Cellular Communication

When we are ill, the body gets caught up in a process where so many different functions and biochemicals are trying to exert their influence, so to speak, on the nature of the body.

Hi again, folks, Dr. Mike Breen here from the Chiropractic Family Care Centre and the Healthy Transformations Program. Today, I’m gonna chat a little bit about cellular communication, and that’s something that not too many people have heard about and yet, it’s foundational to the way our bodies actually work and how they function. Best way to explain it, I think, is right now, I’m speaking to you and you’re listening to me. I’m speaking in English, you’re making sense of the noises that are coming out of me, and you convert those noises into a level of understanding. In this case, perhaps there’s some knowledge that comes out of this, but that’s the language between human beings. But within our bodies, the language is the language of biochemistry. Different biochemicals speak or give instructions to other biochemicals or to other cellular or body structures to inform them of what it is that they want them to do. This is oftentimes just referred to as metabolism, but metabolism really is a very, very complex communication system.

What’s interesting about that is that when we’re sick, the communication that’s going on in the body is much like a shouting match. Dr. Jeffrey Bland described this so, so well in his book “The Disease Delusion,” and describing essentially that when we are ill, the body gets caught up in a process where so many different functions and biochemicals are trying to exert their influence, so to speak, on the nature of the body.

Conversely, when we’re healthy, communication is very clear and it’s very simple. Much of this is driven by the process of cellular inflammation. And when cellular inflammation exists by way of food and by way of toxicity, a storm of information takes place, which causes the body to be confused and malinformed. A whole bunch of different things take place, but to the greatest extent, the message is that there’s a lotta yelling and a lotta shouting going on in the body. What we’re looking for is calmness and sereneness within the body, and that happens when we’re well. I let people know that when we’re eating food, what are we doing?

There’s quite an emphasis on food for calories and food for being full and food for nutrition, which is not untrue. And yet, I described to people the importance of this. When we eat, what are we doing? We’re actually giving our body instructions. The food that we consume goes into our body, into our gut, and absorption takes place, chemicals are produced, and these are the instructions that get our body to do the things we want them to do.

So in fact, we produce health, which is a calmness of communication, by a number of mechanisms, but probably the most important is what we actually put between our lips. Doing this properly leads to improved cellular communication by way of reduced inflammation, and if a person’s having a really poor diet, you know, Twinkies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, really all you’re doing is creating this noise in your body that ultimately leads to stress and ill health. So something to consider. What kind of communication, what kind of talk do you want in your body? Do you have the opportunity to choose that? And to a large extent, you can. Really, it happens as a consequence of the foods that we consume. Certainly, that’s what we teach people in the Healthy Transformations Program. So if you have questions about this, please let me know, drmichaelbreen.ca or HealthyTransformations.ca. We’d be happy to give you more information on this topic or any other. Take care.

Wuts In Your Guts? The Microbiome

Hello folks, Dr. Michael Breen here with the Healthy Transformations program and you’re on healthytransformations.ca. Just wanted to spend a couple minutes talking to you about truly one of the most fascinating areas of contemporary science that we’re dealing with and that is the topic of the microbiome. Microbiome refers to the constellation of microorganisms that exist in and on our body but particularly microbiome makes reference to the microorganisms that exist in our gastrointestinal tract. Volume is a very interesting thing to consider. It’s estimated that a human body has about 10 trillion cells. That’s a lot of cells that make up the human body, and yet the number of microorganisms, depending on which research and who you listen to, the microbiome may in fact have 100 trillion microorganisms. So there’s 10 times as many bugs or critters on us or in us as there is human cells. So the really forward-thing science editorial people are saying, who’s in charge here? What is actually driving health? What’s driving disease? What’s controlling our physiology? It may be in fact that the microorganisms have more to do with this than what we’ve ever thought possible.

