The Ideal Anti-inflammatory Diet is... not what you're expecting...
Updated: Feb 6
The Paleo Diet? The Alkaline Diet? The Blood Type Diet? AIP Diet? The Candida Diet? The Keto-genic Diet?
The answer is surprisingly simple and yet very complex. The ideal anti-inflammatory for you... is completely UNIQUE to you and you alone.
This may seem a vague and frustrating answer to hear at first, but I will explain to you in simple terms what this means and how you can “unlock” and find your ideal metabolic and anti-inflammatory diet. The diet programs mentioned above are the current, “in vogue” plans on the market today. Many of them have great followings backed up by incredible testimonials and convincing research and rationales. Unfortunately many who try to follow these programs don’t experience the results they are seeking or the results as promised by the programs. There is a very simple reason why these programs seldom fit the mold for all who use them, and it’s essentially the same reason for each program. The dietary triggers for inflammation in our bodies, are completely unique to each and every one of us. What may be a healthy and anti-inflammatory food for one person, can be an allergic and inflammatory food for another individual. Inflammation in the body is created by the immune system. When we are talking about dietary programs to reduce inflammation we need to understand how foods can trigger inflammation. The details on how this process occurs can be found in these three articles:
To explain it in short form, our immune system (white blood cells, T cells, B cells, and cytokines) react to and produce antibodies against very specific foods in our diets. These antibodies are the mediators for the inflammatory responses in our bodies. The critical point here is that each individual with different genes/DNA will have immune system reactions against different foods. There is a genetic basis for what we are allergic to, and since all our DNA and genes are completely unique; our food reactions will be completely unique. This can make some food choices healthy for some of us, and inflammatory and unhealthy for others. A pineapple can be wonderful for digestion and inflammation in someone who isn’t allergic to pineapple, but can worsen digestion and promote inflammation someone who is allergic to it. It’s the individual and unique immune responses to foods which we all have that make these generic, one size fits all dietary programs ineffective for may who try them. Lets look at some specific example of this. The Paleo Diet Basics of the Paleo suggest the following… - eat a diet high in animal proteins such as poultry, pork, beef and eggs - reduce dairy with the exception of fermented dairy products, heavy cream, and clarified butter - reduce nuts and fruits, except those high in healthy fats and anti-oxidants (berries) - reduce legumes and grains, and simple carbohydrates There are some obvious and healthy concepts in this type of program. Reducing carbohydrates, increasing healthy fats and increasing proteins are generally accepted as healthy suggestions by most health professionals. So why am I suggesting there might be issues with this program? The following image shows the ELISA food allergy test results for a patient with Fibromyalgia (fascial inflammation covering the muscles). This patient (as do most patients with inflammatory disorders) also had a significant history of digestion issues (constipation, bloating and abdominal discomfort) and significant fatigue and anxiety issues.
The test shows levels of antibodies circulating in her blood stream to the foods shown. These antibodies are produced when white blood cells bind to and attack dietary proteins that enter the blood stream. In other words, these antibodies indicate a type of allergic and inflammatory reaction to the foods as indicated. Many people suggest these responses are food sensitivities and not true food allergies. By definition, an allergic reaction is the binding of a white blood cell to an antigen and a subsequent inflammatory response. Since antibodies are produced by white blood cells called T Cells, binding to to antigens and then producing antibodies, these are in fact food allergies. This lady’s unique food allergy profile shows significant allergic / inflammatory reactions to dairy protein, eggs, bananas, berries, pineapple, and almonds. It’s very easy to see that a dietary program promoting cultured dairy protein, eggs, berries and almonds will not serve this patient very well from an anti-inflammatory point of view. The basic Paleo dietary plan will not serve this patient well at all. The next image shows the food allergy results for male patient with a severe psoriasis and significant digestive issues. You will see his immune / allergic profile is completely different than the lady with fibromyalgia. Both of these patients had significant inflammatory disorders but had completely different dietary triggers for their inflammation. This patient had significant immune / allergic reactions to citrus, nuts and grains and gluten.
Two patients with significant inflammatory disorders, but with completely different immunological inflammatory reactions to food. The Paleo dietary recommendations might help the man with psoriasis because it just happens to fit (by accident) his inflammatory food profile. He can eat eggs, meats, dairy and berries as recommended and since he is not allergic to these foods they won’t aggravate him. The diet also happens to recommend he avoid grains, nuts and citrus so he will remove the dietary triggers for his inflammations and he will likely improve. The success of the Paleo program and any of these generic anti-inflammatory programs is dependent on the immunological “luck of the draw” for the patient. If the patient gets lucky, and the programs dietary recommendations happen to eliminate the patients unique dietary triggers for the inflammation then he or she will likely experience improvements. If patients have multiple dietary triggers and the program only removes one or two of them, then they will only have partial response to the program. And if the program doesn’t hit on any of the patients unique dietary triggers, they are likely to no experience any response at all. Let’s look at another example.
The Acid Alkaline diet program. There are many different programs available that are designed to increase alkalinity in the body, reduce acidity and therefore decrease inflammation. The premise is that acidity in the body creates inflammation and if we can “buffer” the acidity with alkaline forming foods we can reduce inflammation.
