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supplements for autoimmune diseases

Autoimmune diseases are a group of conditions in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells and tissues. Over 100 types of autoimmune diseases can affect any part of the body.

While there is no cure for autoimmune diseases, there are several things that people can do to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. This includes following a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep.

Supplements can also be helpful for people with autoimmune diseases. Certain supplements can help to reduce inflammation, boost the immune system, and improve gut health.

Here are some of the most important supplements for autoimmune diseases:

Omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of polyunsaturated fat that is found in fish, nuts, and seeds. Inflammation is a crucial feature of many autoimmune diseases, and omega-3 fatty acids can help to reduce inflammation. Omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to boost the immune system and improve gut health. The gut microbiome, the community of trillions of bacteria that live in our gut, plays a vital role in immune function. Omega-3 has been shown to help promote a healthy microbiome. This supplement is helpful to most people, but especially so with autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and inflammatory bowel disease.

Food Sources Omega-3 fatty acids

  • Mackerel
  • Salmon
  • Herring 
  • Oysters
  • Sardines
  • Flaxseed
  • Chia Seed
  • Walnuts

Favorite Brands of Omega-3 supplements

Known Benefits of Omega-3

  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Infant Health
  • Cancer Prevention
  • Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and cognitive function
  • Age-related macular degeneration
  • Autoimmune Disease

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a nutrient that is essential for several bodily functions, including immune system function. Vitamin D deficiency is common in people with autoimmune diseases and is linked to increased inflammation and disease activity. Vitamin D also helps to regulate the immune system and promote tolerance to self-antigens. This means that vitamin D can help to prevent the immune system from attacking healthy cells and tissues.  Studies have shown that vitamin D supplementation can help to reduce inflammation and improve symptoms in many people with autoimmune diseases. It is essential to have your Vitamin D tested because starting this supplement will determine the correct dosage. 

Besides taking a supplement, here are some tips for increasing your vitamin D intake:

  • Get regular sun exposure. Sunlight is the body’s primary source of vitamin D. Aim for 10-15 minutes of sun exposure daily, without sunscreen.
  • Eat foods rich in vitamin D. Good sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, eggs, and fortified milk and cereals.

Food Sources Vitamin D

  • Cod liver oil
  • Salmon
  • Swordfish
  • Tuna fish
  • Sardines
  • Beef liver
  • Egg yolk

Favorite Brands of Vitamin D supplements

Known Benefits of Vitamin D

  • Bone Health & Muscle Strength
  • Cancer 
  • Heart Disease
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Immune Function
  • Cognitive Function

Probiotics

Probiotics are live bacteria that are beneficial for gut health. The gut microbiome is the community of trillions of bacteria living in our gut, which plays a vital role in immune function. Probiotics benefit people with autoimmune diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease and psoriasis.

Probiotics have also been shown to boost the immune system and improve gut barrier function. A healthy gut barrier helps to prevent harmful substances from entering the bloodstream and triggering an immune response.  Studies have shown that probiotic supplementation can help to reduce inflammation and improve symptoms in many populations, including people with autoimmune diseases. 

If you have an autoimmune disease, you must talk to your doctor about whether probiotic supplementation is proper. Your doctor can recommend a specific probiotic strain or supplement appropriate for your needs.

Here are some tips for choosing a probiotic supplement:

  • Choose a supplement that is refrigerated. This will help to keep the probiotics alive and active.
  • It is important to note that probiotics are generally safe for most people. However, some people may experience side effects such as gas, bloating, and diarrhea. If you experience side effects, stop taking the supplement and talk to your doctor.
  • People need different probiotics depending on what their goals are. Stool testing can help determine what your body needs. 

Food Sources Probiotics

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut (Refridgerated)
  • Tempeh
  • Kimchi
  • Miso
  • Kombucha
  • Pickles

Favorite Brands of Probiotic supplements

Known Benefits of Probiotics

  • Help your body digest food.
  • Keep harmful bacteria from getting out of control and making you sick.
  • Create vitamins.
  • Help support the cells lining your gut to prevent bad bacteria you may have consumed (through food or drinks) from entering your blood.
  • Break down and absorb medications.

