5 Nutrients To Support Autoimmune Disease

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5 Nutrients To Support Autoimmune Disease

With over 250 million people suffering from this disease worldwide, autoimmunity is becoming a prevalent and concerning health problem. Autoimmunity is when the immune system becomes uncoordinated and begins attacking itself. I have worked with many autoimmunity cases and have found that certain nutrient deficiencies are almost always at play. In this article, I discuss why I think these deficiencies are the 5 key nutrients to support autoimmune disease.

My desire to help those with autoimmunity comes from a history of personal health challenges that were rooted in my digestive health. After overcoming these health challenges, being on the other side, I realize just how debilitating conditions like autoimmunity can be.

I find many similarities between the presence of these conditions including lack of key nutrients in the diet. I believe these 5 to be critical to address in the case of autoimmunity.  It is important to know that these nutrients are not FDA approved at this time to prevent, mitigate, treat or cure any autoimmune diseases and should not be confused as such.

1. Vitamin D and Autoimmune Disease

Vitamin D is arguably one of the most powerful nutrients responsible for modulating and coordinating the immune system. In autoimmune disease, the immune system has a hard time differentiating self from non-self (foreign invaders). Vitamin D helps the immune system make this important distinction, which reduces autoimmune disease formation (1).

Vitamin D deficiency is vastly common in our society due to sunscreen use and low amounts of sun exposure. On top of this, the average diet is severely lacking dietary sources of Vitamin D such as organ meats and certain fish.

Boosting Vitamin D

Sunlight is by far and away the most important factor in optimizing your vitamin D levels. Not only does skin exposure to sunlight help produce vitamin D in its sulfated form, which may have unique benefits to the body in addition to supplemental vitamin D. For tips on healthy sun exposure, read this article.

Our ancestors frequently ate organ meats in their diets, such as liver, that were dense sources of vitamin D. Other great sources of dietary Vitamin D are wild fish like sockeye salmon and sardines.

To get Vitamin D levels into the therapeutic range of 50-100 nmol/L, I typically will recommend additional supplementation along with Vitamin K2. For this I will use D3/K2 Power which contains 5,000 IU along with 90 mcg of vitamin K2 and I get great results with this.

Some people prefer to use a liquid liposomal D3/K2 for optimal absorption to support their vitamin D levels.  I recommend somewhere between 1000 IU and up to 2000IU for every 25 lbs. of bodyweight in cases of autoimmunity.  Remember, these supplements are not at this time FDA approved to prevent, mitigate, treat or cure any autoimmune disease and should not be confused as such.

2. Zinc

Zinc is another critical nutrient for healthy immune system function. Proper zinc levels help support the thymus gland and the formation of T helper cells, which are vital for coordination of the immune system (2).

Studies have shown that chronically low zinc levels can result in atrophy of the thymus gland which leads to poor T helper cell maturation and an imbalance in the Th1 and Th2 branches of the immune system. It is this immune imbalance that contributes to chronic inflammation and autoimmune disease.

autoimmune disease

Boosting Zinc Intake

The RDA for adult zinc intake is around 12mg per day, but I typically see the best results with an intake of 30-60mg. The top dietary source of zinc is by far oysters with about 29.75 mg per 3.5 ounce serving. The next best would be sprouted pumpkin seeds which have about 7.81 mg of zinc per 3.5 ounce serving. Finally, liver and pasture-raised lamb and beef are other great sources of dietary zinc.

While there are some great food sources of zinc, I usually recommend supplementing with about 20-40mg zinc glycinate per day in cases of autoimmune disease. I like zinc glycinate specifically because it is very absorbable while the glycine molecule provides additional anti-inflammatory benefits.

You can find my favorite form here. I recommend supplementing with 20mg once or twice daily with meals to ensure proper absorption. Remember, this supplement is not at this time FDA approved to prevent, mitigate, treat or cure any autoimmune disease and should not be confused as such.

autoimmune disease

3. Glutathione and Autoimmune Disease

Glutathione is the most powerful antioxidant in the human body. It acts as an antioxidant on its own while also regulating other antioxidants in the body. In addition to antioxidant benefits, glutathione supports healthy detoxification. These actions will help lower inflammation drastically, which is a major factor in autoimmune conditions.