One of the other things that’s really interesting to me is that many of these organisms, bacteria, have DNA and the DNA that they have represents 99% of the total genetic influence that exists in our bodies. So we used to think that our genes determined our outcome. We know now that that’s not true but it might actually even be that it’s the genes of the bugs that are determining our outcome. Bottom line is this. Having a healthy microbiome is fundamentally important to having optimal health. If you’re not doing the things that are required to optimize your microbiome, then you can’t be possibly as healthy as you may want to be. What are those things, what do you do? Well, the whole model of taking probiotics has been one of them. That’s the consumption of these bugs and that’s been around for a long time but it certainly is gaining steam. I can tell you this, that the bugs that are in your gut and in mine eat the food that we eat. So what goes between my lips and goes down, the bugs get first dibs at it and if the food that I’m eating is lousy food, then the bugs are gonna produce lousy outcomes and if the food that I eat is really good, then the microbiome will take that good food and turn it into all kinds of remarkable chemicals that actually lead to terrifically good health outcomes. So the Healthy Transformations program actually addresses this as part of the dietary modeling that we use. If you’d like to learn more about the Healthy Transformations program, go to the website and try to attend one of our workshops. We have a few more to go in December, in January. Our class fills up really rapidly but we’d love to have you join us and learn more about how a healthy microbiome can drive health in you and your family.

Phyto What? That’s Right, Phytonutrients.

Hello, folks, Dr. Michael Breen here with healthytransformations.ca. The Healthy Transformations program is run by myself and Christopher Lawrence. If you’re having issues related to your health, overweightness, obesity, and really are looking for change, the Healthy Transformations is really the program that will help you get past these issues. I wanna take a couple minutes and talk about a concept called phytonutrition. Phyto, P-H-Y-T-O. And it means plant, is really what it boils down to. One thing that’s been consistent in nutritional science for at least three decades, it’s probably more like four or five decades, is that plant-based diets have consistently demonstrated themselves to be those that lead to better health outcomes. Now, plant-based doesn’t necessarily mean vegetarian. It means that a predominance off the volume of the food that you’re getting is actually coming from plant sources.

Now, what’s interesting about this is that science that has developed since the year 2000, maybe 2005, has in fact identified why this may be the case. And it boils down to these chemicals that are generally very, very broad classification, but called phytonutrients. So nutritional-based chemicals that come from plant sources. What’s been identified, Dr. Jeffrey Bland, who is the leader of the Personalized Lifestyle Medicine Institute and one of the very, very top researchers in the field of functional medicine, was involved in this research back in the early 2000s, and in fact stated that in his career, this was probably the single most important scientific discovery that he had been involved with. And that was the identification of this, that these chemicals that come from plants get into our bodies after we consume plant-based materials, it’s digested, the phytonutrients are expressed with the help of the microbiome. They travel throughout our body and they go to cells, and these phytonutrients actually initiate a series of biochemical events in the cell that actually lead directly to genetic influence. And that is big stuff. The phyto nutrients attach to the cells, the cells then respond to the presence of the phyto nutrients, they use that information to send signals to the nucleus, which is where the genes and the DNA of our body resides, and this influence leads to positive health outcomes. The importance of this can’t be overstated. It is a big, big deal.

What is the bottom line? We need to actually consume significant amounts of plant-based material to be able to drive the effect where our genetic potential is expressed through the food that we eat. You’ll learn all about that stuff in the Healthy Transformations program, and we would be very, very happy to help you out. So go to the website, and sign up for one of the workshops, and we’d be happy to help you out.

 

Is Your Health a Curve, or a Rectangle?

Hello, folks, Dr. Mike Breen here, with the Healthy Transformations program, and you’re watching on healthytransformations.ca. Myself and Christopher Lawrence run the Healthy Transformations program, which is a program of dietary modification for weight loss and health optimization. And one of the reasons we run the program, is because we’re dealing with a really serious problem in our culture, and that is the reality, and also the sense, that as people get older, that they are bound to suffer from ill health. There is so much chronic disease in our culture in fact, the World Health Organization just identified that 89%, that’s almost nine out of 10 people in Canada, will die of a chronic disease. And what’s important about that, is that chronic diseases don’t take you out in a week, or a month, or a year. They take many, many years before you reach your demise.

So what it really boils down to, is this sense of consistent loss of health. And I’m gonna represent that just in a little graph here if you bear with me. So what we have across the bottom here is age, and what we have on this side is healthfulness. And what happens in our culture, to a very large extent, is people are born, we presume, and hopefully that’s the case, where children have given at least a fighting chance, with high level of health, but then it declines consistently and gradually, over the course of time. So this might represent age 20, and you’re still actually pretty healthy, but there’s 30, there’s 40, there’s 50, and you can see exactly the point. By the time you get to middle age, we’re already suffering, to a very large extent, from ill health.

