Category Archives: inflammation

Western Diet (high sugar, refined carbs, unhealthy fats) alters genes and causes inflammation

New study (in mice) shows fast food makes the immune system more aggressive in a detrimental way.

Major points:

  1. The immune system reacts similarly to a high sugar, high (unhealthy) fat and high calorie diet as to a bacterial infection.
  2. Unhealthy food seems to make the body’s defenses (innate immune system) more aggressive in the long term. Even long after switching to a healthy diet, inflammation towards innate immune stimulation is more pronounced.
  3. These changes may be involved in the development of arteriosclerosis and diabetes.
  4. These changes are due to alterations in gene transcription (up-regulation of genes associated with inflammation)
  5. This up regulation of pro-inflammatory genes persists even after converting to a healthier diet.

Read more at News from IRT

Here: Fast food makes the immune system more aggressive in the long term: Study shows that even after a change to a healthy diet, the body’s defenses remain hyperactive — ScienceDaily

And here Western Diet Triggers NLRP3-Dependent Innate Immune Reprogramming: Cell

This study is an example of epigenetics, where an environmental factor (diet) alters the expression of genes. We know that regular consumption of a variety of colorful vegetables mediates many beneficial effects and part of that process involves altering the transcription of many genes related to health and our ability to defend against Oxidative Stress .

The epigenetic effect of nutrition can be transmitted to the next generation.

The epigenetic effects of diet include many aspects of health including  cancer risk.

And epigenetic changes in humans can begin  before birth in response to maternal nutrition and maternal exposure to environmental toxins .

Diet also effects the gut microbiome, which in turn affects health .

So avoid fast food and other forms of processed-refined foods. Eat a whole foods-ancestral diet that includes a variety of organic colorful vegetables and fruits, grass fed/finished meats and wild seafood. This will not only provide important micro and macro nutrients but will also turn up and turn on genes that prevent disease.

Live clean, sleep well, laugh and love.

Doctor Bob

Anti-inflammatory diet, are 9 servings of vegetables per day possible?

I often recommend a specific diet to decrease inflammation, decrease pain, and improve healing of tissue. I have been asked by patients to post this nutritional plan on my website so here it is (see below). In addition to this post, I will place the diet on a separate page along with recipes for vegetable soup and bone broth.

The recipes (vegetable soup and bone broth) meet the anti-inflammatory diet guidelines and also follow the more restrictive “Autoimmune Protocol”. This nutritional approach provides an array of micro nutrients that fight inflammation, support tissue repair, decrease the risk of chronic disease, and help maintain  a healthy gut flora (good bacteria in the intestines).

When I recommend 9 servings per day of vegetables patients often tell me it is impossible to achieve.  But it is not impossible, nor is it impractical. Every Sunday afternoon I make a large pot of vegetable soup that will keep all week in the refrigerator. I bring  generous servings to work every day for breakfast, brunch, and/or lunch and add some meat or seafood prepared the evening before (left-overs) on the side. The key to eating 9 servings per day is to have a variety of vegetables at every meal. The vegetable soup makes that goal not just achievable but convenient.

The anti-inflammatory diet described below provides ample fiber to feed your healthy gut bacteria and avoids the sugar and refined starches that can produce gut dysbiosis (unhealthy balance of bacteria in the intestines). Vegetables provide five times the amount of fiber per calorie compared to grains. You do not need to eat bread or cereal to get fiber.

So here is the anti-inflammatory diet. it is consistent with the Mediterranean diet as well as an Ancestral-Paleo diet.

Caution: if you have diabetes and are taking medications, this diet reduces carbohydrates and eliminates added sugar so adjustments in diabetes medications are necessary to avoid potentially dangerous low blood sugars. So consult your physician or primary care practitioner.

