Autoimmunity Versus Nutrition PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 06 August 2011 01:54
Our immune system protects us from various diseases. However, at times it goes into an overdrive and attacks the body itself, leading to tissue destruction and degenerative diseases referred to as autoimmune diseases. Autoimmune disorders include multiple sclerosis, sarcoidosis, type 1 diabetes mellitus, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, Graves’ disease, chronic thyroiditis, celiac disease, Crohn’s disease etc. Autoimmune problems have a strong genetic predisposition but triggers may include excessive sun, infections, drugs, or other conditions that stress the body including pregnancy.

Whether diet influences autoimmunity has been the subject of many unresolved debates. Interestingly, growing evidence indicates a role of diet in preventing, delaying or reversing the expression of genetically determined auto-immune diseases.

As the gut is a major site of many complex interactions, which control immunity, it is the largest interface between an individual and his environment and, therefore, provides the largest exposure for immune building micro-organisms and exposure to toxins and allergens. Strengthening the age-old adage, we are what we eat. This suggests an important role of pro-biotics and pre-biotics in autoimmunity. Scientists have explored the role of pre-biotic and pro-biotic supplementation in young infants to promote good bacteria and concluded that they were beneficial in the prevention of eczema. However, the effects in the treatment of eczema were less convincing.

Maternal diets during pregnancy and breast feeding too have been found to influence auto-immune processes. Breast feeding also emerges as a potentially protective factor for prevention of allergies and celiac disease.

Over the past years evidence has supported a major role for specific dietary factors including vitamin D, vitamin A, selenium, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, pro-biotics, glutamine (an amino acid) and flavanols (plant chemicals which protect against disease) in influencing autoimmune diseases. Interestingly, effects of deficiency of vitamin D may extend beyond bone health and calcium balance. It has now been associated with increased autoimmunity and increased susceptibility to infections. Associations between vitamin D and auto-immune diseases have been confirmed in multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Studies also indicate that vitamin A can be instrumental in the prevention of intestinal inflammation and auto-immunity. Supportive function of selenium in health and disease, including autoimmune diseases, is well documented.

Several animal and human studies have shown that diets high in omega-3 fatty acids, the kind of fat found in fish and flaxseeds, have a role in reducing the risk and treating autoimmune diseases. Omega-3 fatty acids not only prevent heart disease but may also reduce the risk of autoimmunity.

Dietary modification has shown its greatest beneficial effect when started prior to or immediately after the onset of disease. Also a golden rule, the old age principle of balance prevails. Optimum but balanced food intake maintains healthy growth and disease-free lifespan.

Ishi Khosla is a former senior nutritionist at Escorts. She heads the Centre of Dietary Counselling and also runs a health food store. She feels that for complete well-being, one should integrate physical, mental and spiritual health. According to her: “To be healthy should be the ultimate goal for all.”

Khosla, I (2011), "Autoimmunity versus nutrition", Indian Express; original article can be viewed here.


 
More articles :

» Autoimmune Disease Overlap Syndromes

Because of their variable features, overlapping autoimmune connective tissue, thyroid and liver disorders can be difficult to diagnose.It’s not unusual for several years to go by before overlapping autoimmune conditions are properly diagnosed. One...

» Genetics of Scleroderma: Implications For Personalized Medicine

Significant advances have been made in understanding the genetic basis of systemic sclerosis (scleroderma) in recent years. Can these discoveries lead to individualized monitoring and treatment? Besides robustly replicated genetic susceptibility...

» Targeted Therapy for Systemic Sclerosis: How Close are We?

Manuel Ramos-Casals; Vicent Fonollosa-Pla; Pilar Brito-Zerón; Antoni Sisó-AlmirallPosted: 09/14/2010; Nat Rev Rheumatol. 2010;6(5):269-278. © 2010 Nature Publishing GroupDespite recent etiopathogenetic advances, systemic sclerosis continues to be...

» The Common Thread In Autoimmune Diseases

In a recent presentation on Autoimmune Disease: The Common Thread at the , Dr. Noel Rose sought to discuss the nature of autoimmunity and autoimmune diseases, prevalence and incidences, and risk factors involved. He started out by describing the...

» 7 Tips For Balancing Rest and Activity

I wanted to help patients and my friends by sharing some helpful tips about Scleroderma, an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks itself by destroying its own cells and functions. The effects of are quite severe and can affect a patient’s...

» Symposium Addresses Unique Needs of Young Adults with Rheumatic Diseases

The Arthritis Foundation is sponsoring the 2nd Annual Arthritis in PrimeTime symposium on Saturday, October 22 at the Long Beach Renaissance Hotel in Long Beach. This premier educational and motivational event fosters active and fulfilling lives for...

Add comment

Do feel free to leave your comments, as they would add value and knowledge to the community. However, please refrain from making any disparaging, uninformed, or unrelated comments. Thanks :)

Security code
Refresh