Right before I got diagnosed with colon cancer, I wrote a book on our guts, called Tending Your Internal Garden. In it, I found some pretty exciting things (like you have thousands of unique species living inside you right now).
But science marches on, and now we have research that shows why diet books and diet experts don’t agree. They are all right, and they are all wrong.
Why? Because you’re unique.
No, seriously. This isn’t a “feel good” moment.
This is an “Oops, that means they don’t know” moment.
Yep. All the diet experts out there cannot tell you what the best diet is for you because you have a unique ecosystem. Your responses to food are your own. You literally can make yourself sick eating like they tell you to if you ignore yourself. Just because it worked for “buns of steel” diet-guru-of-the-week does not mean it will work for you.
Here’s the TED video detailing how they found this out, with some suggestions about tracking your own blood sugar response (not something most people are going to do).
But the question on my mind is this: how long until they figure out that all of our drug reactions are unique as well? Will that be an Aha! moment for modern medicine, the moment we realize that the framework of “managing patients” and “following algorithms” is just an icing on what is guesswork based on nothing? Will we start the movement toward individualized care as being not only the only sane model, but the only scientific one as well? I can dream.
It can seem with any chronic illness that the road is one way. You can slow the progression using drugs, but there is no way to go back. This feels particularly true with patients who have diabetes. Yet a new study shows that isn’t the case.
The researchers in this study used a novel new approach called diet, foregoing the usual drugs. They found that diabetes patients, many of whom had been diabetic for years, were able to reverse their diabetes by using a low-calorie diet and dropping about thirty pounds.
The numbers the researchers saw in these patients were similar to those seen in weight-loss surgery patients. Surgical practices advertise that they can reverse diabetes, but it usually involves a major surgery and the subsequent loss of over a hundred pounds.
What happened in the low-calorie diet was that diabetic patients were able to reset their insulin levels and increase their body’s ability to process sugar. The question is why this study needed to be done at all. Shouldn’t diet be the first treatment for diabetes? But doctors reach first for drugs now, even in the U.K. You didn’t honestly think this kind of study would ever be done in the U.S., did you? Here’s more for the geeks among us, and here’s the original study abstract for your doctor.
A new study, brought to my attention by another patient, shows wonderful news for both children and adults with NF1. We finally have evidence that this genetic disease can be seriously improved through dietary intervention. It also gives evidence that supplements added to a bad diet won’t help much.
The study followed NF1 patients for six months, on either the Mediterranean or Western diets. Neither diet impacted the rate of neurofibromas. Then the researchers added 1200 mg (three capsules worth) of turmeric to the diets. Adding turmeric to the western diet did nothing. But adding it to the Mediterranean diet caused a slowing in the buildup of neurofibromas.
Having a diet and a single supplement slow the progression of a genetic disease is wonderful. It means that the disease is not genetic in its symptoms, but epigenetic. Epigenetics is the study of how the body turns off and on genes. The diet and the supplement were able to turn off the progression of neurofibromas.
But what is truly startling is that several of the patients experienced a reversal of existing neurofibromas! That’s not just epigenetic, that’s a switching on of other genes that are significantly repairing previous damage. It opens the door to moving NF1 away from the genetic category, into a metabolic disorder that should be addressed from birth.
Hopefully, the broad interest will translate into a changing of recommendations for colon cancer patients. The problem is that adding aspirin after surgery might make surgeons concerned about bleeding. So the proper time to recommend aspirin would be at the six week follow-up appointment.