There once was a time when all we (thought) we needed to think about when eating was whether the foods we’re putting in our body are healthy or not—but things change and now we’re learning that we have to consider how to eat them. And for those who have or are at risk for autoimmune disease, this consideration can be even more critical.
Scientific studies show a link between GMOs and health problems, inflammation, a higher risk of disease, intestinal damage and—in extreme cases—death. Dr. Amy Myers, author of the New York Times bestseller, The Thyroid Connection, best explains why. First, GMOs contain more pesticides and toxins than non-GMOs. Overexposure to pesticides and environmental toxins can trigger autoimmune disease and worsen a preexisting condition. Second, GMOs can cause leaky gut, which in turn can lead to autoimmune disease, and inflammation, which aggravates the condition. Finally, GMOs can disrupt your gut microbial balance by decreasing the good bacteria and increasing the bad bacteria. In a nutshell, there is a lot of downside to making modified foods a part of your diet—especially if you suffer from autoimmune disease.
It is widely known that for optimal health we simply must eat whole foods. But what a lot of people fail to understand is that GMOs are not limited to processed foods in a box. Even whole foods can be modified. In fact, an estimated 92 percent of corn and 94 percent of soy grown in the U.S. are genetically modified! The best way to avoid modified whole foods is to buy organic fruits and vegetables and eat meat from cows that are grass fed and poultry from free-range organic chickens (though keep in mind that meat and dairy—even grass fed or free-range—can also be trigger for inflammation in some individuals).
With GMOs settled, we move on to the next question: Raw or cooked? Some believe that fruits and vegetables should be eaten in raw form for the highest nutrients and that cooking them destroys some of the enzymes, vitamins and minerals. Others maintain that cooked foods are easier to digest and allow for better absorption of nutrients. The truth is that yes, cooking veggies can eliminate some of the nutrients. But different foods have different reactions, with some producing more minerals through the cooking process. For example, cooking vegetables can increase the amount of calcium they provide. Ultimately, for the average healthy individual, eating a balanced diet of both raw and cooked vegetables and fruits will provide the best intake of nutrients.
For those with autoimmune disease, an altered diet might be necessary. Just as foods react differently to the cooking process, so do our bodies. It is important to remember that everybody (and every body) is different. Our systems, although similar in function, are made up of different genes, unique chemistries, varying levels of digestive enzymes, different absorption rates and so on. There are many foods that are known to be inflammatory in general, but it varies from one person to the next, especially based on whether the food is consumed in raw or cooked form.
Taking stock of how your individual system functions best, which foods best fuel you (and in what form) and those that lead to negative reactions, is your best path forward for a healthy lifestyle, particularly if you have an autoimmune condition. An elimination diet can be helpful in determining foods that are problematic for you; however, this can be a timely, frustrating and inconclusive process. For those seeking more efficient answers, Cyrex Laboratories, a clinical immunology laboratory specializing in functional immunology and autoimmunity, offers multi-tissue antibody testing for the early detection and monitoring of today’s complex autoimmune conditions. The Array 10C – Comprehensive Food Immune Reactivity Screen – assesses the most advanced array of wheat/gluten, dairy proteins and food proteins in raw, cooked and modified forms.
Proper diet and nutrition are essential for optimal health, fighting disease and feeling our best. While we should follow scientific evidence as a guide, our individual chemistry and function must also be taken into account. If you suspect you have hyperimmune reactivity to foods, seek the advice of a doctor and inquire about whether testing might be a good option for you.