Can a vegan diet help with autoimmune disease symptoms?

An autoimmune diet isn’t just one thing. It is an umbrella term that refers to over 80 types of chronic diseases where the immune system attacks the body, including Celiac Disease, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Chron’s Disease, etc. If you’re living with an autoimmune disease, chances are you’ve experienced joint pain, fatigue, digestive issues, skin issues, and other symptoms. But recent research suggests that vegan food may help manage flare-ups.

Autoimmune diseases affect more than 23.5 million Americans and 80% of them are female at birth, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Autoimmune diseases can also be determined by genetics, but anyone can have one.

However, some people find it difficult to be diagnosed with a specific autoimmune disease because the symptoms tend to overlap.

Can a vegan diet help fight autoimmune diseases?

Kim Kardashian has psoriasis, an autoimmune disease characterized by dry, scaly patches of skin, and follows a mostly plant-based diet to manage her symptoms.

Tennis legend Venus Williams has Sjögren’s syndrome, which attacks the body’s ability to produce tears and saliva, and manages her symptoms with a raw vegan diet. But what does science say about plant-based diets and autoimmune diseases?


“For some of these autoimmune diseases, certain foods can make them worse,” Dana Ellis Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD and book author Recipe for survivaltells VegNews.

Since every person is different, these foods are different for different people. But, to research show that anti-inflammatory foods can help manage flare-ups. Many anti-inflammatory foods are plant-based. But, those with certain conditions may need a more specialized diet, adds Hunnes.

“For something like lupus, the individual may need to avoid foods high in phosphorus or potassium, and either limit protein or switch to plant-based protein, which is kinder to the kidneys and less inflammatory,” she says. .

What foods trigger autoimmune flare-ups?

Many factors can cause a flare-up, including stress, weather, gut health, and diet. Generally speaking, inflammatory foods are likely to cause flare-ups.

Inflammatory foods include:

  • Artificial trans fats: Margarine, foods with hydrogenated oils
  • Fried foods: Fries, fried chicken, mozzarella sticks
  • Excessive alcohol: Beer, wine liqueur and other spirits
  • Red and processed meats: Burgers, steak, bacon, deli meats
  • Refined carbohydrates: White bread, white pasta, white rice
  • Sugary foods and drinks: Soda, juice, candies, chocolate, pastries, donuts, cookies

“Since many of these autoimmune diseases are exacerbated or exacerbated by inflammation, these foods also tend to increase the likelihood of an autoimmune disease flare,” says Hunnes.

Triggers differ from person to person and disease to disease, she adds. If someone has celiac disease, they will benefit from a gluten-free diet. During a Crohn’s disease flare, it’s best to avoid high-fiber foods or follow a BRAT diet: bananas, rice, applesauce, tea, and toast.

An elimination diet where you completely cut out one or more types of food from your diet for a few weeks might help you identify triggers specific to you. “Then you just add one food at a time to see how your body reacts. If there is no reaction, it is not a trigger. If you react, you do,” Hunnes says.

The Autoimmune Protocol Diet is an elimination diet that helps reduce inflammation. But, it doesn’t allow grains, legumes, nuts, or seeds, so it’s not recommended for vegans.

But, it’s best to work with a registered dietitian nutritionist or doctor if you’re considering making any changes to your diet.

What foods help with autoimmune diseases?

Many anti-inflammatory foods are also vegan. On top of that, it’s good to consider eating mostly whole, plant-based foods, which means you avoid highly processed foods as well as excess oil, salt, and added sugar. Don’t worry, whole-grain or legume-based pastas are considered “minimally processed.” Additionally, olive oil is high in oleic acid, which studies show reduces inflammation.

According to Hunnes, anti-inflammatory vegan foods that may help manage autoimmune flare-ups include:

VegNews.FriedRiceBowlsJenn Sebestyen

1 Whole grains

Whole grains are what you get when all three layers of the grain – bran, endosperm and germ – have been left intact. Whole grains are a good source of complex carbohydrates, fiber, protein, iron, B vitamins, antioxidants, polyphenols and other minerals.

Refined grains, on the other hand, have been reduced to the endosperm, removing most of the nutrients. This is why so many white bread and pasta products are fortified with added vitamins and minerals.

Going gluten-free is especially common for people with autoimmune diseases. In this case, you should avoid whole wheat, rye, barley, farro, spelled, freekeh, wheat berries, and couscous, which is made from durum wheat.

Gluten-free whole grains include brown rice (hello, vegetable fried rice with tofu), oats, buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, and millet. Most supermarkets offer gluten-free whole grain pastas, breads and cereals.


2 Nuts and seeds

Many nuts and seeds contain flavonoids, antioxidants like vitamin E, and other plant compounds that help fight inflammation. They also contain heart-healthy unsaturated fatty acids, including omega-3s, which to research suggests may also protect against inflammation.

Add a wide variety of nuts and seeds to your diet, such as walnuts, almonds, chia seeds, flax seeds, pistachios, and pecans. A small handful of nuts or seeds is about one serving and can be a good snack. Nut butter is a great blend for oatmeal and smoothies.


3 Legumes

Legumes, which include lentils and beans, are high in fiber, protein, and other anti-inflammatory compounds. Due to their anti-inflammatory nature, legumes are also recommended for heart-healthy diets. Recent search suggests that legumes contain bioactive compounds with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, so they could be used to treat the symptoms of arthritis and other inflammatory diseases.

There are literally thousands of types of legumes around the world. But some of the more common types include chickpeas, black beans, pigeon peas, navy beans, soy and soy products, mung beans, red lentils, brown lentils, split peas, etc


4 Fruit

Nature’s candy is rich in anti-inflammatory compounds, including fiber, vitamin C, pectin, polyphenols and phytochemicals.

Although açaí has ​​its reputation as a superfood, virtually any fruit is packed with anti-inflammatory benefits, including apples, cherries, peaches, plums, red grapes, oranges, lemons, and limes. Fresh or frozen fruit is best – many canned fruits contain added sugar.


5 Vegetables

The plant world is rich in anti-inflammatory foods. Dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens are good sources of fiber, antioxidants, and polyphenols. Broccoli contains sulforaphane, an antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation. Bell peppers contain vitamin C and mushrooms contain compounds called phenols. For an anti-inflammatory meal, you can serve roasted broccoli and turmeric-based tofu scramble over brown rice.

Food is just one factor that may help reduce symptoms of autoimmune disease. Everyone is different, and what works for one person may not work for someone else. If you’re struggling with symptoms of an autoimmune disease or think you might be, it’s best to see your doctor.

To learn more about vegan nutrition, read: