Anti-Inflammatory Diet

All health care starts with diet. My recommendations for a healthy diet are here:
Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Lifestyle.
There are over 190 articles on diet, inflammation and disease on this blog
(find topics using search [upper left] or index [lower right]), and
more articles by Prof. Ayers on Suite101 .

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Anti-inflammatory, Gluten-Free Diet for Celiac

Low Grain Is Good for Everyone

I don’t think that I have an intolerance for grain, i.e. a gluten sensitivity, but it is so common and the biochemistry is so obvious, that it is only prudent to avoid wheat and related grain products. A low or gluten-free diet is also similar to the other common healthy diets, e.g. low carb and anti-inflammatory.

Gluten-free diets came to my attention recently in two ways. First, I saw Food, Inc., a documentary movie about abuses by multinational food processors. After that movie, I felt like I was a goose being readied for foie gras. Second, was a newspaper article on the expense of a gluten-free diet and the challenges of avoiding gluten.

I haven’t had to worry about wheat contaminating my diet, but I am sympathetic to the celiacs that I know who have to labor with a sloppy and exploitative food industry that uses the cheapest ingredients to compose the processed foods that are consumed in modern diets -- processed foods are complex blends of many different potential allergens from innumerable sources throughout the world.

A Celiac Diet Is Good for All
Fortunately, the answer to pervasive gluten is just a modest modification of the basic anti-inflammatory diet that I recommend on this blog. Unfortunately, people who have already developed gluten intolerance, have probably had the problem for years before diagnosis and that means that their intestines have already suffered major physiological alterations and they have problems absorbing nutrients and vitamins. Celiacs also, because of their chronic inflammation and autoimmunity, tend to readily develop food allergies and other autoimmune diseases. The recommended anti-inflammatory diet will help to avoid celiac, put celiacs into remission and avoid development of subsequent allergies and autoimmune diseases.

Vitamin D Is Usually Deficient (and a source of inflammation)
The basic anti-inflammatory diet starts with a return to optimal vitamin D with the use of an initial blood test, followed by high level supplements to reach a suitable level and then maintenance with D3 supplements of usually 2,000-5,000 IU per day. Depending on the D3 supplement, vitamin A will also need to be supplemented, because it interacts with vitamin D. Remember that sunshine is only effective in producing adequate vitamin D if you do not suffer from chronic inflammation. I would assume that all celiacs tend to be vitamin D deficient.

A Low Carb Diet Is Easier for Celiacs
The next component of the basic diet is low carbohydrates, that means a minimum of high glycemic foods, which means to avoid sugar and starch, do not cook vegetables more than necessary and don’t over-chew your veggies. This is good for celiacs, because it reduces the need for common grain foods that no one should eat: bread, cereal, pasta, etc. Everyone should lower their consumption of these wheat products in solidarity for celiacs and for general good health. Cereal is a very bad idea for children!

Most Vegetable Oils Are Unhealthy
Most vegetable oils contribute substantially to world-wide inflammation and celiacs don’t need the added burden of inflammatory omega-6 vegetable oils. Only olive oil and butter should be used. Saturated fats are safer than typical polyunsaturated vegetable oils.

Eat Wild Fish or Tons of Fresh Flax
Most people eat too little omega-3 long chain fatty acids, since these are most abundant in fatty fish, such as wild salmon (farmed fish are fed corn and have reduced omega-3 and increased omega-6 fats.) Few vegetable sources are available, since the omega-3 fatty acids are unstable and present in leaves rather than seeds. Flax seeds have short chain omega-3 fatty acids and must be freshly ground and consumed by the cupful, because the conversion to the long chains, in which they are useful, is very inefficient. Most celiacs will need to use fish oil (or krill oil, if fish is not tolerated) supplements (4-8 EPA/DHA capsule per day taken in a meal rich in fats for bile uptake) to balance the ubiquitous inflammatory omega-6 in their diets.

Grassfed Meat/Eggs Are Your Friends
Celiacs should seek out grass/pasture fed meats, eggs and wild caught fish. Corn-fed animals have higher levels of omega-6 fats and these contribute to dietary inflammation. Celiacs can usually eat meat and fish and these are very healthy foods. Red meat was not shown to contribute to degenerative diseases, it was the high carbs eaten with the meat that produced the inflammation that contributed to heart disease. (Remember that statins only decrease cardiovascular disease because they inadvertently lower inflammation, not because they lower serum lipids, LDL.)

