Eat To Beat Autoimmune and Strengthen Your Immunity

“Food isn’t like medicine. Food IS medicine.”

– Mark Hyman, MD, Functional Medicine pioneer, and 13-time NY Times Bestselling Author

How F.I.G.H.T.S.™ Can Help Safeguard Your Health

With air travel up, family gatherings on the rise, and kids heading back to school, we’re also seeing anecdotal upticks of viral infections including COVID, RSV (respiratory syncytial virus), and the flu. While we’re not even in peak fall/winter viral season, this is a great time to help our immune systems get in good fighting shape. We can do this by embracing healthy daily lifestyle choices, especially with food, nutrients, and meal timing. In my book, Beat Autoimmune, I share a powerful framework of the major root cause categories we can control called F.I.G.H.T.S,™ which stands for Food, Infections, Gut health, Hormone balance, Toxins and Stress. It turns out that you can both reduce the incidence and severity of viruses much in the same way you can reverse or prevent autoimmune conditions by addressing these FIGHTS factors:

Start with Food

Food is a big root cause category of autoimmune conditions. And on the flip side, people with autoimmune issues often heal 60% to 80%, and sometimes 100%, just by changing what they eat! When you eat inflammatory foods or foods you have developed sensitivities to, your immune system goes on high alert, creating antibodies (missiles) to attack those foods (protein molecules) that have breached the gut barrier. When your immune system is distracted by fighting foods, it is not optimized to fight infections. Food is not just what you eat, it’s how often you eat, which supplements you take, and whether you’re getting harmful pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals with your food and water. Now’s the perfect time to dial in your food, water, and supplements.

These are my top autoimmune-beating and immune-strengthening food strategies:

Stop eating inflammatory foods

Gluten creates a leaky gut in anyone who eats it;1and a leaky gut is the fast path to autoimmunity. Most people who are sensitive to gluten are also sensitive to casein, a protein in animal dairy, especially A1 beta-casein from Holstein cows. In addition to promoting obesity and diabetes — both risk factors for autoimmunity and COVID-19 — sugar and processed foods block the immune system from functioning for up to 5 hours after eating it. 2

Stop eating inflammatory foods

Gluten creates a leaky gut in anyone who eats it;1and a leaky gut is the fast path to autoimmunity. Most people who are sensitive to gluten are also sensitive to casein, a protein in animal dairy, especially A1 beta-casein from Holstein cows. In addition to promoting obesity and diabetes — both risk factors for autoimmunity and COVID-19 — sugar and processed foods block the immune system from functioning for up to 5 hours after eating it. 2

Go organic

Organic produce has up to 60% more antioxidants—protection against autoimmune disease and viral infections—and up to 100 times lower pesticide residue than conventionally farmed produce.4 Try to eat 100% grass-fed, organic meats, oils, and veggies. Unless you’re metabolically flexible, minimize or eliminate fruit which is high in sugar. If you’re on a budget, use the Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen lists. By going all organic we massively reduce our consumption of chemicals. Remember, you are what you eat ate!

Choose immune-enhancing foods

A wide-body of scientific evidence shows that garlic and ginger offer powerful anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. Coconut oil has been shown to control Candida albicans. Curcumin, the yellow-orange pigment from the turmeric root, has been shown to modulate the immune system and improve autoimmune conditions. Rosemary contains the compound, carnosic acid, which has been shown to lower inflammation and COVID-19 and Alzheimer’s. Fermented foods, like sauerkraut and kimchi, are antimicrobial and immune-enhancing. Consume these foods and spices liberally support your immune system and fight potential infections.

Drink green tea

Green tea contains many beneficial compounds, including an antioxidant polyphenol called EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), which has a powerful ability to increase the number of “regulatory T cells” that play a key role in immune function and suppression of autoimmune disease; 5. You can derive high levels of EGCG with good-quality, organic, green tea, and especially in matcha, a type of green tea harvested from the whole tea leaf and ground into a fine powder. [Note: Some people — those with lupus, ulcerative colitis and/or genetically don’t deal well with green tea.] 

Fast more often

Intermittent fasting, also known as “time restricted feeding,” reduces inflammation, strengthens the gut barrier, and helps you move from being a sugar burner to a more metabolically flexible, fat burner. Beyond metabolic benefits, fasting has been shown to rejuvenate the immune system through a process called autophagy, which clears out old, “senolytic” (damaged) cells, making way for new, more robust immune cells. For a beginner level, avoid all food completely for 12 hours, like 7pm to 7am. For more fasting benefits, extend the fast to 14 or 16 hours. For example, stop eating at 6 pm and don’t eat anything until 8 am. And, for even more fasting benefits, skip dinner or breakfast a few times per week.

