ONS Vice-President Julie Poteet, OD, MS, CNS, FONS Speaks at Recent AAO

ONS Vice-President Julie Poteet, OD, MS, CNS, FONS Speaks at Recent AAO

ANAHEIM, Calif. – The autoimmune formula is made up of a patient’s genes, infections, the microbiome/gut and environment, according to Julie Poteet, OD, MS, CNS, FONS, at the Ocular Nutrition Society, held meeting prior to the American Academy of Optometry annual meeting.

How these factors interact can create an environment for disease or health. While genes cannot be changed, “We can influence those genes and the way they’re expressed through the microbiome and infections and the environment,” she said.

Poteet is passionate about using scientifically based targeted nutritional therapies to address underlying systemic imbalances in disease.

Autoimmune diseases are the third leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the industrialized world, she said, surpassed only by cancer and heart disease. She added that worldwide incidence has been increasing dramatically since World War II.

The nutritional modulation of autoimmunity takes a functional medicine approach, which treats the body as a whole organism rather than simply a collection of organs, she explained.

“The risk severity of autoimmune disease can be influenced through food,” Poteet added. The role of the gastrointestinal track in autoimmunity cannot be overstated as, “70% to 80% of immune cells in the body exist in the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT),” she said.

She recommends many dietary changes to feed the microbiome and reduce inflammation, allergy and autoimmunity.

“We can favorably influence the number and function of immune cells by using nutrients,” she said.

Poteet discussed zonulin, a newly discovered protein that has been shown to reversibly regulate intestinal permeability by modulating intercellular tight junctions. Zonulin expression is augmented in autoimmune conditions associated with tight junctions dysfunction, including celiac disease, type 1 diabetes, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, inflammatory joint disease and many other conditions.

Poteet recommends removing gluten in non-celiac autoimmune disorders, as it can increase intestinal permeability, promote formation of circulating immune complexes and is inherently proinflammatory, she said.

Her second intervention is to “eat for a healthy microbiome,” which includes increasing consumption of plant foods. She also recommends fermented foods such as kefir, yogurt, raw sauerkraut, kimchi, fermented vegetables and kombucha. Processed food with high sugar and those with high, unhealthy fats should be avoided.

Removing cow’s milk is Poteet’s third dietary intervention. Cow’s milk “has been found to be pro-inflammatory and is actually given to create animal models of aging,” she said.

Lastly, Poteet highlighted supplements. “My BEST PLAID FIG” is an acronym created by Alex Vasquez, MD, from the International College of Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine based on his nutritional immunomodulation program. Which stands for:

1. Mitochondrial optimization

2. Biotin

3. E-vitamin

4. Sodium avoidance

5. Transgenic food avoidance

6. Probiotics

7. Lipoic acid

8. A-vitamin

9. Infection/dysbiosis clearing

10. D-vitamin

11. Fatty acids: EPA-DHA and GLA

12. II-6 reduction: create overall anti-inflammatory milieu for Regulatory T cells induction

13. Green tea

“Every time you eat or drink, you are either feeding disease or fighting it,” Poteet said.

She concluded that the industry is uncovering the tip of the iceberg in understanding the impact that commensal microbes have on the body. – by Abigail Sutton


Poteet J. Nutritional modulation of autoimmunity. Presented at: Ocular Nutrition Society Annual Meeting. November 7, 2016. Anaheim, Calif.

Disclosure: Poteet reported no relevant financial disclosures.


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