The principle that we like to put forward, and this is something that is within a lot of scientific literature, this is just not something that’s made up, this is a real phenomenon, and it’s called the rectangularization of health decline, meaning that instead of having a curvilinear health decline, that health decline doesn’t have to be like this. In fact, you can live a life where you start from the same point, and health declines much more slowly than this, you get over to a certain point, and then you have a more rapid loss. So, living a life that’s full and vibrant for a long period of time, getting an infection at a very advanced age, living longer, as you can see down here, but what the important point is, is that all of this stuff here, that shaded area right there, is quality of life. That’s the ability for people to enjoy their life, to travel, to play with grandkids, and to be vibrant throughout their life. It’s something that is absolutely possible, and it can be initiated through proper health patterning, particularly health patterning that is associated with food. We underestimate the power that food has in terms of being able to drive healthfulness, and the Healthy Transformations program does exactly that. So if you’re interested in actually taking a pathway that rectangularizes your health decline, then the Healthy Transformations is the program for you.

Obesity, Weight Loss and Weight Gain

Hello, folks. Dr. Michael Breen here speaking on the healthytransformations.ca website. I just wanted to make some comments, brief ones, about the phenomenon of weight loss and weight gain I guess is part of that. Overweightness and obesity is plaguing the Western, the industrialized, the industrialized world and in fact, it’s plaguing a great deal of the world right now. Data on overweightness and obesity is consistently reporting that greater than 50% of the population in many, many countries is either overweight or obese meaning that if you are of normal weight that you’re actually in the minority which is a very, very unusual kind of consideration. What’s important to note is that overweightness has been mismanaged to a very great extent for a long period of time. A whole model of weight gain or weight loss being the management of calories has been demonstrated to be in fact incorrect. It’s called the energy balance model and it’s been shown to be incorrect at best and in fact harmful at worst in many circumstances. Recidivism which is the rate of weight loss and then gaining weight, weight gain again based upon behaviors is remarkably high and it’s because the model actually doesn’t work. Truly, weight gain is the consequence of inflammatory phenomena that take place in the body. We now see weight gain, overweightness and obesity as actually one of the symptoms of an inflammatory phenomena much like the symptoms of chronic disease, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease. These things are all bunched together and weight gain is part of that. In fact, fatty liver disease is now being bunched into this category as well.

 

So what’s really important for people who are dealing with weight related issues is that they actually get the very best advice that they can on how to manage this stuff and the management is really by an anti-inflammatory dietary program. The Healthy Transformations program that I run along with Christopher Lawrence is really focused on addressing that particular problem. That is what we do. I invite you to stay on this website, look around a little bit. That’s healthytransformations.ca and find out what you can about weight gain, weight loss and whether it relates to your circumstance and then when that’s the case, please reach out to us. We have workshops that we run. We have a few more to do in December here of 2019. Our program starts in January of 2020 and we’ve helped dozens and dozens of people lose weight and lose it for long periods at a time. So healthytransformations.ca.  Reach out, we’d be happy to help.

 

Food Causes Acute Inflammation

Hello folks, Dr. Mike Breen here at HealthyTransformations.ca and the Healthy Transformations Program. Just wanted to give you another little video posting or video blog about another concept that is really foundational to understanding the Healthy Transformations Program and particularly how food can be the most powerful tool in restoring the healthfulness in many people, yourselves perhaps, who are suffering from ill health and other kinds of problems. The principle is how is it that inflammation is actually caused by sugar? Well let’s go back to a little bit of a drawing, a little bit of a graph here. What I’m gonna draw is what we call a blood sugar curve and what that is, is if a person was exposed to a single exposure of sugar, it could be a chocolate bar. It could be a can of pop or something like that, and presuming that they hadn’t had any sugar for a long period of time, or what we call a fasting blood glucose test. They’re not done that much anymore, but they used to be quite popular. You’d get a curve that was like this. So blood sugars are on here and this is time across the bottom. So the blood sugars as a consequence of being exposed to a sugar dose here would rise up like this then they would come back down to a lower point. So pretty typical. These are kinds of curves that are in every single physiology text book that every medical doctor, chiropractor, naturopath, osteopath, nurse has ever studied.

