I like the answers given by others but wanted to add that chronic inflammation can be the body’s response to a poor diet. Here’s some of what Joel Furhman, M.D. has to say on the topic:
“Autoimmune diseases affect 23.5 million Americans, and that number is rising. Autoimmune diseases are one of the top ten leading causes of death for women under the age of 64.1 In autoimmune diseases, the body undergoes an inappropriate immune response that causes excessive inflammation that becomes destructive to the body.
Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin condition—the most prevalent autoimmune disease in the U.S. affecting about 7.5 million Americans; and it is much more than a cosmetic concern.2 Depending on the severity of psoriasis, it can also cause skin cracking and bleeding, pain, and a significant disruption of quality of life. In addition, psoriasis is associated with increased cardiovascular risk.3-5 Even mild cases of psoriasis may increase the risk of heart attack by up to 29%.6 The chronic inflammation characteristic of psoriasis (and other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus) puts patients at risk.7, 8 In addition to cardiovascular disease, psoriasis patients are also more likely to suffer from insulin resistance, depression, cancer, osteoporosis, and liver disease—also likely due to chronic inflammation.9-11
Nutritional intervention should always be tried first, before powerful and potentially dangerous drugs are prescribed.
Conventional treatments for autoimmune diseases suppress the immune system to halt the body’s immune attack on itself. However, this makes the body more susceptible to infections and even cancers—one study found that autoimmune patients with the greatest exposure to immunosuppressive drugs had an almost 5-fold increase in cancer risk.12 The FDA has issued warnings on certain drugs used to treat autoimmune diseases because of increased cancer risk.13 Mild to moderate psoriasis can often be treated with topical medications only—these are safer than systemic medications, but still have significant side effects such as skin thinning, pigmentation changes, bruising easily, stretch marks, redness, and acne. They also may stop working over time.14
Nutrition is a powerful and safe tool for preventing and treating autoimmune diseases.15-20 Although psoriasis has a genetic component (about one-third of patients have a family history),2 it is also influenced by what we eat. Those with a high intake of green vegetables, carrots, tomatoes, and fresh fruits are less likely to develop psoriasis. Oxidative stress, which can be lessened by these antioxidant-rich foods, is thought to contribute to skin inflammation in psoriasis. Furthermore, psoriasis symptoms have been shown to improve using dietary methods in several scientific studies.21
I have been recommending a high-nutrient (Nutritarian) diet combined with selected supplements and when needed, and episodic fasting to help the body to calm inflammation and remove cellular toxins. High nutrient plant foods supply substances that support immune system function, allowing the body to have proper defenses against infections and cancers. Supervised water fasting is another important component to autoimmune treatment—I have documented the contribution of fasting to remission of autoimmune disease in published case reports.22 Keep in mind also, that the conditions that psoriasis sufferers are vulnerable to—heart disease in particular—are also those that can be prevented with healthful lifestyle habits. The only side effects of nutritional treatment are positive ones—protective effects against heart disease, diabetes, and cancers. This health promoting protocol longevity as it normalizes immune function.
Dietary Intervention for Autoimmune Diseases
Natural methods can help you calm the inflammation in your body and reduce or even eliminate your need for medications. I urge everyone with an autoimmune disease to try these natural methods before resigning themselves to a life of dangerous medications and progressively worsening disease:
High-nutrient, vegetable-based diet rich in greens
Fresh vegetable juices
Fish oil or plant-based EPA and DHA supplements
Avoidance of salt, wheat, and oils
Assuring no micronutrient deficiencies are present
Using these methods, many of my patients who once suffered from autoimmune diseases have now recovered and are free of illness as well as the toxic side effects of the drugs. Some of people with these recoveries have written me, but I have never actually met them. All they did was read one of my books and follow the protocols detailed online.
Jodi, who has recovered from psoriasis, and psoriatic arthritis is an excellent example:
‘I started experiencing skin rashes and joint pain as a teenager more than 40 years ago. Back then, in the 60’s, I don’t think doctors knew much about autoimmune conditions (perhaps not even now). I was put on various drugs, including steroids, plaquenil, methotrexate and antihistamines, which swelled my body up like a beached whale. I was on medication for almost 20 years and saw different medical specialists including allergists, dermatologists, hematologists, rheumatologists, and endocrinologists.
By the time I turned 50 in 1999, I was covered from head-to-toe with psoriasis and tested positive for other autoimmune diseases: rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Hashimoto’s and Sjogren’s. The medications only helped a little and I suffered with joint pain, unable to function normally for over twenty years in spite of taking all the medications prescribed by rheumatologists.
In my quest for improved health, I read Dr. Fuhrman’s books and I have been following his eating plan since 2001 with much success. I take no medications, and have no symptoms of psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. The body has incredible healing powers if given the proper nutrients and care. I have also lost 20 pounds and breezed through menopause. I consider myself 58 years young.’”