Clinical Evidence! Diet & Fasting Heals AutoImmune Conditions

One of my favorite books, other than all of Dr Fuhrman’s was The Lupus Recovery Diet by Jill Harrington. It’s very simple, to the point – half success stories and half guidelines and clinical evidence. Her main point of reference is Fuhrman, which is how I found her because she was posted somewhere as one of his success stories.

When you are sick there is plenty of free time to read, so that’s what I did all last year.

Whilst I love Fuhrman his guidelines on AI diseases are spread out and limited to certain areas of the books – so I enjoyed Harrington’s book because it was ALL about diet – specific to autoimmune disease.

I respect what McDougall does, however because I am allergic to the grains/starches he promotes and prefer Fuhrman’s high nutrient approach I stick with the Eat To Live Diet.

However, he is a good doctor and has great newsletters. I found these linked in Harrington’s book:

Newsletter One:

Newsletter Two:

The following excerpts are from Newsletter Two. I have gone through and made notes, because McDougall fails to point out something very interesting. The best results came when ALL GRAINS and ALL DAIRY were removed from the diet.

McDougall’s suggestion is to simply start dairy free and maybe take out wheat and corn at 2 weeks but I don’t think they should be left in at all. Furhman suggests to remove gluten regardless and incorporate more blended, raw foods, but to also try an elimination diet following a water fast.

Dr Fuhrman’s immune protocol:

Here is Dr Klaper’s elimination diet protocol, however they almost always start with rice. Rice was already giving me stomach aches and bloating so I knew not to do it. But it can be modified. Note that they mention nightshades which are a huge problem for me – they trigger fibromyalgia.

My own elimination diet started with NOTHING which meant it took longer but I identified unusual foods such as yeast, tomatoes and potatoes that were causing problems. I did it twice and got the same results, 5 months apart.

According to Dr Fuhrman (Fasting and Eating for Health), legumes, alfalfa sprouts and peas can aggravate Lupus. As everyone is different and IgG testing is inaccurate (Dr Fuhrman) then perhaps it’s worth everyone doing a food by food elimination diet that starts with 3 days water, 3 days apples, 3 days apples and romaine, 3 days apples, romaine and bananas etc etc to truly rule out issues. It’s a hassle but I was so sick I was ready to eat nails if it made me better. So I did it this way. Problem foods such as grains or dairy should not be reintroduced for at least a month to allow healing to take place. Dairy really shouldn’t be brought back at all because it’s health implications are enormous. The reaction when foods are reintroduced is so terrible you will just know. It’s also important to keep a diary and take a good probiotic.

I know from my own research that all grains in fact have their own glutens and lectins which can sometimes mimic the glutens in wheat. I thought I was going crazy because Gluten Free is so common, but Quinoa, rice etc are seen as happy, safe foods. Which for me they aren’t. Quinoa is a seed but if I eat it I get slammed with a migrane and stomach pain. Sharp pain.

This article looks at the safety of Quinoa, but I thought the comments at the bottom were the most telling. Just like product reviews, you can always trust the public to settle an issue.

That being said, for a healthy person grains are fine. But if you have health issues, which don’t improve on a GF plant based diet then perhaps they should be a consideration, along with certain beans, nuts and seeds that are known to cause IgG allergies.

Ÿ In 1979, Skoldstam fasted 16 patients with rheumatoid arthritis for 7-10 days with a fruit-and vegetable juice fast, followed by a lactovegetarian diet for 9 weeks. One-third of the patients improved during the fast, but all deteriorated when the milk products were reintroduced (a lactovegetarian diet) (Scan J Rheumatol 8:249, 1979).

Although only a small amount improved during the fast, 7 days is considered short for a water fast for RA, let alone fruit and vegetables. Watch Fat Sick & Nearly Dead to learn more about juice fasting and autoimmune disease.

Ÿ In 1980, Hicklin reported clinical improvement in 24 of 72 rheumatoid patients on an exclusion diet. Food sensitivities were reported to: grains in 14, milk in 4, nuts in 8, beef in 4, cheese in 7, eggs in 5, and one each to chicken, fish, potato, and liver (Clin Allergy 10:463, 1980).

Note that only 4 were troubled by dairy but GRAINS were problematic for 14 of them! McDougall doesn’t comment much on this because his diet is starch based and promotes grains, but that is a huge percentage of the group! The meat allergies keep coming up and are an antithesis to the Paleo Diet’s claim that meat is right for everyone.

Ÿ In 1980, Stroud reported on 44 patients with rheumatoid arthritis treated with the elimination of food and chemical avoidance. They were then challenged with foods. Wheat, corn, and beef were the greatest offenders (Clin Res 28:791A, 1980).

Wheat and corn again! Thank goodness I don’t eat beef.

Ÿ In 1981, Parke described a 38-year-old mother with 11-years of progressive erosive seronegative rheumatoid arthritis who recovered from her disease, attaining full mobility, by stopping all dairy products. She was then hospitalized and challenged with 3 pounds of cheese and seven pints of milk over 3 days. Within 24 hours there was a pronounced deterioration of the patient’s arthritis (BMJ 282:2027, 1981)

Like me, the patients regress when the problem foods are reintroduced.

