NOHA Speaker Jack Challem,1 "The Nutrition Reporter," has written and spoken on The Inflammation Syndrome.2 He points out that a great many diseases, including our most deadly heart disease, plus arthritis, diabetes, allergies, asthma, and some cancers, all involve inflammation. Diet is the basic cause of all these painful and often deadly conditions.
. . . to balance the essential fatty acids and reduce the omega-6 oils in our diet, we need to stop using the processed foods . . .
Our ancient ancestors developed on the Paleolithic diet and genetically we have really not changed since our healthy hunter-gatherer forebears lived on abundant fish, game, vegetables, nuts, and fruit. The poorer health of our agricultural ancestors has been thoroughly documented. Challem points out that two more revolutions - the industrial revolution and finally now the "convenience/fast-food revolution" - have exacerbated the deleterious effects of an increasingly bad diet.
In discussing inflammation we need first to concentrate on the essential fatty acids, specifically certain ones in the omega-3 and omega-6 families, which are the basic dietary causes of, on the one hand, inflammation and, on the other, controlling inflammation. In NOHA we have had great speakers and articles on the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.3 We know that both families have to be obtained from our food. Both are essential and our bodies are completely unable to convert a member of the omega-6 family into a member of the omega-3 family and visa versa. Arachidonic acid (AA), a long-chain omega-6 fatty acid, produces very fast acting eicosanoids (also called prostaglandins) that produce inflammation. On the other hand, eicosapentanoic acid (EPA), a long-chain omega-3 fatty acid, produces different eicosanoids that control and modulate inflammation. When our ancient ancestors were developing, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids was about one-to-one. Now, with our convenience food diet, we are saddled with a ratio of twenty- or thirty-to-one. In other words, we are eating foods that greatly exacerbate inflammation. No wonder we are suffering from an epidemic of awful diseases that involve inflammation!
. . . a great many diseases, including our most deadly heart disease, plus arthritis, diabetes, allergies, asthma, and some cancers, all involve inflammation.
To begin to balance the essential fatty acids and reduce the omega-6 oils in our diet, we need to stop using the processed foods, which are loaded with vegetable oils that are high in omega-6 fatty acids and many even contain "trans fats" whenever the package lists "partially hydrogenated" in tiny print. The latter are even more deleterious than any natural fat, including the saturated fats.4 To increase the omega-3 fatty acids, especially EPA, we want to consume cold-water, wild-caught fish, which will supply us with EPA and also DHA (the "neural" fatty acid.5) in delicious form. The oil in plant seeds, including the grains and legumes, contains predominantly omega-6 fatty acids; the green leaves and stems contain omega-3 fatty acids.
Whenever we are injured or whenever we are fighting an infection - for our protection - our immune systems produce inflammation. However, the inflammation should be curtailed - it should last just long enough to help us. Unfortunately, if our bodies are not producing enough of the molecules from omega-3 fatty acids for modulating the inflammation, it may continue. The very process of inflammation also produces many damaging free radicals, which will trigger more immune reactions and inflammation, if they are not quenched by antioxidants. Vitamins C and E are powerful antioxidants. They are MUCH TOO LOW in the American diet.
Challem points out that:
Vegetables and many fruits are the best dietary source of antioxidants, which help to dampen overactive immune responses. Contrary to popular opinion, most of these antioxidants are not vitamins. The lion's share are a large family of vitamin-like nutrients known as polyphenolic flavonoids.
More than five thousand flavonoids (one subfamily among polyphenols) have been identified in plants. Quercetin, one particular anti-inflammatory flavonoid, is found in apples and onions. A small apple (about 3.5 oz) contains approximately 5.7 mg of vitamin C, but more than 500 mg of antioxidant polyphenols and flavonoids, which together are equivalent to 1,500 mg of vitamin C.
Protein consumption in Paleolithic times from animals, including fish and sea food, is calculated to have been considerably higher than our protein consumption from all sources today. "There is no evidence of an entirely vegetarian or even mostly vegetarian hunter-gatherer society."
