According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, 50 million Americans currently are living with an autoimmune disease. We recently sat down with Rheumatologist Dr. Maurice Rodriguez to discuss the effects of food on the body for people with autoimmune diseases.

Dr. Rodriguez says, “An autoimmune disease is a condition where the body reacts against itself.” Normally our immune system fights against foreign substances, like bacteria, but people with an autoimmune disease have an immune systems malfunction and it ends up attacking its own tissue. This can have very long term and destructive effects on their bodies. There are more than 80 types of autoimmune diseases with the most common being Rheumatoid arthritis, Lupus, and Celiac Disease but are different symptoms for each autoimmune disease, though a common symptom for all of them is inflammation and joint swelling.

What we eat can play a role in how autoimmune diseases behave but it is not clear how and why. A large part of the immune system is in the gut so it is safe to say there is a connection. That being said, eating healthy can help overall but eating unhealthy can add fuel to the fire. Rodriguez says “Eating well will not solve the problem but help the patient feel better overall which can make a real difference in the quality of life.”

 Examples of Foods that can help the most:

  • Fatty Fish (omega 3)
  • Leafy Greens
  • The whole spectrum of food can help get the most vitamins and nutrients

Examples of Foods that hurt the most:

  • Sugar
  • Processed food
  • Anything that comes in a box
  • Ingredients you can’t pronounce
  • If your grandma wouldn’t recognize it


Dr. Rodriguez’s advice to people living with an autoimmune disease: find out as much as you can about your disease and take ownership of it. Eating right and exercising will help everything work better. Small steps towards eating better consistently over time will help and be easier on you. Also, “don’t do anything strange.”

Rheumatologist Dr. Rodriguez also treats and diagnoses osteoarthritis, joint pain problems, chronic pain, and non-operative orthopedics. If you are experiencing inflammation and other autoimmune disease symptoms or are already diagnosed with an autoimmune disease but you want to learn more about eating well, click here to schedule an appointment with Dr. Rodriguez.