noun_Search_345985 Created with Sketch.

Autoimmune Disease

An autoimmune disease is a condition in which the immune system attacks the host’s body. Each of the more than 80 diseases are differentiated by the tissue(s) or organ(s) that the immune system attacks, such as beta cells in the pancreas in diabetes and connective tissue in rheumatoid arthritis.

Expand For More

The Mechanism:

For every autoimmune condition there is an “antigen”—a marker on the target tissue that allows the immune system to identify it—and an environmental trigger. The environmental trigger has only been identified in three conditions. In celiac disease, it’s gliadin from wheat. What’s more, celiac disease has been linked to other autoimmune conditions including Crohn’s disease and type I diabetes (T1D).

The mechanism by which the immune system starts to attack its own body is extraordinarily complex. At its heart there is a loss of oral tolerance, which is a fancy term for the immune system’s ability to tolerate self and food. Typically, special immune cells called T regulatory cells (Treg) identify anything that is self and tell the immune system not to attack.

There is an important balance between Treg cells and a highly inflammatory cell called TH17 cells. It is believed that TH17 were designed to destroy bacterial invaders from the gut which can often mimic self. So, there is a value in Treg cells temporarily turning off oral tolerance to allow the invasion to be addressed. In fact, one theory is that Treg can mutate into TH17 cells. In either case, the elevation in TH17 cells causes short-term inflammation and damage to our own bodies.

However, a chronic imbalance between Treg and TH17 cells can lead to an inflammatory dysregulation that promotes autoimmune conditions. So, it’s no surprise that inappropriate chronically high TH17 concentrations have been found to precede every autoimmune disease.

Diet and Autoimmune Disease
The typical Western diet is known to be inflammatory; studies find it promotes a chronic imbalance between Treg and TH17 cells.

Grains are particularly good at promoting this imbalance. That’s because most grains contain anti-nutrients called lectins. Lectins are a protein molecule that can break down the gut barrier, allowing bacteria to enter the system from the gut, which starts a reaction from TH17. Some lectins, such as gliadin and WGA in wheat, can help promote this immune response once they enter themselves.

Grains are not the only foods that contain lectins or lectin-like molecules. Others include nightshades, legumes such as peanuts, and egg whites. Another dietary culprit is salt, which is known to promote general inflammation and a TH17 imbalance.

People suffering from an autoimmune condition should try an elimination diet where they completely eliminate grains, the foods listed above, and dairy. Then, over time, reintroduce foods one-at-a-time to see which trigger the condition. These changes are in line with The Paleo Diet® and have been successful in helping people with autoimmune conditions like multiple sclerosis.

noun_chevron up_1746113 Created with Sketch.
How to Start an Autoimmune Protocol Diet

If you have an autoimmune disease, here’s how to start an elimination diet of AIP diet to help you identify triggers, manage symptoms, and improve the quality of your life.

By Kimberly Tessmer, RDN, LD
Are Nightshades Paleo? And How to Tell If You Have a Sensitivity

Nightshade vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes contain specific compounds that can cause irritation in your gut. If you know what symptoms to look for and how to prepare nightshades before consuming, however, you may stay in the clear.

By Megan Patiry
Looking “Beyond Keto” with Dr. Terry Wahls

Dr. Terry Wahls has been developing a nutritional strategy for M.S. Her most recent book applies Paleo Diet principles with intermittent fasting.

By David Whiteside
How Dr. Terry Wahls Improved Her Multiple Sclerosis Symptoms
We take a look at Dr. Wahls groundbreaking book revealing that a Paleo lifestyle had the ability to reverse her Multiple Sclerosis symptoms.
By David Whiteside
The Dangers of High Salt Diet: Impact on Autoimmunity
Our Paleo ancestors survived on a low salt diet. Today, it’s everywhere and nearly impossible to avoid. Discover the dangers of a high salt diet.
By Dr. Marc Bubbs
The Paleo Diet Monthly Digest – September 2017: Reducing Inflammation

The Paleo Diet® monthly digest takes on inflammation in September 2017

By The Paleo Diet® Team
Q&A: Dr Cordain Answers a Reader's Question About Egg White Lysozyme

Read our latest article where Dr. Cordain talks about egg white lysozyme. Browse The Paleo Diet® website for Paleo Diet recipes, meal plans & more!

By Loren Cordain, Ph.D.
Nell's Corner: My Mom, M.S., and Paleo

Lifestyle writer Nell Stephenson’s discusses her mom’s Multiple Sclerosis and what she has learned about diet and lifestyle since her mother’s diagnosis.

By Nell Stephenson
Wheat Sensitivity: A New Study Shows It’s Not in Your Head, It’s in Your Gut

Do you think you may have a wheat sensitivity that is often dismissed by doctors? Find out about Non-Celiac Wheat Sensitivity’s and new research surrounding the topic.

By Trevor Connor, M.S.
The Wheat Series Part 5: Pulling the Trigger on a Loaded Chamber

Our genetics have not changed in the last 100 years. Yet, chronic disease like autoimmune conditions and cancer have risen dramatically. Is wheat to blame?

By Trevor Connor, M.S.
New studies on salt: Adverse influence upon immunity, inflammation and autoimmunity

The most scientifically valid study in humans has demonstrated that a high salt diet promotes chronic inflammation and adversely affects the immune system.

By Loren Cordain, Ph.D.
The Wheat Series Part 4: Home Invasion

When wheat enters our bodies, it’s essentially like a home invasion. Learn how wheat is a master at breaking in and causing all sorts of confusion.

By Trevor Connor, M.S.
1 2 3 Last
Paleo Leadership
 
Trevor Connor
Trevor Connor

Dr. Loren Cordain’s final graduate student, Trevor Connor, M.S., brings more than a decade of nutrition and physiology expertise to spearhead the new Paleo Diet team.

Mark J Smith
Dr. Mark J. Smith

One of the original members of the Paleo movement, Mark J. Smith, Ph.D., has spent nearly 30 years advocating for the benefits of Paleo nutrition.

Nell Stephenson
Nell Stephenson

Ironman athlete, mom, author, and nutrition blogger Nell Stephenson has been an influential member of the Paleo movement for over a decade.

Loren Cordain
Dr. Loren Cordain

As a professor at Colorado State University, Dr. Loren Cordain developed The Paleo Diet® through decades of research and collaboration with fellow scientists around the world.