You may be familiar with the expression, “You are what you eat.” But what you may not know is the alarming effect the modern Western diet can have on your health.

Besides depleting your bones, the typical Western diet, high in saturated fats and sugar and low in fiber, has been shown to permanently alter the immune system, according to a recently published study. With a weakened immune system, your body becomes more susceptible to inflammation triggers and disease.

Today we’re going to examine what the study results show, and reconfirm how you can maintain optimal health through a nutritional program that’s the exact opposite of the typical Western diet.

What You Eat Can Create Or Erase Good Health

There’s a good reason why the Standard American Diet is known by the acronym S.A.D.: this way of eating will damage your bones and slowly destroy your health.

The Standard American Diet typically consists of refined carbohydrates, highly processed food, and minimal fruits and vegetables. It’s also full of hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), monosodium glutamate (MSG) and other flavor and texture enhancers and preservatives.

While many consider the S.A.D. diet “normal”, the lack of essential micronutrients, coupled with low fiber, additives, and chemicals, can be quite harmful over time.

For example, the chemical preservatives that keep fast food looking and tasting appealing are toxic and lacking in nutrients. And as we explored in a previous article, fast food packaging is as toxic as the food itself.

Making matters worse, scientists have recently made an even more disturbing discovery: the typical Western diet permanently alters the body’s immune system, which causes it to become more sensitive to inflammation triggers. Acting like a bacterial infection, this prolonged immune system reprogramming, known as “trained immunity,” reduces the body’s ability to defend against disease.1

Long-term, weakened immunity accelerates the development of Type 2 diabetes, atherosclerosis, and other conditions that arise as a result of inflammation. The most frightening outcome: once this immune response has been triggered, switching to a healthy diet does not appear to reverse the damage.

Synopsis

New research has found that the typical Western diet, high in hydrogenated fat, sugar and low in fiber on a prolonged basis damages the immune system, lowering the body’s ability to fight infection. This weakened state opens the door to a slew of chronic conditions that typically result from excessive inflammation, including Type 2 diabetes and atherosclerosis.

Inflammation And Your Immune System

Because the immune system is designed to protect our bodies from foreign invaders, an unhealthy high fat, high calorie, low fiber diet triggers an immune response similar to the reaction to a bacterial infection. The body’s defense system reacts aggressively, producing a strong inflammatory response.

In scientific studies with mice, when the fast food diet was eliminated, the acute inflammation disappeared. However, the genetic reprogramming of the immune cells remained. In other words, once inflamed, the “innate immune system”, which has been recently found to have a form of memory, remained on high alert.

Furthermore, since the immune system stays in this hyperactive state, “it reacts to even small stimuli with stronger inflammatory responses,” explains Professor Eicke Latz, senior study author.1

The innate immune system reacts to the Western diet as a pathogen that must be eradicated. In terms of long-term health, the Western diet appears to be worse than a bacterial infection: once you recover from an infection, the level of inflammation in your body returns to normal. But when this innate immune retraining takes place due to the Western diet, your body’s immune function is permanently altered for the worse.

Synopsis

Our immune system reacts to the Western diet as if it would be a bacterial infection, generating an acute inflammatory response. However, unlike an infection, in which inflammation drops down to normal levels once the infection is gone, a typical Western diet activates the innate immune system’s memory that keeps it on high alert. This leads to chronic inflammation, which in turn can accelerate the development of several undesirable health conditions, including Type 2 diabetes and atherosclerosis.

How The Proper pH Restores Health

This study gives us yet one more reason to eat a healthful diet. It builds on previous research that has shown how women can diminish the risk of bone loss through an anti-inflammatory diet that reduces or eliminates refined grains, sugar, excess animal protein, trans fats and food additives.

The good news is that the pH-balanced nutritional plan recommended by the Save Institute for bone health and overall health is the exact opposite of the typical Western diet.
In sharp contrast to the typical Western diet, high in unhealthy fats and sugar, cow’s milk, and chemical additives, the nutritional plan in the Osteoporosis Reversal Program is low in saturated fats and sugar, high in fiber, and eliminates cow’s milk. However, plain, unsweetened yogurt, kefir, and sour cream contain beneficial probiotics and are acceptable.

When you follow the 80/20 rule — 80 percent alkalizing foods and 20 percent acidifying foods — you create a pH balanced environment that allows your bones to thrive, and provides numerous whole-body benefits.

Additionally, when your serum pH is within the desirable alkalinity range, which reverses the damaging effects of chronic acidosis, you’re also strengthening your immune system.2

Synopsis

The pH balanced diet recommended by the Save Institute promotes bone health and overall health. Following the 80/20 rule — 80 percent alkalizing foods and 20 percent acidifying foods — will provide you with numerous whole-body benefits, including strengthening your immune system.

Choose Health With Proper Nutrition

Here are six Foundation Foods that are both alkalizing and anti-inflammatory, and that you can eat in abundance to achieve and maintain an alkaline pH, healthy bones, and a strong immune system. Please note that it’s preferable buy organic produce whenever possible.

1. Asparagus

Delicious and highly alkalizing, asparagus contains numerous anti-inflammatory and bone-smart nutrients. Asparagus is a Vitamin K superstar, and is rich in the B vitamins, as well as Vitamins C and D. It is also a rich source of the Master Antioxidant glutathione, a powerful bone protector.3

2. Broccoli

Whether you steam it, sauté it, grill it, roast it, or eat it raw in a salad, broccoli is a nutritional powerhouse, immune system strengthener, and a potent anti-inflammatory cruciferous vegetable that can break the cycle of chronic inflammation and oxidative stress. A good source of iron, calcium and Vitamin C, broccoli is also a skin beautifier.