No, No’s: HFCS and trans fats
High fructose corn syrup and trans fats are inflammatory and unhealthy for anyone, and should be avoided as much as wheat gluten. Fruits should be eaten as seasoning, since their fructose is not healthy and they also contain ample sucrose.

Most People Would Be Healthier on a Celiac Diet
The anti-inflammatory diet proposed here for celiacs should be uniformly healthy, since it provides optimal vitamins (D, C, B12, etc.), low starch/sugar/carbs, an optimal omega-3 to -6 fatty acid ratio, increased meat and saturated fats, and avoids HFCS and trans fats. The only major adjustment for celiacs would be avoidance of individual food allergens, more attention to vitamin supplements to compensate for poor absorption and replacement of wheat by rice, potatoes, etc. The low carbohydrate nature of the diet makes it more approachable, since typical carbs, such as bread and cereal are avoided and replaced with meat and vegetables.

I look forward to advice and suggestions from readers who have experience with gluten-free diets.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Recombining H1N1 and H5N1 Is Very Scary

Avian Flu Acquired a Basic Internalization Domain in the 1990’s

Avian flu was simply for the birds until its hemagglutinin (the H or H5N1) acquired an extra four basic amino acids that provided another way into human cells.

Basic Amino Acids Accumulate in the Hemagglutinin

During the early 1990’s isolates of avian flu, H5N1 started to appear that eventually developed six basic amino acids in a stretch about 340 residues from the amino terminus. These basic amino acids are thought to be an adaptation to decrease inactivation by a host protease.

~PQRE TRGLFG~ ABB88379 Mexico 1994
~PQRK TRGLFG~ ABQ84472 Italy 1993
~PQRKRKRKTRGLFG~AAC58990 Mexico 1995
~PQRE RKKRGLFG~ ABQ84473 Italy 1997
~PQRERRRKKRGLFG~ AAD37782 China 1996
~PQRK RKTRGLFG~ ACL79965 Mexico 1994

The red area is the region that has accumulated the basic amino acids (R and K). Note that the novel H1N1, does not yet have this region.

The New Basic Region Looks Like an Internalization Signal

Those who have followed this blog know that I have an interest in heparin binding domains, groups of basic amino acids (K for lysine and R for arginine) of proteins that bind the common acidic extracellular polysaccharide heparin. Most recently I have been focusing on unusual triplets of basic amino acids that are found in the proteins of allergens and autoantigens. These basic triplets are similar to the basic quartets that are used as signals to move proteins from cytoplasm into the nucleus of cells, i.e. the nuclear localization signal (NLS).

Basic Sextet for Internalization and More

The newly evolved basic sextet, RRRKKR, should be readily transported into cells by the mannose receptor and then taken into the nucleus, because it would also act as a NLS. This should also mean that the new H5N1 viruses with this hemagglutinin should attach to numerous cells of the immune system and potentially transported to other areas of the body.

Is this Dangerous?

I don’t know what the likelihood of recombination between H5N1 and H1N1 is if a bird, pig or human is infected with both nor is the impact of acquisition of the basic sextet by H1N1 on virulence known, but the acquisition of the basic sextet occurred at the same time that H5N1 moved from birds to people and became lethal.

Basic Sextet May Explain New Entry for H5N1

H5N1 has recently been found to infect tissue that lack the sialic acid sugars that are the typical target for avian flu. The new targets are not known. I would start to suspect the mannose receptor that I have postulated to be involved in initiation of allergy and autoimmunity.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Cause of Autoimmunity and Allergies

Inflammation-Induced Presentation by Mannose Receptor

Speculation on how innocuous proteins become the targets of our immune systems, and result in allergies, asthma, celiac, arthritis, lupus, and other inflammatory autoimmune diseases.


It all starts with chronic inflammation. In most cases diet is the predominant source of inflammation, but infections (bacterial, viral, fungal) may also contribute. Inflammation sets the stage for faulty processing of proteins at the focal location where lymphocytes and antigen-presenting cells are congregating.

Antigen Presentation

At this point a major mistake occurs. Cells that have been alerted to danger by inflammatory cytokines, start to internalize and process proteins in the vicinity, so that peptide fragments of the “antigens” can be displayed on their surfaces in the clutches of major histocompatibility complex proteins. The problem arises when self proteins are internalized, processed and displayed as candidate peptides.