Go keto periodically

By emphasizing healthy fats, moderating protein intake, and restricting carbs (roughly 70% fat, 25% protein and 5% carbs) with the ketogenic (keto) diet, energy soars, brain function improves, inflammation is lowered, insulin resistance can be reversed; and the ketogenic diet might be protective against viral infections like the flu. Yale University published a recent study showing that mice fed a ketogenic diet and infected with the influenza virus had a higher survival rate than mice on a normal, high-carb diet.

Supplement to strengthen your immunity

Supplementing with targeted nutrients long-term is one of the best strategies to replenish your depleted stores and defend against viral infections. These are supplements known to improve resilience to infection: a multi-mineral complex, a hypoallergenic multivitamin; 2 gr (in divided doses) corn-free vitamin C; 2-5K IU liposomal D3 + K2; a methylated B-Complexa multi-strain or spore-based probiotic, and 3 mg timed release melatonin before bed.

Filter your water

The public water supply is often treated with fluoride, and may also contain any number of 2,100 known toxins including lead, pesticides, herbicides, iron, nitrates, nitrites, chlorine, and copper. Many of my clients and students who use Alexapure or Berkey stainless countertop carbon block water filters have reported the reduction or complete elimination of migraines, daytime fatigue, and increased energy overall. Don’t forget to add a pinch of sea salt or trace minerals to each glass of water to make sure you’re getting essential minerals and absorbing the filtered water instead of just peeing it out.

Hydrate sufficiently

75% of Americans may be chronically dehydrated, a state which can contribute to a wide array of symptoms including fatigue, headaches, joint pain, high blood pressure, and kidney disease. Urine should be light and straw colored; so if your urine is dark, you need to drink more pure water. A good rule of thumb is to drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water every day. Herbal teas, vegetable juices and broth count. This is one of the simplest yet most powerful things you can do to help your body perform optimally.

Prevent Infections and Beat Autoimmune with F.I.G.H.T.S.™

The threat of viral infections may worsen as we head into fall and winter months. For those of us with underlying health conditions like autoimmune challenges, the risk for worse outcomes with COVID continues to be real. The best time to take proactive action to safeguard your health is now, and the best place to start is with food.

You have the ability to control your health outcomes largely by choosing what you eat and drink, and when. Your daily food, water, and supplement habits are highly consequential. A choice to eat sugar and processed food is a choice to block your immune system from functioning for up to 5 hours after eating it. Or, you can choose delicious, nutrient-dense foods like the 35 Autoimmune Paleo (AIP) recipes I include in my book, Beat Autoimmune and know you are both healing from autoimmune challenges and helping yourself become resilient to COVID and other viral threats.

What’s your experience healing with food?

Take good care!

P.S: Want my help reversing an autoimmune condition?

If you live in the continental U.S. and are ready, willing, and able to invest in your best health, I offer Functional Medicine Total Health Transformation Programs over Zoom in collaboration with a skilled naturopathic doctor (ND). Get on my calendar for a free 30-minute discovery call.  
Photo by: Hermes Riveram
1 Effect of Gliadin on Permeability of Intestinal Biopsy Explants from Celiac Disease Patients and Patients with Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, Hollon, J. et. al., Nutrients. 2015 Mar; 7(3): 1565–1576, Reference
2 Sanchez, A., et al.; Role of Sugars in Human Neutrophilic Phagocytosis; American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; Nov 1973; 261:1180-1184; Reference
3 Time to symptom improvement using elimination diets in non-IgE-mediated gastrointestinal food allergies.Lozinsky AC, et. al., Pediatr Allergy Immunol. 2015 Aug;26(5):403-8. doi: 10.1111/pai.12404. Reference
4 19. Baranski, M., et. al., Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses, British Journal of Nutrition, Volume 112, Issue 5 14 September 2014, pp. 794-811; Reference
5 Induction of regulatory T cells by green tea polyphenol EGCG; Wong, C., et. al.; Immunology Letters; 2001; Reference




Recent Posts



Beat Autoimmune
#1 Amazon Bestseller

This comprehensive book is the first to explore all six of the critical lifestyle factors that are the root causes of autoimmune conditions – and the sources of regaining health. Foreword by Mark Hyman, MD

Download the Eat to Beat Autoimmune Optimal Food Guide and Stay Connected

Author picture

Palmer is a certified Functional Medicine Health Coach who has helped thousands of people reverse autoimmune conditions based on her own two-decade battle to successfully beat multiple sclerosis (MS). She’s the author of the Amazon #1 bestselling book, Beat Autoimmune, which has a powerful foreword by Functional Medicine pioneer, Mark Hyman, MD.

About Palmer