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Diet & Disease
Using Diet to Treat Chronic Diseases

New research continues to demonstrate that particular foods can strengthen the body and help prevent disease, an approach that will perhaps someday allow us to rely less on drastic treatments, like pharmaceutical drugs and interventional procedures, to stay healthy. According to Jeffrey Novick, MS, RD, the nutritionist for the McDougall Program in Santa Rosa, California, and the director of health education for the National Health Association, "People who are suffering from certain chronic conditions should indeed consume or avoid particular foods." But he vastly prefers to emphasize a healthy diet focused on prevention, which can then be tweaked as necessary for specific diseases to reduce symptoms. Accordingly, the first caution is to consider the big picture -- what diet will increase your health and decrease the likelihood you'll get sick?

Novick's first rule then is this: Eat foods that nourish and sustain the body. Though he says the ideal would be to eat only such foods, this is especially important for those who suffer from a chronic disease. For guidance on what such a diet would look like, Novick looks at eating habits in societies around the world where people routinely lived to 100 or more. Common to these groups (in addition to social engagement, regular moderate exercise and being tobacco-free) was a plant-based diet with a little animal protein... so little, in fact, that Novick suggests considering animal protein a condiment, not a main course. With this in mind, here are updated dietary specifics that Novick recommends to nourish and sustain us all, healthy or ill...

Avoid refined foods. More than 90% of the carbs in the US diet are in the form of refined and processed foods and few of these are healthy. Even many foods labeled "whole grains" (including bagels, bread, crackers, cookies and rolls) also have fats, sugars, salt and preservatives that are not, he stresses, on the good-for-you list.
Fill up on fiber. Eat plentiful amounts of vegetables, unprocessed intact whole grains like brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, barley, starchy vegetables (potatoes, yams, corn, etc.) and, yes, beans. In fact, with their high fiber, low fat and high protein, legumes seem to be a common denominator among all populations studied for longevity and health.
Everything in moderation... even good-for-you foods. Novick points out that diets that recommend a "little" this and a "little" that, such as dark chocolate, walnuts and olive oil, can easily lead people to believe it is okay to eat large quantities of these foods, so they end up consuming too much fat and too many calories. While these foods may be good for you in small quantities, they can easily be overdone. Instead, he suggests focusing on the primary foods the diet recommends and using the others as a condiment or an occasional treat.



When disease creeps in, there are dietary changes that Novick recommends. For example...

If you have arthritis: People who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis can do much through diet to help symptoms. Novick suggests removing all inflammatory components of the diet, including processed foods, white flour and sugar, and most vegetable oils. In fact, based on studies published in the medical literature, Novick says it is best to remove all oil from the diet until symptoms abate. Be sure your diet includes lots of green leafy vegetables and all types of berries for their phytochemicals. In addition to the above, Novick suggests that those with osteoarthritis -- the most common form of arthritis -- keep their weight down, because excess pounds stress joints. Some people with osteoarthritis find it helpful to avoid nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant), while others don't have a problem with them.

If you have diabetes:
Weight reduction is of paramount importance when it comes to treating diabetes, says Novick. A loss of as little as 5% to 7% of total weight will result in a dramatic improvement in blood sugar. He adds that belly fat is particularly dangerous for people with diabetes -- in addition to its cardiovascular risks, abdominal fat increases insulin resistance. Exercise is key, but Novick advises also reducing dietary fat intake and keeping calories under control. For those concerned about glycemic load, who believe adding fat to a meal lowers the meal's glycemic load and hence the glucose spike, he notes that in the long run dietary fat, excess weight, excess belly fat and inactivity interfere with and increase insulin resistance and make diabetes worse.

If you have high blood pressure: Reducing total fat in your diet, and most especially unhealthy fats, can help lower blood pressure. Here's why: Fat in the blood is known as lipemia. When a fluid becomes more viscous, as blood does when lipemia increases, it is more difficult to move it through the vessels and requires more pressure. High fat meals can cause lipemia that lasts up to six hours.

However, the most often cited dietary problem when it comes to high blood pressure is salt. The best way to cut down on salt intake is to monitor the sodium you consume in processed and packaged foods. A good rule of thumb is that the sodium content in mgs/serving should not exceed calories/serving. Be especially careful in restaurants, as much restaurant food is highly salted.

For the latest advice on salt intake, see The Truth about Salt.

If you have digestive problems and/or heart disease:
Both of these very common disorders can be improved with proper diet. Novick says he has seen people who experience terrible pain from digestive problems of reflux, heartburn, inflammatory bowel disease and other maladies become pain-free in just a few days by making dietary changes. To optimize digestive health and to improve (sometimes even reverse) heart disease, the dietary advice is familiar. Eat fruits... vegetables (especially green leafy ones)... lean protein... and some whole grains. Indeed, if your diet emphasizes these foods now, you'll be doing a great deal to boost the odds that you will never have to worry about treating disease in years to come, be it with food or drugs.

