The Best Diet & Supplement Plan for Sarcoidosis

A salad.

Some conditions are eased with a healthy diet. One of these conditions is sarcoidosis. Sarcoidosis is characterized by granulomas, which are inflamed patches of red, swollen tissue usually affecting the lungs and skin. It can also develop in other organs. This condition is rare, affecting less than 200,000 people a year in the US. The symptoms that occur will depend on what organs have been affected. Usually not severe, these symptoms can get better without treatment after a few months or years. Some of them are:

  • Dry cough
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Red tender bumps on the skin
  • Patches of bumps
  • Blurred vision
  • Red teary eyes
  • Pain in bony areas due to cysts
  • Painful, swollen joints
  • Enlarged lymph nodes

When the disease is based in the lungs, it is called pulmonary sarcoidosis. In a few cases, people may see their symptoms appear gradually and worsen. These severe cases are known as chronic sarcoidosis. Additionally, because sarcoidosis patients have increased inflammation, they may also be at risk of other inflammatory conditions, like high blood pressure or lung disease. 

Causes

The exact cause of this condition is still unknown due to a lack of sarcoidosis research. However, it is speculated that granulomas form when the immune system has gone into overdrive responding to foreign substances like bacteria, viruses, dust, or chemicals. It has even been suggested it could be caused by an abnormal reaction to one’s body proteins. The granulomas could be a manifestation of the body attacking its organs and tissues. Though concrete evidence in the exact cause of granulomas is lacking, there are still some patterns that show certain demographics that are more at risk of developing sarcoidosis. This condition can happen to anyone, but here are the most at-risk groups.

  • People between the ages of 20 and 40
  • Women
  • People with Scandinavian, Irish, Peurto Rican, or African ancestry
  • People with the condition in their family

There is currently no cure but symptoms can usually be managed with medication like corticosteroids. Sometimes no treatment is necessary at all. It can even go away on its own. It is possible, however, that sarcoidosis can last years and cause damage to your organs in the process. Pulmonary disease is the number one common cause of death for those with sarcoidosis. To prevent the worsening of symptoms as well as the worst-case scenario, we highly recommend implementing a healthy balanced diet and supplements to your treatment plan. In this article, we will talk about some of the best foods you can eat, herbs and supplements you can take, and foods to avoid if you have sarcoidosis. 

Sarcoidosis Treatment Diet

Sarcoidosis is an inflammatory condition. Therefore the best way to treat it is to target the inflammation. You can do this by eating the right foods that neutralize the flare-ups. Although not a lot of research has been done on sarcoidosis specifically, there are other inflammatory conditions that have been studied. Results show that certain patterns of eating can help lower inflammatory levels. This is the case for a decrease in C-reactive protein found in the blood, which is an indicator of inflammation. 

Several popular anti-inflammatory diets incorporate these eating patterns. In general, they all incorporate whole foods. They also have lots of fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, nuts, and seeds. Any of the following diets can work to help ease the symptoms of sarcoidosis, as well as contribute to weight loss. They are: 

Cuisine-based diets:

  • Mediterranean Diet: This diet is based on the traditional cuisine of countries along the Mediterranean Sea, and is considered one of the best diets to prevent heart disease. It is particularly high in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. Fish, poultry, and eggs are eaten in moderation, and red meat is eaten only occasionally. Low-fat Greek or plain yogurt is a good choice in the dairy department and only small amounts of cheese. Herbs and spices are used to enhance flavor to avoid the use of salt. But the staple of this diet is the higher intake of fruits and vegetables. Typically the goal is to eat 7 to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. To make it truly Mediterranean, share meals with friends and family while drinking a glass of red wine. 
  • Nordic Diet: This one is great for weight loss goals and lowering blood pressure. The Nordic diet centers around the cuisines of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. Staples of this diet include whole-grain cereals, like rye, barley, and oats, as well as berries and other fruits. Vegetables may include cabbage, potatoes, and carrots, alongside fatty fish like herring, salmon, and mackerel, and legumes such as beans and peas. Rapeseed oil, also known as canola oil, is used. This oil has a high amount of healthy monounsaturated fat, and also includes alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), an omega-3. 

Guideline-based diets:

  • DASH Diet: This diet is especially helpful in lowering blood pressure by reducing sodium and eating foods rich in potassium, calcium, and magnesium. There are two versions of this diet, a standard version and a lower sodium version. In the standard DASH diet, you are able to consume up to 2,300 mg of sodium a day. With the lower sodium version, the limit is 1,500 mg of sodium a day. Compare this with the regular American diet which can have 3,400 mg of sodium a day. The stapes of the DASH diet include whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy products. In moderation are fish, poultry, legumes, nuts, and seeds, which are limited to a few times a week. Red meats, sweets, and fats are allowed in small amounts.
  • MIND Diet: This diet was designed specifically for preventing dementia and loss of brain function associated with aging. Therefore the foods chosen for the MIND diet are those that are said to promote healthy brain functioning. Some of them are vegetables, especially green leafy ones, berries, nuts, olive oil, whole grains, fish, beans, poultry, and wine. 
The Mediterranean diet is great for your health, especially salads.

