Pills or Paleo? Preventing and Reversing Autoimmune Disease
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Pills or Paleo? Preventing and Reversing Autoimmune Disease

by Chris Kresser

Last updated on

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The incidence of autoimmune disease has skyrocketed over the past few decades: more than 700 million people around the world are now affected. Unfortunately, conventional treatment has little to offer in most cases. Find out how simple dietary changes could help prevent—and even reverse—these debilitating and life-changing conditions.

This article is part of an ongoing series comparing prescription medication with a Paleo diet as a means of treating common diseases and health problem. Click here to read the other articles in the series.

Autoimmunity—when the body essentially attacks itself— is one of the top ten causes of death in women and the elderly, and now affects one in ten people worldwide.

Over a hundred distinct autoimmune diseases have been identified, affecting nearly every organ system and tissue in the body, and at least forty other diseases are suspected of having an autoimmune basis or component. For example, it’s now believed that about 10 percent of people that have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes actually have an autoimmune form of the disease called “latent autoimmune diabetes in adults” (LADA), and some diseases like endometriosis that weren’t traditionally treated as autoimmune in origin are now viewed that way by some researchers and physicians.

There’s no sign of this trend slowing down; on the contrary, the prevalence of autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease, and multiple sclerosis is increasing at an alarming pace. From 2001–2009 alone, the incidence of type 1 diabetes increased by 23 percent!

Autoimmune disease is skyrocketing, but conventional treatment has little to offer. Find out what to do instead.

But while autoimmune disease has become commonplace in the industrialized world, it’s rare or nonexistent in contemporary hunter-gatherers living a traditional lifestyle. This fact, along with the dramatic rise in autoimmune disease over the past half century, suggests that environmental factors—rather than genetics—are to blame.

These factors include the modern, western diet, chronic stress, changes in gut microbiota, environmental toxins, sleep deprivation, vitamin D deficiency, reduced sun exposure, and perhaps several other currently unidentified aspects of the modern lifestyle.

These factors don’t just trigger autoimmune disease in the first place, they also perpetuate and exacerbate it. So while autoimmune disease may not be completely curable (i.e. it disappears without a trace), removing the triggers can often lead to a significant reduction in symptoms or even complete remission (which, for all intents and purposes, is a cure).

With this in mind, let’s compare conventional treatment with a Paleo diet and lifestyle for the prevention and treatment of autoimmune disease.

Conventional Treatment of Autoimmune Disease

Oral (and sometimes topical) steroids and other immunosuppressive drugs are the treatments of choice for autoimmune disease. Steroids suppress the immune system, which is often overactive in autoimmune disease.

The problem, of course, is that steroids don’t only suppress the part of the immune system that’s overactive—they suppress the entire immune system. And you don’t have to have a degree in medicine to know that our immune system plays a crucial role in protecting us from infection, healing wounds, and maintaining our overall health. It’s there for a reason, and anything that indiscriminately reduces its function (as steroids do) is bound to have serious adverse effects.

Unsurprisingly, steroids are associated with a long, and sometimes scary, list of adverse effects, including:

  • Weight gain
  • Acne
  • Mood changes, including aggression
  • Thinning skin
  • Muscle weakness
  • Cushing’s syndrome (stretch marks across the body, acne, fatty deposits in the face)
  • Osteoporosis (even at a young age)
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Glaucoma and cataracts
  • Increased risk of infection

There’s no doubt that steroids “work” in many cases, insofar as they can reduce the symptoms associated with overactive immune function that are present in many autoimmune diseases. But the serious side effect profile of these medications begs the following questions:

  1. Is there an effective alternative to steroids that isn’t associated with serious and potentially life-threatening side effects?
  2. Is there a treatment for autoimmune disease that addresses the underlying causes or triggers, rather than just suppressing symptoms?

Fortunately, the answer to both questions is “yes”.