Glutathione has also been identified as playing a major role in white blood cell function and immune system regulation. For these reasons, glutathione has been identified a key nutrient in the battle against autoimmune disease (3).

autoimmune disease

Boosting Glutathione

Boosting glutathione to optimal levels comes down to three things: diet, lifestyle, and supplementation.  My top foods for boosting glutathione are non-denatured grass-fed whey protein, organ meats, sprouts, sulfurous foods (garlic, onions, cruciferous veggies), as well as herbs like turmeric, ginger, and milk thistle. These foods provide the building blocks for glutathione production in the body.

Next, there are several lifestyle factors that affect glutathione production. These include things like getting good sleep, adequate exercise, healthy sun exposure, and avoiding environmental toxins.

In terms of supplementation, there are things like selenium, N-acetyl Cysteine (NAC), and Alpha Lipoic Acid (ALA) which have all been shown to boost glutathione production in the body. I make my own supplement containing these powerful glutathione-boosting nutrients called Brain Supercharge.

In many tough cases however, it is possible that the body has an inhibited ability to make its own glutathione. In these cases, I will use an acetylated glutathione supplement called Super Glutathione that crosses through the gut and gets right into the cells of the body.  We also offer a great liposomal glutathione that is great for absorption and utilization.

Pure glutathione is destroyed by digestion while the acetylated form does a much better job at passing through the digestive tract and exerting its beneficial effects.  Remember, these supplements are not at this time FDA approved to prevent, mitigate, treat or cure any autoimmune disease and should not be confused as such.

4. Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Omega 3 fatty acids play a very important role in reducing autoimmune disease. I find that in most cases of autoimmune disease, there is a significant imbalance of fatty acids in the body.

In the standard American diet, there is a high consumption of omega 6 fats from processed oils while omega 3 fatty acids are virtually absent. While all omega 6 fatty acids are not necessarily bad from the right sources, it’s important to increase omega 3 consumption to create a balanced ratio in the body.

An elevated omega 6 level compared to omega 3 is significantly associated with systemic inflammation that is indicated in most autoimmune disorders (4).

Another really important dietary aspect to focus on is getting healthy fats in general. The Standard American Diet is full of problematic fat sources that are highly inflammatory. The following graphic is a good summary of which fats are best to include in your diet.

autoimmune disease

Boosting Omega-3 Levels

When it comes to boosting your omega 3 levels there are really 2 ways to do this, through omega 3-rich foods and with a high-quality supplement.  In general, it is important to focus on healthy fats in your diet from saturated fat, monounsaturated fats and omega 3 fats.

I really like to emphasize focusing on DHA and EPA omega 3’s because they have the most profound impact on the healing from autoimmunity. My top food sources for these fatty acids are wild Alaskan sockeye salmon, sardines, and anchovies. These are my top choices because the high omega 3 content without many of the heavy metal concerns of other fish.

For supplementation of omega 3, I recommend a purified fish oil from smaller fish such as sardines and anchovies. My favorite fish oil brand is Nordic Naturals because they purify their oil and third-party test to ensure the absence of mercury.

In more advanced cases, I have found this Pro Omega Curcumin fish oil extremely helpful. It contains curcumin extract, NAC, and glutathione to provide additional anti-inflammatory benefits.  Remember, this supplement is not at this time FDA approved to prevent, mitigate, treat or cure any autoimmune disease and should not be confused as such.

5. Probiotics and Autoimmune Disease

Another huge common denominator I find with my autoimmune patients is that they almost always have some kind of bacterial imbalance in the gut. Having a healthy bacterial balance is key to having a healthy digestive tract and proper immune function. Dysbiosis is also heavily associated with inflammation that can directly promote autoimmunity.

The microbiome connection to autoimmunity is even being investigated for clinical treatment of autoimmunity (5).  Unfortunately, we consume many things in our modern day lifestyles that destroy the good bacteria in our gut.

These are things like municipal tap water, pesticides in crops, artificial sweeteners, antibiotics, processed foods, alcohol, and the list goes on. So the first priority is to really work on getting this microbiome destroying toxins out of our lives, then to repopulate the gut with healthy bacteria.

autoimmune disease

Incorporating Probiotics

Probiotics can be delicate in autoimmune cases because I find that many of my patients can be pretty reactive to many foods. This is why I recommend starting with a supplemental probiotic over fermented foods.

