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2010: unraveling nutrition
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Unraveling Nutrition

Bronwyn Schweigerdt

“Auto-immune disease spans the spectrum of the least understood disorders...”
I love being a nutritionist. Not only do I get to tell people what to eat, but I’m constantly learning new information as research emerges. One of the most fascinating health “trends” of late has been the increase of auto-immune disorders and food allergies. Auto-immune disease spans the spectrum of the least understood disorders: autism, Rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, colitis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Irritable and Inflammatory Bowel disorders, Crohn’s disease, Type I diabetes, fibromyalgia, cystic fibrosis, lupus, candida, and frequent migraines include some of the most well known.  
The most common food allergies are gluten, milk, soy and corn, although many other allergies are on the increase as well.  
Although most of us know someone who suffers from one or more of these problems, most people have no clue as to why. This is where it gets interesting.
Both auto-immune disorders and food allergies are often caused by the same mechanism, known as “dysbiosis”. Dysbiosis means an imbalance of healthy verses detrimental bacteria in our digestive tract. In other words, the beneficial intestinal flora (bacteria) that reside in our gastrointestinal tract are fewer than necessary, which allows the harmful microorganisms to flourish. Ultimately this causes a breakdown in the intestinal wall called Leaky Gut Syndrome. Leaky Gut Syndrome means that the toxic by-products of digestion are entering the body and no longer being eliminated. It also means that undigested proteins are able to enter the bloodstream – proteins like gluten, milk, corn and soy – that the body’s immune system attacks as a foreign invader. And viola, a food allergy is born.
Unfortunately, undigested proteins entering the blood have another side effect.  Many proteins resemble proteins in our own body tissue. This means our immune system not only attacks the proteins entering the blood, but our own organs. For example, if the proteins resemble pancreatic tissue, our immune system attacks our pancreas, leading to Type I diabetes. This is the underlying cause for many auto-immune diseases.  
Here’s the good news: the way we eat can help prevent dysbiosis. The most common form is called “putrefaction dysbiosis” and is caused by a low fiber, high meat diet. Fiber from food is essential for cleaning out harmful microorganisms that can concentrate in our gut, and most people on a typical Western diet don’t consume half the fiber they need.  
By eating high fiber foods – not fiber supplements in a pill or powder – we can increase the beneficial flora in our gut while removing hazardous compounds. Foods that are high in fiber come in four food groups: fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Legumes include all beans (except jelly), lentils, peas, and all nuts and seeds. Legumes contain the most fiber of all foods and I recommend 1-2 servings a day. Whole grains include oatmeal, brown rice, whole wheat bread and bread products, and popcorn. Fruit, dried fruit, and all vegetables, including potatoes with the skin are high in fiber. Our goal is to consume between 25-40 grams of fiber in our food daily.  
Many people who already have auto-immune disorders and food allergies find changing their diet to improve their symptoms substantially. Mary, one of my former nutrition students, had been diagnosed with Rheumatoid arthritis and given weekly doses of chemotherapy to treat her disease. After two months on a high fiber, vegetarian diet, Mary’s doctor found her immune system was no longer attacking her joint tissue and cut her medication back to one fourth the amount.  
There are many more benefits to a high fiber diet such as weight loss, preventing diabetes, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, but for now, just be encouraged that by eating more fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes you can prevent life-altering disease.  
Here is a list of high fiber foods excerpted from my book, Free to Eat:
1 kiwi (no peel): 3 grams fiber
1 cut raw papaya: 3 grams
1 mango (no peel): 3 grams
1 cup strawberries: 3 grams
1 banana: 3 grams
1 plum with peel: 3 grams
1 nectarine with peel: 4 grams
1 cup blackberries: 8 grams
1 cup blueberries: 4 grams
1 cup cherries: 3 grams
1 peach with peel: 3 grams
1 medium apple with peel: 4 grams
1 medium orange: 4 grams
3 small apricots: 6 grams
1 pear with peel: 5 grams
1 avocado: 6-8 grams
1 cup dates: 13 grams
10 dried figs: 17 grams
1 cup raspberries: 8 grams
1 cup cooked carrots: 5 grams
2 ears corn, cooked: 4 grams
1 large baked potato with skin: 5 grams
1 medium sweet potato with skin: 5 grams
1 cup cooked green beans: 4 grams
1 cup cooked brussels sprouts: 6.5 grams
1 artichoke: 6.5 grams
2/3 cup artichoke hearts: 6 grams
1 cup cooked broccoli: 5 grams
Beans/Lentils/Peas (cooked)
1 cup limas: 12 grams
1 cup pintos: 14 grams
1 cup garbanzos: 8 grams
1 cup kidney beans: 16 grams
1 cup black-eyed peas: 12 grams
1 cup snow peas: 4 grams
1 cup lentils: 15 grams
1 cup black beans: 15 grams
1 cup peas: 9 grams
1 cup split pea soup: 5-7 grams
Nuts/Seeds/Nut Butters
1 cup almonds: 14 grams
1 cup cashews: 4 grams
1 cup macadamia nuts: 12 grams
1 cup peanuts: 10 grams
1 cup pistachios: 14 grams
1 cup pumpkin seeds: 15 grams
1 cup sunflower seeds: 8 grams
1 cup walnuts: 6 grams
2 tablespoons natural peanut butter: 3 grams
2 tablespoons almond butter: 4 grams
½ cup hummus: 6 grams
Whole Grains
1 cup cooked barley: 8 grams
1 cup oatmeal: 4 grams
1 cup bulgur: 8 grams
2 buckwheat pancakes: 7 grams
1 cup brown rice: 4 grams
1 cup whole wheat pasta noodles: 6 grams
5 cups popcorn: 6 grams
1 slice whole-grain bread: 3-5 grams
1 whole-wheat bagel: 2-3 grams
1 cup whole-grain cereal: 5-10 grams
1 oz. corn tortilla chips: 2-4 grams
1 whole-wheat tortilla: 3-5 grams
1 small corn tortilla: 2 grams
Bronwyn Scheweigerdt has a Master’s degree from Tufts University in nutrition. She is a nutritionist and author of Free to Eat: The Proven Recipe for Permanent Weight Loss (2010).