Curcumin

Curcumin is a compound that is found in turmeric. Curcumin has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and can benefit people with autoimmune diseases.

Curcumin has also been shown to help prevent the immune system from attacking healthy cells and tissues. I have helped many patients with this supplement who suffer from joint pain, finding relief after starting to take this regularly. In addition, curcumin has been known to reduce specific cytokines (messengers of sorts) that may help with emotions. Always talk with your provider before starting on a supplement to ensure there is no interaction that you should be aware of. 

Here are some tips for taking curcumin supplements:

  • Look for a supplement that contains black pepper extract. Black pepper extract contains piperine, which helps increase curcumin absorption.
  • Take curcumin with food to improve absorption.
  • Start with a low dose and increase the dose gradually to avoid side effects.
  • It is important to note that curcumin is generally safe for most people. However, some people may experience side effects such as stomach upset and nausea. If you experience side effects, stop taking the supplement and talk to your doctor.

Curcumin is a promising supplement for people with autoimmune diseases. It has anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties that can help to reduce inflammation and improve symptoms. If you are considering taking curcumin supplements, talk to your doctor or nutritionist first.

Food Sources for Curcumin

  • Turmeric

Favorite Brand of Curcumin

Known Benefits of Curcumin

  • Inflammatory conditions
  • Metabolic Syndrome
  • Arthritis
  • Anxiety
  • Hyperlipidemia
  • Inflammation from exercise

Ginger

Ginger is a spice that has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. It has also been shown to modulate the immune system and promote tolerance to self-antigens, meaning that ginger can help prevent the immune system from attacking healthy cells and tissues.

Studies have shown that ginger supplementation can help to reduce inflammation and improve symptoms in people with autoimmune diseases. For example, one study found that ginger supplementation reduced inflammation and pain in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Another study found that ginger supplementation reduced inflammation and diarrhea in people with inflammatory bowel disease.

If you have an autoimmune disease, it is essential to talk to your doctor about whether ginger supplementation is proper for you. Your doctor can recommend a dosage and form of ginger appropriate for your needs.

Here are some tips for taking ginger supplements:

  • Look for a supplement that contains standardized ginger extract. This will help ensure that you get a consistent dose of ginger.
  • Take ginger with food to improve absorption.
  • Start with a low dose and increase the dose gradually to avoid side effects.
  • It is important to note that ginger is generally safe for most people. However, some people may experience side effects such as stomach upset, heartburn, and diarrhea. If you experience side effects, stop taking the supplement and talk to your doctor.

Known Benefits of Ginger

  • Nausea relief
  • Chemotherapy
  • Pregnancy
  • Bloating and Gas
  • Wear and tear on cells
  • Anti-inflammatory

Glutathione

Glutathione is a tripeptide antioxidant that is vital in protecting the body from damage. It is produced naturally in the body, but levels can decline with age, stress, and poor diet. Toxins and environmental pollutants also deplete glutathione. It can be depleted in people with autoimmune diseases. 

Studies have shown that glutathione supplementation can help to reduce inflammation and improve symptoms in people with autoimmune diseases. For example, one study found that glutathione supplementation reduced inflammation and pain in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Another study found that glutathione supplementation improved gut barrier function and reduced inflammation in people with inflammatory bowel disease.

Here are some tips for taking glutathione supplements:

  • Look for a supplement that contains liposomal glutathione. This will help to improve the absorption of glutathione. 
  • Take glutathione with food to improve absorption.
  • Start with a low dose and increase the dose gradually to avoid side effects.
  • It is important to note that glutathione is generally safe for most people. However, some people may experience side effects such as stomach upset, diarrhea, and headache. If you experience side effects, stop taking the supplement and talk to your doctor.

Glutathione is a promising supplement for people with autoimmune diseases. It has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory properties that can help to reduce inflammation and improve symptoms. If you are considering taking glutathione supplements, be sure to talk to your doctor first.