In my work with patients, I use a three-pronged approach to treating autoimmune disease with a nutrient-dense, Paleo diet. (For more detailed information on these strategies, see the bonus chapter on autoimmune disease in my book, The Paleo Cure—just published in paperback.) This includes:

  1. Removing foods that may trigger or exacerbate an immune response. The best starting place for most patients is an autoimmune version of the Paleo diet, which follows the typical Paleo guidelines but also removes eggs and nightshade plants.
  2. Increasing intake of nutrients that promote optimal immune function. These include glutathione, selenium, zinc, vitamin D, vitamin A, and EPA and DHA, which are all well-represented in a Paleo-type diet.
  3. Increasing intake of foods that support a healthy gut microbiota. These include fermentable fibers that feed the beneficial bacteria, and fermented foods that contain the beneficial bacteria themselves. (For more on the connection between the gut microbiota and autoimmune disease, see this article.)

Of course, lifestyle modification is also crucial for people with autoimmune disease. This includes exercise (the right kinds, and the right amount), sun exposure, stress management, sleep, and pleasure and social connection.

I’ve seen miraculous results using these methods in my practice, even with patients with very serious autoimmune conditions. And I’ve received hundreds of success stories from my readers and listeners over the years, like this one from Rosie Marin:

One day my aunt noticed I had a lump on my neck and said I might have a thyroid problem like her and my mom. In 2007 I was diagnosed with Graves’ disease and immediately put on meds. Endo [Editor’s note: “endo” is short for endocrinologist] said I would be on meds for life and will gain weight since meds would slow down my metabolism. Apparently I had every symptom with the exception of bulging eyes. My Endo provided little information. I took meds daily, symptoms decreased, gained weight but was still lazy. My blood tests would go up & down. I figured this would just be my life, part of getting older and genetics.

In 2010 my boyfriend finally went to doctor for all these skin issues he was having. Found out he had a gluten allergy but not celiac. He started researching diets and came upon Paleo. His rashes went away and started losing weight faster than when he was doing P90x every day. One day he convinced me to give Paleo a two week try, just to see of I could do it. Being Mexican/Filipino I complained that I couldn’t give up rice, tortillas AND bread. I figured I’d give up by day 3 but I didn’t. I had to start cooking real food.

As the weeks turned into months and now three years, I’m off my thyroid meds and antidepressant. I’ve maintained a healthy weight, kept the 20 lb weight loss off, no eczema, no stomach problems, no migraines, more energy, no joint pains, no allergies.

My Endo does not support Paleo and refuses to acknowledge my diet changes has anything to do with my improved health. I still go through him to schedule blood tests every few months. It’s my way of letting him know how AWESOME I’m doing without him 🙂 The calls or emails from his nurse make me proud “everything looks normal.”

This story is particularly remarkable, because the treatment options for Graves’ disease are all extremely invasive, including toxic drugs, surgical removal of the thyroid gland, or radioactive ablation (i.e. “nuking”) the thyroid gland.

So what will it be for you? Pills, or Paleo?

If your answer is Paleo, make sure to check out my book (just published in paperback with a new name: The Paleo Cure) for a detailed explanation of how to use Paleo to prevent and reverse disease and feel better than you have in years. And don’t miss the bonus chapter on addressing autoimmune disease with diet, lifestyle, and supplements.

As always, check with your doctor before starting or stopping any new treatment plan—including what I’ve suggested in this article. This is not intended to be medical advice, and is not a substitute for being under the care of a physician.

59 Comments

Join the conversation

  1. Hi Chris I just wanted to know if the diet helps with uveitis, been suffering from this for over 3 years now . Been on and off steroid drops, the doctor said it was caused by a autoimmune defence , I have bad abdominal problems associated with this condition I do think they are linked! If anyone else suffer from this please share what methods you’ve used to get rid of this condition , thank you 🙂

  2. I have a neuropathic and connective tissue disorder and I eat a low inflammatory, clean diet and avoid foods that bother me which is any kind of gluten. I also eat low histamine as I don’t handle it well. I was able to be off any meds for 2 years and it was great, but the beast has returned and though I hate the steroids, they are keeping me walking and able to work. Not everyone can conquer autoimmune issues from diet alone and shouldn’t feel bad about having to take medications at the lowest possible dose to stay functioning during a flare.