Basic Triplets of All Allergens and Autoantigens

I have looked at dozens of allergens and autoantigens, and they all have one peptide sequence in common, a triplet of basic amino acids. The impetus for this article was finding this morning that one of the autoantigens for Hashimori’s thyroiditis is thyroglobulin, the serum carrier of thyroid hormones. I checked the sequence of thyroglobulin and it has two of the rare basic triplets.

Thyroiditis Autoantigen Is Thyroglobulin

I checked the Pubmed literature to see if thyroglobulin is naturally taken up by cells, since I have been trying to figure out the receptor for basic triplets. What I found was an article on the binding of thyroiditis autoantigens to mannose receptor. The idea of the paper was that the autoantigens in this case were heavily glycosylated and maybe the mannose receptor that is involved in antigen presentation of glycosylated antigens, would bind the selected autoantigens as well. I didn’t get much past the title of the paper.

Candidates for Allergen/Autoantigen Receptor

What I put together was the fact that antigen presenting cells use mannose receptor to internalize antigens. This places this receptor in the right place and the right time to be a receptor for basic triplets. But what would a basic triple binding protein domain look like and could mannose receptor be a candidate?

Structure of Thyroglobulin

I downloaded a structure for mannose receptor and began looking for a surface region that would bind carbohydrates, aromatics and basic amino acids. The critical amino acids in all of these cases are aromatic amino acids, phenylalanine, tyrosine and tryptophan. Tryptophan is at the heart of most carbohydrate binding proteins. Since the mannose receptor is a member of the carbohydrate-binding lectins, I expected to find tryptophans on the surface of the mannose receptor. I just looked for the tryptophan that binds the carbohydrates. It was exactly as I predicted. The mannose receptor should be able to form very stable tryptophan/arginine-like ladders with basic triplets.

I made a figure of the mannose receptor bound to a carbohydrate (red and grey). One of the exposed tryptophans (yellow) is bound to the carbohydrate. Several other tryptophans could be exposed and oriented toward a basic amino acid spread over the surface of the tryptophan in place of the carbohydrate. A similar kind of structure is used by importin to transport proteins with nuclear localization sites (NLS, basic quartets) into the nucleus. Many proteins with NLSs are also autoantigens, e.g. lupus.

I think that the peculiar circumstances that lead to allergy and autoimmunity result in the binding of self-proteins or allergens to mannose receptor and result in antibody production.

Why the Mannose Receptor?

Why does the mannose receptor make mistakes? The exposed tryptophan may also bind numerous plant products. In fact, the phytochemicals, e.g. alkaloids, flavonoids and terpenoids, are an abundant and varied group of chemicals that would bind to the exposed tryptophan of the mannose receptor and compete for binding with basic triplets. Protection offered by plant “anti-oxidants” may be due in part to this activity.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Inflammation and Vitamin D Deficiency

Does Dietary Inflammation Reduce Skin Production of Vitamin D?

The media discovered the vitamin D deficiency pandemic last week. Amazingly researchers were recorded on camera saying that the D deficiencies are caused by insufficient exposure to ultraviolet in sunlight and inadequate consumption of vitamin D-laced milk. Have all of these people been avoiding the biomedical journals?

Have they noticed that my tan improved since I started eating anti-inflammatory?

Let’s shine some sunlight on these knowledge deficiencies:
  • Serum vitamin D levels have been dropping (as chronic inflammation has been increasing) over the last three decades -- has something changed in our diets?
  • Vitamin D deficiencies occur globally (not restricted to Northern latitudes or winter) -- related to diet?
  • Women are more vulnerable, because of cultural modesty in some countries, but males are still D-deficient.
  • A subset of people exposed to ample sunshine are still D-deficient.
  • Vitamin D deficient individuals also have elevated TNF.
  • Vitamin D deficiency and inflammation are risk factors in the same diseases.
It seems that the simplest conclusion is that chronic inflammation leads to vitamin D deficiency, even though vitamin D deficiency may also contribute to inflammation.

This also probably means that chronic inflammation makes it harder for skin to produce vitamin D during exposure to sunlight.

One would expect those who are inflamed to get sunburned more readily and people who eat plenty of omega-3 rich seafood probably produce more vitamin D, even if they are not in the sun as much.

Inflammatory starvation (or American fast food) diets high in starch and omega-6 vegetable oils, should produce vitamin D deficiency even on the Equator.

We should not be surprised that inflammatory degenerative diseases are associated with vitamin D deficiency. It would be interesting if vitamin D supplementation to eliminate deficiency, reduced inflammation and reversed degenerative disease.