Food Sources that increase Glutathione

  • Almonds
  • Turmeric
  • Milk Thistle
  • Avocado
  • Okra
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli

Favorite Brand Glutathione supplement

Known Benefits of Glutathione

  • Reduces Oxidative Stress
  • Reduces Cell Damage in Liver Disease
  • Improves Insulin Sensitivity
  • Reduces symptoms of Parkison disease
  • Reduces Ulcerative Colitis Damage
  • May reduce the risk of Autoimmune Disease
  • Regulates cellular events
  • May improve Psoriasis
  • Beneficial for Cystic Fibrosis
  • Supports nutrient metabolism 

N-acetyl cysteine (NAC)

NAC is an amino acid that helps the body to produce glutathione. NAC supplements can be helpful for people with autoimmune diseases with low glutathione levels. Inflammation is a key feature of many autoimmune disorders, and NAC can help to reduce inflammation by scavenging free radicals and neutralizing toxins.

N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) is a precursor to glutathione, a powerful antioxidant that is vital in protecting the body from damage. NAC has also shown anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties, making it a promising supplement for people with autoimmune diseases.

Studies have shown that NAC supplementation can help to reduce inflammation and improve symptoms in people with autoimmune diseases. For example, one study found that NAC supplementation reduced inflammation and pain in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Another study found that NAC supplementation improved lung function and reduced inflammation in people with multiple sclerosis.

Here are some tips for taking NAC supplements:

  • Look for a supplement that contains pure NAC. Some supplements may contain other ingredients that could interact with your medications.
  • Take NAC with food to improve absorption.
  • Start with a low dose and increase the dose gradually to avoid side effects.
  • It is important to note that NAC is generally safe for most people. However, some people may experience side effects such as stomach upset, nausea, and diarrhea. If you experience side effects, stop taking the supplement and talk to your doctor.

NAC is a promising supplement for people with autoimmune diseases. It has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory properties that can help to reduce inflammation and improve symptoms. If you are considering taking NAC supplements, be sure to talk to your doctor first.

Food Sources that increase NAC

  • Lean Pork Chops
  • Skirt Steak Beef
  • Lean Chicken Breast
  • Tuna
  • Lentils
  • Oatmeal
  • Eggs
  • Low-Fat Yogurt
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Swiss Cheese

Favorite Brand NAC Supplement

Known Benefits of NAC

  • Produces glutathione
  • Detoxification
  • Mental Disorders
  • Respiratory Conditions
  • Regulates glutamate
  • May improve fertility
  • Stabilizes food sugar
  • Lowers oxidative damage

Quercetin

Quercetin is a flavonoid with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant properties, and neuroprotective effects. It is a flavonoid compound in many fruits, vegetables, and herbs. It has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and immunomodulatory properties, making it a promising supplement for people with autoimmune diseases. In addition, it can help to reduce inflammation by scavenging free radicals and neutralizing toxins.

Studies have shown that quercetin supplementation can help reduce inflammation and improve symptoms in people with autoimmune diseases. This includes reducing symptoms of many autoimmune diseases, including Rheumatoid arthritis, IBD, and Multiple Sclerosis. Other studies show that it is helpful for people with asthma, allergies, and histamine issues. 

Here are some tips for taking quercetin supplements:

  • Look for a supplement that contains bromelain. Bromelain is an enzyme that helps to improve the absorption of quercetin.
  • Take quercetin with food to improve absorption.
  • Start with a low dose and increase the dose gradually to avoid side effects.
  • It is important to note that quercetin is generally safe for most people. However, some people may experience side effects such as stomach upset, nausea, and headache. If you experience side effects, stop taking the supplement and talk to your doctor.

Food Sources – Quercetin

  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Dark colored grapes
  • Red onions
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Capers
  • Dill
  • Green tea

Favorite Brand NAC Supplement

Known Benefits of Quercetin

  • Fighting free radicals
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Reducing cancer risk
  • Reducing the risk of neurological diseases
  • Relieving allergies
  • Reducing the risk of infections
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Reducing the risk of heart disease
  • Fighting free radicals

Zinc

Zinc is an essential mineral that plays a role in many bodily functions, including immune system function, wound healing, and cell growth and repair. Zinc deficiency is common in people with autoimmune diseases and has been linked to increased inflammation and disease activity.

Zinc has roles in over 300 enzymes and is essential in proliferation, cell communication, and with regulating the immune system. Some of the more common autoimmune diseases associated with zinc include Multiple Sclerosis, Irritable Bowel Disease, and Celiac among many others. 