How is it that the blood sugars go up? Well that’s just from the absorption of the materials. How is it that in fact it goes down? That’s in response to insulin. So insulin would have a curve, and this is not exactly 100% accurate, but insulin would rise. And as the insulin rises it actually initiates an effect. There’s a time delay here, which would drive the blood sugar back down. And as the blood sugar goes down then the insulin secretion from the pancreas goes down as well and things go back to normal. Now typically this would take somewhere between 90 minutes perhaps or two hours or something like that. Again, when we were looking at these things in our textbooks we saw that this was normal function. And yet, just because the body can do that doesn’t mean that it ought to do that. This is actually a very stressful thing for the body as it turns out. Having blood sugars rise this rapidly, actually and having insulin that is commenced right with that actually drives what’s called the acute inflammatory response.

So when you eat foods and you drive insulin up, inflammatory influences take place. Now the interesting thing is that the acute inflammatory response, and how would you know what that is? Well if you’ve ever been bit by a bee or you’ve got a sliver in your foot, or something like that again, you get soreness and you get redness and you get swelling. That’s an acute inflammatory response, but it happens in our body just the same as it happens outside of our body, and it happens in response to the consumption of food. The interesting point is this, the inflammatory response doesn’t take 90 minutes to two hours to resolve. The inflammatory response goes up and acute inflammatory response will last from 12 to 72 hours. So what’s important about that is that each time we consume a sugar we’re going to produce an acute inflammatory response. If we only ever ate one chocolate bar or one pop and then we didn’t do it for weeks or months on end, then it wouldn’t be a big deal. But the majority of people don’t do that. They’re actually consuming sugars on such a regular basis that in fact we get a curve that looks more like this. A person wakes up. They have something that’s sweet. They wait for a while. They have something else, some cereal. Then they’re having timbits perhaps at work, and then they’re having a big fat sandwich, and this is a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the message. What goes along with this are insulin responses that basically mimic the blood sugar levels and then this is an acute inflammatory response followed by another, followed by another, followed by another, and people do this day after day week after week, month after month. They do it throughout their lifetime, and as a consequence you get an inflammatory effect that actually goes on for life. And that’s what produces chronic diseases, that exact phenom. You want to learn more about that sign up for our work shop at the Healthy Transformations Program or get in contact with Christopher Lawrence or myself. We’d be happy to let you know more about it.

Do You Know The Glycemic Index?

Hello folks, Dr. Mike Breen here at healthytransformations.ca. Just another video blog here about some information that is really important to understand as it relates to using food to drive healthfulness in your life and the principle I’m gonna talk about right now is called the glycemic index. The glycemic index has been around for quite a long time, developed in the 1970s, the University of Toronto, Canadian phenomenon which is quite interesting. And the glycemic index is actually a scale that represents the concentration or the density of sugars that are in carbohydrates. So, the glycemic index does not have anything to do with fats nor does it have anything to do with proteins. It’s a scale that measures the sugar concentration in carbohydrates. It’s a scale that goes from 0 to 100. At the top end of the scale, glucose was given the arbitrary number of 100, and so foods are measured in terms of their sugar density relative to this glycemic index. Now, it’s a very confusing thing if you go to these glycemic sites, and there’s lots and lots of them, you can look up a particular food and it’ll give you the number, the glycemic index. But it doesn’t give you any kind of references to the types of foods that are categorized in the glycemic index.

So, let me do this really quickly. If you can imagine a ladder with a bunch of rungs, maybe five rungs, the bottom rung at the bottom of the glycemic index is the category of vegetables. And then the next rung up the ladder is the category of fruits and then the next rung up is the category of legumes. The next rung up from that is the category of grains and the next rung up from that is the category of starches. So generally speaking, there’s overlap that exists between these groups to a certain extent, but for the most part that’s the orientation of the glycemic index. So, the lowest foods on the glycemic index fit into the green leafy vegetables and other forms of vegetables, the non-starchy vegetables. The next group up would be the fruits and as I said the legumes, the grains, and the starches.