For these cases I really like to start with a broad-spectrum probiotic like SBO Probiotics – Ultimate because it works really well for setting a solid foundation of microbiota in the gut. This probiotic can be used for 1–3 months before cycling to another lactic acid-based probiotic like my ProbioCharge.

I see best results when cycling probiotics every 1–3 months as it helps maintain a diverse microbiome full of many different strains of good bacteria.  Remember, these supplements are not at this time FDA approved to prevent, mitigate, treat or cure any autoimmune disease and should not be confused as such.

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Sources For This Article Include:

1. Maruotti, N., & Cantatore, F. P. (2010). Vitamin D and the immune system. Journal of Rheumatology. PMID: 21527855
2. Hojyo, S., & Fukada, T. (2016). Roles of Zinc Signaling in the Immune System. Journal of Immunology Research, 2016. PMID: 27872866
3. Perricone, C., De Carolis, C., & Perricone, R. (2009). Glutathione: A key player in autoimmunity. Autoimmunity Reviews. PMID: 19393193
4. Fenton, J., Hord, N., Ghosh, S., & Gurzell, E. (2013). Long chain omega-3 fatty acid immunomodulation and the potential for adverse health outcomes. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids, 1–26. PMID: 24183073
5. Rosser, E. C., & Mauri, C. (2016). A clinical update on the significance of the gut microbiota in systemic autoimmunity. Journal of Autoimmunity. PMID: 27481556

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  1. Thanks for sharing your knowledge. Words can not express how much I am enjoying your site. Could you please explain to me what are Lichen Planopilaris, Lichen Planus and Lichen Sclerosius?? How do you treat them especially on the scalp?

  2. It’s interesting that the best results come from taking 30-60mg per day. Ensuring that you have a balanced diet could help prevent many diseases so it makes sense that this could be beneficial. I wonder if there are more tips for autoimmune living that I could find to help my family live healthier lives.

  3. Hi Doc, there seems to be some fairly new research evolving about the possibility that taking supplemental vitamin D may be blocking the D receptors. Have you heard about this and have any comments?

    1. I haven’t come across this Sono! I do know it is important to still get adequate sunlight even if you are supplementing because it helps convert Vitamin D to its activated form.

  4. Hi Dr Jockers I’ve been diagnosed with Lichen Sclerosis. Ive been taking an allicin supplement for a few years and wondering if this is not a good idea as its an immune booster. Thanks Linda

  5. Dr. My daughter is 20 years young. She was diagnosed with autoimmune hepatitis. It breaks my heart to pump her with all this medication that the doctors are prescribing. Not to mention she does not feel well at all. 10 mg prednisone and 100 mg of azithiopine.
    Any professional direction from you would be greatly appreciated.

  6. Hi, 3 years ago i got inflammation so bad it was hard to walk a few minutes after i got up or even get on the floor to play with my grand babies. The dr. I seen said ckme off my meats. I did all but Salmon and chicken. With in 3 weeks i was doing better. A short time after that i had to take an antibiotic . Twk rounds of 500 mg. Caused me to have colitis. Went on as clear liquid dite 3 day and got back in check. A few mos. After that i delived IBS. more test on top if test. On diet that has helped get it under control after 9 mos. About 3 months in feeling better i developed eczema. Which ive been to different drs. For that and still no help other than take alot of meds just to get relief but doesn’t never go completely away. I feel their really isn’t help out there to help us unless they want $10.000 or more to help get you were you need to be. Looking forward to your redponse.

  7. I have Transverse Myelitis and have so for 5 years. The TM attacked my spinal cord and now I’m numb from my lower hips to my toes. Would taking these 5 supplements, mentioned in your article, heal my condition and restore the feeling back in my hips, legs, and feet?

  8. Dr. Jockers,
    I have Type 1 diabetes ( diagnosed 43 years ago), hypothyroidism, vitaligo, and have now started having significant pain in my fingers of my right hand. To say I have autoimmunity is probably an understatement. My 28 year old daughter was recently diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease. Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated.

  9. Hell Dr Jockers:
    How are you?
    I read your article and I would like to know if these supplements can help with the skin condition Vitiligo, or even to stop it from spreading. I also have daily headaches. Please help

    Thank you.

