In my last blog, we looked at diets to help IBS and environmental illnesses and to help reduce ageing.  In this blog, we are going to focus on the diets that aim to reduce inflammation. These include diets that restrict histamine promoting foods, low oxalate diets and the increasingly popular AIP and ketogenic diets.


You may already have come across diets that restrict high histamine or high oxalate foods which can cause an inflammatory reaction in some people. Although these diets are undoubtedly helpful in managing symptoms, they may not correct the underlying metabolic issues.


If you suffer from an inflammatory problems yourself such as hay fever or asthma, you may have tried taking anti-histamines. YOu may be one of those people prone to high histamine levels.


Histamine imbalances

Histamine is an essential protein which we make from the amino acid histadine, and if we don’t eat enough, our bodies simply make more. Histamine is an important brain chemical. It regulates blood pressure and broncho-dilation which is why high histamine levels are linked to asthma. It is also necessary for the release of stomach acid and intrinsic factor needed for B12 uptake.


Both high and low histamine can be problematic and are also associated with mental health problems. High histamine can cause OCD and anxiety, migraine, inflammation involving mast cells, allergies, IBS, reflux and gastritis. Low histamine is associated with symptoms such as decreased libido, weight gain, chemical and food sensitivities, anxiety, paranoia, restless legs and excessive body hair, and – in children – under-achievement and hyperactivity.


Histamine imbalances are caused by toxins triggering genes involved methylation, particularly the methylation (or demethylation) of enzymes needed for histamine metabolism. This can usually be improved by supplementation with B12 and/or folate and by reducing the toxic burden. Although a low histamine diet may be helpful during an acute attack, such as a migraine, it is likely to be less effective long term, as the body would produce more. Sometimes the problem is in breaking down histamine. I always think it is preferable to try and correct the metabolic imbalances which generally involves supplemental support. If you would like to know more about whether you have a genetic tendency to histamine imbalances please see Genetic Profiling.


Oxalate intolerance

Oxalates are found in plant foods and levels have increased since we started spraying out crops. Oxalates are especially high in foods such as hemp, spinach and chard. Oxalates are linked to IBS, joint pain and interstitial cystitis. Yeast overgrowth can cause oxalate sensitivity as they produce mycotoxins, one of which is oxalic acid. If you’ve been reading my previous blogs, you will know that yeast overgrowth is a biome problem related to heavy metal toxicity, a high sugar diet or immune suppression. Other reasons for oxalate sensitivity include sulphur deficiency (sulphates are found in foods such as eggs, onions and garlic, or in nutrients involved in sulphur metabolism which include magnesium, molybdenum and B6). Liver problems, or high levels of unusable calcium – often from dairy – can also cause intolerance to oxalates.  I don’t think it would be very healthy to eat a low oxalate diet as oxalates are found in leafy green veg and many fruits, although as with histamine, it may be helpful to go low oxalate for a few days if you are in the grip of oxalate induced inflammation. Also, avoiding oxalates inevitably pushes up your intake of animal products. It is interesting that oxalates are rarely a problem if eaten as part of a raw diet.


AIP Diet

The epidemic of autoimmune diseases has led to the popularity of the AIP diet. AIP stands for Autoimmune Protocol Diet and is a Paleo inspired diet that additionally eliminates all foods with the potential to induce inflammation, such as nuts and seeds. Unfortunately, the AIP diet not only misses the number one cause of inflammation which is EMF exposure, but also relies heavily on coconut, the meat of which contains lectins which are pro-inflammatory in some people, if eaten in excess.  It is also high in animal protein and fat. The benefits of the AIP diet are likely to be because it helps manage, but does not eradicate, inflammation. Building a healthy biological terrain and balancing the immune system, which includes EMF protection and eating a largely raw, organic diet would in my view be a better way forward. Two books on autoimmunity I would recommend are The AutoImmune Fix and The AutoImmune Solution.


Ketogenic Diets

Recently, there has been a resurgence in interest in ketogenic diets. Ketogenic diets are high in fat, particularly animal fat, and are based on the premise that a high fat, minimal carb diet, will fuel the burning of fat in the cells boosting metabolic efficiency. But we know from metabolic typing and other systems for determining biochemical differences in how nutrients are metabolised, (see blog Personalised Diets) that a high fat diet for some may be appropriate in the short term, but for others who function better on carbs or who have congested livers, it could be a disaster. Ketogenic diets can cause inflammation in some people, and are heavy on the liver and kidneys. According to David Wolfe, author of The Sunfood Diet Success System, animal foods can clog up the body over time. The ketogenic diet requires some commitment as you need to monitor your blood and urine acid/alkaline levels. I think there are easier, and healthier, ways of boosting cellular energy and reducing inflammation which we will be looking at in a future blog.


On average, about a third of the people who follow these diets improve, which leaves two-thirds who don’t, and of those who do, the improvement is rarely sustained beyond a few months.


I can think of at least four problems with using diets such as these. Firstly, they are targeted at the symptomatic level so are allopathic rather than holistic. Secondly, they assume that everyone  is going to react in the same way to the diet, thirdly, they are trying to manipulate the body’s metabolism rather than providing conditions for the metabolism to right itself, and fourthly they often fail to address the underlying cause of the problem.


My next blog will be about weight loss diets, where the above issues are glaringly apparent.