Jeffrey Novick, MS, RD, director of health education for the National Health Association, nutritionist/dietician, McDougall Program, Santa Rosa, California.

The Acid/Alkaline Theory of Disease

It is necessary to have an understanding of endogenous acid production, which includes, gastrointestinal acid production, respiratory acid production, cellular degeneration acid production and finally metabolic acid production. For example, when an organ secretes protons (acids) into the gut lumen, it must secrete bicarbonate (electrons or base) into the blood. And if it secretes bicarbonate or electrons into the lumen, it must secrete protons into the blood. Thus, anytime bicarbonate is needed for secretion into the gut lumen, a proton or acid is also generated. And anytime a proton or acid is needed for secretion, a bicarbonate or electron is also produced.

What happens to the "waste" proton or bicarbonate or electron? It cannot enter the gut lumen, because it would react with, and thus neutralize, the secreted bicarbonate or proton (via the reaction H+ + HCO3- = CO2 + H2O), thereby preventing the intended effect on lumenal pH. Also, it must not remain in the cell because this would disturb intracellular pH and eventually the cell would disorganize. It has only one choice -- leave the cell in the direction opposite to the gut lumen -- that is, into the interstitial fluid and the blood.

Stomach: parietal cells secrete protons into the gastric lumen at about 1 mmol per hour. After a meal the rate can reach 50 mmol/hour. This secretion of protons or acids lowers the pH of the alimentary contents (chyme) to about 1.0 pH, thus, the stomach liberates bicarbonate into the blood, both at rest and, especially, during meals. Duodenum and associated organs: Bicarbonate is secreted into duodenal chyme from three sources: pancreas, gall bladder, and duodenal mucosa. Pancreatic fluid has a (HCO3-) of between 25 mmol/L and 150 mmol/L up to 200 mmol/L in a 24 hour period. The bile from the gallbladder has a bicarbonate (HCO3-) of about 40 mmol/Liter. The duodenal mucosa also generates and secretes bicarbonate (HCO3-). As expected, these organs secrete equimolar quantities of protons (H+) or acids into the blood thus acidifying the blood stream. The amount of bicarbonate (HCO3-) secreted by these organs and the subsequent amount of proton (H+) or acid secreted back into the bloodstream is a direct result of WHAT YOU ARE EATING!

The gut secretes slightly more bicarbonate (HCO3-) or base than protons (H+) or acids into the gut lumen, so more protons (H+) or acids than bicarbonate (HCO3-) or base (electrons) enter the bloodstream thus acidifying the blood.

This, once again is a direct result of WHAT YOU EAT and DRINK! Thus, even after added protons (H+) and bicarbonate (HCO3-) neutralize each other, some additional protons (H+) remain in the blood -- hence, gastrointestinal acid production form the foods we eat and the liquids we drink. These excess protons (H+) or acids, like those released during metabolic acid production, are buffered by plasma bicarbonate (HCO3-), causing plasma bicarbonate (HCO3-) to fall.

Metabolism and gut together add about 100 mmol of proton (H+) or acids per day to the body fluids leading to an imbalance in the delicate pH homeostasis of the extracellular and intracellular fluids, morbid fermentation's and/or aging of the organism. The body goes into preservation mode and will produce buffering agents to bind or neutralize the excess acid productions.

These buffering or neutralizing agents include the following: 1) Plasma bicarbonate 2) Hemoglobin from the red blood cells causing anemia 3) Calcium from the bones causing arthritis and osteoporosis 4) Magnesium from the muscle causing muscle wasting 5) Cholesterol to bind acids leading to stoke and heart attack. There are many other buffering or chelating agents that the body uses to maintain the delicate pH balance of the body fluids, especially the blood at 7.365, at the expense of all other organs. For if the blood does not maintain homeostasis you die!

According to Max Planck, Nobel Laureate in physics, 1918, said, "For new ideas to be accepted, one has to wait for a generation of scientists to die off and a new one to replace it." So it is with the "New Biology" theory -- there is only one disease and one sickness -- the over-acidification of the blood and tissues due to an inverted way of living, thinking and eating.

Understanding Acid-Base , by Benjamin Abelow, M.D.,
   lecturer in Medicine at Yale School of Medicine
Clinical Physiology of Acid-Base and..., by Burton David Rose, MD,
   Clinical Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and
   Theodore W. Post, MD, Deputy editor, Nephrology.