    1. Hello Dr. Jockers. Would these help my skin conditions? Rosacea on face and itchy scalp bumps as well as a constant post nasal drip that comes and goes. I eat a fairly clean, organic diet. I’m gluten free & eat limited dairy. (Ghee, sheep’s cheese, goat mozzarella). I drink reverse osmosis water and I supplement with Vit D-3, a multi for women over 50, zinc 30mg & a probiotic. I do eat kimchi and fermented foods as well as lots of vegetables and greens. I’ve just began taking collagen and greens daily. I still experience some bloating but I move my bowls regularly. I’m a bit lost as to what my next steps should be. I lost over 20lbs and would like to release 20 more. I try to exercise 4-5x/week. I eat low carb. All organic/pasture raised meats. Any help would be greatly appreciated! Thank you. I love your articles.

      1. Hey Susan, Rosacea and constant post nasal drip is often associated with an H Pylori infection that may need to be cleared up. I would recommend reading this article and also reaching out to a functional health practitioner to help customize a plan for you.

  10. Husband has acquired colitis as an autoimmune reaction to Keytruda. Any suggestions to get his system normalized?

  11. Do you please have any idea what to do about burning mouth syndrome it is extremely pain she is suffering

  12. Dear Dr. Jockers; My problems are exceedingly difficult to treat. There are more than 350 physicians, most specialists, in my town and I can find no help. I am sensitive or immune to most foods; consuming abilities of around 20 various kinds. The only vegetable that I can eat is celery. I have the same food every day during my breakfast, lunch, and dinner, at this point, although my taste buds are in fine shape, I taste very little just try to stay alive. My BMs are surprisingly normal, but mostly constant intestinal discomfort and pain and brain-fog. In the past I have suffered, to my belief and I have a good medical background, intestinal hyper-porosity. I can not find any such malady, as I have, in my research and think that it must be some form of auto-immune problem. I am using plenty of supplements, which I believe must be helping my daily life. I have been for years eating only healthy foods, lots of organic. How I would love a normal good meal! If you should have any clues to help me on my way I would be most appreciative!

  13. Hi Doc,

    I’m suffering from hay fever and lichen planopilaris.

    Do you think that medicinal mushrooms, such as Turkey tail or reishi, could help with my condition? From what I read they are immuno-modulators (btw I have TH2 dominance).

    Can I supplement also MSM or it is not suited for my condition?

    Thanks for your help!

  14. Hi I have Ra since 18 months ago. My meds does not help my inflammation but I feel with more energy than before since I change my diet to plant based food. Dr wants me to put me in biological drug to help me to keep my inflammation down in my wrist and avoid problems with my heart. I take fermented turmeric in powder since 4 weeks but still swollen. I eat chicken or fish once a week and 2 twice a week I drink black coffe. Why do you think still inflammation in my wrist do you have any sugestiones or advice in suplentes to take??

  15. hi dr jockers i do not have any specific illness but i have had 5 hip replacements as i had the DEPOYones that where on recall.my heavy metal was throug the roof and one hip had so much black tissue that it did not hold and dislocated after 3 days and had to be done again but removing the bad tissue made my leg shorter and throws my balance out.i wear a orthotic.
    i take a lot of Magnesium pills and spray so i can sleep more comfortable.
    all those tornicays made me get neuropathy in both ankles and lower legs.when i get really bad i take CBD oil at night and MCT oil in the morning.i am mostly on Keto and do some water fasting and lost 20kg got of all my medication.
    is there anything else i can do for my legs it is cold now in australia but come summer they swell up and get very uncomfortable

    1. Hey Brigitte, I’m sorry to hear that you are suffering with this problem. It sounds like there is a lot going on. I would recommend that you work with a functional health practitioner that will work with you to create a customized plan to fit your health goals! This article can help.

  16. Hi Doc
    Please advise how to get blood moving from my feet as feet turn a shade darker when up and about. When resting turn back to normal. Went to Vein doctor and Orthopedic received huge bills and nothing more. Suggestion was compression socks with temperatures of 40 degrees. Can I reverse this with an eating plan.

  17. Hi Dr Jockers, great article. My 90 year old mother has just been diagnosed with shingles in her scalp. It runs from the top of her head down to her neck. The doctor put her on Valacyclovir. She does not feel well on the medication and has not seen much improvement other than some of the redness in her scalp has paled. She had a one week follow up today and the doctor insisted she stay on that medication and prescribed her for another week. This drug has tons of side effects and is making her feel worst. She has been otherwise in good health and does not take any other medications. Do you have any suggestions that might help with her shingles situation? Thank you

  18. Dear Dr. Jockers,

    My name is Lindi.
    I love your articles and thank you for helping people heal and feel better!

