Addressing Autoimmunity: 10 Basics

Posted by Healthful Elements Staff

It’s easy to get fixated on details when you have a chronic illness or suffer from autoimmunity. Exactly how much Vitamin D should I take for optimal health? Will taking turmeric, which is one of the most powerful immune modulators and anti-inflammatories, aggravate my ulcer? Do fish oil supplements contain iodine and, if so, should I be careful with supplementation because of my Hashimoto’s? 

[Now available: the #1 best selling cookbook: The Essential Thyroid Cookbook: Over 100 Nourishing Recipes for Thriving with Hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s.]  

Details matter, of course, but when our focus gets too narrow, we can lose sight of the forest for the trees.

And it is the forest, so to speak, where the real magic happens.

All the turmeric in the world won’t move the needle on our health and wellbeing if we haven’t implemented some foundational practices.

For anyone who has done even the most cursory research, those foundations might seem like no-brainers, but they’re so important – and so easy to skimp on in the midst of our busy lives – that they bear repeating.

For today’s post, I’ve gathered some of the foundational practices that Jill and I regard as non-negotiable. Many of these suggestions come directly from materials Jill has written over the years and after working with hundreds of clients (and that I echo frequently in all my writing).

If you start with these, you’ll see dramatic improvements in your health and wellbeing. 

  1. Go completely gluten-free. Not sort of, kind of, sometimes gluten-free, but completely. Beyond the basics of eliminating wheat, barley, and rye, sleuth out the places that gluten isn’t obvious (e.g. many people think that couscous is a rice). Go to to educate yourself on all on the places that gluten hides out.
  2. Eat whole, unprocessed, non-GMO (non-genetically modified) foods, from the earth. Eliminate packaged, refined foods and eliminate or greatly reduce sugar, processed grain flours, and artificial sweeteners.
  3. Supplement wisely. FDA regulations cannot be trusted to guard against all manufacturing errors, changes, or unethical practices that could compromise otherwise safe supplements. Do your research; choose products from respected, reputable producers; and consult with experts. (If you need brand recommendations, we can help by providing access to one of the most trusted distributors of quality supplements. Email us at inquiries [at] healthfulelements [dot] com if you’re interested in buying quality supplementation.)
  4. Take Vitamin D, one of the most powerful immune modulators known. Your levels should never be below 50 ng/mL. Go here for Dr. Frank Lipman’s dosing guideline. (See the heading, “How much Vitamin D do I need?”)
  5. Take a probiotic with a soil-based-organism (SBO). Autoimmunity is correlated with gut dysfunction/gut dysbiosis and probiotics in the form of an SBO not only foster a healthy gut, but are also important for those with autoimmunity. This is one of the few core supplements, along with Vitamin D, that most functional medicine practitioners consider essential. (Again, you can email inquiries [at] healthfulelements [dot] com for our favorite SBO brand.)
  6. Breathe. Deep belly breathing, where you can feel the diagram rise and fall – and feel your belly expand and contract – is one of the most calming practices we have. It’s well established that stress increases the autoimmune response and some research suggests that a regular breathing practice is as powerful as an anti-anxiety drug. Here is one of our favorite breath exercises.
  7. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. It’s important to use a good filter remove impurities like metals, fluoride, and chlorine.
  8. Fiber. Eat a lot of it to keep your system clean.
  9. Balance your blood sugar. The importance of this simply cannot be underestimated. If you’re prone to dysglycemia and blood sugar dysregulation, all bets are off in regulating other hormones, mitigating the stress response, and managing autoimmunity.
  10. Sleep. Sleep like it’s your job, even if this means nine, ten, or more hours. The body heals when we sleep. Among other problems, lack of sleep fires up our adrenal stress hormones, leading to further hormonal and immune imbalances.
Posted by Healthful Elements Staff


Thank you for the great info.

You’re welcome. We’re so glad it’s helpful!

As always, thank you. Your posts are SO helpful.

Thanks, Roselle. SO glad you find them helpful. And Happy Halloween!

Could you advise me about the best SBO brands and where to get them? Thank you . Ana.

Dear Laine,

I'm feeling really confused about immune-modulation. My doctors have consistently refused to test for thyroid antibodies, despite the fact that my hypothyroidism remains unmodulated by levothyroxine alone after 12 years. (No surprises there!) I find that I am very prone to picking up infections (colds, 'flus), get really unwell with them, and have a hard time getting over them - perhaps because of low adrenal function (saliva cortisol says "yes", my doctors say saliva tests don't count and blood cortisol says "no.") My instinct is that my immunity is sub-optimal and needs to be improved, and of course there are products designed to enhance immunity. But if my immunity is boosted won't that make potential autoimmunity worse? (There's no such thing as a stupid question ... I hope!)

I am taking 1000 IU (25 mcg D3 every day, because my vitamin D levels were lower than my endo wanted them to be, and I've been looking at this product. I've asked them to clarify what they mean by "existing immune-related conditions" and am waiting to hear back. But do you have any views in the meantime?

What is the truth behind poor immunity to infection combined with autoimmunity. Does the fact that I have the former mean that I cannot possibly have the latter? 

I never understand about products which are said to modulate the adrenal response (eg Ashwaghanda), either.

If there are posts here which might help me, can you point me in the right direction, please?

Wishing you health.


I’m so sorry to hear about your health challenges — and the sometimes contradictory advice and information you’ve encountered. It can be really time-consuming and confusing to try to piece everything together.

Modulating the immune system is always multifactorial and individual, so it would be unethical for us to give specific advice to anyone we don’t have a coach-client relationship with. But we try to provide reliable, comprehensive, and up-to-date information in our blog. Please feel free to use the search field on our blog to learn more. Take good care, Laine

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