Do statins reverse vitamin D deficiencies (and improve tanning) as they lower inflammation? [Statin lowering of LDL is unrelated to reduction in cardiovascular disease. Only the anti-inflammatory side-effect is important.]

Does NFkB activation (inflammatory signaling) inhibit vitamin D receptor activity and vice versa?

You can forget all of this confusion, if you just stick with an anti-inflammatory diet (that includes vitamin D supplements) and exercise frequently in the great outdoors.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Brilliant Blue Brains and Spinal Cords

Hibernation-Suppression and Trauma-Induction of Inflammation

Inflammation/hibernation is a complex story at the foundation of chronic diseases. Inflammation is the common thread -- activation of the inflammation transcription factor NFkB.

Trauma Causes Life-Threatening Trauma

Trauma, everything from a bee sting to a horrific traffic accident that causes head and spine injuries, results in initial tissue damage and subsequent inflammation damage. The inflammatory response to punctures and abrasions is usually appropriate and self-limiting. The immune response to serious injuries is frequently more life-threatening than the initial damage.

Transplanted Organs Suffer from Inflammation

Organs removed for transplantation are subjected to a certain amount of necessary trauma and oxygen deprivation. If the organ was simply popped into a waiting recipient biochemically unaware of the process, the initial damage would be readily repaired in its new home. Unfortunately, some of the organs overreact and become damaged by their own immune/inflammatory reaction to the surgery.

Hibernation Reduces Trauma Inflammation

Organ transplants between animals that are hibernating, are much more successful, because the damaging inflammation is suppressed. Hibernation in animals or in human organs can be induced by the use of opioid peptides, e.g. DADLE, and subsequent surgical procedures are more successful. Hibernation also provides protection against experimental stroke. Apparently, the activation of the opioid receptor suppresses activation of NFkB and avoids inflammation.

Opioids and Steroid Hormones Block NFkB Activation and Inflammation

Steroid hormones can also provide protection against inflammatory damage resulting from head trauma. Thus, the ubiquitous steroid receptors may also block NFkB activation and inflammation.

Trauma Releases ATP that Triggers P2X7 and NFkB

Extracellular ATP can activate NFkB activity and inflammation, and ATP accumulation at trauma sites may be particularly dangerous for spinal injuries. Inhibitors of ATP binding to the purinic receptor P2X7, block inflammation and provide dramatic improvement in the return of function in animal models of spinal injuries. Most of the common inhibitors of P2X7 signaling must be injected directly into the traumatized tissue to block inflammation, because they can’t cross the blood-brain barrier. An exception is Brilliant Blue G.

Brilliant Blue G Blocks Trauma Inflammation

Brilliant Blue G, a.k.a. Coomasie Brilliant Blue, should be very well known to molecular biologists, because it is the commonly used stain for proteins separated on SDS-PAGE gels. I used that dye literally thousands of times to stain gels and I even tried it to stain the extracellular matrix surround cartilage-secreting cells, chondrocytes, grown in culture. I have included one of those pictures just for old times sake.

BBG can be injected IV into mice and the result is amazing. Not only do the mice become blue, but they recover much better from experimental spinal trauma. BBG in the blue mice blocks inflammation due to the surge in tissue ATP and the mice heal their trauma and regain function.

It would be amazing if BBG worked on people with spinal injuries. I expect the rapid development of a suitable drug to help spine and head trauma patients.

Can Manipulation of Hibernation Cure Chronic Diseases?

A big question is whether or not similar drugs might be used to block inflammation that supports cancer and other forms of chronic illness. Alternatively, in some instances the problem is that bacteria are suppressing local inflammation and inducing tissue hibernation to produce chronic illness. Under these circumstances, the induction of local inflammation or elimination of hibernation may make the bacteria vulnerable to attack.

Borlongan CV, Hayashi T, Oeltgen PR, Su TP, Wang Y. Hibernation-like state induced by an opioid peptide protects against experimental stroke. BMC Biol. 2009 Jun 17;7:31.

W. Penga, M. L. Cotrinaa, X Hana, H Yua, L. Bekara, L. Bluma, T. Takanoa, G.-F. Tiana, S. A. Goldman and M. Nedergaard. 2009. Systemic administration of an antagonist of the ATP-sensitive receptor P2X7 improves recovery after spinal cord injury. PNAS 106:12489