The Paleo Autoimmune Protocol works by addressing four key areas known to be important contributors to chronic and autoimmune diseases. Drawing on insights gleaned from more than 1,200 scientific studies, these diet and lifestyle recommendations specifically target:
1 Nutrient density.
The immune system (and indeed every system in the body) requires an array of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, essential fatty acids, and amino acids to function normally. Micronutrient deficiencies and imbalances are key players in the development and progression of autoimmune disease. Focusing on consuming the most nutrient-dense foods available enables a synergistic surplus of micronutrients to correct both deficiencies and imbalances, thus supporting regulation of the immune system, hormone systems, detoxification systems, and neurotransmitter production. A nutrient-dense diet further provides the building blocks that the body needs to heal damaged tissues.
2 Gut health.
Gut dysbiosis and leaky gut are key facilitators in the development of autoimmune disease. The foods recommended on the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol support the growth of healthy levels and a healthy variety of gut microorganisms. Foods that irritate or damage the lining of the gut are avoided, while foods that help restore gut barrier function and promote healing are endorsed.
3 Hormone regulation.
What we eat, when we eat, and how much we eat affect a variety of hormones that interact with the immune system. When dietary factors (like eating too much sugar or grazing rather than eating larger meals spaced farther apart) dysregulate these hormones, the immune system is directly affected (typically stimulated). The Paleo Autoimmune Protocol diet is designed to promote regulation of these hormones, thereby regulating the immune system by proxy. These and other essential hormones that impact the immune system are also profoundly affected by how much sleep we get, how much time we spend outside, how much and what kinds of activity we get, and how well we reduce and manage stress.
4 Immune system regulation.
Immune regulation is achieved by restoring a healthy diversity and healthy amounts of gut microorganisms, restoring the barrier function of the gut, providing sufficient amounts of the micronutrients required for the immune system to function normally, and regulating the key hormones that in turn regulate the immune system.
Inflammation is a factor in all chronic illnesses, and this is one area where the foods we eat can make a huge difference. In some cases, an immune system that isn’t regulating itself properly directly causes the illness; in others, inflammation is merely an element of the illness or a contributor to how the illness came about—but it is always a player and a problem. What this means is that reducing inflammation and giving the immune system the resources it needs, as well as the opportunity to regulate itself, can help in every single chronic illness. This is important because inflammation is strongly influenced by what we eat, how well we sleep, how stressed we are, and how active we are. And this is why chronic illness can respond so positively to changes in diet and lifestyle.
Food has therapeutic potential for every chronic illness—but that’s not the same thing as calling food a cure. Depending on the illness you’re struggling with, how long you’ve had it, how aggressive the disease is, and what confounding factors you’re dealing with, dietary changes may get you as far as a complete reversal of your disease, or they may slow the progress of your illness, or they may simply improve your quality of life. These are all successes worth celebrating. Good food may not be the miracle cure you’re hoping for, but it’s pretty darn powerful all the same.
As you adopt the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol, your food choices become focused on consuming the nutrients to support this healing—foods that provide everything your body needs to stop attacking itself, repair damaged tissues, and get healthy again: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats to sustain a normal metabolism, build new tissue, and produce hormones, important proteins, and signalling molecules; and the full range of fat-soluble vitamins, water-soluble vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to get rid of inflammation, regulate the immune system, and support the normal functioning of all the body’s systems.