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:
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.
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.
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 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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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 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.
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:
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:
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.
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.