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Food

Fighting Autoimmune Diseases Requires More Than Just an Anti-inflammatory Diet

I can hear all ‘80s Greek moms saying it: “nothing happened to you because I did X – you are here, yo are alive.” Generation Next must stop uttering this Greek cliché!

My generation (born in ‘80s) inherited this culture and a great effort is needed for a person to jettison it. Imagine that you have a small ‘bad habit’ and you cannot get rid of it – then ask what happens if your whole mindset is like that!

Let me be more specific for the other ‘kids’ of this generation: taking antibiotics or drugs like candy is destructive to immune systems and intestinal flora. Eating processed food raises the risk of autoimmune diseases and cancer, smoking causes serious respiratory diseases.

Let’s discuss autoimmune diseases – a harsh reality for a large number of people globally.

The ultimate causes are unknown for a long list of 76 disorders that affect the lives of 4.5% of the global population! Most common is psoriasis, which affects the skin, and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which impacts the endocrine system. Usually, the cases of autoimmune disorders involve autoantibodies that lead to an assault by the immune system on our bodies, causing inflammation and debilitating symptoms.

But there are some kinds that do not involved autoantibodies like ulcerative colitis and psoriasis.

The medical establishment is still fishing in muddy waters in their search for causes and treatments. A lot more research is needed to fully understand the causes and how to stop illness.

Nutrition and psychology, however, play a key role in almost every health matter – and with autoimmune diseases also. You are what you put into your body – but also what you think.

An anti-inflammatory diet is correctly promoted as a remedy to battle with inflammation caused by autoimmune disorders. The Mediterranean diet has shown itself to be ideal for these cases. If you are keen on going vegetarian or totally vegan the benefits can be even greater.

The general idea is eating mainly fruits and vegetables, as raw as you can go, and using only olive oil or other monosaturated fats like avocado and nut butters in small quantities. Eat high fiber whole grains. Enhance your meals by using herbs and spices with anti-inflammatory effects (there are so many).

Replace alcohol with non-alcoholic beverages, like herbal teas. It is a matter of habit, not just enjoyment, as I said before. There are tasty alternatives, like non-alcoholic beers and wines. You can have the taste and tannins, without alcohol!

Consume red meat less than once a week, replacing it with fish and poultry – yes, please, for your protein and strength.

Say a big “No!” to all processed food, fried food, hydrogenated oils, fatty meats, and sweetened beverages.

Lastly – but most importantly – go as organic as you can afford! Phytochemicals influence your body more than you can imagine. Find a good local store and organic farmers markets – and plan. That will help you buy more with less money. Buying organic apples from the supermarket is super expensive. Finding a source of organic apples, a forgotten tree in your village, is free. Learn how to store food properly.

But this is just one side of the coin. If you are not getting enough sleep, if you don’t control stress and exercise almost daily, food alone will not help. Having a meaningful, fulfilling, and joyful life can help you change your whole mindset and the accompanying habits, hence your health! Find a daily routine and make a checklist for the weekly plan and go!

 

* The above is not medical advice but mere suggestions for improving your diet. Before reaching herbal use you should consult your doctor, especially those who have health issues, are pregnant or are under the age of 6.

 

Evropi-Sofia Dalampira holds a PhD in Agricultural Economics and an MSc in Botany-Biology.

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