellano G, Chiocchetti A, Pérez-Cano FJ. nutrients How to Tackle the Relationship between Autoimmune Diseases and Diet: Well Begun Is Half-Done. 2021 [cited 2022 Aug 18]; Available from: https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13113956