  3. My partner has an extremely aggressive form of autoimmune hepatitis which has resulted in her having 2 liver transplants already. Now a year and a half since the last one the autoimmune has returned and damaged the liver she has now and it has been muted that a 3rd transplant may not be offered and we’re all deviated. My partners only 46 and been teetotal all her life. We have 3 daughters together ages 29,13 and 11 and 2grandchildren. Is it too late for her to try paleo?

    • I’m sorry to hear about your wife. I’m in the process of getting diagnosed with a liver condition which I suspect is Autoimmune Hepatitis as I already have an autoimmune disease. Get my liver biopsy result on Wednesday. While I don’t know if I do or not I am currently trying the Autoimmune protocol diet. There is alot of information you can find on the internet. Please please try it! If she’s already had liver transplant it seems like it’s the least thing you can try.

  4. Hi Chris,
    I am a new user on this website and after reading this post I thought of joining this conversation. Chris I have been suffering from Alopecia Areata over a year now. It has been a terrible time for me, dealing with extensive hair fall even when my treatment was ongoing. Then after giving some thought on this matter and after reading various articles I am thinking to change my diet that might help with my problem. If possible could you please suggest the foods, a diet or supplement that would help me in this matter. Thank you.

  5. I qm convinced that the rise in autoimmune disease is triggered by dietary issues and the long term negative impact of vaccinations. Does anyone have an knowledge or perhaps research that you can suggest along this area. Thank you.

  6. AIP has been THE life-changer for my husband and I! We started on GAPS/SCD 4 years ago and had tremendous healing from horrible leaky gut. But we also gained about 35 pounds each. After about 2 years on GAPS/SCD, we weren’t even feeling that well anymore. First I learned about portioning—and it was the magic key to weight loss. No deprivation, just a more balanced plate that now included safe Paleo starches like plantain and butternut squash. When I heard about AIP and the additional foods we could try removing to see if more healing was possible—BINGO! Nightshades and nuts were doing a number on us!! I’ll take Paleo and AIP ANY day over Standard Nutrition Recommendations—and it’s what I tell my clients who REALLY want to try and heal without pharmaceutical intervention.

  7. Is there one case when somebody with auto immune disorder with thyroid antibodies would go into remission and later was able to reintroduce wheat, grains, nuts and diary with no side effects?

  8. Hi chris. My son was recently diagnosed with PANDAS (although not yet an official diagnosis). I’m curios if you’re familiar with the condition? And if so, would you treat it any differently with an infection (strep) being the suspected trigger. He’s currently on prophylaxis (which I’m weary about) and dr is considering IVIG. Any advise would be greatly appreciated

  9. Something I would lile to add. How do u gain weight on auto immune paleo protocol? After two months i lost over 15 pounds. I am 6.1 and currently 158 pounds. This is scary cause I feel like I am shrinking. Before 7 months ago I was 178, muscular and low body fat. So hard to regain that weigh. Seems like with veggies and meat and fruits you can only stay lean.

    • There’s a podcast for that.

      http://chriskresser.com/how-to-gain-weight-on-a-paleo-diet

      I tried the Wahl’s fudge, Terry Wahl’s suggestion for those with trouble gaining weight. It’s mostly coconut oil, with avocado, walnut, and raisins to sweeten. I can’t post the exact recipe and obey copyright. It didn’t make much difference for me. I’ve also tried other “fat bombs”. I’m not sure if I burn fat really well, or it goes right through me.

      I recently went on quite a carb bender, and gained 10-15 pounds of belly fat. Now, I have carb cravings, and I’m hoping to slowly apply the brakes on this trend by increasing the fat ratio, and stabilizing blood sugar. The carbs are mostly rice and potatoes, not AI compliant, I guess. But, I could probably get similar results with a lot of cooked carrots, beets, squash, and fruit.

  10. I’ve been hearing a lot of chatter, in various forums, which I find someone is advising a DIY step for hypothyroidism that would be contraindicated in the majority of cases, or, just plain bogus. But, they claim it worked for them.

    I hate to be that guy, but, I hope people have their BS filters in place. Do adults still need to hear this in 2015?

