Health column: Anti-inflammatory diets can help defend against autoimmune diseases


Autoimmune diseases are complicated and diverse. I could name a dozen without even thinking too hard about it, and they each have different causes, medications, and therapies.

Thankfully, they do have some overlaps.

Autoimmune diseases are exactly what they sound like: your immune system is supposed to protect you from anything that isn’t you. Viruses, bacteria, funguses, splinters, etc.

More broadly, your immune system is supposed to help with anything that isn’t where it is supposed to be – that’s why when you twist your ankle it gets swollen: there are cells in your now-sprained ligaments that are torn.

When cells break the stuff that is on the inside of them is now on the outside (aka not where it is supposed to be). This signals your immune system to send the cleanup crew to start mopping up the mess. That cleanup crew brings white blood cells, plasma, platelets, etc., and all that stuff in a small space like an ankle adds up to swelling.

This is how your immune system is supposed to work, and it still kind of stinks, because swelling hurts! That’s why we take anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen when we are dealing with painful injuries – there is a balance between needing to clean up the area and not having too much swelling to function.

In an autoimmune disease your immune system starts thinking that part of you is not where it belongs. For example: in autoimmune hepatitis you will have antibodies to the type of cells that are in the liver, in myasthenia gravis you have antibodies to one of your nerve receptors and muscle cells, in Rheumatoid arthritis you have antibodies to something called the “cyclic citrullinated peptide” which is in the joints, and in Lupus you have antibodies to your actual DNA.

Autoimmune diseases are not contagious but do run in families and are affected by stress, lack of sleep, how much you exercise, and perhaps most importantly, what you eat.

Some researchers think that the global increase in incidence in autoimmune disease is being driven primarily by the spread of the “Western” (aka highly processed, low fiber and high meat) diet.

The treatments for many autoimmune diseases include very specific and special medication for your specific antibody profile, but there are some really fundamental general treatments.

This Article was originally published in the Herald and News.


Dr. Stewart Decker is the Medical Director of the Sky Lakes Wellness Center. For more information about the Wellness Center, call (541) 274-2770. Have a question? Submit it via e-mail to