Ÿ In 1981, Lucas found a fat-free diet produced complete remission in 6 patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Remission was lost within 24-72 hours of eating a high-fat meal, such as one containing chicken, cheese, safflower oil, beef, or coconut oil. The authors concluded, “…dietary fats in amounts normally eaten in the American diet cause the inflammatory joint changes seen in rheumatoid arthritis.” (Clin Res 29:754, 1981).

In Newsletter One, this is explained. Oils affect the permeability of the gut… making it “Leaky” which causes particles to enter the bloodstream that shouldn’t, thus adversely affecting the immune system. 

Ÿ In 1982 Sundqvist studied the influence of fasting with 3 liters of fruit and vegetable juice daily and lactovegetarian diet on intestinal permeability in 5 patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Intestinal permeability decreased after fasting, but increased again during a subsequent lactovegetarian diet regime (dairy products and vegetables). Concomitantly it appeared that disease activity first decreased and then increased again. The authors conclude, “The results indicate that, unlike a lactovegetarian diet, fasting may ameliorate the disease activity and reduce both the intestinal and the non-intestinal permeability in rheumatoid arthritis.” (Scand J Rheumatol 11:33, 1982.)

Perhaps why a lot of people feel better when they fast, but get sick as soon as they break it.

Ÿ In 1983, Lithell studied twenty patients with arthritis and various skin diseases on a metabolic ward during a 2-week period of modified fast on vegetarian broth and drinks, followed by a 3-week period of a vegan diet (no animal products). During fasting, joint pains were less intense in many subjects. In some types of skin diseases (pustulosis palmaris et plantaris and atopic eczema) an improvement could be demonstrated during the fast. During the vegan diet, both signs and symptoms returned in most patients, with the exception of some patients with psoriasis who experienced an improvement. The vegan diet was very high-fat (42% fat). (Acta Derm Venereol 63:397, 1983).

Ÿ In 1984 Kroker described 43 patients from three hospital centers who underwent a 1-week water fast, and overall the group improved significantly during the fast. In 31 patients evaluated, 25 had “fair” to “excellent” responses and 6 had “poor” responses. Those with more advanced arthritis had the poor responses. (Clin Ecol 2:137, 1984).

Ÿ In 1985, Ratner removed all dairy products from the diet of patients with seronegative rheumatoid arthritis, 7 out of 15 went into remission when switched to milk-free diets (Isr J Med Sci 21:532, 1985)

Ÿ In 1986, Panush described a challenge of milk in a 52-year-old white woman with 11 years of active disease with exacerbations allegedly associated with meat, milk, and beans. After fasting (3 days) or taking Vivonex (2 days) there was no morning stiffness or swollen joints. Challenges with cow’s milk (blinded in a capsule) brought all of her pain, swelling and stiffness back (Arthritis Rheum 29:220, 1986).

Ÿ In 1986, Darlington published a 6-week, placebo-controlled, single-blinded study on 48 patients. Forty-one patients identified foods producing symptoms. Cereal foods, such as corn and wheat gave symptoms in more than 50% of patients (Lancet 1:236, 1986)

Over 50% reacted to grains! That is a HUGE number!

Ÿ In 1986, Hanglow performed a study of the comparison of the arthritis-inducing properties of cow’s milk, egg protein and soy milk in experimental animals. The 12-week cow’s milk feeding regimen produced the highest incidence of significant joint lesions. Egg protein was less arthritis-inducing than cow’s milk, and soy milk caused no reaction. (Int Arch Allergy Appl Immunol 80:192, 1986).

Ÿ In 1987, Wojtulewski reported on 41 patients with rheumatoid arthritis treated with a 4-week elimination diet. Twenty-three improved. (Food allergy and intolerance. London: Bailliere Tindall 723, 1987).

Ÿ In 1988, Beri put 14 patients with rheumatoid arthritis on a diet free from pulses, cereals, milk, and non-vegetarian protein foods. Ten (71%) showed significant clinical improvement. Only three patients (11%) adhered to the diet for a period of 10 months (Ann Rheum Dis 47:69, 1988.)

Ÿ In 1988, Hafstrom fasted 14 patients with water only for one week. During fasting the duration of morning stiffness, and number and size of swollen joints decreased in all 14 patients. No adverse effects of fasting were seen except transient weakness and lightheadedness. The authors consider fasting as one possible way to induce rapid improvement in rheumatoid arthritis (Arthritis Rheum 31:585, 1988).

Ÿ In 1991, Kjeldsen-Kragh put 27 patients on a modified fast with vegetable broths, followed by a vegan diet, and then a lacto-ovovegetarian diet. Significant improvement occurred in objective and subjective parameters of their disease (Lancet 2:899, 1991) A two-year follow-up examination found all diet responders but only half of the diet nonresponders still following the diet, further indicating that a group of patients with rheumatoid arthritis benefit from dietary manipulations and that the improvement can be sustained through a two-year period (Clin Rheumatol 13:475, 1994.) Patients dropping out with arthritic flares in the diet group left the study mainly when the lactovegetarian diet (dairy products) were introduced (Lancet 338:1209, 1991).