General Diet Rules

All of these diets above have certain elements in common. We have compiled them into some general rules to follow. Here are some general guidelines on foods to implement when developing your diet to treat sarcoidosis:

Antioxidants: Foods high in antioxidants can protect your cells from free radicals, and thus reduce excessive inflammation. Some of them include: 

  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Spinach
  • Seaweed
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Ginger
  • Beets
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli
  • Flaxseed
  • Green tea

Magnesium-rich: It has been shown that diets low in magnesium can lead to chronic inflammation. Those with low levels of magnesium have high levels of CRP, an inflammatory marker. They also have higher blood sugar, triglycerides, and insulin levels. Adding magnesium into the diet can reduce CRP, and thus inflammation. Magnesium can be found in:

  • Fatty fish
  • Dark chocolate
  • Barley
  • Bran
  • Corn 
  • Rye 
  • Oats 
  • Soy
  • Brown rice

Use healthy oils: All oils are made up of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated fatty acids. The ratio of how much of each of the three determine whether the oil is healthy or not. Healthy oils are considered the ones with a lower amount of saturated fats. Therefore oils with unsaturated fats, both mono and poly are the best for your overall health. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can help lower your cholesterol, thus helping prevent heart disease. For the sarcoidosis, we would most recommend using: 

  • Olive oil
  • Grapeseed oil
  • Walnut oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Canola oil

Lean meats: Fish is the best choice when it comes to fighting inflammation, due to its high amount of omega-3s. Some of the best fatty fish are salmon, tuna, halibut, or sardines, and try putting one of them on your plate twice a week. Additional lean meats you can add to your diet in moderation are chicken, turkey, grass-fed beef, lamb, or bison. It is also helpful to remember to keep your portion size small when it comes to meat. We recommend the serving size of your palm. 

Healthy fats: Besides fish and cooking oils, you can find healthy fats in a variety of other foods. Many of them have omega-3s and magnesium, which are essential to fighting inflammation. We strongly recommend a diet that incorporates nuts and seeds. Some healthy fats we recommend are: 

  • Avocado
  • Walnuts
  • Pecans
  • Soy
  • Flaxseed

Probiotics: Try implementing foods that contain natural microorganisms with live, active cultures of good bacteria. These bacteria will populate our gut and fight the bad bacteria. There have been studies indicating that this type of bacteria can help decrease our overall inflammatory levels. Some common foods containing natural probiotics or have probiotics added to them are: 

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Kombucha
  • Sauerkraut
  • Pickles
  • Miso
  • Tempeh 
  • Kimchi
  • Sourdough bread

Prebiotics: Besides implementing foods that have good bacteria, it is important to eat foods that stimulate the growth of good bacteria. This mostly includes fiber-filled vegetables which help these bacteria not only grow but thrive. Some examples of prebiotics include:

  • Jerusalem artichoke
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Leeks
  • Asparagus
  • Bananas
  • Oats
  • Barley
  • Apples
  • Cocoa

Good Carbs: Consider adding to your diet foods that contain powerful carbohydrates instead of empty carbohydrates which have been refined. These powerful carbs include large amounts of fiber, protein, and antioxidants. You can find good carbs in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Here are a few of our favorites: 

  • Strawberries
  • Almonds
  • Peanuts
  • Chia seeds
  • Oats 
  • Quinoa 
  • Brown rice
  • Lentils
  • Kidney beans
  • Peas
Having a cup of green tea is a great way to start the morning.

Best Diet Plan for Sarcoidosis

Keeping with these diet guidelines, we have calculated what we believe is the best diet plan for sarcoidosis. A typical day on this plan would go as follows:

Early Morning: Green tea

Breakfast: 1 slice whole-grain toast with peanut butter and fresh banana and blueberry Greek yogurt parfait

Mid-Morning: An apple

Lunch: 1 cup of brown rice and bean salad, and green garden salad with fresh vegetables

Evening: Hummus, flaxseed crackers, raw vegetables

Dinner: 3 oz salmon with asparagus

A few other tips to go along with your diet plan would be to make sure you are drinking enough water and exercise. It is important to drink 6 to 8 glasses of filtered water daily because hydration flushes out toxins, thus decreasing inflammation. We also recommend exercising at least 30 minutes a day for 5 days a week. Exercise is important because it can stimulate the immune system, which produces an anti-inflammation response from cells. Before proceeding, however, get the go-ahead from your doctor first before implementing a new exercise routine.

