Psoriasis, Arthritis, and Inflammatory Bowel Disease

For several years the same prescription medications used to treat psoriasis have been used to treat multiple forms of arthritis and inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn's and ulcerative colitis. Without more information, an inquisitive mind was left simply wondering why a drug used for a skin disease would be effective for seemingly unrelated arthritis or inflammatory bowel diseases. More recently researchers have been illuminating multiple connections between inflammatory skin and joint disease and inflammatory gut disease. First, scientists found overlapping genes suggest broad autoimmune association between psoriasis and other autoimmune diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Type 1 Diabetes, Celiac Disease. Other researchers later quantified concomitance between chronic inflammatory gut and autoimmune diseases via shared genetics and shared pathogenesis. Yet despite shared treatments, shared genes, and shared pathogenesis, along with published conclusions in the British Journal of Dermatology that "diet plays a role in the aetiology and pathogenesis of psoriasis", almost all American dermatologists still tell their patients that psoriasis has nothing to do with diet nor the gut.  

Think again.

John Hopkins' Integrative Medicine and Digestive Department estimates that 70% of the cells that comprise the body's immune system are housed in walls of the gut.  And the University of Michigan's Integrative Medicine Department has published its own Healing Foods Pyramid. Built upon a plant-based, whole foods diet, and effective for the prevention, management, and reversal of chronic inflammatory disease, suggestions from this top ranked medical school are highly consistent with those in the British Journal of Dermatology for diet and psoriasis.  

Those of us with psoriasis are at higher risk for life threatening diseases like heart disease. It is notable that the dietary recommendations made by the University of Michigan offer therapeutic value for all of our concomitant diseases, not just psoriasis.  Psoriasis medications treat only the symptoms, they come with enormous price tags and have horrific side effects.  These dietary recommendations are affordable for people worldwide and they deliver the promise of a longer, healthier life for all.

In my clinical opinion, sufficient evidence exists to connect inflammation at the skin to inflammation in the gut, and diet directly impacts inflammatory pathways throughout the body. The only missing piece of the puzzle is not more research, doctors, drugs, products nor supplements.  The missing piece is you. Only you can decide if you will give your diet a chance to be your medicine.

Posted on July 11, 2014 and filed under Skin Disorders.

Jiro, Health Hero``

Jiroemon Kimura, recognized by Guinness World Records as the oldest man in recorded  history, died in June of natural causes at the age of 116.  He was succeeded as the world’s oldest living person by yet another Japanese Okinawan.

What is the common thread that runs amongst these centernarian Okinawans, a Japanese group which often includes the world’s oldest person who usually dies of natural causes?  If you believe in math and science, the odds are extremely good that their plant-based, whole foods diet is crucial to their health and longevity, just as it was with the 70,000 Seventh Day Adventists recently researched in this study.  Quite contrary to what is recommended by Dr. Atkins, who had a heart attack and lived a whopping 44 years less than Jiroemon, or the so-called “Paleo Diet”, Jiroemom ate rice, sweet potato, and beans including soybeans at nearly every meal. Every day.  As with elder Okinawans, fish was the primary source of animal protein.  But meat like fish was reserved for special occasions like Jiroemon’s last birthday.

Now imagine living just 116 years ago. And every year in human history before that. You had no refrigerator, no freezer, no stove, no oven, no running water, no electricity, no grocery store.  Everything cooked was cooked over a fire.  Imagine what life was like before public education. The entire world was third world, the middle class did not exist, and meat was at least as “expensive” as it is now, meaning you had to sacrifice months of meals to an animal before you got a single meal of it.  Humans everywhere lived every day to survive, not to thrive.  If refrigerators and freezers did not exist to refrigerate meat or dairy, and yesterday’s poverty makes today’s poverty look wealthy, how would you have eaten?  Perhaps a lot like the elder Okinawans and billions of others in third world countries today where the incidence of heart disease, alzheimer’s, diabetes, osteoporosis, and cancer are still rare.  Perhaps like the billions of people whose dietary staples are still affordable plant-based, whole foods like rice and beans or rice and lentils.  

Quick fixes, short-term symptomatic improvements, hype, and a wide money trail help many forget not just common sense, but overwhelming evidence.  Billions of people in today’s world, and billions of people across human history, make for a very, very large research trial.  The same approach that works so effectively for Okinawans and 70,000 Seventh Day Adventists works for all humans across all blood types, “metabollic types”, and other gimmick phrases which represent opinion and marketing, not empirical research.  Don’t be fooled.

Posted on August 19, 2013 and filed under Wellness & Prevention.

Separating Reality from Marketing

As the holiday season nears don’t forget that a mountain of evidence now makes clear that popular dietary practices like the so-called “Paleo” and Atkins diets can negatively impact long-term health and longevity. Heavy emphasis upon consumption of meat, especially red meat and processed red meat, may create quick weight loss. But it’s also known to contribute to risk of our biggest killer, heart disease. It’s also known to contribute to some of the most common forms of cancer including colon cancer. And now it’s being connected to long-term risk of Type 2 Diabetes. Whereas the “Paleo” diet implies it represents how humans ate for thousands of years, in fact the Paleo Diet, like the Atkins diet, was created by one person. That one person is attached to quite a product line. What they’re not attached to is a body of empirical research backing their claims. 

Some of the most reputable public health institutions in the world offer a very different viewpoint of how prehistoric humans ate. And how we can replicate those patterns today to optimize health, longevity, and associated expenses. The University of Michigan ranks #34 in the world for leading publishers of empirical research (which by definition removes subjective opinion and bias). Review of empirical research led their Integrative Medicine Department to publish this Healing Foods Pyramid. As a public health institution rather than an individual with a product line and a hungry ego, the emphasis is on long-term health for all humans regardless of blood type. Although not vegetarian, the obvious emphasis is on plants and plants found whole in nature. This makes sense given that prehistoric humans ate between 100-150 grams per day of fiber, none of which is found in meat. Try just one day of eating 100-150 grams of fiber and see how much meat you still want to chew.

Europe’s oldest prehistoric town in Bulgaria is a viewable reminder of the difficulty and rarity with which humans ate daily meat before refrigerators, freezers, food subsidies, and a worldwide middle class with much more disposable income were introduced just one century ago. The residents boiled water from a local spring and used it to create salt bricks which were traded and used to preserve meat. As such, salt was an immensely valuable commodity at the time. Hence, the huge defensive stone walls which ringed the town.

As New Year’s resolutions and guilt trips follow holiday indulgences, don’t forget that Dr. Atkins himself suffered a heart attack. Dr. Atkins didn’t live as long as the average American male, and the average American male ranks 42nd in the world for longevity. Instead of jumping for a quick fix, take a moment to review the common sense message of the Healing Foods Pyramid and how you can start building more of it into your daily life at your own pace. There are lots of ways to make this fun and enjoyable.  

Bon appetit!

Posted on December 18, 2012 and filed under Wellness & Prevention.