What’s happened in our culture is that a significant amount of dietary patterning has lead to the consumption of very high-density carbohydrates, so the starches like potatoes and like rice and the grains which is all forms of bread and pasta. And these kinds of foods represent the bulk of the carbohydrates that are consumed. Then, if we see that in fact these are the high-density sugars, we wonder why in fact we have issues with blood sugar regulation in our culture and the answer is right in front of us. Because the majority of the foods that we eat are very, very high in the glycemic index. So, the Healthy Transformation’s program takes the opposite approach. We shift the consumption to the bottom end of those ladders to the bottom two rows, the vegetables and the fruits. And simply by emphasizing those foods as the primary volume that you consume, you control a whole bunch of stuff, particularly blood sugars. And then secondarily to that, control inflammation by way of reducing insulin production. It’s really quite remarkable. Healthytransformations.ca, look us up. You might be interested in coming to the workshops if they’re available or reaching out to Christopher Lawrence or myself. We’d be happy to meet with you.

 

The Microbiome and Your Health

Some of you reading will see the title and think “This is going to be interesting”.  Others will see the title and think “What on earth is a microbiome?”

Let’s start with the basics. The microbiome refers to the collection of micro-organisms that travel around with you 24/7/365.  What kind of micro-organisms you might ask?  Well  . . . bacteria, virus, molds, yeasts, parasites.  And, there are a lot of them!  Different interpretations have been made about the number or volume of micro-organisms that reside in or on the body and this is a bit of an academic argument – however it has been postulated by some that an average human body has about 10 trillion cells.  The amazing thing is that the number of micro-organisms are greater by 10 times! Yes, 100 trillion micro-organisms living in us or on us.  Furthermore, these micro-organisms have their own genes, and the total “genetic pool” of these organisms represents 99% of the genes that we carry around.  That is, your own genes represent only 1% of the total genes that are looking at this article.  This astounding information has led some science editorial writers to ask the question, “Who is in charge here?”  Well, the answer may very well be “the bugs”.  The influence that the microbiome has on health and physiology is constantly being re-evaluated – thousands of peer-reviewed articles are published every year on the relationships that exist between “good” microbiota and “good” health, as well as “bad” microbiota and “bad” health. And when I say health, I mean the health of the heart, lungs, gastro-intestinal tract, immune system, skin, and the brain – really, there are not any tissues in the body that are not affected by the collective influence of the microbiome.

These “bugs” inhabit every square centimetre of our skin, but the bulk of the awareness of the microbiota are toward those bugs that exist in our gastro-intestinal tract. (Note:  Some academics in this field refer to the bugs as being the “microbiota” and the gene pool of the bugs being the “microbiome”.  This is correct from a terminology perspective, and yet most people use these terms interchangeably – you may find me going back and forth – for the purpose of this blog, both terms are being used to describe the bugs and not the genes, unless stated).  The bugs in our GI tract perform all kinds of functions – from producing enzymes and vitamins, to aiding in the digestion of food, to being the “gatekeepers” of the intestinal tract, to stimulating the immune system and a host of other functions.  Now, this is when the bugs that exist are “good guys”.  When the bugs that we have are “bad guys” there are a host of bad things that they contribute to including inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome, poor digestion, food intolerances, food allergies, autoimmune disease, skin disease, hypersensitivity reactions, and brain disease – particularly mood disorders as well as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.  The “take-home” message is that the microbiome has a very significant influence on whether we live healthy or sick lives.

Another interesting point is that every single person on earth has a unique microbiome.  The microbiome is as individual as we are. It has been determined that there are in the range of 1000 different species of bacteria that can inhabit the human GI tract, and each one of us houses 200 to 600 of these species.  Even members of your own family have different microbial flora than you.  The science in this field has been moving at an accelerated pace for 10-20 years and yet there is still a great deal to learn.  One of the more recent findings has been in the area of what makes the microbiota function poorly and what makes it thrive.  What has been known for quite a while is that the use of antibiotic medications wreaks havoc on the flora.  Using antibiotics when they are truly necessary is still an important thing – in some cases, lifesaving.  However, the over-utilization of these drugs is a major issue.  Frustratingly, many people are unaware of the volume of antibiotic medication that is used in food production (animals) and ultimately gets into our food supply, ultimately causing issues with our microbiota.  The simple message is that antibiotics are non-discriminatory – they kill the bad bugs that make us sick and they kill the good bugs that keep us healthy.  With the increasing knowledge about the importance of our intestinal bugs, we are starting to seriously question the use of antibiotics in circumstances other than infectious emergencies.  Other chemicals also have negative effects on the GI flora – these include the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, herbicides, pesticides, food preservatives, and the list goes on.