9 SERVINGS  OF NON-STARCHY VEGETABLES PER DAY, 3 SERVINGS FROM EACH OF THREE CATEGORIES. Organic as much as possible. (Read about the Dirty Dozen here: Dirty Dozen | EWG’s 2017 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce )

  • Arugula, Beet Greens, Bok Choy, Chard all colors, Chicory, Cilantro
  •  Dandelion Greens, Endive, Escarole, Kale-all kinds, Parsley, Radicchio
  • Radish leaves, Spinach, Turnip Greens, Watercress
  1. Colored vegetables, 3 cups daily:
  • GREEN: Artichoke, Asparagus, Avocado (FRUIT), Cabbage (red and green) Celery, Cucumber with skin, Okra, Olives, Peppers, Zucchini with skin
  • RED: Beets, red cabbage, red peppers, cooked tomatoes (fruit)
  • YELLOW: Carrots, Pumpkin, Squash-summer and winter, Sweet potato,
  1. SULFUR RICH VEGETABLES, 3 CUPS DAILY: Some leafy greens are also sulfur rich so there is overlap in these categories
  • Arugula, Asparagus, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Brussel sprouts, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Collard Greens, Garlic, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Mushrooms, Onions red-yellow-white, Radishes, Scallions, Shallots, Turnip Greens, Watercress.

Berries (any kind) ½ cup per day. This can be substituted for one serving of vegetables.

OMEGA-3 rich fish-seafood (at least 16 ounces per week)

  • Anchovies, clams, herring, mackerel, mussels, oysters, salmon, sardines, trout, calamari (squid), saltwater fish should be wild, shellfish farmed OK, farmed trout OK.

Meat ideally grass fed and grass finished, hormone and antibiotic free.

Poultry and eggs free range, any wild game meat or poultry.

Drink only filtered water, coffee, tea, bone broth (homemade is best) and kombucha.

No grains, cereal, bread, pasta, no food made from flour, no oats, wheat, barley, corn etc.

No legumes (beans), no peanuts

No dairy except Ghee for cooking (optional)

No processed food made with added sugar or hydrogenated oils (which contain trans-fats)

No “vegetable oils” (soy oil, corn oil, etc.)

Use only extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil and ghee. Limit EVOO to low heat cooking or add after food is cooked. The other oils on this list have higher smoke points.

Do not use store-bought salad dressing which usually has added sugar and inflammatory vegetable oils. Make your own salad dressing with EVOO and vinegar or lemon juice.

For more information about the AIP (Autoimmune protocol)  I suggest you visit these websites:

Autoimmune gut-repair diet – Autoimmune protocol | Dr. K. News

The Autoimmune Protocol – The Paleo Mom

The Autoimmune protocol is more restrictive than the anti-inflammatory diet and is beneficial for individuals with autoimmune disease.

Live clean, sleep well, exercise outside in the sunshine, love and laugh.

Dr. Bob

The Broken Brain Docuseries is now re-running

Due to popular demand the producers of this terrific series are making it available again  on line this weekend. If you have not taken advantage of this information you can do it here:

Replay (YouTube) | Broken Brain


Bob Hansen MD

The Broken Brain on-line “docuseries” is running now.

I would encourage everyone to watch this series of daily interviews and discussions on lifestyle and brain health. This was organized and produced by Mark Hyman MD, director of the Functional Medicine Clinic at Cleveland Clinic, well known author, speaker and physician, Discussions cover many topics including environmental toxins (such as heavy metals and Roundup), nutrition, exercise, sleep, stress reduction, gut bacteria, and more with specific reference to the effects on your brain and risk for dreaded conditions such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, etc. These conditions can be prevented and when present, they can be treated with interventions not usually employed by modern medicine, unless you are fortunate enough to be working with a Functional Medicine practitioner.

You can sign up to receive a daily email with a link to the on-line video. Each video in the series is available for 24 hours starting at 3 PM PST, 6 PM EST.

Here is the link to get started with the third episode in this series.

Episode 3: Dementia and Alzheimer’s [LIVE] | Broken Brain

To Your Health,

Bob Hansen MD

Cartoon humor: A Prescription for Health!



Hat tip to Tommy Wood MD, PhD for introducing me to this great cartoon.