Herb and Supplement Plan

Although there is not a lot of scientific evidence associated with herbs and supplements treating sarcoidosis, it may still be a good idea to incorporate them into your daily intake. Be sure to consult with your doctor whether or not the herbs and supplements will affect the usage of your medications. 

Herbs

Herbs may help strengthen and tone the systems of the body. Though there are no herbs that are said to treat sarcoidosis specifically, these herbs are said to help with inflammation. 

  • Turmeric (Curcuma longa): Recommended dosage is 300 mg, 3 times a day. This could help reduce inflammation. Be sure to consult with your doctor because turmeric can increase the chances of bruising or bleeding when combined with anticoagulants or antiplatelet drugs. This includes medications like aspirin, naproxen, clopidogrel, and more. 
  • Cat’s Claw (Uncaria tomentosa): Recommended dosage 20 mg, 3 times a day. This could help reduce inflammation. This herb should not be taken by people with leukemia, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and a few more autoimmune diseases. Cat’s claw also may have side effects when interacting with some medications, so be sure to get your doctor’s approval before taking it. 

Supplements

Using supplements is another good way to have an impact on inflammation. Make sure the use of these supplements is in line with your doctor’s medical advice. Here are some of the most highly recommended anti-inflammatory supplements: 

  • Multivitamin: consisting of vitamins A, C, E, and B-complex, as well as minerals like magnesium, calcium, zinc, and selenium. 
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: If you do not like fish, taking a fish oil supplement might be a better way to get your omega-3s. We recommend taking either 1 to 2 capsules or 1 to 3 Tablespoons of oil, 1 to 3 times daily. Check with your doctor first because fish oil could increase the risk of bleeding, especially if you take blood-thinners. 
  • Probiotic supplement: Choose one containing Lactobacillus acidophilus, the most commonly used probiotic. We recommend 5 to 10 billion CFUs (colony forming units) per day. These are “good” bacteria that help regulate the bowels, creating an unfriendly environment for “bad” bacteria. They help keep a healthy balance of bacteria and preventing disease. Talk to your health care provider if you are taking immunosuppressive drugs, or have a suppressed immune system. Be sure to refrigerate your probiotics for the best results. 
  • Bromelain: This is a mixture of enzymes that originate from pineapple, and is often combined with turmeric. We recommend taking 500 mg a day. Talk to your doctor before you take it as it could increase the risk of bleeding, especially when combined with some medications. 

Foods to Avoid with Sarcoidosis

Since there are foods that help sarcoidosis, there are also foods that make it worse. Here are some of the dietary restrictions we would recommend to keep the condition at a minimum. 

Avoid Sugar Spikes: Certain foods cause blood sugars to rise quickly, which is known as a sugar spike. The sugar spike can increase inflammation. Therefore, it is a good idea to avoid foods that cause sugar spikes. Some of them include: 

  • Sugary drinks like soda, juices, and sports drinks
  • Processed foods and baked goods like cookies and cakes
  • Refined grains like white rice, bread, pasta
  • Breakfast cereals with added sugar
  • Honey and maple syrup
  • Coffee drinks with added flavor and sugar
  • French fries
  • Onion Rings
  • Donuts
  • Dried fruit (often contains added sugar)

Avoid caffeine, alcohol, tobacco. Caffeine and alcohol can both cause dehydration, which is the opposite of what we want when decreasing inflammation. We recommend drinking only one cup of coffee a day, if at all. Large amounts of alcohol can cause inflammation in the intestines, therefore it should only be consumed in small amounts, like one glass of red wine a day. As for tobacco, it has recently been discovered that nicotine can activate neutrophils, a type of white blood cell, which can release molecules that can increase inflammation. 

Avoid red meat: Red meat, as well as processed meat, is rich in saturated fats, which leads to inflammation. Red meat would include meat from cows, pigs, sheep, and goats. Processed meats include bacon, hot dogs, pepperoni, sausage, salami, meat jerkies, and some deli meats. 

Support for Those with Sarcoidosis

Living with sarcoidosis is not easy. You may feel anxious and uncertain about your future health. Your symptoms may even interfere with your daily activities. We want you to know that you do not have to go through it alone. Besides implementing some of these diet and lifestyle changes we have touched on, you can also join support groups to help manage your sarcoidosis. You will find yourself among people who share the same experiences and emotions, and can also provide you with new knowledge of your condition. We here at CareAsOne hope this article has given you some tools to get started on your treatment journey. We wish you ease and success in your recovery. 

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