A typical scenario for millions of women goes like this: you feel exhausted, your body hurts in places it never did before, you have dark circles under your eyes, your hormones seem all out of whack, and it only continues to get worse.
You visit your doctor and they do some blood work, where everything comes back within normal parameters. Your doctor tells you there is nothing wrong with you. You drag on, moving through your days feeling even more exhausted. Your whole body aches, and your head feels like it's in a fog.
You see another doctor, and it's the same thing: blood work appears normal and you are told there is nothing wrong with you. Next you see a specialist, and it's the same thing again: all lab tests are normal, and even though you feel exhausted and depressed, have daily headaches, and suffer pain all through your body, your doctor will tell you there is nothing wrong—perhaps you're just overworked or underslept, or "it's all in your head."
But it doesn't stop there. Once you do finally get a diagnosis, and that it is some sort of autoimmune disorder, there are not many treatment options from a Western medical perspective that can help you. The ones available involve steroids and immunosuppressants, which have their own host of side-effects and are incredibly punishing to the body.
The American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) estimates that 30 million American women have at least one diagnosed autoimmune disease. Worse, many women are walking around feeling unwell and are completely unaware that they may have an autoimmune disease.
Because there are more than 100 confirmed autoimmune conditions presenting as a collection of vague symptoms, many medical practitioners misdiagnose them or don't diagnose them at all.
There are many different types of food that can aggravate autoimmune conditions, but once your immune system begins to regulate itself and your leaky gut (the main cause of autoimmune disease) begins to heal, your body will become less reactive to such foods. The goal of the Body Belief eating plan is to find out what your body is most reactive to, so that you can modify your diet to best suit your thriving health.
Here are some of the foods that are going to help you radically shift your health and heal autoimmunity:
Homemade bone broth: Homemade bone broths are rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, glucosamine and chondroitin, all of which are necessary for a properly functioning immune system. Most importantly, bone broths are rich in gelatin. Gelatin is a phenomenal source of protein that provides our bodies with the building blocks they need to engender health, longevity and vitality. It is also critical for healing a leaky gut and intestinal permeability. Your goal should be to consume six to eight ounces of bone broth daily. Sip it like a tea, add it to your favorite foods or cook with it—just get it in.
If consuming that much bone broth doesn't feel good to you, you can substitute two scoops per day of a gelatin supplement. But keep in mind that, ideally, you should substitute the powder for broth no more than half the time (or three days/week).
If your body is not used to eating bone broth, you may have to gradually work up to six to eight ounces daily. The key here is to listen to your body. If you feel any discomfort or digestive symptoms, back off the broth and cut these recommendations in half. After 10 to 14 days, try to increase your intake and note how you feel.
Egg yolk: Eat one or two per day. After you've identified any allergies, you can eventually add back in egg whites, but for now you can still enjoy the yolks from pasture-fed organic eggs, consuming eight to 12 per week. Egg yolks from pastured hens are highly nutrient-dense—rich in fertility-boosting omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A and E, and choline. Make sure the eggs you buy are from chickens that were never fed soy, because soy proteins from the feed can get into the eggs, which will then cause an autoimmune reaction. (The eggs should be from pastured or free-range chickens; if they are 'vegetarian fed,' that means they were fed soy.) To ensure you aren't exposed to any egg whites, after separating the yolk from the white, rinse the yolk to get 100 percent of the egg white off before eating.
Some great ways to add the yolks to your daily diet are to stir them into your daily broth for a delicious egg drop soup; to bake the yolk inside a halved and pitted avocado (yes, it's called a "yolkocado" and it's amazing!); to use the yolk as the binder for meatballs or meatloaf; or to make eggnog or mayonnaise. You can also just pan-fry the yolk in coconut oil or ghee for a quick bite to eat.
Meat and poultry: Eat six to 10 servings per week of grass-fed, hormone-free and antibiotic-free meat, such as lamb, venison, beef, buffalo, pork, chicken, bison or turkey. Bacon and sausage are allowed one to two times a week total, as long as they are free from nitrates and gluten. Grass-fed beef is the only beef you should eat, and pastured, free-range poultry is the only poultry you should eat. Pan-sear, grill or broil the meat in a healthy fat, some broth or both.
Liver: Yes, liver as in the organ meat. Eat one three- to four-ounce serving per week of liver from small fish or pastured/grass-fed animals (cod, chicken and lamb are the best sources). Liver is one of the best antioxidant, anti-autoimmune, nutrient-dense foods that exists. It is a rich source of folate, vitamin B12, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, inositol, niacin, selenium and vitamin A. A single 3.5-oz portion of pan-fried chicken livers contains three times as much folate as an equivalent serving of raw spinach.
Seafood: Eat eight to 12 servings per week of seafood, which can include deep-sea coldwater fish, wild-caught seafood and shellfish. Eat any of these: salmon, sardines, halibut, snapper, trout, herring, tilapia, mackerel, anchovy, catfish, mahi mahi, mussels, octopus, prawns, scallops, crab, shrimp, squid, oysters, clams and cod. They are rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and EPA, vitamins D and B12, and zinc. Broil, steam or grill the seafood using a healthy fat.
Fish roe: Eat about one ounce, one to two times per week, as fish roe has a high ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. Our goal is to decrease omega-6 fatty acids and increase omega-3 fatty acids, in order to lower systemic inflammation in your body. Fish roe goes by a few names: caviar, tobiko (flying fish roe) and ikura (salmon roe). I prefer tobiko, because the eggs are tiny and don't taste too fishy.
Organic oils and fats: Consume one or two tablespoons per day of organic oils and fats, such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, palm oil, lard, tallow and cultured or fermented ghee. They are rich in essential fatty acids that will help regulate your immune system and heal leaky gut. All of the oils should be organic and cold-pressed; all of the fats should be from grass-fed sources. Avoid all other oils and fats. Cook with them or put them on your salads.
Fruits and vegetables: Virtually every vegetable (other than those with seeds like green beans or snow peas) and all fruits are healthy. Aim to have five to 10 a day.
Adapted from Body Belief: How to Heal Autoimmune Diseases, Radically Shift Your Health, and Learn to Love Your Body More by Aimee E. Raupp (Hay House, 2018), $24.99