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Am Dr Ray Sahelian Supplements For Autoimmune Conditions

Dr. Ray Sahelian: Supplements for Autoimmune Conditions

What conditions is this diet best for?

This is not a diet per se, but reports about supplemental nutrients are covered, which have been researched as potential treatments for autoimmune diseases.

What foods are given up and what foods are eaten frequently?

No recommendations on actual food are made, however Dr. Sahelian points out that there is less incidence of rheumatoid arthritis in South Mediterranean countries where the diet is plentiful in oil-rich fish, vegetables, fruits and olives.  He also cites that a diet low in fruits, vegetables and Vitamin C are associated with an increased risk for autoimmune polyarthritis. Fish oil supplementation is suggested, as it has been shown to reduce symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis.  From this, one can infer that regular intake of fatty fish, such as salmon and sardines, could be therapeutic in rheumatoid arthritis, knowing that 1,000 mg of supplemental EPA/DHA is equivalent to one serving of fatty fish per week.  Dr. Sahelain suggests that eating fatty fish at least three times per week may reduce autoimmune symptoms.

Dr. Sahelian reviews several supplements and cites promising research and possible effectiveness for autoimmunity.  He points out that deciding what supplements to take should be between a person and their health practitioner.  If you are interested in exploring supplement options, please show this list to your supplement-wise health practitioner, or health care team.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D down-regulates inflammatory pathways, particularly in Th1 mediated conditions.  Dr. Sahelian notes that Vitamin D may even be beneficial in multiple sclerosis and type 1 diabetes.

Omega 3 Fatty Acids
EPA and DHA are the bioactive compounds which are converted from omega 3 fatty acids by the body.  Fish oil contains already-converted EPA and DHA.  These compounds can down-regulate inflammatory pathways.  EPA supplementation is known to increase survival in patients with Immunoglobulin A (IgA nephropathy, as EPA reduces the inflammatory response by reducing eicosanoid and cytokine production.  Both fish oil and vitamin E are shown to decrease many inflammatory pathways and may slow the progression of many autoimmune diseases.

Green Tea and EGCG (an antioxidant compound in green tea)
The study cited by Dr. Sahelian looked at whether supplementation with green tea extract would affect disease-related immune responses in autoimmune arthritis.  Green tea extract did produce changes in the immune response.  More research is needed to draw a definite conclusion as to whether and how green tea extract would be therapeutic for autoimmune arthritis in humans; however, these initial findings are quite promising.  Most of the research showing the health benefits of green tea have looked at the amount typically consumed by those in Asian countries—about three cups per day.

The flavone compounds apigenin and luteolin were found to be strong inhibitors of both mouse and human inflammatory T-cell responses by reducing antigen-specific-IFN-gamma production by T-cells.

Apigenin is a citrus bioflavanoid.  It has anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and anti-microbial properties.  It is found in concentrated amounts in several herbs such as parsley, thyme and peppermint.  It is also found in the herbs chamomile, yarrow, lemon balm, Horsetail, vervain and perilla.  It is also found in tomato sauce and red wine.

Dr. Sahelian suggests that concentrated forms of chamomile and thyme appear to be very good sources of apigenin.  Chamomile and thyme extract is available online through trustworthy companies such as Gaia Herbs.  Essential oils may be considered. Of course, many of the herbs listed can be used in the diet, and this is recommended regardless of supplementation.

Luteolin is another flavonoid, which also has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties.  It is highly concentrated in basil, thyme, peppermint, parsley, celery and artichoke, which can all be taken as food.  It also tends to be found in foods within the red color class, such as pomegranate, cranberry, kidney beans and Rooibos tea.  Luteolin exerts anti-inflammatory properties via its ability to scavenge/quench oxygen and nitrogen free radical species (molecules that steal electrons from other molecules, causing damage to cells and tissues, thereby perpetuating the inflammatory process).  Luteolin also shows potent activity against nuclear factory kappa B, a key inflammatory chemical messenger.

Quercetin is a flavonoid compound and plant pigment found in onions, broccoli, red apples, berries, tea, red grapes and red wine.  Like all flavonoids, it has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor properties.  Dr. Sahelian cites a study in which quercetin supplementation ameliorated experimental autoimmune myocarditis.  Quercetin’s anti-inflammatory actions are apparently exerted via free radical scavenging and interfering with the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, or inflammatory chemical messengers, which cause symptoms in any inflammatory condition, including autoimmune diseases.

Rose Hips
Dr. Sahelian cites a double-blind placebo controlled trial, which showed that rose hip powder at 5 g by mouth daily may be a good additional treatment for patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Andrographis paniculata is a shrub found throughout India and Asian countries.  It is commonly used by people in Scandinavian countries to stimulate the immune system during winter months.  It does have anti-inflammatory properties and contains flavonoids.  Dr. Sahelian cites a prospective, randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled trial which did not show statistically significant results for improvement of rheumatoid arthritis; however, the authors noted, “a significant diminishing in tender joint, number of swollen joints, total grade of tender joint, number of tender joints was observed within the group taking the active drug.”  This herb could be an additional treatment for rheumatoid arthritis, and more studies are needed to draw a more definitive conclusion.  Dr. Sahelian offers some caveats about supplementing with Andrographis:

  • Since human studies are lacking, potential benefits and side effects are not fully known.
  • When taking andrographis, take 2 days off per week and 1 week off per month.
  • It is not clear how andrographis will interact with other herbs which act on the immune system, such as astralagus root, golden seal, Echinacea and others.

Alpha-Lipoic Acid (Alpha-LA)
Alpha-LA is a neuroprotective metabolic antioxidant, which has been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier.  Dr. Sahelian cites a study which shows that Alpha-LA effectively interfered with the autoimmune reaction associated with experimentally induced multiple sclerosis in mice, via mechanisms other that its antioxidant activity. More studies are needed to further research and understand Alpha-LA’s potential therapeutic benefit for multiple sclerosis.

Physicians and Registered Dietitians trained in functional medicine are often open to and knowledgeable about nutritional and herbal supplements. If you are interested in these kinds of complimentary therapies, finding a practitioner(s) who is trained in functional medicine can be very worthwhile.

Questions for your doctor:

  • Which, if any, of the supplements listed by Dr. Sahelian would you recommend that I begin taking, and at what dose and frequency?
  • Can you recommend a qualified nutrition professional, who can make sound dietary suggestions that are specific to my condition and overall health and is knowledgeable in nutritional and herbal supplements to have on board with us?

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, written by Angie King-Nosseir MS, RD, and first published on Oct 13, 2012.

This post contains the opinions of the author. Autoimmune Association is not a medical practice and does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is your responsibility to seek diagnosis, treatment, and advice from qualified providers based on your condition and particular circumstances. Autoimmune Association does not endorse nor recommend any products, practices, treatment methods, tests, physicians, service providers, procedures, clinical trials, opinions or information available on this website. Your use of the website is subject to our Privacy Policy.

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