    I’m linking to a “Thyroid 101” podcast. It’s an oldie, but, a goodie. I’m not a huge Jimmy Moore fan, but, he’s interviewing this guy named Chris Kresser, who covers the topic very well, IMO. In particular, he points out that a treatment cannot be recommended without a thorough case review and testing. Still, there are some good DIY tips to help a patient work with their practitioner from an informed position.

    http://www.askthelowcarbexperts.com/2012/03/10-all-things-thyroid-thyroid-101-chris-kresser/

    • I have had a couple high TSH readings, without further testing, so, I would be interested in a more comprehensive test.

      I see privatemdlabs.com has a “Thyroid Checkup” test for about $153 which includes reverse T3, but, not the autoimmune antibody testing. For that, they offer “Thyroid Check Deluxe” for about $233.

      “Thyroid Panel Complete” is the “January Test of the Month (2015)” from directlabs.com, but, I can’t find specifics. It’s $139, which is a $50 discount.

      HTH

  11. Hi
    I am new to Paleo and finding it somewhat difficult to stick to. Since early adulthood I have suffered from Chronic Fatigue which gradually increased in severity….I am now in my mid 40’s. For the most part I am now gluten and dairy free but occasionally I cave in and have a latte or a bit of bread/pastry. We are now eating local free range meat, I get a locally sourced organic veggie box each week and we don’t have processed food. I work on positivity, a little meditation and gentle excersize. After learning much more about how chronic stress can cause CFS in the last two years I have improved dramatically. Sometimes I feel amazing and at others I seem to drop through the floor for no apparent reason. Recent blood tests were great – iron: 33 (never been that good!) but my calcium is low!! My diet does not contain much dairy but I do eat lots of greens, seeds, nuts etc. I have read that the parathyroid plays a part in calcium absorption but does this suggest autoimmune? Thanks for reading.

  12. Laurel,
    I would be extremely interested in learning what your homeopath used to get rid of your goitre. Could you please list what was used, thank you.

    • Christine – I used Bromium 6c, twice per day, and I felt something happening in my goiter same day. My homeopath says that the whole thing will probably shrink back to normal size. Woohoo!

      • Laurel,
        Thank you for the information about Bromium.
        Could you advise how long you were on the Bromium before you noticed a shrinkage in size of your goiter.
        I have started Bromium but have not felt any change.

        • I guess it took a month or two to definitely notice that it was shrinking. Before that I thought maybe I was imagining things… but no, it really was shrinking.

        • Christine, I’m somewhat new to homeopathy but my understanding is that you get best results by choosing the remedy that best fits *your* total picture of symptoms right now. Homeo is not like vitamins…
          You can go to http://www.homeopathyandmore.com and click the top center link and it will help u select the right remedy for u. Just move fast thru the questionnaire, don’t think about it too much, then it will give you a few recommended remedies.

  13. I am studying holistic nutrition at Bauman College. I had to do a condition report and chose “The Gluten Connection to Arthritis” because I wanted to give it to my friend who thinks her debilitating arthritis is “just genetic.” I followed through on lipopolysaccarides as mentioned by Tom O’Bryan at a conference I attended, which I did not understand. It led me to Alessio Fasano. I really wonder if you understand this connection. Yes the diet works because gluten is removed and the gut permeablitly addressed. But the body is not attacking itself. LPS is initiating (over and over) an inflammatory immune response to what is perceived as a gram negative bacterial infection. The receptors for LPS are located on cells throuhout the body. And some people have fewer of them. Would you like to read my paper with hyperlinks to the research?

    • Can you just start a blog, and post it, publicly? Maybe that would be too much exposure, but, it’s pretty easy with blogger.com or such. Perhaps close the entry to comments, if you don’t have a thick skin. Everybody seems to have to tolerate trolls. Also, blogger.com is tied to your google account, so, there are pros and cons to that.

    • I am interested in reading your paper on LPS. Most specifically, I want to know how to avoid them. My daughter did Cyrex’s gut permiability array and came up postive for immune reactivity to LPS. I also am working hard on putting my autoimmunity in remission and want to know how to keep my gut intact and inflammation down. Thanks.

