One thing many people with autoimmune disease struggle with is weight. Especially in diseases that affect the thyroid, like Hashimoto’s, losing weight is generally desired but might be difficult to achieve. This is usually because of inflammation, poor blood sugar control, compromised gut health, food intolerances, adrenal fatigue, elevated cortisol, and nutrient deficiencies.
First off, I do not recommend a weight loss diet if your autoimmune disease is currently active. Any autoimmune symptoms you are experiencing should be addressed and healed before thinking about weight loss. If ignored, you might actually experience weight gain, worsening of symptoms, fatigue, and increased nutrient deficiency. The focus should be on healing first, which sometimes just that can result in unintentional weight loss.
So, what might a diet for autoimmune disease look like? Again, autoimmune disease typically develops in the presence of leaky gut, SIBO, gut dysbiosis or an otherwise unhealthy gut. To lose weight, inflammation must be low to keep an autoimmune disease in remission and allow weight loss to occur in a healthy way while keeping you feeling your best, keeping your energy up, and nourishing your body. These are foods that often need to be avoided:
- nightshades and spices from nightshades
- foods high in lectins
- nuts or seeds and spices from seeds
- dairy, eggs, chocolate, grains
- possibly high FODMAP foods, high salicylate foods, high histamine foods
- any foods you have sensitivity too
If you have any GI symptoms from your disease (ex: diarrhea, constipation, loose stool, low stomach acid, problems with gallbladder, liver, or pancreas, bloating, cramping) the focus should be on addressing these symptoms first. Look into intolerances, parasites, SIBO, enzymes, and possibly using supplements to support these underlying problems.
Again, weight loss with autoimmune disease includes a full spectrum of healing. Start with the gut as mentioned, but also consider stress management. Take up yoga and weight lifting rather than marathon running. Chronic cardio often increases stress and can worsen autoimmune symptoms. Consider sauna, red light therapy, meditation, journaling, and acupuncture. Fasting may be a good option for gut healing. Remember, a healthy mind and a healthy gut will give you the most success in your weight loss journey.
Finally, blood sugar control and adrenal health are crucial for weight loss. Maintain a diet that is high in protein and includes plenty of healthy fat. My recommendation is always from animal sources, as they have the most bioavailable nutrients without anti nutrients. Most people with autoimmune conditions need more protein and fat than otherwise healthy people for healing and because their digestion is compromised. Other things like caffeine and alcohol can be problematic for digestion, liver, and adrenal health. Starches should be avoided or at least significantly limited.
The takeaway, heal your gut, heal your mind, get into remission, and then worry about weight loss. But for most with chronic disease, weight loss is a side effect of healed body.