Navigating Autoimmune Healing Without Succumbing to Dietary Fads

In today's society, the prevalence of autoimmune conditions, such as ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and axial spondyloarthritis (axSpA), is rising.1 These conditions, affecting millions worldwide, require careful management to alleviate symptoms and promote overall well-being.1 However, some use this as ample opportunity to engage in predatory practices. Therefore, amidst the search for practical solutions, it is crucial to recognize the potential dangers of falling into dietary fads.

That's why we'll explore the importance of maintaining a balanced and holistic approach to managing AS and axSpA, steering clear of quick-fix diets, and prioritizing sustainable lifestyle changes.

Why dietary fads are so appealing

In the quest to relieve symptoms, the promises of quick solutions offered by making dietary and lifestyle changes can be enticing. As a health coach, I acknowledge that studies have shown the benefits of specific nutritional and lifestyle changes for managing autoimmune conditions. For instance, research has shown that dietary modification can improve clinical responses in treating inflammatory bowel disease.2 While there can be some benefits to making nutritional changes, the problem is when we go to extremes.

Dietary "fads" typically involve extreme and restrictive eating patterns, which can lead people to eliminate entire food groups or elevate "miracle" foods over others. While the initial allure of rapid improvement can be tempting, it is essential to approach these claims with cautious skepticism. Further, there are potential consequences of dietary fads to consider, which include:

1. Nutritional deficiencies:

Eliminating entire food groups can deprive the body of essential nutrients, leading to deficiencies. Nutritional deficiencies prevent us from functioning optimally and can contribute to potential health complications. Thus, a well-balanced diet is vital for supporting overall health and managing autoimmune conditions effectively.

2. Unsustainability:

Although some people may maintain dietary fads in the short term, long-term adherence is unlikely. This results from the restrictions and rigid rules, leading to feelings of deprivation, yo-yo dieting, and negative impacts on our immune health. Therefore, sustainable lifestyle changes are ideal as they are more likely to yield lasting benefits.

3. Emotional impact:

Constantly chasing after the next dietary trend can create an unhealthy relationship between food and body image. Considering that there are many changes that our bodies maybe experience, we cannot ignore how this may impact our self-esteem. Furthermore, the pressure to conform to societal beauty standards perpetuated by diet culture can contribute to engaging in habits that adversely affect our health.

Why adopting a holistic approach is key

Even though autoimmune diseases often present unique challenges, there are holistic approaches that we can apply for effective management. Here are a few techniques that have worked for me and my clients in the past.

1. Seek professional guidance:

As a health coach specializing in supporting clients in managing autoimmune conditions, I would be remiss if I didn't explain the immense benefits of working with a healthcare professional. Whether a registered dietitian or a nutritionist, working with a healthcare professional with expertise in autoimmune health can provide valuable guidance. They can help create personalized nutrition plans focusing on nourishing the body while addressing specific dietary needs.

2. Listen to our body:

There is immense value in paying attention to our body's signals. Taking mental or written notes on how different foods affect us individually can be a great way of identifying which foods do and don't work for our bodies. Through this process, we can ensure that we're implementing the specific dietary and lifestyle changes best for our unique needs.

3. Prioritize nutrient-dense foods:

Ensuring that nutrient-dense foods to include fruits, vegetables, and lean meats, are part of our daily menu is essential for managing autoimmune disease. These nutrient-dense choices provide essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support overall health. When we prioritize nutrient density, it allows us to enjoy healthy indulgences without worrying that we won't meet our nutritional needs.

4. Manage stress:

Stress management significantly affects autoimmune disease management. Incorporating mindfulness, meditation, regular exercise, and adequate sleep into our daily routine are proven stress-reducing techniques. It is through developing these stress management techniques that we can support our bodies in becoming more resilient to the stress that lies ahead.

5. Build a support system:

Although we often dismiss the importance of a support system, there is immense value in surrounding ourselves with a supportive network of friends, family, or support groups. Having those around who understand the challenges of managing autoimmune diseases can give us the help we need when we need it. Sharing experiences, tips, and encouragement can make the journey less daunting.

Avoiding the allure of quick fixes

While the desire for quick relief is understandable, falling into the trap of diet culture fads can do more harm than good when managing autoimmune diseases. Instead, adopt a holistic approach prioritizing sustainable lifestyle changes, nourishing foods, stress management, and professional guidance. By breaking free from the allure of quick fixes, we can navigate autoimmune healing and embrace lasting wellness.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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