So what would happen if your doctor prescribed this? Would you be shocked? Would you follow the advice? Sadly few doctors make such recommendations as explicitly as this cartoon and fewer patients follow the advice.

How important are the elements in this advice?

They are essential. We too often focus on dietary concerns at the expense of ignoring other important low hanging fruit. Early morning  outdoor exercise with exposure to natural light in a green space, even on a cloudy or rainy day, is essential for health. Why? There are many reasons. Click the link above to read fitness expert Darryl Edward’s discussion with references. In fact outdoor exercise in a greenspace is more beneficial than the same exercise indoors. The reasons are many, including but not limited to Vitamin D production.

Early daytime exposure to natural outdoor light helps to maintain our Circadian rhythm and align the biologic clock in all of our cells and organs with the central biological Circadian clock in our brain. Most folks do not know that we have a biologic clock deep within our brain and that all the organs and cells of our body also have clocks. They all need to be synchronized with each other and with the sun for optimal health. When they are not synchronized bad things happen. Night shift workers and other folks with disturbed sleep have higher rates of cancer , depressionhypertension, heart attack and stroke.

Maintaining our circadian rhythm is vital to achieving adequate high quality restorative sleep. In turn, obtaining adequate restorative sleep contributes to lower cardiovascular disease risk in addition to four traditional lifestyle risk factors.

Exposure to artificial light at night disrupts our circadian rhythm and impairs the onset of sleep.

In medical school I learned that our retina has two cell types, rods and cones. But advances in science have revealed a  third cell type called retinal ganglionic cells. 

These cells are  particularly sensitive to blue light and directly connected to our central biological clock . Exposure to artificial light, especially from TV screens, computers, cell phones and other electronic devices after sunset disrupts our sleep cycle and delays the onset of sleep. That is why wearing blue light filtering glasses in the evening helps many folks to improve their sleep quality and duration.

Sleep deprivation for even one night causes elevation in interleukin 6 levels the following day. Interleukin 6 suppresses immune function and excessive levels cause bone and tissue damage (especially cardiovascular). Sleep deprivation  increases  Stress hormones (cortisol, adrenalin), decreases prolactin and Growth hormone , and decreases the nightly production of ATP .

Melatonin , often called the sleep hormone, is produced most abundantly during restorative sleep and essential for tissue healing, immune function, cancer prevention, and defense against tissue oxidation. These are just a few of the roles melatonin and sleep cycles play in determining our health..

So exercise outdoors in a green space daily to help synchronize your biologic clock with the sun, dim the lights in the evening and if you must watch TV or work on electronic devices before bed wear Blue Light filter glasses .

Of course eating an abundance of colorful fresh organic vegetables and fruits, and practicing some stress reduction techniques every day are equally important and essential to health and functional status.

Finally, not mentioned in the cartoon above is another healthy lifestyle choice, intermittent fasting (IF). IF will be discussed in the next post.

Until then, sleep well, exercise regularly out doors in a green space environment, eat clean, learn and practice some regular stress reduction techniques and read the next post about IF.

Bob Hansen MD

Functional Medicine: Getting to the Root Causes of Illness, A cure for Alzheimer’s

Today I watched a great TED talk by Dr. Rangan Chaterjee discussing his own journey in the discovery and implementation of a functional medicine approach to caring for his patients. The concept of using basic science and clinical science to diagnose and treat the root causes of illness, rather than treating symptoms, has been around for more than two decades.  This approach has recently started to attract more attention, especially within the community of younger physicians who have become more dissatisfied with the frustrations of traditional allopathic medicine.

Here is the talk. Dr. Chatterjee covers lots of ground in a passionate and informative talk.

Enjoy this talk. If you would like to learn about how a functional medicine approach can CURE ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE then watch this video of Dr. Bredesen who gave this lecture at a meeting of the American College of Nutrition.

