It's estimated that 1 in every 5 Americans have an autoimmune disease—and 75% of these people are women. Autoimmunity is an umbrella term that refers to a category of diseases that causes the immune system to mistakenly attack the body's tissues and organs it was designed to protect. Some common autoimmune disorders include lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and celiac disease. While these diseases can be treated through lifestyle and diet, they can still be very difficult to manage. In his podcast "Genius Life," nutrition expert and author Max Lugavere spoke with Dr. Terry Wahls, an autoimmune expert and multiple sclerosis (MS) researcher. She gave a list of things that all families should do in their household to help stave off autoimmune diseases.
Breastfeeding Helps Greatly with "Autoimmune Prevention" for Your Family, According to a Doctor and Researcher
Max shared a clip on his Instagram and wrote this in the caption: "Dr. Wahls has secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS), which for four years kept her in a tilt-recline wheelchair. She used a food and lifestyle plan she created specifically for her brain to regain her health, and she is now able to ride her bike to work every day." Now Dr. Wahls commits her life and work to researching about MS and helping people prevent having any autoimmune issues in their life.
"If you were going to design an autoimmune prevention protocol for families, what might that look like?" Max asks.
"Breastfeed. First thing," Dr. Wahls responds. "Breastfeed, breastfeed, breastfeed. Now the recommendation is to go at least 2 years. Maybe it should be 3 years, 4 years. For most of humanity, we breastfed to age 4 or 5 and that's probably much more prevalent to the rest of the world. At least breastfeed to age 2."
The CDC recommends that babies are exclusively breastfed until 6 months old and then given breastmilk along with supplementary food until 12 months old. Alternatively, the American Academy of Pediatrics and World Health Organization recommend children are breastfed until 2 years old. However, just like Dr. Wahls said, a teeth "time capsule" indicates that early humans (about 2 million years ago) used to breastfeed children up to 6 years old. If you look more into history, you can also see that babies were commonly breastfed up until 3 or 4 years old, and only recently in modern history were we encouraged to stop breastfeeding as early as 1 year old.
Breastfeeding can protect your baby from various different diseases all the way into adulthood, as well as obesity and asthma. Research also shows that babies who are breastfed have more bacteria called Veillonella and Gemella in their gut, which helps support the function of regulatory T cells. Breastfeeding also has benefits for the mother; it can reduce your risk for breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure. It's also the best source of nutrition for children. Not to mention the special bond you have with your baby that results in a boost of happy hormones that can help prevent mood disorder.
In order to stave off autoimmune issues, Dr. Wahls also recommended taking vitamin D, vitamin A, and vitamin K supplement, as well as eating liver once a week.
"Get dirty. Play in the mud," she added. "I think there's some evidence that cats and dogs may be beneficial. Being on a farm... that's beneficial." She also said eating together as a family is even a great way to prevent autoimmune issues.