Many people are experimenting with anti-inflammatory diets as a way to decrease their risks.
First it was Low Carb, then Paleo, and now Keto-genic diets are being hailed as the best diet for improving health.
While these kinds of dietary changes are promoted widely as being anti-inflammatory for a growing number of people these diets might actually do more harm than good.
I’ve recently learned two important reasons the entire concept of inflammation has to be re-examined and why, even people eating what you’d think of as a very anti-inflammatory diet, continue to have pain, digestive problems and fatigue. So even if you are feeling oh so much better doing what you are doing I urge you to keep reading…
1. Food is translated into information inside the body
Food is broken down into substances that become messages inside the body. You and me may both eat the same organic strawberries, but your body and my body processes the nutritional and chemical “messages” in the strawberries somewhat differently.
- Each person has a unique biological, chemical and physiological identity that interprets food messages in a specific and distinctly individualized way.
- Your body then communicates those messages across many metabolic pathways. These pathways are dependent upon cellular signaling.
- Healthy cellular signaling is dependent upon the action of many enzymes, the right essential fatty acids and other micro-nutrients that act as co-factors.
- A lack of or imbalance in any of these required co-factors means you won’t have optimized communication on a cellular level, thus compromised health.
One’s man’s medicine is another man’s poison….
Consider that food can either provide nourishment and assist the body in repair in healing or drive discomfort, immune reactivity and contribute to imbalances in the body. For each person the specific types of foods their body reacts too is very individualized.
~You are unlike any one else
- Why do some groups of people experience headaches, rashes, and abdominal pain when they eat strawberries, tomatoes, avocados and mushrooms but others do not? These foods are high in histamines.
- Why do some groups of people become increasingly agitated, aggressive, hyperactive and have sleeping disturbances from eating seemingly benign food additives like xanthan gum, carageenan and certain enzymes formed in even “healthy foods” like whey protein and fermented foods? These foods are high in amines and glutamate.
- Why do some groups of people experience significantly increased joint, muscle & urinary pain and anxiety from eating foods such as spinach, kale, almonds and beets? These foods are high in oxalate.
Even the most ardent health seekers have been lead to believe these foods are all quite healthy. And indeed they are for many, but NOT for all of us!
- A great deal of people react to substances that are either naturally occurring in certain types of foods – we can test for some of these substances but not all.
- Increasingly, more people are reacting to food additives that are used by food manufacturers to add texture, preserve or flavor to their products. These additive are common in many health food products. We can test for some of these substances but not all.
What is it that makes one mans medicine anothers poison?
The answer to this question is a bit complicated. However, a simplified answer is that many people are now reacting to both foods and changes that occur on a cellular level due to external toxicities. Both of these can create imbalances in detoxification, digestive and immune pathways.
What is it? …
- Epigenetics is the study of cellular and physiological trait variations that are not caused by changes in the DNA sequence; epigenetics describes the study of dynamic alterations in the transcriptional potential of a cell.
- These alterations may or may not be heritable.
- Unlike genetics based on changes to the DNA sequence (the genotype), the changes in gene expression or cellular phenotype of epigenetics have other causes
~ So, even though all cells have the same DNA, they become specialized to say, become a liver cell or one in our eyelid due to sets of genes that act as “switches” that are turned on or off.
Methylation is a term for the conversions that take place within our bodies constantly.
- There are different nutrients and enzymes impacting these conversions (or methyl donor dependent actions) taking place inside our bodies constantly.
- These conversions are necessary for many metabolic functions and rely on enzymes and other co-factors to happen.
- These on/off switches sometimes get stuck or don’t activate and ultimately, these methylation problems show up in some chronic health condition (and certainly inflammation!).
The “other causes”
How an individual’s epigenetics is ultimately expressed is also influenced by lifestyle, their surroundings and environmental factors.
Environmental factors such as food, drugs, or exposure to toxins can cause epigenetic changes by altering the way molecules bind to DNA or changing the structure of proteins that DNA wraps around. These structural changes can result in slight changes in gene activity; they also can produce more dramatic changes by switching genes on when they should be off or vice versa.
Immunity & Related Disorders.
There are several pieces of evidence showing that loss of epigenetic control over complex immune processes contributes to autoimmune disease. 
People’s sensitivity to diet or to environmental toxins may vary owing to pre-existing genetic variants that can challenge methyl metabolism and predispose a person to epigenetic change.  These changes have enormous impacts on the modern day disease states that plaque our world including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease and Fragile X syndrome. (see Table 1:Associations between epigenetic modifications and human diseases and conditions).
It all comes down to whether you are eating and living a lifestyle promoting immune responses that stimulate or suppress your delicate immune system.
- Immunologists have found two major immune responses that stimulate or suppress the autoimmune response.
- These are known as TH-3 helper and TH-17 helper responses. The TH-3 responses include regulatory T-cells, or suppressor cells or suppressor T-cells.
- As their name implies these cells either regulate or suppress autoimmunity. 
- You want to support TH-3.
- A TH-17 response stimulates autoimmunity and acts like fuel on a fire.
- You want to avoid foods and other exposures (including stress!) that activate these TH-17 responses.
Lifestyle factors, epigenetics & testing
When epigenetic expression changes occur in our body this makes the job of repairing or at least improving, cellular communication essential to any long term recovery program. And, you can quickly see why for a growing number of people, simply following what they think is an anti-inflammatory diet might not be enough.
The good news is our knowledge base and understanding of both epigenetics and BioIndividual nutrition is expanding. Testing is now available to help us better understand some of the problems within our metabolic communication pathways. These tests are becoming more affordable and are available to the public. Unfortunately you won’t find most conventionally trained doctors are using these tests – yet. You’ll find even fewer who can interpret these tests because there is still a healthy amount of debate on how to pull it all together. So stay tuned!
Our understanding of how to detect and mitigate specific foods groups and food additives/substances (beyond IgG/IgA and IgE testing) has advanced tremendously due to the work coming out of the ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) community. Much of what works for those with ASD also works very effectively for those with seriously immune compromised systems as well. This is an area of particular interest to me and one I have been applying to help those in my nutrition practice.
By following a BioIndividualized healing diet along with avoiding those lifestyle factors that increase TH-17 responses you can substantially improve your health and reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases. Of course finding and correcting imbalances caused by epigenetics is equally important. This new model of addressing health is now the way of the future in preventative medicine and in time it is my hope we will see medicine transformed applying this new knowledge.
If you’ve incorporated a basic anti-inflammatory diet but still are not seeing results I’d like to hear from you.
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Resources and further reading:
 Why isn’t my Brain working? By Dr. Datis Kharrazian, DHSc, CD, MA