Doctor Bredesen, an acclaimed neuroscientist, researcher, and more recently a brilliant clinician, has been criticized by the academic research community for implementing a clinical research protocol that addresses more than one variable at a time! Unfortunately, medical science has been handcuffed by the drug-model of clinical research wherein only one variable (drug vs. placebo for example) is studied. But if an illness has many potential contributing root causes, changing only one variable is doomed to failure, as Dr. Bredesen explains in this lecture.

Sleep well, eat clean, get outdoors every morning to help keep your circadian rhythm and biological clock in order.

Bob Hansen MD

Nutrition Journals and the influence of the food industry

Ever wonder why the public is so confused about nutrition recommendations? Just follow the money and you will understand that most of the professional societies that publish nutrition articles are funded by big food companies that are trying to sell more sugar, refined carbs and junk food. I recently read an excellent post about this topic here:

The Vilest Villain: American Society of Nutrition

This theme is repeated by medical journals that are “The Official Journal of the Society of >>>>>>” Just fill in the blanks for just about any medical society. Funding comes from big pharmaceutical companies the same way that funding in the nutrition Journals comes from large (junk) “food” manufacturers.

Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of very valuable, life-saving drugs out there.

But most chronic human disease in developed societies is generated by various combinations of poor nutrition, lack of exercise, disruption of circadian rhythm, inadequate restorative sleep, stress and lack of social support systems.

The obesity and diabetes epidemics continue to worsen yet the failed dietary advise of major health organizations is slow to respond to the data. Excess refined carbs (especially in the form of “food” made with flour) and added sugar (especially in the form of HFCS) are the major driving forces for obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Red meat is not the culprit, provided the meat is properly sourced (hormone and antibiotic free, grass fed) and cooked in a manner that does not create carcinogens and inflammatory mediators (cook with slow, low, moist heat, high temperature grilling and smoking cause problems, but that topic  is for another post).

Americans consume an average 130 pounds per year of added sugar and 140 pounds per year of refined flour. Those are averages so there are many people who consume more. The added sugar is not the white stuff people put in their coffee. It comes in all sorts of forms but is found in energy drinks, soda, lattes and mochas, salad dressing,  ketchup, canned soups, canned vegetables, white AND whole grain breads, pasta (even “whole grain”), crackers, breakfast cereal,  just about any packaged food that has more than one ingredient on the label. These foods represent 70% of the American diet. The problems created by this situation are enormous and will bankrupt our “healthcare system”. This is a cultural and economic problem.

The solutions are simple but largely ignored in our society. We are creatures of habit and convenience.

Eat whole foods, nothing from a package that has more than one ingredient. Eat meat, seafood, poultry, fresh organic vegetables (6-9 servings per day), fresh organic fruits, and nuts. Meat should be hormone and antibiotic free (free range, grass fed). Seafood should be wild. Poultry should be free range and the eggs should come from free range chickens, ducks, geese.

Do not worry about eating fat as long as it comes from healthy animals and sources such as coconut oil, extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil and clarified butter (ghee).

Do not use any “vegetable” oils (corn, soy, and other oils from grains or seeds) The vegetable oils are highly refined and inflammatory. They contain easily oxidized omega 6 fats that feed the production of inflammatory mediators in your body and create oxidized LDL leading to atherosclerosis.

Exercise daily, preferably outside in a green space. Twice per week spend 20-30 minutes  doing resistance training (lift weights, work against the resistance of bands, use your own body weight doing pushups, pull-ups etc)

Reduce stress with mediation, yoga, tai chi, dancing, engaging in fun sports and social activities. Walk on the beach, by a lake, river or stream, in the woods, listen to music.

Get some sunshine regularly especially during the morning to get your circadian rhythm in order and to produce adequate amounts of vitamin D.

Spend time with family, friends and colleagues who are supportive and fun to be around.

Sleep in the dark.

Get at least 7 hours of sleep per night. Avoid TV, computer screens and other electronic devices for at least 2 hours before bedtime.

Unplug from the internet, email, etc on a regular basis.

We evolved as hunter-gatherers.


Bob Hansen MD