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  • Tanya Milin

Ketogenic Diet and Autoimmune Disease



In the past few years, there has been a tremendous increase in cases of autoimmune diseases. And it seems the condition is just everywhere around us. Now that the incidence of such diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Crohn’s disease, Lupus, and multiple sclerosis continue to increase, so also is the need for effective treatment to fight them.


Gut health and our diet are major areas of opportunity when we talk about cutting down inflammation and controlling autoimmune disease. This has led to many keto diet lovers asking if there are any benefits of the diet to autoimmune diseases.


In this article, you’ll learn more about keto diet and autoimmune disease, and how ketogenic diet can be of great help in controlling autoimmune disease.


Ketogenic Diet and Autoimmune Disease

Also known as keto diet, the ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-fat diet that triggers ketosis – a natural metabolic process of the body. When you eat a minimal amount of carbs, you will be depriving your body of glucose, which is its natural source of fuel. This forces it to start burning stored body fat instead. Although often used for weight loss, keto diet also has lots of other health benefits.


Autoimmune disease, on the other hand, is a growing health condition that has more than 50 million people diagnosed in the US to have one type of autoimmune disease or the other. Under normal circumstance, your immune system helps shied you away from the invasion of foreign substances into your body, including viruses and bacteria. It attacks them and eliminates them from your body, therefore, keeping you healthy and well shielded away from outside invaders.


However, during the case of autoimmunity, your immune system mistakes your healthy tissues and cells as foreign invaders and mounts an attack against them. Such diseases like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, Hashimoto’s, and type 1 diabetes are all autoimmune diseases.


What Are the Root Cause of Autoimmune Diseases?

Autoimmune diseases are genetic and you are either prone to it or not. But there is usually an incident(s) can trigger the condition in people that are genetically prone to it. This initial trigger is usually referred to as the root cause. The triggers can be an infection, virus, injury, stress, poor nutrition or pregnancy.

Another important root cause is poor gut health, which results in leaky gut syndrome and causing systemic inflammation. This is where nutrition and diet is needed to prevent or treat autoimmune issues.


Some Common Autoimmune Disease and How Ketogenic Diet Could Help:


Multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) usually cause damages to nerves that control communication between your body and your brain, which often results in different symptoms like pain, fatigue, weakness, impaired coordination, and loss of vision. MS also destroys your brain’s ability to utilize glucose, which means if your brain is not getting an alternative source of fuel, problems may arise.


Because ketogenic diet helps provide an alternative source of fuel for the body, it can help prevent complications from MS.


Ketogenic diet also helps promote the production of energy on a cellular level, which hence impacts the health of the mitochondria, which may be under attack due to multiple sclerosis.


Crohn’s Disease

This is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease characterized by an attack on the gastrointestinal tract by your immune system. Crohn’s disease is caused by severe chronic inflammation in the gut, and because of this, all foods that may be aggravating the gut lining should be removed. That is exactly where keto diet helps. By removing gut lining aggravating foods like refined carbs, gluten, and sugar, it helps increase anti-inflammatory pathways in your body.


Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune condition that causes your immune system to attack your joints. This results in inflammation, causing swelling and thickening of the tissues that line the joints. Of course, this can be very painful, and in some cases, can lead to bone and cartilage damage.

People living with rheumatoid arthritis usually have low levels of glutathione antioxidant, which is a key compound in your immune system. It helps keep away free radicals and protects the body from oxidative stress.


Animal model studies, however, proved that ketogenic diet help increases the level of glutathione in the body, and so, help boost antioxidant activity.


Lupus

Unlike some other autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid disease or multiple sclerosis that attack particular areas of the body, Lupus can attack any part of your body, resulting in inflammation, swelling, and causes damages to joints and organs.


According to studies, Lupus can activate the inflammasome NLRP3 receptor – a receptor whose activation can trigger the activation of other inflammatory molecules in the body to cause a series of inflammations. When this cascade of inflammation continues, it can become chronic, leading to severe pain.


However, when the body is in ketosis, it is able to produce an abundance of the BHB (beta-hydroxybutyrate) ketone. BHB is able to inhibit NLRP3 and thus decreasing inflammation. So eating a keto diet as a Lupus patient means you are helping your body produce the very antidote to counter the autoimmune disease.


Maintaining a healthy gut is a good way to prevent virtually all autoimmune diseases, and the ketogenic diet is just the best way to go about it. It is an anti-inflammatory diet when done correctly. However, everyone’s body is different, so make sure you speak with your doctor before adopting the diet.