Dr. Mark Hyman’s Diet Tips for Fighting Autoimmunity
What autoimmune condition(s) is this diet best for?
This is more than a diet. It is a set of general diet, lifestyle and functional medicine recommendations for autoimmunity. These recommendations are meant to help calm inflammation and autoimmunity for anyone suffering from an autoimmune disorder. The diet will be individualized for each person, based on elimination diet findings, as well as functional nutrition labs that may be ordered by your functional medicine doctor and/or dietitian.
What are the main tenants of the diet?
Dr. Hyman recommends starting with an elimination diet to eliminate exposure to inflammatory foods and substances, as well as to help the body eliminate these substances.
Food Given Up
A traditional elimination diet calls for giving up typically allergenic foods such as wheat/gluten, corn, all dairy and foods made dairy or dairy derivatives, eggs, soy, shellfish, peanuts, nightshade vegetables (white potatoes, spinach, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, cayenne and paprika), mushrooms, most sweeteners, pork/veal/beef and any processed meats for 14-21 days. All alcohol-and caffeine- containing (as well as decaffeinated) beverages and foods are avoided as well.
After this time period, reintroduce one food a time every few days and note symptoms. It is paramount that a detailed food and symptom journal is kept during this time. It can be very helpful and time- efficient to seek the help of a Registered Dietitian or Certified Clinical Nutritionist who is trained in Integrative and/or Functional Medicine. The dietitian/nutritionist may recommend certain other foods to eliminate, based on food sensitivity lab results, or which, based on clinical judgment, may be particularly inflammatory or make healing the gut (a main priority) difficult for you.
Foods eaten frequently
- Proteins: Fresh ocean fish, wild game, lamb, duck , organic chicken and turkey; legumes (unless otherwise directed); nuts and seeds (except peanuts and pistachios)
- Vegetables: All raw, steamed, juiced or baked vegetables (except nightshades)
- Starches: Beans, lentils, sweet potatoes/yams, parsnips, gluten-free oats, buckwheat, amaranth, teff and millet
- Oils: Cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil, virgin unrefined coconut oil, ghee (clarified butter, which has milk solids removed. Find ghee that is confirmed to have 0 mg of casein or whey proteins, such as Purity Farms) and unrefined, expeller pressed sesame oil (watch for traces of peanut)
- Fruits: All fresh fruits, except citrus and grapes
- Sweeteners: brown rice syrup, fruit sweeteners, molasses and pure stevia extract
Meal frequency/portion sizes
No specific recommendations are given. In general, five small meals per day, or 3 meals and 2 snacks, would be generally recommended for blood sugar regulation and optimal digestion and nutrient intake.
- Per meal: 3-4 oz portions of meat or ½-1 cup beans, ½ cup starch (may be whole, cooked grain or starchy vegetable) and copious (2 or more servings) non-starchy vegetables.
- Beverages: herbal teas and water.
- Snacks: fresh veggies/fruits, nuts/seeds/beans.
All supplements should be purchased from companies with high standards for quality, potency and purity. Many of the supplements on the market do not make the cut. Your functional medicine practitioner can guide you on the best brands to choose from, which tend to be those made especially for health care practitioners to prescribe to their patients, but not always. Dr. Hyman recommends the following vitamins and supplements:
- Vitamin D as cholecalciferol at 1,000 IU daily (unless you have a known deficiency and have been directed to take more)
- EPA/DHA: Maintenance dose for healthy individuals is 1,000 mg per day of EPA/DHA combined. Therapeutic dose will be higher. Consult your functional medicine doctor or dietitian for increased dosing recommendations. Ensure quality and purity of product.
- Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA): An omega 6 fatty acid with anti-inflammatory properties. Typical therapeutic dose is around 5-10 g of GLA-containing oil (2 g GLA) daily for adults with Rheumatoid Arthritis. Several long-term studies have demonstrated that up to 2.8g GLA daily is well tolerated. Dosing should be individualized by an experienced practitioner, depending upon condition and clinical judgment.
- Probiotics: In general, a good recommendation is 30-100 billion colony-forming units of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria in divided doses daily. Go with what your functional medicine practitioner recommends.
Will this diet require shopping at a specialty or organic grocery store, or buying the diet’s pre- packaged food (aka, is this diet going to be very expensive to sustain)?
The diet should be made up of mostly organic/chemical-free foods. Since chemicals and environmental pollutants are potential triggers for autoimmunity in the first place, it is wise to remove any potential irritants and pro-inflammatory substances from the diet, which includes pesticide residues.
To save money, look for Certified Naturally Grown (CNG), a relatively new certification. CNG guidelines for sustainable and chemical-free farming are just as stringent and often more so than the USDA’s organic certification. The CNG certification is much more affordable for farmers than the USDA’s Organic Certification. These savings are passed on to the consumer who gets clean, safe and sustainably grown food at affordable prices. If you can’t find CNG produce in your area, start asking your grocer for it. You can also check out your local farmer’s markets and Community Supported Agriculture. With the latter, you can get a weekly share of produce (usually organic), typically at affordable prices.
Another option is to check out the Dirty Dozen list, which lists foods that should always be purchased organic, due to heavy pesticide spraying. It is always best for the environment and for us (what we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves) to buy organic, but if buying some non-organic produce will provide much needed economic relief, it may be helpful to see the Clean 15 list. This is a list of produce that does not tend to have pesticide residues on the edible parts after typical washing.
What other autoimmune diets is this diet similar to?
These recommendations are quite unique alongside other autoimmune “diets”. While these recommendations certainly echo the common and valid call for whole, organic foods, all of the approaches are very different as far as what foods are allowed.
Questions for your doctor/health practitioner:
First of all, find a functional medicine doctor/practitioner. Otherwise, your doctor/practitioner will likely not know how to answer these questions. To find a functional medicine doctor/practitioner in your area, visit:http://www.functionalmedicine.org/practitioner_search.aspx?id=117#results
- Are you experienced in testing for mercury and other heavy metals as Dr. Hyman is suggesting? http://drhyman.com/blog/conditions/how-to-rid-your-body-of-mercury-and-other-heavy- metals-a-3-step-plan-to-recover-your-health/
- Will you refer me to and work with a functional medicine dietitian who can:
- Guide me through the elimination diet ?
- Help guide me through diet and lifestyle preparations for heavy metal testing and the actual detoxification process if I am found to have toxic levels of heavy metals?
- If I do have elevated levels of toxic metals, will it be possible for me to get intravenous vitamins and antioxidants during the detoxification process, as Dr. Hyman suggest?
- Would you recommend food sensitivity testing like IgG or MRT?
- In addition to heavy metal testing, what other tests, such as nutrient levels and inflammatory markers do you recommend?
- Do you recommend other therapies and supplements that may be helpful in calming inflammation and managing stress?
About the Author
Angie King-Nosseir MS, RD is an Integrative and Functional Registered Dietitian, with a passion for walking with people along their path toward health transformation. Angie has a Master’s degree in Nutrition, is a Certified LEAP Therapist, corporate wellness health coach, freelance nutrition and wellness writer, and certified yoga instructor. She is trained in Functional Nutrition and Medicine through the Institute for Functional Medicine and in Food as Medicine through the Center for Mind-Body Medicine.
This blog post was originally published by AutoimmuneMom.com, written by Angie King-Nosseir MS, RD, and first published on Jun 25, 2012.
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