  14. I have a question for those of you who have gotten off of your thyroid medication. Did you just go cold turkey and quit one day or what?

    Have really cleaned up my diet, but not sure it is enough to get off of the pills

    I desperately want to get off of the Levothyroxin. After many experiments with different drugs, this seemed to be the only thryroid pill I could take without having massive symptoms. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s about 7 years ago, and with Celiac 2 years ago. I do not want to continue taking the pills for the rest of my life.

    HELP Please!

    • Hi Teresa,

      I’ve heard you should NOT go cold turkey off thyroid medication especially if you are on higher than low doses or have been on it a while as it might really make crash with debilitating or dangerous symptoms. Reduce the dose a little at a time with a doctor’s supervision is advised. These are drugs not to be toyed with. I have read once you are on them for too long, you may be totally dependent on them for the rest of your life as the drugs will suppress all thyroid activity (and maybe pituitary activity, hypothalamus, etc.). That’s how they work. If you’ve been on them for a long time, you might not have the option of going off them. Removing the only thyroid your body is getting could be dangerous. Just be aware

      I had nothing but problems with any medication and I tried every one of them. Most of them made my symptoms worse and it got to the point where I was so exhausted I was paralyzed. Very scary. Then I discovered “the diet that saved my life”. Although I still don’t have the energy I wish I did, I’m no longer crashing and it’s way better than having to take drugs. My advice is to get so good at the diet you aren’t cheating and give your body time to heal before attempting to reduce the medication dosage. Then slowly a little at a time.

      Good luck.

      • Thank you Multiple Chemical Survivor . When you say you found “the diet that saved your life”, are you referring to the Paleo or something else? I’ve been trying to do that as best I can, except for the meat. We are still buying it in the grocery store. I can’t afford the grass fed, etc that the plan suggests at this time. (Got laid off and having to watch money)

        I do feel much better than I did this time last year. My doctor says I’m “IN RANGE” now with my medication. Been on 50mcg for several years now. So I will take it slow and let my body heal, and not get in a hurry.

        Any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
        Thank you!

    • Hi Teresa, I am not a doctor or health care provider but another hashimoto’s patient. I also have a hard time tolerating thyroid hormone, BUT I know that I am way better off giving my body the thyroid hormone it needs. I see some people like yourself wanting to “get off the meds” but supplemental thyroid hormone is not like a medication, it is simply replacing what your body can no longer produce, but desperately needs. Cleaning up your diet is a great first step. Seeing that you have celiac disease as well, I would pay special attention to the fillers in the brand of levothyroxine you are currently taking. Some brands have corn and or dairy fillers, both of which can be gluten cross reactors. There is a very clean form of levothryoxine call ‘Tirosint’ that is safe for celiacs and sensitive autoimmune patients. I cannot recommend enough working with a functional medicine practitioner who specializes in autoimmune disease. Together you can work with them to fine tune your diet, address any nutrient deficiencies, make sure your hormones are at optimal levels, ensure the type of thyroid replacement you are taking is safe for you, as well as working on healing your gut and immune system, hopefully putting your autoimmunity into remission. But please be open to the fact, that even in remssion, some of us may still need to give our bodies some supplemental thyroid hormone in order to be healthy. Best wishes.

      • Heather Burkhardt, Thank you so much for replying. I am using a D.O. (family doctor) for my treatment. I was seeing an Endo, but when I questioned him about finding other more natural things instead of the thyroid medication, he blew up and told me “if I didn’t take the medication like he wanted me to that my heart would blow up and explode.”, after that I didn’t feel like he was very professional and decided not to go back to him. Still looking for someone else in my area, but haven’t found anyone that I trust now.

        Thank you for informing about ‘Tirosint’, I have never heard of it. Been on every other type of thyroid medication with bad side effects. I have also put on about 40 lbs since I’ve been on the medication, and it is very hard to get off. That’s another reason I was thinking of getting off of it. I don’t really feel any difference being on it, except for the fact that I’m now heavier.

        I will do more research to try to find someone who specializes in autoimmune diseases in my area.

        Thanks again for your suggestions. Much appreciated.

