Palmetto Endocrinology April 2024 Newsletter

Healthy woman preparing food

Autoimmune Disease and Diet: Does What I Eat Matter?


An autoimmune disease is the result of the immune system accidentally attacking your body instead of protecting it. It's often unclear why your immune system does this. Some examples of autoimmune diseases are type 1 diabetes mellitus, Hashimoto thyroiditis, Graves disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Crohn’s disease, and multiple sclerosis. While signs of autoimmune diseases differ depending on the type and location of the condition you have, some symptoms that are common to many include fatigue, fevers, swollen glands, joint pain and swelling, skin problems, such as redness or rashes, and stomach pain or digestion issues. It is not uncommon to have more than one autoimmune disease. Once diagnosed, there are various medical treatments to alleviate symptoms, but it is important to understand the role nutrition plays in autoimmune diseases. Diet is directly tied to the very things that ease or worsen these autoimmune symptoms and conditions, particularly related to inflammation.

The main dietary goal is to decrease inflammation in the body by eating foods that have been shown to be anti-inflammatory and avoid the foods known to cause/worsen inflammation. Foods that should be avoided are foods containing trans-fat, fried foods, fast food, cured meats with nitrates (hot dogs and some deli meats), highly processed foods, and refined carbohydrates (candy, cookies, baked goods, white bread).

Focus instead on building your daily nutrition around foods that fight inflammation such as olive oil, green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, collards), nuts (almonds and walnuts), fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines), and fruits (strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges).

In terms of well-known diets, the Mediterranean diet may be the most beneficial to combat inflammation. It emphasizes omega-3s, vitamin C, polyphenols, fiber-rich foods and other known inflammation fighters. If you are interested in an anti-inflammatory diet, this is a great place to start--how you eat can be life-changing.


Sheet Pan Chicken with Rainbow Vegetables


1 medium sweet potato scrubbed and diced into 1/2-inch-wide pieces

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil divided

1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt divided

3/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 1/4 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-size pieces (about 2 medium breasts)

1 small head broccoli cut into florets (about 2 cups florets)

1 red bell pepper cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 zucchini halved lengthwise, then cut into 1/2-inch-thick half moons

1 yellow squash halved lengthwise, then cut into 1/2-inch-thick half moons

Zest and juice of 1 medium lemon

2 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


 Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. For easy cleanup, line a large, rimmed baking sheet with foil. Lightly coat the foil with nonstick spray. Place the sweet potatoes in a large bowl. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Toss to coat and then spread into a single layer on the baking sheet. Keep the bowl handy. Bake for 10 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are just beginning to soften on the outsides but are still too firm to eat. Meanwhile, in the bowl that you used previously for the sweet potatoes, place the chicken, broccoli, bell pepper, zucchini, and yellow squash. Drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the lemon zest and juice, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, onion powder, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Toss to coat. Transfer the chicken and vegetable mixture to the sheet pan with the sweet potatoes, using a spatula to spread everything into an even layer and stir it a bit. Return to the sheet pan to the oven and bake for 15 to 20 additional minutes, stirring once halfway through, until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink in the middle and the vegetables are tender but not mushy. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Serve hot.

Source: Well Plated


Activity of the Month: Nutrition is not the only way to help the symptoms of autoimmune disease. Stress management, adequate sleep, and regular low-intensity exercise are all beneficial. Think about your lifestyle habits and identify where positive changes can be made to improve your health.

Dawn Wolak, MSN, APRN, ANP-C Dawn Wolak, MSN, APRN, ANP-C Dawn Wolak joins our team as Dr. Mathews' Nurse Practitioner. She attended Clemson University where she attained her bachelor's degree in Nursing. She went on to attend the Medical University of South Carolina where she underwent rigorous medical training to obtain her master’s degree in Nursing and become certified as an Adult Nurse Practitioner. Afterwards, she underwent additional training with Dr. Mathews to become an expert in endocrine disorders. She works closely with the Palmetto Endocrine team to provide consistent, informed care for our patients at all times.

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