Gut Health & Autoimmunity
Posted on March 30 2022
Did you know that the gut does more than just digest and absorb food? Your gut holds the keys to your immune system, playing a pivotal role in immune regulation and the prevention of autoimmunity (1,2).
Your body, but especially your gastrointestinal tract, contains an entire ecosystem—trillions of microbes that help keep your gut healthy and support your immune system. Additionally, the quality of your small intestine barrier, designed to let nutrients into your bloodstream while keeping pathogens out, is critical for a healthy immune response. Leaky gut, the condition of a damaged small intestine barrier, is connected to autoimmunity (3).
Gut health is foundational when it comes to autoimmunity. Our diet is the best way to address both a healthy GI and prevent autoimmunity. Certain foods are capable of healing the gut while regulating the immune system. On the other hand, some foods are harmful to the gut and exacerbate an exaggerated immune response.
Let's take a look at what should be prioritized regarding gut health & autoimmunity.
Elimination of ultra-processed foods
Ultra-processed foods are foods that are missing essential nutrients. Also called "empty calories," these foods contain processed sugars, unhealthy fat, and artificial ingredients. When we eat these foods regularly, we deprive our bodies of the nutrients it needs to repair and regulate our immune system, and we fill up on ingredients that are harmful to our gut.
How do we spot ultra-processed foods? Read the ingredient list of any packaged foods and avoid hydrogenated oils, food coloring, nitrates & nitrites, high fructose corn syrup, carrageenan, and artificial sweeteners like sucralose & aspartame—none of which are used in Paleo On The Go recipes!
Avoidance of foods that are inflammatory to the gut and the immune system
Many of these foods are not unhealthy, but they do contain certain compounds that can trigger an immune response in sensitive people. Some of these same compounds may compromise the integrity of the gut barrier. Because healing the gut barrier is essential for autoimmunity, these foods need to be eliminated while healing takes place. Foods that may need to be eliminated are grains (especially gluten-containing grains), nightshades (like tomatoes, peppers, and white potatoes), eggs, and dairy. You may recognize some of these ingredients as ones excluded in the Autoimmune Paleo Diet.
Consumption of nutrient-rich, healing foods
These are gut health and autoimmunity superfoods. Why? They provide an abundance of healing nutrients that nourish your gut and help regulate an overactive immune system.
What types of nutrients are best for gut health and autoimmunity?
- L-glutamine is the amino acid that helps heal leaky gut. You can find an abundance of this critical amino acid in grass-fed beef, pastured chicken, and seafood.
- Polyphenols are the healing compounds that give plant foods their rainbow of colors and nourish your gut microbiota. You will find the highest amount of polyphenols in berries, organic apples, peaches & plums, artichokes, mushrooms, leafy greens, and spices like cinnamon, rosemary, and turmeric.
- Fat-soluble vitamins A, D, & E are amazing fat-soluble vitamins needed to prevent food sensitivities from developing. They also happen to balance the immune system and protect your tissues from damage. Most modern diets are low in fat-soluble vitamins. Get your fill through organic liver, sweet potatoes, salmon and sardines, avocadoes, and extra virgin olive oil, tasty ingredients used in our hearty beef stew, coq au vin, and smoked salmon breakfast bowl.