        • Heather Burkhardt, Hello…. I forgot to ask, in your response above you mention seeking a functional medicine practitioner who specializes in autoimmune disease someone who could help with my Celiac and my thyroid problem. I cannot find anyone who does both. It’s either a GI doctor for my gut issues or an Endocrinologist for my thyroid. What type of doctor would you suggest who can do both?

          Many thanks!

          • Hi Teresa,
            The type of practitioner I am refering to is a ‘Functional Medicine Practitioner’ these are people trained to investigate the root causes of conditions, use treatments based on evidence and to treat the body as a whole system. They will generally want to overhaul your diet, give you nutrients by way of supplements and herbs and put you on protocols to help you heal. I found my ‘Functional Nutritionist’ via Dr. Kharrazian’s website. He is worth his
            weight in gold, he is a trained chiropractor that got trained in nutrition via Dr. Kharrazian because his wife has Hashimoto’s. His only down side is that he cannot prescribe in California, so I work in combination with my primary care nurse practitioner, for prescriptions and some lab orders. My ‘Nutritionist’ knows way more about hashimoto’s and autoimmune disease than my nurse practioner, luckily she is open minded and is interested in how we are managing my autoimmunity. In general, even though you have both celiac and hashimoto’s, the approach to putting both kinds of autoimmunity in remission will be relatively similar. Getting your gut in really good shape is absolutely critical, as well as other areas specific for you. A good functional medicine doctor will know. One of the key labs we used with my nutrionist is Cyrex Labs. I would trust a practitioner who is aware of them, and uses them. Keep in mind, this is just ‘my opinion’. One option to locate a practitioner is to google ‘Functional Medicine’ in your area, or check out Dr. Kharrazian’s website. BTW, Chris Kresser and his team, are exactly these kind of practitioners.

            • Heather Burkhardt , thank you so much for your assistance. You have been an answer to my prayers. I will definitely search further into this. I hope you find the answers to your questions you are seeking as well.

              I wish I could use Chris Kresser, since I am familiar with his work, unfortunately I’m the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas area. (If Chris is reading this I’d love to have a visit from him and maybe he could personally suggest someone in my area to use. LOL)

              Best Wishes Heather and thanks again for your help.

              • Teresa, in Dallas there are several Functional Medicine Drs. One of the is Margret Christensen MD of Carpathia Clinic, In San Antonio Dr Peter Osborne, really good and in Austin Dr Amy Meyers MD (graves disease and has written a couple of books on autoimmunity

  15. Thanks for the great book Chris! Love the Paleo diet. Like one of the folks above, despite being on it, I was still having some problems and in my case multiple food intolerances. Come to find out, the issue was about 90% spiritual! Who knew?

    As the Universe would have it, my food intolerances were just a symptom of a spiritual imbalance in my case whereby foreign astral Soul fragments of other people were lodged in my astral body. As I remove the fragments, my problems are resolving. Of course sticking to Paleo is helping a lot (just can’t eat nuts in my case..or at least just yet).

    Just thought I’d let your folks know that sometimes, there are zebras!

    Karen Kan,MD
    Author of bestseller, Guide to Healing Chronic Pain – A Holistic Approach

  16. Dear John,
    If you are thinking this is the typical “Dear John” letter, you’re right. Leaving you for Paleo!
    I’ll have a healthier life, one that doesn’t support all the lies that line the pockets of greedy people. You know the ones who say; eat more grains, fat is bad for you, stop eating salt, don’t eat eggs, especially the yolks! Don’t worry about added pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, GMO’s, they make the food look prettier and bigger! Heck, I’d probably get more nutrition from eating those crickets and bugs, than the sprayed food. Oh and all the sugar that has been added to our foods exponentially every year, no big deal, we need glucose for energy, wrong! I am sick and tired, literally, pun implied, with what we are duped into believing is good for us because the medical field, big pharma, GMO producing agriculturists are all telling us!
    You have a choice John, let’s leave these lies for a healthier way of life and get well together or This is goodbye!

