Part 1 of this article series (Volume 28, Issue 2) discussed how to eat an anti-inflammatory diet. Specific diseases and diets for specific diseases were not discussed. The goal with the anti-inflammatory diet is straightforward…the goal is to create an anti-inflammatory state, that is, to reduce the inflammatory potential of our tissues. This is a very important dietary goal, as chronic inflammation is the cause of nearly every degenerative disease, such as cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease.
With the above in mind, whenever I am asked about the best diet for treating a specific disease, my answer is the anti-inflammatory diet. In other words, apply the same diet for all diseases. This approach clears up clinical nutrition/diet applications for some, and leads to confusion for others. My perception is that the confusion stems from the “drug therapy” programming we undergo throughout our lives.
We, and our patients, are conditioned to believe that we can effectively treat and eliminate various diseases with drugs and surgery. In other words, we are programmed to believe that we can take drug X to cure disease X. Because we are programmed to think this way, we reflexively think that special diet X should cure disease X, and special diet Z should cure disease Z. The problem with this approach is that drugs and surgery rarely cure diseases, which means that we should abandon the application of this thinking to other interventions.
We need to remember that we are limited to only a handful of foods, so how can there really be special, individual diets for specific diseases? When it comes to dietary choices, we can eat fruits, vegetables, nuts, omega-3 eggs, fish, and other omega-3 animal proteins…the anti-inflammatory foods man has consumed for thousands of years. Or, we can replace these foods with more modern and pro-inflammatory foods, such as soy, grains, flour products, modern dairy products, refined sugar foods, and salty packaged foods.
So, if you have patients with back pain, diabetes, migraine headaches, and any other disease, there are two dietary choices. Patients can eat either an anti-inflammatory diet, or a pro-inflammatory diet. Keep it this simple: foods will either promote or reduce the expression of inflammation. Make your pick and choose wisely.
Consider the diet that British researchers came up with for preventing heart disease; they estimate a 75% percent reduction in heart disease expression when individuals follow what they called the polymeal.1 The polymeal program simply represents anti-inflammatory eating; the recommended foods included fish, vegetables, garlic, fruit, nuts, red wine, and dark chocolate. When a similar eating program is applied to patients with rheumatoid arthritis, there is a significant reduction in pain and disability.2
For the past twenty years, I have been reading the literature related to inflammation-disease, nutrition-inflammation, and nutrition-disease. Every month, more and more is published that clearly establishes a nutrition-inflammation-disease connection. The amount of research in this field is actually shocking. Researchers are finding that fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, and healthy omega-3 meat and eggs should be the staples of a healthy diet. Veering from this foundation leads to trouble; that is, inflammation and disease.
In summary, I get many questions about what one should eat for various conditions…and the answer is always the same. Eat the anti-inflammatory diet described in Part 1, which echoes the recommendations for the polymeal. Keep it simple; don’t complicate your diet and the eating process. Anti-inflammatory eating is the best shot we have at reducing the expression of inflammation and disease; and, fortunately, anti-inflammatory eating is not at all complicated.
Dr. Seaman is the Clinical Chiropractic Consultant for Anabolic Laboratories, one of the first supplement manufacturers to service the chiropractic profession. He is on the postgraduate faculties of several chiropractic colleges, providing nutrition seminars that focus on the needs of the chiropractic patient. He is also a faculty member at Palmer College of Chiropractic Florida, where he teaches nutrition and subluxation theories. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected].
1. Franco OH, Bonneux L, de Laet C, Peeters A, Steyerberg EW, Mackenbach JP. The Polymeal: a more natural, safer, and probably tastier (than the Polypill) strategy to reduce cardiovascular disease by more than 75%. Brit Med J. 2004; 329:1447-50.
2. Kjeldsen-Kragh J, Haugen M, Borchgrevink CF, Laerum E, Eek M, Mowinkel P, Hovi K, Forre O. Controlled trial of fasting and one-year vegetarian diet in rheumatoid arthritis. Lancet. 1991; 338:899-902.