If you have an autoimmune disease, it is important to talk to your doctor about whether zinc supplementation is proper for you. Your doctor can test your zinc levels and recommend a dosage appropriate for your needs.

Here are some tips for taking zinc supplements:

  • Look for a supplement that contains zinc citrate or zinc gluconate. These forms of zinc are more easily absorbed than other forms of zinc.
  • Take zinc with food to improve absorption.
  • Start with a low dose and increase the dose gradually to avoid side effects.
  • It is important to note that zinc is generally safe for most people. However, taking too much zinc can cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, headaches, cramps, and diarrhea. If you experience side effects, stop taking the supplement and talk to your doctor.

Food Sources – Zinc

  • Meat
  • Shellfish
  • Legumes
  • Seeds
  • Nuts
  • Dairy
  • Eggs

Favorite Brand Zinc Supplement

Known Benefits of Zinc

  • Shortens a cold – boosts the immune system
  • Protects eyesight
  • Lowers blood pressure and cholesterol 
  • Promotes wound healing

Selenium

Selenium is an essential mineral that plays a role in many bodily functions, including the immune system, thyroid, and antioxidant protection. Selenium deficiency is common in people with autoimmune diseases, and it has been linked to increased inflammation and disease activity.

Studies have shown that selenium supplementation can help reduce inflammation and improve symptoms in people with autoimmune diseases. For example, one study found that selenium supplementation reduced inflammation and joint pain in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Another study found that selenium supplementation improved thyroid function and reduced inflammation in people with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Here are some tips for taking selenium supplements:

  • Look for a supplement that contains selenium methionine. This form of selenium is more easily absorbed than other forms of selenium.
  • Take selenium with food to improve absorption.
  • Start with a low dose and increase the dose gradually to avoid side effects.
  • It is important to note that selenium is generally safe for most people. However, taking too much selenium can cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and hair loss. If you experience side effects, stop taking the supplement and talk to your doctor.

Food Sources – Selenium

  • Brazil nuts – Just one is equivalent to an entire day’s serving of selenium
  • Fish
  • Pork
  • Beef
  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Eggs

Favorite Brand Selenium Supplement

Known Benefits of Selenium

  • Supports thyroid health
  • Protects reproductive health
  • It may help with asthma
  • It may protect against cancer

Magnesium

Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a role in many bodily functions, including energy production, muscle and nerve function, and blood pressure regulation. It is also important for immune system function and inflammation control.

Studies have shown that magnesium supplementation can help to reduce inflammation and improve symptoms in people with autoimmune diseases. For example, one study found that magnesium supplementation reduced inflammation and joint pain in people with rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, magnesium has been shown to help with things like sleep, constipation, and energy, boost athletic performance, support blood sugar, and improve PMS symptoms, among others. 

Here are some tips for taking magnesium supplements:

  • Look for a supplement that contains magnesium citrate or magnesium glycinate. These forms of magnesium are more easily absorbed than other forms of magnesium.
  • Take magnesium with food to improve absorption.
  • Start with a low dose and increase the dose gradually to avoid side effects.
  • It is important to note that magnesium is generally safe for most people. However, too much magnesium can cause side effects such as diarrhea and abdominal cramping. If you experience side effects, stop taking the supplement and talk to your doctor.

Food Sources – Magnesium

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Peanuts
  • Caviar
  • Halibut
  • Tuna

Favorite Brand Magnesium Supplement

Known Benefits of Magnesium 

  • Heart health
  • Bone health
  • Metabolic Health
  • Sleep
  • Stress Management
  • Constipation

In addition to the supplements discussed above, several other supplements may benefit people with autoimmune diseases. Some supplements can be taken and react with your medication, while others can be taken in excess, causing other medical issues. It is essential to talk to your doctor before taking any supplements, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking any medications.

One-on-one nutrition counseling session focusing on autoimmune dietary strategies.

About Stephanie

Stephanie has earned the AIP Certified Coach Practitioner certificate, completed her internship at Elevate Health, clinical rotation at NUNM, then went onto open her own practice, Nutrition for Autoimmunity. She graduated from Portland State University and earned a master’s degree in Nutrition from National University of Natural Medicine.

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