Sarcoidosis is a relatively rare autoimmune disorder (the body attacks its own organs as if they were foreign). As an autoimmune disease, sarcoidosis (sarcoid) is similar to R.A. and lupus in how it behaves and how it is treated. Despite a century of research there is still not enough known about sarcoidosis, however the lungs are affected in more than 90% patients with it. Pulmonologists are usually called to take care of patients with sarcoidosis. It is difficult to study the genetic changes and inflammatory mediators present in sarcoid granulomas of people. Research is therefore concentrating on animal studies.
In sarcoidosis, the immune system starts to attack the body’s own tissues, forming small lumps called granulomas. These are like small scars that interfere with the normal function of the organs attacked by the disease. Even after treatment the scarring may remain and can continue to have some effect on organ function. Some patients with sarcoidosis of the lungs may go in to remission. For the remainder, it is considered to be chronic, never going completely into remission even with treatment. Ongoing treatment can have an impact on normal life, from side effects to scheduling regular visits to receive one’s treatment. The disease, however, is very individual; each person shows a unique collection of symptoms.
What are the Symptoms of Sarcoidosis?
The symptoms of sarcoidosis vary depending on which part of the body is affected. Less than half of the people who have sarcoidosis need any treatment. The most common symptoms affect the lungs, skin, eyes and liver.
What is the Cause?
The cause of sarcoidosis is still unknown. The reason why the body attacks healthy tissues and organs has not been found. It is currently felt that sarcoid develops due to a faulty immune response in genetically predisposed individuals after exposure to outside stimuli. The genetic factors and the environmental triggers are still poorly understood.
Tests that assist in Sacrcoidosis Diagnosis
Elevated antinuclear antibodies (ANAs)
Elevated rheumatoid factor (RF)
Elevated creatine phosphokinase (CPK) and CPK-MB levels
Elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR)
Low white blood cell counts
Elevated liver enzymes, especially alkaline phosphatase
Acid-alkaline foods: Shifting the diet more toward alkaline-forming foods is very healthful in any case, and can be especially beneficial for autoimmune health issues.
Sugar: One of the biggest culprits. In addition to being highly acidic, it uses up exactly the vitamins and minerals the autoimmune disease sufferer needs most. Sugar also makes the blood sugar bounce around, which can aggravate the condition. Some people have experienced a relapse from a single helping of sugar foods. Stevia and raw honey in small amounts are the best source of sweeteners.
Fats and oils are used by the body to make prostaglandins, some of which are powerfully anti-inflammatory. The person with sarcoidosis needs cold-pressed oils, and the special fats found in high quality yogurt, kefir and in moderation, raw butter.
Nuts are detrimental to some people, but peanuts and other legumes are very helpful. Raw and organic, soaked and dehydrated are the best. For peanut butter, I highly recommend Maranatha.
Plants in the nightshade family contain a chemical called solamine, which is very irritating to the body. Avoiding these foods brings some people tremendous relief. These plants are potatoes, tomatoes, green peppers, eggplant, and tobacco. Tobacco and tomatoes seem to be the worst; later, when you are feeling better, you can try eggplant, green peppers, and the inside of potatoes (not the skin). Note: when a potato sprouts, solamine content in the entire potato rises.
Citrus is irritating to most autoimmune disorders.
Pineapple and papaya, which are high in beneficial digestive enzymes, can be helpful. This also applies to the supplement Aalfalfa.
Food allergies may be a major factor. The most common culprit is milk, followed by wheat, gluten, eggs, corn, and pork. However, any food can cause the problem. (Your nutritionist can help you find the offending food). If you have a relapse due to a food, bear in mind that it can take as long as five days to experiencing a reaction. This is especially true of pork.
Minerals in foods: Lack of calcium or too much phosphorous can activate the parathyroid gland, which pulls calcium from your bones and deposits it around the joints. It’s very important to keep your phosphorous intake low. The highest phosphorous foods are carbonated beverages and red meats. Calcium is also bound up by foods high in oxalic acid (asparagus, raw spinach, raw chard and the water from cooked spinach).
Alcohol greatly aggravates autoimmune health issues. In addition to being highly acidic, it also uses up B vitamins and magnesium, two very important nutrients.
Reducing salt intake reduces pain for many people. Salt is known to irritate the nerve endings, increasing sensitivity to pain.
Tumeric has been found to be effective against acute and chronic pain. It appears to block inflammation pathways. Ginger also has anti-inflammatory properties. Add turmeric while cooking brown rice, and add fresh ginger to soups.
- Sour Apples
- Sour cherries
- Cold-pressed oils
- Raw cottage cheese
- Yogurt (Alta-Dena, Brown Cow)
- Red Meat
- Refined grains
- Green Peppers
- Carbonated Beverages
- Raw Spinach
Sarcoidosis and other auto immune disease sufferers may see great help in taking supplementation accompanied by a very healthful lifestyle. Here are some suggestions of supplements, which should be introduced very gradually and monitored by the nutritionist.
To increase lung health and immunity without effecting autoimmune disorders
A natural anti-inflammatory. Vitamin A and D some of the important nutrients for lung tissue along with vitamin C.
Very important for a properly working immune system and healthy lung tissue.
1. Ballin, Dr. Annemaria. Personal communication. January 2010
2. Shoman, Mary J. Living Well with Autoimmune Disease. HarperResource 2002.