What can we do to preserve or improve the microbiota in our gut?  Certainly the utilization of “probiotics” or good bacteria has been a strategy in place for a few decades.  Recently, there has been some debate in the scientific circles about just how much benefit is derived from the consumption of probiotics.  The uniqueness of our flora suggests that there should not be a “one size fits all” probiotic strategy.  This being said, what, then, is the right probiotic for you? Quite honestly we don’t know. What we do know (or at least what the current consensus is) is that we need to promote diversity of the flora. This can be achieved through probiotics by ensuring that you consume as many different species of bugs as you can. Most notably, this includes the consumption of fermented foods.  The other way to create diversity in your microbiome is to consume large volumes of plant material and as many different types as you can.  You see, the best bugs love to eat plants – so, when we eat plants, they (the bugs) eat plants.  When we eat ice cream, the bugs eat ice cream.  Bottom line is this – we have the capacity to influence our own microbiome and therefore to influence our own health.  The microbiome has remarkable effects on how well (or poorly) our body functions and what we put in our mouths has an enormous influence on what type of microbiome we carry around with us.

Dr. Michael Breen is the co-owner of the Chiropractic Family Care Centre and has been in Private Practice in Calgary, Alberta for over three decades.  Dr. Breen graduated from the University of Calgary Faculty of Kinesiology in 1981 (Honours) and from Palmer College of Chiropractic – West in San Jose, California in 1986.  His foundational clinical work is in the field of Health Optimization.  He uses his background in athletics and chiropractic to aid his patients in recovering physical capacity and uses his background in nutrition and functional medicine to aid his patients in the recovery from chronic illness.  He is the co-founder of the Healthy Transformations program.  Dr. Breen can be reached at mbreendc@telus.net

The Anti-Inflammatory Food Model

The nutrition model used in the Healthy Transformations Program is called the Anti-Inflammatory Diet.  In a previous blog I outlined the confusion that exists in what appears to be competing nutritional approaches.  It is discouraging for many consumers to be caught in what seems to be a “war of words” between these approaches.  All too often, consumers fall into a phenomenon of “believing” that what they are doing is correct instead of “knowing” that what they are doing is correct.  Please read the blog titled Confused About What To Eat – You’re Not Alone! to come to an understanding of how we ended up where we are.

The Anti-Inflammatory Diet is driven by recent advances in the field of biochemistry, particularly as it relates to how food influences the chemical and genetic function of our body.  It has been known for a number of decades that inflammation is the underlying basis of disease.  What has recently been discovered is the extent to which these inflammatory influences are environmental – meaning, they are the consequence of how we live and how we eat.  There are four primary environmental influences – they are 1) what we eat 2) cellular toxicity 3) overweightness and obesity and 4) free radical influence.  I will make a few comments about items 2, 3, and 4 before we tackle the food influence.

We live in a toxic environment.  The best level of environmental science and toxicology has identified the ubiquitous presence of toxins outside and inside our bodies.  Many of these toxins exist in our homes, where we work and where we go to school.  It is a truly sad state of affairs and yet there is no value in denying the presence nor the influence of toxicity that resides in all of us.  What must be understood is that these toxins have deleterious influences on our health.  The mechanism by which this happens is complex, but fundamentally, cellular toxicity drives the activation of inflammatory cytokines.  The “up-regulation” of these chemicals causes adverse cellular function including adverse signalling to the nucleus of cells ultimately affecting genetic expression.  Reducing toxic burden by effective detoxification processes is a critical step in reducing inflammatory influences.

We also live in a world where the levels of overweightness and obesity have reached epidemic proportions.  So much so, in many countries of the developed world, the number of overweight and obese individuals outnumbers those that are of normal weight.  Think about that.  If you are normal weight in these countries, you would be in the minority as it relates to body fat.  As it relates to inflammation, there are two problems connected to our overweight cultures.  First, because the majority of toxic substances are fat soluble (meaning the toxins will set up shop in the fat cells of our bodies), those with more fat tend to store more toxins.  This is referred to as toxic burden.  Bottom line – more toxins mean more inflammation and overweight people store more toxins.  Second, fat cells produce their own chemistry.  And, much like the influence of toxins, the general effect of fat-based chemistry is to drive inflammation through the action of various inflammatory cytokines.  Therefore, on two fronts, fat accumulation drives inflammatory influences.