3. Carrots

Did you know that the beta-carotene in carrots makes bones more fracture-resistant?4 In addition to their extensive nutrients — B vitamins, Vitamin C, K, E, potassium and manganese — thanks to these anti-inflammatory nutrients, carrots help to improve your skin, hair and nails, too.

4. Kale

Here’s a great reason to skip cow’s milk in favor of kale: kale contains more calcium than milk, and protects rather than harms your bones. Nutrient-rich kale contains numerous vitamins and minerals your bones crave, and its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties make it a powerful immune booster.

5. Beets

Often used in combination with carrots and celery as a healthful “cleansing” juice, beets are packed with purifying phytonutrients that help detoxify your liver (thereby reducing inflammation) and strengthen your bones.

6. Arugula

While many people still haven’t tried arugula, this bitter leafy green is exceptional in a spring mix. Bitters are renowned for their beneficial effects on the digestive tract. Bitter greens such as arugula stimulate hydrochloric acid, which breaks down proteins and enhances mineral absorption, making it an excellent addition to any meal that includes protein. High in bone-healthy Vitamin K and calcium and low in oxalates, arugula is a valuable anti-inflammatory component of your Osteoporosis Reversal Program daily diet.

Synopsis

To achieve and maintain a desirable blood pH, healthy bones, and a strong immune system, be sure to include asparagus, broccoli, carrots, kale, beets and arugula in your bone-healthy diet, along with other Foundation Foods.

A Bone-Smart Diet Is Immune-Smart As Well

A pH-balanced diet, low in saturated fats and sugar, high in fiber, and excluding cow’s milk, reduces inflammation and protects your immune system as well as your bones. Making the choice to consume healthful foods and beverages can be delicious as well as nutritious. So go ahead and introduce your palate to a world of foods that will help you maintain good health and strong bones throughout your life.

Eat Your Way to Stronger Bones!

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References

1 Anette Christ et al., “Western Diet Triggers NLRP3-Dependent Innate Immune Reprogramming”, Cell, Volume 172, Issue 1, P162-175.E14, JANUARY 11, 2018. Web. https://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(17)31493-9?_returnURL=https%3A%2F%2Flinkinghub.elsevier.com%2Fretrieve%2Fpii%2FS0092867417314939%3Fshowall%3Dtrue

2 Lardner, Anne. “The effects of extracellular pH on immune function.” Journal of Leukocyte Biology. April 2001. Vol. 69, no. 4, 522-530. Web. https://jlb.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1189/jlb.69.4.522

3 Drinkwater JM, Tsao R, Liu R, et al. “Effects of cooking on rutin and glutathione concentrations and antioxidant activity of green asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) spears.”Journal of Functional Foods, Volume 12, January 2015, Pages 342-353. Web. http://www.agr.gc.ca/eng/abstract/publication?id=35685000000102

4 Z. Dai, L-W Ang, W-P Koh. “Protective effects of dietary carotenoids on risk of hip fracture in men: the Singapore Chinese Health Study”. JBMR. 16 July 2013
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3894263

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  1. Christine

    My doctor is having me take Risedronate Sodium once a month, I read the side effects, and I told him that it says it can cause a broken femur, he said that’s easier to fix then a broken hip! Your thoughts please!

  2. Linda

    Could you please tell me how many of the recipes in the book Bone Health are vegetarian/vegan? I eat mostly a plant-based diet and am reluctant to buy a book with lots of meat/chicken/fish recipes, etc.

  3. shulamit sendowski

    Thank you for this anti-inflamatory food-list.

  4. Marilyn

    Organic Asparagus – fresh, frozen or canned – cooked or raw – does that make any significant difference in the nutrients and anti-inflammatory benefits? Fresh asparagus has a short local season…and then becomes quite expensive – but still delicious!

  5. Marcela Ritter

    I thank you for all your most helpful emails. I specially love on the advice on diet. Do you have any thoughts on Prollia? I have been advised by my oncologist to take it, as a preventative for bone loss. because I am taking letrizole. I have read the negatives about side effects. I regularly eat all the good foods you recommend and exercise regularly.

  6. Jackie Davies

    Hi Vivian, does that mean there is no hope once the inate immune system has been permanently altered? I have auto immune diseases that were diagnosed after years of misdiagnosis. I follow a healthy diet and exercise but feel quite hopeless after reading this.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      Jackie, the study mentioned in today’s article does not apply to autoimmune conditions. So keep up with what you’re doing to improve your health and wellbeing!

  7. Alex

    So whats the point of switching diets if it clearly says in this article: “The most frightening outcome: once this immune response has been triggered, switching to a healthy diet does not appear to reverse the damage.”??

    • Greg Hill

      Jackie, I would say two things. First, any damage done by a poor diet will continue to get progressively worse if the diet that caused that damage in the first place is not changed. Second, I would not take that single bit of research as definitive. All we really know for sure is that the author of the study has not yet identified, probably never will be able to identify, any kind of “one size fits all” diet that the body will need to repair whatever damage has already been done. Each of us is a unique case, and almost always our recovery will take some trial-and-error (like a temporary elimination diet) combined with some appropriate testing (like for gut health) and some recommendations for possibly-helpful changes in diet and lifestyle generally, made by a properly trained Function Medicine practitioner.

      • Greg Hill

        Sorry, I intended to address this reply to both Jackie and Alex.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA

      There are many reasons to switch to a healthy diet, Alex! Remember that the study mentioned in today’s article explains that the long-term effect is that the immune system becomes more reactive. Additionally, the typical Western diet is directly linked to the onset of osteoporosis (because of its acidifying properties) , it also increases the risk of CVD , and several other undesirable health conditions.

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