The majority of our immune system — almost 70 percent — is in our digestive tract. Every morsel of food ingested filters right into our digestive tract. While I think it is true that everything in moderation is OK, someone with an autoimmune disease should pay close attention to their diet. Our bodies are fighting against us, and certain foods can dampen the fire of disease, while others can inflame it.
Food is an interchangeable vice that provides us with comfort and satisfaction. Often, a side of creamy macaroni and cheese seems more appealing than a salad or steamed vegetables. But every bit of food eaten can bring you closer to health or illness. Our brains override the logic and give in to the euphoria of taste and texture, even though some form of regret can be felt later.
The same concept goes for those who are trying to lose weight or avoid foods to improve health. Healthy eating is an underrated lifestyle that can contribute to someone with chronic illness feeling better. Scleroderma causes digestive issues and ignites inflammatory effects on the body.
Gluten, sugar, and dairy promote inflammation within the body, which causes achy joints and fatigue. The term “gluten-free” has earned a strange reputation because it’s portrayed as a diet fad. Gluten is a protein found in wheat that binds bread and pasta together. Think of it as a “glue” for certain foods. Wheat is one of the largest crops produced in the United States. As the population grows exponentially, corners get cut to mass produce wheat. People are no longer going to their local baker and buying homemade bread. Instead, they’re buying it at supermarkets that make bread in the fastest, most cost-effective way.
Gluten is harmful to some with chronic illness because it’s scientifically linked to inflammation triggers, and it takes a long time to digest. Bread often acts as a big wet ball of dough, slowly sliding down the esophagus, for those with hindered digestion. Cutting back on these foods significantly can increase energy levels, lower pain, and improve digestion.
The upside to this information is that there are endless replacements in the supermarket. Cashew milk is a rich, flavorful alternative to cow’s milk. Gluten-free bread and pasta are available in almost every grocery store. Increasing the number of fresh fruits and vegetables consumed helps to reduce heartburn and feeds your body nutrients that certain medications may be depleting.
The single most important thing an individual can do when shopping for food is read the ingredients for every item. This is the best way to prevent chemicals, sugar, or harmful products from entering your body.
Scheduling an appointment to see a nutritionist and researching anti-inflammatory diets can help curb aggravating symptoms to the side. Blood tests exist that can test for food allergy sensitivities. It was through this testing that I learned I had digestive allergies to wheat, soy, corn, and eggs. I was never aware of this my entire life, so I’ve been feeding my body foods that don’t agree with it. With chronic illness, you have to be your own advocate and try different methods to help strengthen your gut since it’s the lifeline of our immune system. Giving in to the lack of self-control can cause much more harm in the end than good.
The result of changing a diet can be different from one person to the next. But it has helped decrease my pain levels, and I don’t choke on my food as often. Our bodies were made to process basic foods, and following a nutritional diet can help us thrive as a physically better version of ourselves.
Note: Scleroderma News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Scleroderma News or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to scleroderma.