Free radicals are the by-product of metabolism.  That is, the basic functions of things like breathing and heart-rate cause the production of free radicals as does exercise and exposure to the sun.  So, what’s the problem?  Well, nothing actually, as long as we have adequate amounts of anti-oxidants to “absorb” the free radicals that are being produced.  So, the problem comes from both sides – if we are producing too many free radicals, or if we don’t have enough anti-oxidants, then the presence of “non-absorbed” free radicals is (you guessed it) a driver of inflammatory biochemistry.  Interestingly, ill-health and disease create metabolic changes that produce increased volumes of free-radicals.  That is, sickness begets sickness.  And, adding fuel to the fire, is the reality that toxic burden drives free radical production.  In a Functional Medicine model, things often go wrong from a number of different (but connected) factors.  In the end, managing free radical production is critical to reducing cellular inflammatory responses.

So, now we get to food and the Anti-Inflammatory dietary model.  I am regularly asked the question “What is an anti-inflammatory diet?” “Is it the same as a Keto diet?”  No, but an anti-inflam diet is somewhat ketogenic.  “Is it Paleo?”  Not exactly, but there are elements of the Paleolithic diet that are consistent with the anti-inflam diet.  “Is it a Low Carb diet?”  Definitely not – in fact it is a high carb diet, but the type of carbohydrates consumed are very well defined.  Is it a Gluten free diet?  Kind of – by default, but not by primary intent. “Well, how would you define it?”  It’s not easy but let me put it this way – The Anti-Inflammatory diet is a high carbohydrate, low sugar, mildly ketogenic, moderate protein, high nutrient density diet.  It doesn’t fit neatly into the diet compartments that we seek or what I call the “Moniker” diets.  I like to say that it is a thinking persons’ diet because there is a requirement to learn about what food truly represents to our physiology.

So let’s look at this one piece at a time.  Why would we want to eat a high carbohydrate diet when the rest of the dietary world is on the low-carb craze?  Well, because over the last 40 years, the scientific world has repeatedly demonstrated that those people who consume plant-based diets are healthier and live longer than those people who do not.  Plain and simple – plants (to the very greatest extent) are carbohydrates and we should eat a lot of them.  Advocates of the low-carb diet will commonly consume as little as 25 grams of carbohydrates per day, and even if this volume were plant based, it is not nearly enough to provide the benefit that plants contribute to our health.  In the anti-inflammatory diet, our patients will consume 140 grams per day of green leafy vegetables and an additional 3+ cups – more than 450 grams – of other vegetables.  This total of 600 grams of plant based carbohydrate is more than most people ever consume per day, but it is foundational to health.  The anti-inflammatory diet is also a low-sugar diet.  Wait a second – I though high carb diets were high in sugar?  Not true if the carbs you eat are low on the Glycemic Index.  This is a VERY important point.  There is a remarkable difference in sugar concentrations between different types of carbohydrates – plants included.  We generally think of sugar in the form of “refined” sugar such as candy and soft-drinks.  However, some carbohydrates such as grains and starches have a Glycemic Index that is nearly as high, and occasionally higher, than glucose.  We guide patients to not fall into the trap of assuming that all plants are OK to eat – this is most certainly not true.  Learning what plants are low on the Glycemic Index is a critical element of the proper application of the anti-inflammatory diet.  Therefore, eating a high carbohydrate, low-sugar diet provides the essential benefits of plants (particularly, high nutrient density and high fibre) without the devastating effects of high sugar.  And here’s the big point – persistently high blood sugar levels have been directly implicated in the production of inflammatory biochemistry that drives disease processes in the body.  Therefore, keeping blood sugar levels low reduces cellular inflammation.

