If you suffer from an autoimmune disease, be extra cautious about which supplements you take. Here are five that can help soothe symptoms – and what to avoid.
There are more than 80 known autoimmune diseases and approximately 20 percent of the population has at least one. (1) That’s roughly 50 million Americans that are dealing with autoimmunity.
While there is no cure for autoimmune disease, the good news is that there are dietary and lifestyle changes you can make to support your health and reduce symptoms. While a good diet is your first line of defense, high-quality supplements can also give your body a boost, especially during autoimmune flare-ups.
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What is an Autoimmune Disease?
An autoimmune disease is when the immune system mistakes healthy cells and tissues for foreign invaders and begins attacking itself. Autoimmunity can range in severity, and can be caused by genetics or poor personal health. (2)
There is never a one-size-fits-all when it comes to supplementation and when you have an autoimmune disease, you need to be cautious with certain types of supplements.
Here’s why you need to be extra cautious about supplements and which types you should always avoid.
Know The Potential Drug Interactions
If you are currently taking prescription medication to treat your autoimmune disease, speak with your doctor to make sure that the supplements you’re considering can be safely taken with your medication. Otherwise, you risk potentially harmful or unsafe drug interactions.
Be Careful with Immune-Boosting Supplements
While it might seem like a good idea to supplement with immune-boosting supplements, the fact is those who suffer from an autoimmune disease already have a hyper-responsive immune system. Certain supplements will only add fuel to the fire, and could be harmful. For this reason, it is best to avoid immune-boosting supplements like garlic and echinacea. (3)
Watch out for Melatonin
Melatonin is commonly found in natural sleep aids. Those with autoimmunity may want to avoid it because it causes immune system stimulation. (4) Be sure to check the ingredient list on things like multivitamins and any product that claims to help support sleep. as these are likely to contain melatonin.
The Top 5 Supplements for Autoimmunity
The supplements can help ease the symptoms of autoimmunity. And remember, always check in with your doctor before starting any new supplement.
Curcumin is the active compound in turmeric known for its ability to help reduce inflammation, which is often at the root of autoimmunity. It also works to inhibit certain autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, and rheumatoid arthritis, by regulating inflammatory cytokines in immune cells. (5) This is good news for balancing both the immune and inflammatory responses in the body.
You can get curcumin in your diet by sprinkling ground turmeric over your favorite stir-fries, smoothies, or coffee. Add about a teaspoon of freshly cracked black pepper to help increase absorption.
Glutathione is the body’s most potent antioxidant, and may play a key role in supporting those with autoimmune disease. Studies show low concentrations of glutathione in those with rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus, in particular, suggesting that depleted levels play a role in autoimmune development. (6) Another study linked low glutathione levels to autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and contact dermatitis. (7)
Glutathione also plays a role in detoxification. Without enough glutathione to help your body detox, toxins can build up and negatively impact your body’s immune response.
There are two high-quality supplement options. The first is liposomal glutathione, which contains a protective fat layer to help protect it as it moves through your stomach lining and then into your bloodstream for use. Studies find that this type helps improve body stores of glutathione, improving immune and oxidative stress markers in the body. (8)
Acetyl-glutathione is another high-quality option, and may be more stable and more easily absorbed in the body. Whichever you choose, be sure to follow the directions on the label.
L-glutamine is an amino acid commonly used to support a leaky gut, which is a key part of most autoimmunity.
The connection between leaky gut and autoimmune disease comes down to the fact that toxins can leak into the bloodstream and trigger an immune reaction. When this happens repeatedly, autoimmune disease can develop. (9) Fortunately, L-glutamine supplementation can support mucosal integrity in the gut, strengthening the gut barrier. (10)
L-glutamine can be found in powdered form. Add the recommended dosage to a glass of water, or blend into a smoothie.
Probiotics are great for supporting gut health and may be helpful for those with autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, and multiple sclerosis. A study found that probiotics helped to decrease symptoms of swollen and tender joints in those with rheumatoid arthritis and decreased C-reactive protein levels, which is a marker of inflammation in the body. (11)
Resveratrol is a polyphenol that acts similarly to antioxidants and has a positive effect on those with autoimmune disease. One study found that supplementing with resveratrol helps reduce inflammation and even reduced the progression of diseases like systemic lupus, inflammatory bowel disease, and type 1 diabetes. (12)
Resveratrol also reduces pro-inflammatory cytokines while increasing anti-inflammatory cytokines in the body. This can help support the chronic intestinal inflammation associated with inflammatory bowel disease and Crohn’s. (13)
The Bottom Line
If you suffer from autoimmune disease, it’s crucial to know which supplements can help manage symptoms and which might worsen them. While there is no cure for autoimmune disease, with proper diet, lifestyle, and appropriate supplementation, you can improve your quality of life and overall health. Be sure to get the green light from your doctor before adding any of these supplements to your autoimmune protocol.