Common Foods That Can Aggravate Auto-Immune Disorders

Several years ago, I was diagnosed with Leaky Gut Syndrome ( I know, sounds icky! – but over the past year and a half, with the help of Paula’s Purple Rice and eliminating foods that cause problems for me, I have begun to reverse my condition! I still need to watch what I eat, but now I don’t have to be as “strict” with my diet. However, I still CHOOSE to put the most nutritious foods I can into my body, including Paula’s Purple Rice.

Whether you are dealing with full-blown autoimmune diseases like Crohn’s, celiac or Hashimoto’s or more common “autoimmune spectrum disorders” such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or “leaky gut”, it’s vital for you to learn what you may be regularly consuming that could be triggering an inflammatory-immune response in your body.

23435559At the top of every list I found was… you guessed it…


Now, gluten in and of itself is not toxic and it is not detrimental to many people. It is essentially a protein found in wheat, barley, spelt, rye and other grains. This protein is linked in many different studies to an increased risk of autoimmunity, largely because in our over-processed food industry, food manufacturers have found that it increases elasticity and it is added as an emulsifier and structural ingredient in many, many foods that you don’t even associate with wheat or grains. The result of this is simply TOO MUCH gluten in our diets. Too much of anything is not beneficial and your body will react to it. This is of course different for those who are Celiac or allergic to gluten and no amount of exposure is safe for them — even slight cross-contamination can set off a reaction. A scientific review lists 55 diseases that can be caused by eating gluten, including osteoporosis, inflammatory bowel disease, anemia, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and many other autoimmune diseases. So if you are struggling with an auto-immune disorder, it is definitely worthwhile to try eliminating glutens for several weeks or months to see if symptoms improve.

Gluten-free grains

oatsSorry to break this to you, but your gluten-free substitutes may be just as bad as consuming glutens! Many people with autoimmune problems avoid gluten, and instead consume foods like corn, oats, quinoa, and rice. But unfortunately, these grains can be just as damaging as gluten, or even more damaging, as the proteins in these grains are similar enough to gluten to provoke an autoimmune response. Just like gluten sensitivities, symptoms do not have to be gastrointestinal in nature. A flare-up of any autoimmune symptom can occur with exposure to certain grains.

Everyone’s body is different however, so rather than resigning yourself to never eat grain again, see if you can run immunological blood tests to see what your body is reacting to. If your health insurance doesn’t cover these tests and you can’t get them on your own, you can do some careful dietary planning to go grain-free for at least 2 weeks, then add grains back in one at a time to see if your symptoms flare up in relation to any particular one. People sensitive to gluten (which may really be a third of the population) must also consider eliminating “cross-reactive” foods. Cross-reactive foods are foods that the immune system mistakes for gluten. They include milk chocolate, instant coffee, all cereal grains, corn, rice, yeast, millet and milk.


Sugar in all its forms (glucose, fructose, and sucrose) weakens the ability of white blood cells to destroy biological agents. This weakening begins within a half hour of eating sugar and lasts for 5 hours. After 2 hours, immune function is reduced by 50%. And I’m not just talking about the stereotypical junk food. There are many “healthy” junk foods that are popular in the health food community that will not be good for autoimmune conditions. Healthier-sounding terms like “organic turbinado sugar” or “agave nectar” on a food label may sound more earthy and natural, but sugar is still sugar to the immune system. As always, moderation is the key here. Some tips to manage sugar intake without feeling deprived:

  • Only have dessert on weekends or special occasions
  • Eat your sugary foods like ice cream out of a teacup instead of a bowl
  • Savor every bite and eat slowly so you don’t overdo it
  • Fresh fruit and berries are straight up sugars, but they also have fiber and vitamins that you don’t get in juices and processed sweets


Drinking milk has been associated with an increased risk for numerous autoimmune diseases including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and Type 1 diabetes. Casein, the main protein found in milk and other dairy products, can be a trigger for runaway inflammation in the body. Removal of the dairy proteins in ghee or clarified butter can be a safer alternative for some people. Some autoimmunity disorders can also handle fermented dairy, like grass-fed whole yogurt or kefir. Fortunately for milk lovers, there are now lots of dairy-free alternatives on the market like soy, rice, almond, cashew, and coconut “milks” that taste great, have more vitamins and calcium, and don’t cost as much as cow’s milk.


A plant group that consists of tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, eggplants, goji berries and some spices contains alkaloids in their skin which can cause an inflammatory response in the body. Nightshades often cause inflammation and joint pain in patients with autoimmune disease.  While goji berries are loaded with antioxidants and super food qualities, they may not be a super food for you if you suffer from inflammation and joint pain.


Tree nuts are one of the top allergens and most common food sensitivities. People with autoimmune disorders are more likely to have a sensitivity or allergy to nuts (and seeds) than other people. While nuts contain anti-inflammatory Omega-3 fatty acids, they are also high in Omega-6 fatty acids, which are pro-inflammatory, so over-eating nuts can actually cause increased inflammation. Nuts are also high in phytic acid which binds to essential minerals in the digestive tract and can prevent minerals from being absorbed. While having nuts or nut butter on occasion is great, overindulging can hinder your healing. If you try an elimination diet, consider eliminating nuts also to isolate whether or not they are a problem for you.

Feeling bummed about all the foods that can cause inflammation? No worries! I am working on another post focused on the foods that can help alleviate autoimmune disorder symptoms. Follow my blog and facebook page for that upcoming info. And in the meantime, eat plenty of veggies (but not peppers and tomatoes 😦 ) and keep taking your micronized purple rice!

Some of the information in this post was sourced, paraphrased, and quoted from: mindbodygreen, healingisfreedom, and bewell
All the information presented on this site is for educational and informational purposes only. No responsibility can be taken for any outcomes resulting from the use of this information. Whilst every attempt is being made to provide information that is both accurate and effective, the website owner does not assume any responsibility for the accuracy or use/misuse of this information. Always consult your doctor or health care professional if you suspect you have a serious illness and before embarking on major lifestyle changes.


6 thoughts on “Common Foods That Can Aggravate Auto-Immune Disorders

  1. I am in the process of eliminating foods and reintroducing some of them. It’s a really hard thing to do and really limits your choices. I really love how informative this article is and will put it to good use in my life!


  2. This post is fantastic! I have Crohn’s disease and feel like no matter what I eat, my body hates me. Maybe with help from this list, I can start to eliminate and work with food to be healthy instead of working against it!


    1. So glad you enjoyed my post. Feel free to roam through my blog and website to find more (hopefully) information. Wishing you all the best on your quest for better health. 🙂


  3. I didn’t know that food with gluten can aggravate the condition of someone who has an autoimmune disorder. My sister is sickly most of the time. My mom suggested have her checked for immune disorders and shared this article with her. It says that most of the food in the article can cause inflammation.


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