  17. Chris, something I can not find the answers anywhere for. I went to see my md to do just routine checkup and blood test. I asked for thyroid testing as my dad has hyperthyroidism. My tsh t3 and t4 were in the middle of the accepted ranges but I was tested positive for thyroid antibodies. I freaked out and went on paper autoimmune protocol. Had few eggs from time to time, had few glasses of wine in two months and had traces of chese in my salad twice. I added Brazil nuts to my diet but besides that I was no wheat, no nuts, no diary. After two months my thyroid tpa went from 91 to 480.
    I am speachless and wonder what i did wrong.
    Is this expected outcome?

  18. Chris,
    I love your work and appreciate the balanced and thoughtful approach to your communications. However, where the Paleo diet may be THE answer for some people with autoimmune disease, it accounts for only part of the solution for other people like myself.
    I have both Graves and Hashimoto’s. When I went on pure Paleo it was the first time I completely eliminated dairy and gluten which is what I believe reduced the Hashimoto’s antibodies. The Graves antibodies didn’t budge. When I went on Low Dose Naltrexone the Graves antibodies still didn’t budge (although I felt much better and recommend LDN). Even after going through treatment for Lyme disease, no change in either of the antibodies although I felt better and was cleared headed.
    Finally, I found out that I have 2 HLA-DR gene mutations that prevent my body from detoxing Lyme and mold biotoxins. Bingo. Exposure to mold is what has sent the Graves antibodies through the roof to the point of almost dying from a thyroid storm several years ago. I am now hopeful that going through the Shoemaker biotoxin clearing protocol will finally make digestive healing possible (MSH is extremely low) as well as eliminate the recirculating biotoxins that are causing chronic inflammation and keeping my immune system overactive.
    I tell you all this to make the point that diet is not THE answer for everyone. I know for sure that diet is the foundation of healing, but it should not be promised as THE solution to autoimmune disease. I know people with 5+ autoimmune diseases who eat a perfectly clean diet, meditate everyday and do everything possible to heal their digestive tract. Clearly, there can be something else at play.
    I would love to see you include Lyme, mold illness and the HLA-DR gene issues in your work with autoimmune disease and chronic inflammation. This is a little known area of treatment that needs much more visibility.
    Keep up the great work you are doing in the world!

    • Certainly. The purpose of this series is to inform people that there are alternatives or complements to medication, not to suggest that Paleo is a panacea. If it was, I would not have a job as a functional medicine practitioner.

  19. Love your work Chris! I have been following an AIP Paleo diet for 11 months now and have experienced great improvements in my immune function, thyroid function (even dropped medication needed by 1/3!), digestive and RA symptoms. I am wanting to start decreasing my RA meds, especially the methotrexate because it has terrible side effects (I am already down to only 5 mg prednisone). However, my rheumatologist is not a big fan of this idea…. She says I may have a flare and then it could be very difficult to get under control again. Do you think this is a reasonable concern or more of an empty threat?
    Thanks!
    Donna

    • Hi Donna, I also have RA – was diagnosed 15 years ago and was on very heavy meds – MTX, prednisone 5mg/day and Humira once/week. As you see from my dosage, I was one of the 20% patients needed heavier dose for humira. I started a autoimmune Paleo diet 2 years ago and was able to get off MTX and Prednisone a few months after I started; at first I took the the injection form of MTX and as my health continued to improve I was off of it entirely about after a year. However I agree diet isn’t nearly enough for me; I tested positive SIBO about 9 months ago and was on herbal antibiotics protocol since. Ever since then, I gradually tapered off Humira, and my last shot of Humira was about 3 months ago. My leaky gut isn’t entirely healed yet; but I could see where I’m going; I’m pretty positive that soon I will be able to be entirely drug free. Nowadays I’m wearing 3.5 inch heels – I haven’t been able to do that in the past 15 years!!! Of course, all these I didn’t bother to consult with my Rheumatologist; he wouldn’t agree with me anyway; I did it on my own. But What I can tell you is that getting off of MTX and Prednisone is a very important part of my healing; not until then my gut really started to heal. Hope my journey helps you to make a decision 🙂

  20. Chris – 3 of my siblings and I have Hashimotos, inherited from my our mother. Everything I am reading lately say it is auto immune and not inherited. I have been mostly Paleo for 2+ years. Have lost weight but no change in my thyroid labs.