There is no doubt that acidity and inflammation are associated in the body, but which comes first is like the chicken or the egg debate. Does acidity create inflammation in the body or does inflammation create acidity? The latter is usually the case. Inflammation leads to acidity. This is important to understand when trying to create a program to counter the acidity and inflammation in the body. If we eat a food that we are allergic to and we become inflamed because of that allergy, we will become acidic. The Alkaline diet programs try to offset the acidity caused by the food allergy, by eating other foods which are “alkaline” forming. Why wouldn’t you just stop eating the food that caused the inflammation and acidity in the first place? Since we are all “allergic” to different food profiles, what foods will be acid forming and alkaline forming will be completely unique to each of us. Basics of many of the acid/alkaline forming diets are to eat a diet low in animal fats and meats. High fruit and vegetable intake such as Apple, Banana, Berries, Cantaloupe, Grapes, Melon, Lemon, Orange, Peach, Pear, Watermelon. Almonds are also considered a highly alkalinizing food for this program. Based on the two food allergy profiles shown previously, you can see how this type of program may not work. The patient with psoriasis had a significant Almond and Citrus allergy and these foods are suggested to be alkalinizing for everyone on the program. The lady with fibromyalgia had significant dairy, egg, and almond allergies. The alkaline diet suggests she should avoid dairy which would benefit her. But it also suggested that egg whites and almonds are alkalinizing for her. These are allergic foods for her, and therefore would have an acidic affect on her. The Blood Type diet. This dietary program is based on the theory that compounds called lectins in the diet, interact act with our blood cells and cause disruption in systems by causing “sticking” between the dietary lectins and our blood cells. It also suggests that various blood types haves evolved to function best with certain dietary patterns. It suggests blood type “A” people have lower stomach acid and therefore should eat less animal proteins and focus more on whole grains. Blood type “O” people have higher amounts of stomach acid and therefore do better on diets higher in heavy animal based proteins and lower in whole grains. I will use myself as an example of how this “one size fits all” dietary program has some significant wholes from an inflammation point of view. I am a blood type “A” individual, and therefore should be a high whole grain and low animal protein eater. When I did ELISA food allergy testing, the only significant allergic responses that showed on my test were the grain family and yeast products. Wheat, Gluten, Corn, Rice, bakers and brewers yeast, etc. I showed no response on testing to Dairy or any meat proteins. I have psoriasis which is an autoimmune inflammatory condition of the skin. When I avoid the grain family foods and yeast raised or fermented foods my psoriasis essentially goes away. When I cheat on my diet, it comes back. These blood type “A” foods actually trigger inflammation in me, a blood type “A” individual. I have seen many blood type “O” patients who test positive on ELISA testing to Dairy, Eggs and other foods suggested to healthy for blood type “O” people. You can have ten people lined up on the wall, all with the exact same inflammatory condition. And all ten people can have completely unique food allergy profiles. So the ideal anti-inflammatory diet program for each of those ten patients will be completely unique to each individual. The image below shows the ELISA testing results for two patients with Rheumatoid Arthritis. You can see one patient’s inflammatory food profile is highlighted by reactions for Dairy, Eggs, and Almonds while the other patient’s food reactions are Banana, Pineapple, Almonds and the Grain family of foods. Can you see that one generic diet program is unlikely to address the inflammatory food profiles for both of these patients with the same condition
The issues I raise above can be seen with most generic diet plans available today. Whether they be for inflammatory disorders, metabolic disorders such as hypothyroidism or adrenal fatigue, for weight loss programs, etc. Their is not ONE ideal diet for everyone with the same issue. The ideal diet for each person’s health issues, is completely unique to them. “The Perceived Ideal Healthy Diet” I have many patients come to the office extremely frustrated that they are feeling the way they do, in spite of what they think is a very healthy diet. By understanding this unique aspect to what we are reactive to, you can begin to understand why there is NO ONE ideal or healthy diet. We have to rethink what we perceive as a “healthy diet”. Most would think of yogurt, granola and fruit as a healthy breakfast. But what if someone has a dairy, egg or fruit allergy? Most would think of Almonds, nuts and seeds, fruit, or cheese as healthy mid meal snacks but again what if you have a nut, fruit or dairy allergy? We are told that whole grains are a great source of fibre and healthy for us, but what if we have a gluten or grain allergy? We are told that beans are a high protein food alternative for vegetarians and vegans, but what if that vegetarian has a legume allergy? We have to think of ideal diets on an individual basis rather than for the masses. Common Food Allergens The list of most common food allergens will likely surprise you. When people go to the internet and begin the process of self-diagnosis for their health issues and dietary issues, the first food that tends to get mass marketed as the root cause for many and most conditions is Gluten. I have tested hundreds of patients over the years and abnormal gluten and gliadin antibody reactions show up on less than 20% of the tests I have performed. Many people present to my clinic with a myriad of health issues, and then tell me they are gluten intolerant or allergic. Many tell me they avoid it completely. The obvious question for these people is that if they are allergic to gluten and are avoiding it, why are they still feeling unwell? The usual case is that it was mis-diagnosed and that it’s usually another food or foods that are the root cause of their concerns. The most common food reactions seen an allergy testing are as follows and in the order of most common to least common (as seen on ELISA food allergy testing) Dairy protein (>85% of tests) Eggs Latex mimicking fruits (Banana, Pineapple, Berries, Citrus, Melon) Bakers and Brewers Yeast Gluten, Gliadin and Grains Nuts and seeds (Almonds, Peanuts, Sesame Seeds) Legumes When we begin to understand this immune system individuality concept, we can begin to unravel and understand how our diet is affecting our health and then how to resolve these issues.
Do you know someone suffering with inflammation issues? Please share this article with them and help them unravel their inflammatory problems.