Ÿ In 1991 Darlington reported on 100 patients who had undergone dietary manipulation therapy in the past decade, one-third were still well and controlled on diet alone without any medication up to 7 ½ years after starting the diet treatment. They found most patients reacted to cereals and dairy products (Lancet 338:1209, 1991).

Grains and dairy again. Gluten free may not be enough for some people.

Ÿ In 1991, Skoldstam fasted 15 patients for 7 to 10 days. Almost all of the patients showed remarkable improvement. Many patients felt the return of pain and stiffness on the day after returning to their “normal” eating and all benefit was lost after a week (Rheum Dis Clin North Am 17:363, 1991).

Fasting is pointless unless it is followed by clean eating, unfortunately.

Ÿ In 1992, Sheignalet reported on 46 adults with rheumatoid arthritis who eliminated dairy products and cereals. Thirty-six patients (78%) responded favorably with 17 clearly improved, and 19 in complete remission for one to five years. Eight of those 19 stopped all medications with no relapse. Favorable benefits appeared before the end of the third month in 32 of the patients (Lancet 339:68, 1992).

78% improved when ALL grains were removed, not just wheat.

Ÿ In 1992, van de Laar showed benefits of a hypoallergenic, artificial diet in six rheumatoid patients. Placebo controlled rechallenges showed intolerance for specific foodstuffs in four patients. In two patients, biopsy of the joints showed specific (IgE) antibodies to certain foods (Ann Rheum Dis 51:303, 1992).

IgG are sensitivities, IgE are severe allergies.

Ÿ In 1992, Shigemasa reported a 16-year-old girl with lupus who changed to a pure vegetarian diet (no animal foods) and stopped her steroids without her doctor’s permission. After starting the diet her antibody titers (a reflection of disease activity) fell to normal and her kidney disease improved (Lancet 339:1177, 1992).

Ÿ In 1995, Kavanaghi showed an elemental diet (which is an hypoallergenic protein-free artificial diet consisting of essential amino acids, glucose, trace elements and vitamins) when given to 24 patients with rheumatoid arthritis improved their strength and arthritic symptoms. Reintroduction of food brought the old symptoms back (Br J Rheumatol 34:270, 1995).

Ÿ In 1998, Nenonen tested the effects of an uncooked vegan diet, rich in lactobacilli, in rheumatoid patients randomized into diet and control groups. The intervention group experienced subjective relief of rheumatic symptoms during intervention. A return to an omnivorous diet aggravated symptoms. The results showed that an uncooked vegan diet, rich in lactobacilli, decreased subjective symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (Br J Rheumatol 37:274, 1998).

I would be more interested in this study if they reintroduced vegan cooked foods first, instead of jumping straight to omnivorous. It’s possible that raw diets help because they are grain and legume free.

Having suffered from RA since I was 13, I was astounded when after a month on the elimination diet, the pain started slowly lifting from my knees. I had a lot of trouble walking last year and I was on an elliptical machine today with no pain. I do however notice that dietary lapses cause symptoms to return, in addition to temperatures below 20 degrees.

The main conclusions from the article & studies:

– Oils, meat and other fatty foods cause damage to the gut which is the center of our immune systems. A low fat, vegan diet based on non processed plant foods provides the best chance of recovery. Plant oils are not OK when isolated.

– The best results were seen when not just wheat, but all grains were removed from the diet. These can always be reintroduced later but lectins and glutens are known promoters of leaky guts and these can be found in all grains and some seeds.

– Dairy is a repeat offender and terrible for RA and other immune problems. Beef is common too.

– Most people need to stick with the diet to retain the health benefits.

– Everyone has DIFFERENT triggers which is why individual elimination diets are the best defense, followed by a long term, unprocessed diet comprised of the allowed, vegan foods.

– Eat To Live can easily be modified for grain free eating as in the 6 week plan, only 150 calories are supposed to come from grains anyway. The focus is green vegetables. I think a big reason why raw diets help some people initially is because they are grain, potato and legume free which are common allergens. Dr Fuhrman has written articles against the raw movement claiming they are too restrictive, too high in fat and can even cause hair loss when done improperly.

– Grains can easily be replaced by squash, (sides) bean flours (baking) and beans. (veggie burgers) I make grain free pasta with a zucchini spiralizer, which was maybe $30 on Whole Foods also has bean pasta.

– As Leaky Gut and nutrient malabsorption are associated with auto immune conditions, supplementing as directed by Fuhrman with DHA is essential. Eat To Live’s emphasis on nutrient dense foods, rather than simply the avoidance of trigger foods, is essential to make sure the body is getting what it needs to repair itself. Green juices are mentioned which when made fresh at home are way better than any multivitamin or superfood.

I’m no doctor but I do enjoy reading & finding studies that back up what I have found in my own experience. Juice on! 🙂