Challem points out that vegetables in Paleolithic times "were more akin to nutrient-packed kale than to iceberg lettuce; and uncultivated fruits looked more like crabapples and rose hips than supersweet pears and bananas."
Protein consumption in Paleolithic times from animals, including fish and sea food, is calculated to have been considerably higher than our protein consumption from all sources today. "There is no evidence of an entirely vegetarian or even mostly vegetarian hunter-gatherer society." Protein is the essential food for building our bodies "-- that is, our muscles, organs, glands, and to a great extent, our bones and teeth. The components of protein are also needed by the body to synthesize DNA [the carrier of our genetic information], hormones, neurochemicals, and other biochemicals, including those involved in pro- and anti-inflammatory reactions."
Our Paleolithic ancestors consumed a great variety of foods. However, evidence shows that they did not bother much with grains, which are hard and need to be ground up and cooked. Why bother, when so much else was available!
Now agribusiness -- with its huge monoculture fields -- presents us with one crop, which is processed into many different packages with a variety of pictures on the boxes. However -- inside all of them -- we just have, for example, only one strain of corn dressed up with lots of cheap flavorings. On the other hand, ancient farmers developed many varieties of corn from wild plants.
. . . when farmers started to grow grains, so that we would have enough to eat, we were suddenly exposed to a much more monotonous diet.
When fish and game became depleted and when farmers started to grow grains, so that we would have enough to eat, we were suddenly exposed to a much more monotonous diet. Plant seeds contain lectins, some of which can contribute to autoimmune diseases because their partially broken down molecules can escape our gut and then confront our tissues and organs with a shape sufficiently similar to some of our own molecules that our immune system starts to attack (molecular mimicry6) our own tissues. Unfortunately, when this occurs, we get chronic inflammation.
Challem discusses many diseases and conditions caused and/or exacerbated by chronic inflammation - a few examples:
Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease. In this case, the immune system attacks the joint cartilage. "In the past people often obtained the building blocks of cartilage by chewing meat down to the bone, eating gristle attached to meat, or by making soups with bones. Boiling the bones in water releases glucosamine and chondroitin, which are consumed as part of the soup. Research has shown that these substances migrate after digestion to cartilage tissues in people."
Dental inflammation, including gingivitis, periodontitis, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) syndrome all involve chronic inflammation and can lead to other diseases. "At a recent International Academy of Dental Research meeting evidence was presented that people with periodontal disease are 2.7 times more likely to suffer a heart attack than those with healthy gingiva." 7
Heart disease is complicated. However, inflammatory injury to the artery walls certainly seems to be involved, along with the concomitant nutritional deficiencies that fail to quench the inflammation.
Now agribusiness -- with its huge monoculture fields -- presents us with one crop, which is processed into many different packages with a variety of pictures on the boxes.
Food allergies and addictions, as well as inhalant allergies, need to be checked because they can easily result in chronic inflammation. Asthma has been greatly increasing. Challem has a striking metaphor: "Like a fish that does not realize it is living in polluted waters, many people with asthma and many allergists don't understand that they are essentially swimming in a polluted diet." He continues: "The modern diet, which is high in pro-inflammatory omega-6 and trans fatty acids and low in antioxidants sets the stage for asthmatic reactions. In effect, asthma is one of many diseases of modern civilization and modern eating habits."
Summing up, Challem states: "Inflammation
is what causes the pain of arthritis, the discomfort of allergies, the wheezing
of asthma, and the stiffness from overusing your muscles. Inflammation also
underlies the most devastating and catastrophic diseases: heart disease, Alzheimer's
disease, and many forms of cancer."