    • I had Hashi’s too. I’m not sure what made my thyroid start working again, but I was following a 80/20 WAPF diet, and still do, although I was gluten-free for two years. The GF diet didn’t seem to help anything else and my digestive issues were eventually diagnosed as diverticulitis. My homeopath has gotten rid of the diverticulitis and my goiter too.

        • Lycopodium 200c + Arsenicum 3c, taken together twice a day. It removed all of my pain within a week, and all loose stools within a month or two. I was good for 6 months after. She said to then take as needed if symptoms return.

          • Thank you, this is very interesting. I never thought about homeopathic remedies for digestion. Glad to hear it worked.

            • The goiter disappearing seemed more amazing to me. I guess because it was so huge and I’d had it for 6-8 years. After taking the homeopathic remedy since last May it is down to about 30% of it’s previous size. My doctor wanted me to have it out…. but I’d rather keep my “bits”.

              • Laurel,
                I’d like to know what homeopathics you are taking as have tried some and they did not work for me. Have a rather large goiter so really would like to know, Thanks

  21. How can you advocate the paleo diet when it is consistently ranked the least effective diet plan in almost every way by the nutritional establishment?

    • Why in the world would I (or anyone else) care what the “nutritional establishment” says?

      They ranked the SlimFast diet #13, which contains:

      FAT FREE MILK, WATER, SUGAR, COCOA (PROCESSED WITH ALKALI), CANOLA OIL, MILK PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, FRUCTOSE, GUM ARABIC, CELLULOSE GEL, MONO AND DIGLYCERIDES, HYDROGENATED SOYBEAN OIL, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, POTASSIUM PHOSPHATE, MALTODEXTRIN, SOY LECITHIN, CELLULOSE GUM, CARRAGEENAN, NATURAL AND ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, SODIUM BICARBONATE, SUCRALOSE AND ACESULFAME POTASSIUM (NONNUTRITIVE SWEETENERS), SODIUM CITRATE, CITRIC ACID.

      …and 18 grams of sugar.

      Brilliant.

      • Brilliant response Chris! I had POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, where the body doesn’t constrict your blood vessels upon standing, resulting in fainting, inability to stay upright, and a rapid heartbeat) for over a year during which my doc got me addicted to Ativan. I also developed an intolerance to beans which caused me extreme pain and malnutrition for months as I developed leaky gut.

        After tapering off that, starting a paleo diet, and taking supplements like fish oil, Zyflamend, Host Defense Cordychi, a probiotic, d ribose, and CoQ10 amongst others and implementing an exercise program in which I progressively exercised in more upright positions, I’ve cured myself. Your advice has been invaluable, and my confidence in natural remedies has skyrocketed. The paleo diet really works, just as it did for our ancestors. Also, eliminating all grains, not just gluten-containing ones, helped me lose weight. I now work in the industry on my feet for 8+ hours with no symptoms. Thank you!!

        • Hi Matt,

          I know this is a pretty old comment, but I’m interested to know about your case. I’ve been dizzy for weeks, tachycardia as well (kept under control by beta blockers), and the occasional neck pain. I read it’s an irritated vagus nerve from GI distress, and my acupuncturist agrees. I shouldn’t forget to mention that I’ve doctor-hopped and it took me nowhere!

          Were you pretty sure about your POTS diagnosis? In my case, I’m quite convinced it’s systemic candida overgrowth that’s causing me all these symptoms plus irritable bowel for years, anxiety, rashes sometimes, etc. Did you dig deeper and saw an underlying health cause for your syndrome?

          Thanks!

    • because “the nutritional establishment” is backed by big agra and the stakes are too high for them to admit that they are wrong. just keep reading the research on paleo / primal / caveman / grain free …. the results are amazing and consistent. this isn’t a fad. this is good food.

      • …and even more than just good food, REAL food.

        Seconding coley’s comment; feeding Americans isn’t about nutrition, it’s about money.

        Who is this “nutritional establishment,” and do they know what the term nutrition means? (I’m guessing no based on that SlimFast selection.)

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