Diet vs. Autoimmune Diseases

Adapted from Dr. Fuhrman’s book Eat to Live:

Working with patients with autoimmune diseases such as connective tissue diseases, myositis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus is very rewarding. These patients had been convinced they could never get well and are usually eternally grateful to be healthy again and not require medication.

An aggressive nutritional approach to autoimmune illnesses should always be tried first when the disease is in its infancy. Logically, the more advanced the disease is, and the more damage that has been done by the disease, the less likely the patient will respond. My experience with inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis is that some patients are more dietary-sensitive than others and that some patients have very high levels of inflammation that are difficult to curtail with natural therapy. Nevertheless, the majority benefit—and since the conventional drugs used to treat these types of illnesses are so toxic and have so many risky side effects, the dietary method should be tried first. Modern drugs often contribute to the disability and misery of patients with an autoimmune illness and increase cancer risk. Studies show that the long-term outcome is poor after twenty years of taking such medication.1 A recent study in the British Journal of Rheumatology showed the major drugs to treat rheumatoid arthritis, such as azathioprine, cyclophosphamide, chlorambucil, and methotrexate, increase ethe likelihood that the person will die of cancer.2 

Patients who use drugs that suppress the immune system forgo some protection that the immune system offers against infection and cancer. These individuals need a superior diet, even if they can’t stop all medication.

So many of the patients I see, especially the ones who have made recoveries, are angry at their former physicians who did not even suggest nutrition before starting them on medication. These individuals are usually so “sick of being sick,” they will do anything to get well. They don’t find the diet restrictive and show enthusiasm and determination to recover their health. It is terrifically exciting to see such patients make recoveries and eliminate the need for medication.

1. Scott, D., D. Symmons, B.L. Coulton, and A.J. Popert. 1987. Long-term outcome of treating rheumatoid arthritis: results after 20 years. Lancet 1 (8542): 1108-11.

2. Jones, M., D. Symoons, J. Finn, and F. Wolfe. 1996. Does exposure to immunosuppressive therapy increase the 10-year malignancy and mortality risk? B.J. Rheum. 35 (8): 738-45.

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Comments (17) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Alex - July 9, 2006 6:58 AM

I have lupus, but thankfully the symptoms have always been quite mild - and I put this down to a fairly healthy vegetarian diet. However, when my rheumatologist recently suggested some quite toxic drugs to treat an on-going problem with my hands I picked up 'Eat to Live' and have turned to a vegan diet. In just a week, I have noticed a difference!
I do have a question, though: I really don't need to lose weight (I participate in lots of sports and eat fairly lightly) but I'm wanting to eat for optimal nutrition; that being said, I'm a little unsure about the 90% suggestion: would something like 'oats' be considered part of the not-so-good 10%? I also eat some lovely oganic oat/flax pitas... again, is something like this considered part of the 10%. I'm unsure since these types of foods make it onto the 6-week EFL menu.

I should note that the majority of my diet revolves around mostly raw salad, and in particular raw leafy greens.

Thanks, Alex

lisa wilkinson - September 30, 2006 1:19 AM

are there any studies regarding vegan diet vs muscular dystrophy conditions?
my chirpractor has enlightened me regardin china study

Cindy Honstine - December 4, 2007 11:16 AM

Has there ever been a record of successful dietary treatment for a person with Central Nervous System Vasculitis? If you begin the diet, when do you stop taking the meds?

Susan - July 24, 2008 4:39 PM

I've read Eat to Live and know that Dr. Furhman has found that casein (milk protein) activates the autoimmune response. I was wondering what his thoughts are on Goat milk and goat milk protein.

Thanks!
Susan

KALPESH PATEL - September 28, 2008 6:52 PM

Kindly give me more information for autoimmune diseases/blood pressure/tyroid/gout and it's treatment and diet comtrol in all above emntion diseases.

Ingrid - December 13, 2008 11:46 AM

Interesting article but lacking in information. What diet changes can be made. What are good foods and what are bad foods? I know each person is different but there must be some consistency amount some foods. I am sad to say this info is missing in many articles that I had read.

Divya - January 21, 2009 3:23 PM

Researches are showing that there is a strong relation between diet and autoimmune disease. In diet, fat is the major macronutrint playing major role. A fatty acid known as omega- 3 fatty acid is found to be effective against autoimmune diseases. The dietary sources of these fatty acids include fatty fishes and fish oil. There are vegetarian sources also like algal sources and supplements. So I reccomend diets containing omega-3 fatty acids

Anne Izzard - March 12, 2009 8:54 AM

Have recently been referred to the Rheumatology Dept and been trying to improve my already vegetarian diet. So I've been sprinkling flax seeds on yoghurt twice a day and also drinking cranberry juice twice a day and found that I am feeling okay and have stabilised.

I don't know if these food supplmenents are helping my condition but I am feeling better for taking them, not quite so tired.

mook - April 15, 2010 8:38 AM

If opting for a live vegan diet whilst doing sport, try brendan braziers book the thrive diet

Julie - August 11, 2010 10:26 AM

Is there any link between vitiligo and diet? My eight-year-old daughter has vitiligo and I'm wondering if we can mitigate the spread of it by following a specific diet. She takes a multi-vitamin, as well as an Omega-3 multi-vitamin (both are kids' vitamins), and is generally a very healthy eater.

Any advice you have to share would be much appreciated.

Tina - November 10, 2010 12:40 PM

Which is the best of Dr. Fuhrman's books to buy to make dietary changes when diagnosed with an autoimmune disease?

Deana Ferreri, Ph.D. - November 10, 2010 4:48 PM

Tina,
Either Eat to Live or Eat for Health - also look at Dr. Fuhrman's autoimmune disease newsletter: https://www.drfuhrman.com/members/NewsletterDownload.aspx?issue=16

Pam - August 7, 2011 11:15 AM

I was diagnosed with sclritis in my right eye. I was treated with prednisone and sought treatment with a rhurmatologist for an autoimmune disease and I was put methotrixate. Thet worried I might get the sclritis back which can cause blindness. Can diet help me?

kathy - August 10, 2011 8:15 PM

I was diagnosed with autoimmune tracheal stenosis. What would be the best diet for me?

Kandy Reintges - January 12, 2012 10:21 AM

My 15 year old nephew was just diagnosed with Alopecia Totallis.. He has an extremely low immune system which will be with him forever. He has been on a vegetarian diet since birth. He is extremely underweight to the point he has not begun puberty. His dr. says all tests say he is fine, not malnutrition or anything like that. Could being a vegetarian have anything to do with this problem he has?
Thank you for your advice.

Kym - April 10, 2012 5:04 PM

I have bee diagnosed with erythema nodosm and prescribed prednisone. I do not like taking any medication let alone one such as prednisone. I have also had results show up through a woncderful curious doctor friend that I am deficient in vitamin D, vitamin K, vitamin B12 and high in homocysteine. He had prescribed high quality supplements accordingly. What would you suggest?

Dennis Hammack - April 10, 2012 8:24 PM

My girlfriend has Grave's Disease, which is another brutal autoimmune disease. What kind of diet would you suggest for her? Please email me some information to dhammack70@hotmail.om

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