He gives careful, detailed advice on helpful nutrients and sets out his anti-inflammation diet plan and supplement plan. Changing one's diet is, of course, the most fundamental. He points out the devastating failures of people, who just buy some fine supplements and go on eating their junk food. Encouraging change, he tries to make his recipes simple. (Since I know the rotation diet,8 I'm familiar with much simpler ones! MF) He points out that one needs to plan ahead.
An overriding recommendation is that
we should look for foods that are, if possible, fresh and also actual real whole
foods. For example:
"A carrot looks like a carrot, which carrot juice (devoid of fiber) does not.
"An apple looks like an apple, which applesauce and apple juice do not.
"A baked potato looks like a potato, which French fries (boiled in hydrogenated or oxidized oils) do not.
"In practice, avoid any food that does not resemble what it looked like as it was growing or being raised. (The exceptions are foods that have just been cut up or prepared in a food processor or blender.)"
The diet steps are excellent:
The Anti-Inflammation Syndrome Diet
1. Eat a variety of fresh and whole foods.
2. Eat more fish, especially cold-water varieties.
3. Eat lean meats (not corn fed) from free-range chicken and turkey, grass-fed cattle and buffalo, and game meat, such as duck and ostrich.
4. Eat a lot of vegetables, the more colorful the better.
5. Use spices and herbs to flavor foods; and limit your use of salt and pepper.
6. Use olive oil as your primary cooking oil.
7. Avoid conventional cooking oils such as corn, safflower, sunflower, and soybean oil, as well as vegetable shortening, margarine, and partially hydrogenated oils.
8. Identify and avoid food allergens.
9. Avoid or strictly limit your intake of food products that contain sugars, such as sucrose or high-fructose corn syrup.
10. Avoid or limit your intake of refined grains.
11. Limit your intake of dairy products.
12. Snack on nuts and seeds.
13. When thirsty, drink water.
14. Whenever possible, buy and eat organically raised foods.
15. To lose weight, reduce both carbohydrates and calories.
In the appendixes Challem gives helpful references for finding products and for getting medical tests to assess inflammation.
Finally, Challem gives us his food
pyramid, emphasizing non-starch or low-starch vegetables (6 to 10 daily servings),
fish (1to 3 daily servings), lean meats or game meats (1 to 2 daily servings).
Grains, sugars, and dairy are way up in the peak, hopefully to be avoided or
at least restricted.
1You can purchase NOHA video and audio tapes of Jack Challem: "The Inflammation Syndrome," #200, October 2003, and "Syndrome X: Diet Plan for Insulin Resistance," #181, October, 2000.
2Challem, Jack, The Inflammation Syndrome: The Complete Nutritional Program to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease, Arthritis, Diabetes, Allergies, and Asthma, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2003.
3NOHA video and audio tapes: "Fats, Oils, Cholesterol, and Disease: Separating Fact From Fiction," by Mary Enig, PhD, #116, March 1992; "The Omega Plan," #169, October 1998, and "The Mediterranean Diets," #190, May 2002, both by Artemis Simopoulos, MD; plus many articles in NOHA NEWS.
4See Dr. Mary Enig's tape listed above; a review of her lecture in NOHA NEWS, "Fats, Oils, and Disease," Summer 1992; [link] and "Margarine or Butter?" by Marjorie Fisher, Fall 1988 [link].
5NOHA video and audio tape: "Essential Fatty Acids for the Brain and Heart," by Michael A. Crawford, PhD, #161, April 1997; NOHA NEWS: "Food: The Driving Force of Evolution," Fall 1991 [link], and "Why Is DHA Essential for Our Brains and Eyes?" Fall 2003 [link].
6 NOHA NEWS, "Dangerous Grains," Spring 2003 [link].
7"Relationships Between Oral Health and Medical Conditions," by Seymour L. Gottlieb, DDS, NOHA NEWS, Fall 1998 [link].
8 NOHA NEWS, "The Fish and Game Diet," by Marjorie Fisher, Fall 1986 [link].
Article from NOHA NEWS,
Vol. XXIX, No. 1, Winter 2004, pages 1-3.