The Anti-Inflammatory Diet is also a Ketogenic Diet, although the effect is what we call “Mildly Ketogenic”.  A full ketogenic diet may have up to 70% of dietary calories provided in the form of fats.  Now, there are a lot of very good reasons to have more calories provided by fats – the big oops in the Keto Diet is that most proponents do not get enough low G.I. carbohydrates with all the benefits that they provide (which was described in the previous paragraph).  So, the most aggressive keto diet will have 70% fats, 20% protein, and 10% carbohydrate.  The Anti-Inflammatory diet will drop the fat volume to around 50% fat, with 20% protein, and 30% carbohydrate – but remember, all of those carbs are green leafy, and other low G.I. vegetables.  The data on the Keto influence is growing rapidly.  Certainly, fats are more energy efficient – we need less of them to provide the same caloric value.  Fats (when converted to Ketones in the liver) burn more efficiently and therefore produce fewer free-radicals in the energy production aspect of our physiology.  It has been demonstrated that our central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) are better adapted to burn ketones for energy than previously thought.  This is big news – because higher blood sugar levels in the brain (from high sugar diets) is now being seen as the initiator of cellular inflammation in the brain which drives dementia and Alzheimer’s.  In fact, it has been demonstrated that aggressive Ketogenic Diets may be a contributory factor in the recovery from concussion.  The overall message is that we must eat more fats than we have been told in the last 50 years.  Eating fats do not make you fat.  And, eating fats do not cause cardiovascular disease.  Sugars make you fat, and sugars cause cardiovascular disease (and a whole bunch of other bad things).

The body needs proteins for growth and cellular repair.  How much protein is required for this function has been under debate for a long while and there are many “camps” in the debate.  The very best science has come to the conclusion that in almost all circumstances (including athletes), the volume of protein in the diet does not need to be more than 20%.  There have been a lot of interpretations on how much this means, but the consensus is that we do not need more than 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.  This is where the “Paleo Diet Gone Amuck” comes into play.  The biggest mistake of the Paleo diet is that some of the proponents have come to incorrectly assume that the diet encourages sky-high volumes of protein.  This is not true.  One of the reasons that we should be mindful to not eat too much protein is that high levels can contribute to pulling us out of a ketogenic state (which I just described as being very beneficial).  Fats and proteins commonly co-exist in foods – particularly in animal products.  If the attempt to become ketogenic is through the consumption of large volumes of flesh, you may not be getting the effect you are looking for.  The best way to become ketogenic is to stick with the model of 20% protein in the diet and to increase the plant sources of fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, and other medium-chain triglycerides.

Nutrient density is not a common term these days when it comes to the lexicon of diets.  However, high nutrient density is fundamental to health.  In the overall diet debate, too much time has been spent talking about calories from food.  To the body, having lots of calories in food without high nutrient content is like a car having lots of gasoline but no wheels or tires.  It looks like a car and sounds like a car but when you hit the gas, it doesn’t perform too well.  We need to be much more attentive to the nutrient value that we get from food.  The nutrients are the “language” of food – they speak to our cells.  So much so, that if the language of food is clear, we have the capacity to influence positive genetic expression.  Did you hear that?  Getting higher volumes of high nutrient dense foods allows our genes to keep us healthy!  This is very big stuff and is a fundamental emphasis of the field of epigenetics.  Now, where do we find the foods with the highest nutrient density?  You guessed it – vegetables and fruits that are low on the glycemic index.

At this point, I hope you can now see how it all comes together with the Anti-Inflammatory diet.  It stands alone as a dietary model, and yet it has components of other “popular” contemporary models.  In my opinion and when applied correctly, these other models are helpful and will improve the health of their devotees.  However, the Anti-Inflammatory diet considers the best of each of them and is consistent with the current best knowledge in dietary science.

Dr. Michael Breen is the co-owner of the Chiropractic Family Care Centre and has been in Private Practice in Calgary, Alberta for over three decades.  Dr. Breen graduated from the University of Calgary Faculty of Kinesiology in 1981 (Honours) and from Palmer College of Chiropractic – West in San Jose, California in 1986.  His foundational clinical work is in the field of Health Optimization.  He uses his background in athletics and chiropractic to aid his patients in recovering physical capacity and uses his background in nutrition and functional medicine to aid his patients in the recovery from chronic illness.  He is the co-founder of the Healthy Transformations program.  Dr. Breen can be reached at mbreendc@telus.net