    My 40 y. o. sister was diagnosed with CLL. She has no symptoms other than enlarged lymph nodes in her neck. She is under the care of a conventional medicine specialist. She is not taking any medications for CLL (she is only taking Synthroid for her hypothyroidism) they are just following her up.

    I want her to be free of this disease. What would you recommend?

    Thank you so much! I would really appreciate your input in this!


  19. Hi Dr Jockers!
    My husband was just diagnosed with vasculitis and wegener’s disease, after being in the hospital for 8 days, it affected his lungs (coughing up blood) and kidneys, but being we caught it extremely early, he has no permanent damage. He’ll be taking his 2nd dose of Rituxan on Weds. We eat organic, anti inflammation, and low carb lifestyles. He’s taking omega 3, nac, zinc, magnesium, vit d, vit c (to bowel tolerance), gi revive by designs for health, probiotics, metagenics ultragi:replenish, endefen, fiber. I vegetable juice carrots, cucumber, apple, ginger, and beets. I make oatmilk, spinach, banana, frozen berries, and a scoop of orgain superfoods powder smoothies. We drink hydrogen water and just bought an Echo H2 machine today! He just started glutathione shots at our functional medicine doctor – he’s had one so far. He’ll be getting a heavy metals toxicity test in two weeks and then start some chelation therapy.

    Is there anything else you would recommend?
    Thank you so much and please pray he can go into remission soon!

      1. Thank you so much for your prayers… we really appreciate it! God is good and will see us through this trial – we are thankful He is in control of all things!
        We just tuned into the first episode of the Autoimmune Answers series. 🙂 Looking forward to your contribution on it!

  20. Hi Dr Jockers, what is your opinion of the theory that narcolepsy could be an autoimmune disease? Do you think any of these supplements could help reduce the symptoms of narcolepsy? Thank you.

  21. Dear Dr. Jockers,
    I have been diagnosed with lupus ( both skin and SLE), fibromyalgia and sjogrens about 7 years ago. I went into a remission like state for two years that I contribute to diet, lifestyle change, but since pandemic, all have come back with a vengeance. I do not want to be on hard core drugs as RA doctor suggests. I have been taking prednisone way too long and got down to 1mg/day trying to wean off until I had major flare when pandemic hit. Now on 5mg prednisone twice a day but still getting flares with burning skin pain, inflammation, osteoarthritis in hands, blurred vision and ringing in ears. I want to get off the steroids and try natural supplements. Do you have any suggestions, and do you know of a functional doctor in my area around Chattanooga , TN. or how to find one close. I am using vitamin supplements vitamin C 2000, vitamin D3, zinc and fish oil. Since I cannot get in the sun from skin lupus, I don’t get enough vitamin D. I appreciate your guidance on a natural supplement that could help me, especially with the inflammation. Thank you so much and I love your articles. I just ordered MICELLE LIPOSOMAL D3 WITH K2. Recently in the hospital with assessed ulcer, I’m sure is from long years of prednisone. I would appreciate any advise that may help me. God bless you.

  22. I now understand that the lack of zinc can be one cause of chronic inflammation that results in different autoimmune diseases. I would understand how specific types of food that have anti-inflammatory properties can really be helpful in improving different health conditions. I hope there are meal preparation services out there that take this into consideration.

  23. Hi Dr Jockers.
    I write to you from Australia.
    I have been diagnosed with erosive osteoarthritis about 6 years ago. I am 56 yo
    Over the years I tried an array of natural products as i was always anti prescribed medication but as this is a progressive disease I was unsure what or if any of it was working and as I wasn’t very financial I stopped taking everything.
    Over the years I begrudgingly saw a couple of different rheumatologists and have tried the plaquinel, ararva & methotrexate and injected myself with simponi for 6 months but it didn’t help. I have been issued a prescription for Himura about 2 months ago but chose not to fill the script as I came across a study that was done on 40 people with the same disease and the verdict was it didn’t improve their condition.
    I have been taking no medication including natural for quite a while now as I’m feeling disillusioned.
    I’m reaching out to you for your advice as every finger on both hands are now swollen and deformed and I have minimal flexibility other than my two thumbs which at this stage have not been affected.

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