Oct 23, 2007


I chose my particular diet after several years of tediously testing and retesting foods using the Elimination Diet (a short-term diagnostic diet) and the re-introduction testing procedure. For more information about the diet and the procedure, see Dr. John McDougall, The McDougall Program, index (for "Elimination Diet") and the same material online (drmcdougall.com) under "Medical Info, Allergic Reactions to Foods," half-way down the page: http://drmcdougall.com/med_allergic.html

I have found only one published list of acceptable foods to be reliable for my particular medical needs. The list is based on Potential Renal Acid Load (PRAL), which apparently is a partly measured and partly calculated estimate of the acidity in the kidneys (hence the word "renal"). Why the kidneys? Because they are the eventual outlet for most areas of the body.

All the types of foods I have listed above ("My diet now includes only ...") tend to produce an alkaline condition in the body. Eating only alkaline-producing foods--making no exceptions whatsoever--eliminates inflammation problems for me. Eating the opposite kind of foods -- acid-producing foods -- causes my inflammation problems to return. The issue here is not the acidity of each food itself (as determined by ash-tests), but the acidity produced by the food in the body. I ignore food lists based on ash-tests; they are worthless for my needs.

The issue in choosing foods is not striking a "balance" between acid-producing foods and alkaline-producing foods. My inference, drawn from my experiences, is that the mere presence of food-produced acids causes inflammation problems. (I do not know, and do not much care about, the minimal quantity which establishes the threshold beyond which inflammation becomes apparent.) In my experience, the "thought" that leads some individuals trying this diet to eat soy beans (among the worst acid-producers) while eating a lot of spinach (very alkaline-producing) as a "balance," does not work. It is wishful thinking. The solution, I have found, is to never eat acid-producing foods.

For an easy-to-read version of the PRAL list, see John Berardi’s "Covering Nutritional Bases" article: http://www.johnberardi.com/articles/nutrition/bases.htm

Or see this pdf: http://www.precisionnutrition.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/acid-base-foods-pral.pdf

I examined the Berardi PRAL list to see which foods are rated as alkaline-producing (negative numbers) and which are acid-producing. The list does--with high accuracy--predict which foods will cause an inflammation in my skin (which, for me, is the first tissue to reveal a problem) and which foods are safe for me.

I am not endorsing Berardi's whole article. I am only spotlighting the list; it is an elegantly edited abstract of a more detailed and rather confusing list published in a scientific journal. Perhaps there are other online sources for the list. If so, make sure they do not list merely calculated values, but values actually confirmed by lab tests.

Burgess Laughlin
Author of The Power and the Glory: The Key Ideas and Crusading Lives of Eight Debaters of Reason vs. Faith, www.reasonversusmysticism.com/


Texasguy said...

I would like to briefly present my alternative hypothesis for your results, which I think are good, just not related to the PRAL of your diet.

The PRAL of a food, meal or diet is related to five end products of their digestion: amino acids and phosphorus (acid-producing), and potassium, magnesium and calcium (base-producing). Your vascular system has no idea what foods those five products came from, it detects their post-digestion acid-base nature only. And every food you eat is both acid- and base-forming, as is each meal and your total diet. Even raisins, with a PRAL of -21, have some protein and phosphorus, and thus have an acid-forming effect on your metabolic state, it is just overridden in the net result by the preponderance of base-forming elements. This understanding is important because you say to ". . . never eat acid-producing foods." Yet every food is acid-producing, it is just that some are net base-producing, which masks the acid production components.

Thus the important consideration regarding PRAL isn't the net acid load of a single food--unless all you eat all day is that one food--but what is the total net acid load of a day's meals. And that is determined by calculating the PRAL of all foods eaten, which is a proxy for the five digestive end products that affect pH, which is what is important. The urine pH can then be tested to confirm the dietary PRAL produced the desired metabolic effect, for it mirrors the acid-base metabolic state.

If you add a high-PRAL food to your diet, and you balance that effect by also adding a low-PRAL food with equal but opposite PRAL, you have effectively negated any effect from the high-PRAL food. Acid-base balance is simple math, no magic, no hypersensitivity, nothing but positive ions and negative ions either joined or free in solution to influence the pH.

So why do you get benefits from adopting a diet with a low PRAL? By not eating high-PRAL foods you have eliminated a huge group of foods that you could be sensitive or allergic to for whatever unknown reasons. And, interestingly, included in the ones it gets are those that humans ate for only 1% of their existence--the time since the agricultural revolution. Perhaps not enough time for evolutionary adaptation to occur to the new foods, especially in certain individuals. The foods captured by the high-PRAL net would mainly be grains, dairy, and grain-fed, mass-produced meats.

The beauty of your current low-PRAL diet is that people could adopt it as a first test for foods causing their problems hoping that removing such a broad range of potentially troublesome foods all at once will bring benefits and save lengthy, difficult, single-food testing like you went through. At the same time it would assure them of having one of the healthiest diets on the planet. But, speaking for myself, it would be hard to adapt to because I've eaten grains all my life, even though I no longer eat meat or dairy. But if this gives them relief after, e.g., a few days, then by adding these foods back to their diet a food or food group at a time, they could test exactly which caused the problems. All added foods will, by definition, have a positive PRAL because that is all you are not eating. My contention is the PRAL of the foods is a confounder, not really the source of their problem-causing ability. And to determine that the food's PRAL isn't the cause, all one has to do is balance the positive PRAL with foods having a negative PRAL. Or to show this even more forcefully, add in low-PRAL foods that more than compensate for the newly added high-PRAL foods.

Thanks for your site and your comments regarding this interesting topic.

Jerry Donnelly

Burgess Laughlin said...

I welcome the alternative approach offered. I hope it helps some individuals solve their inflammation problems, as I have done, and not merely reduce the inflammation.

I have already addressed this issue in the post to which our comments are added. See the paragraph beginning: The issue in choosing foods is not striking a "balance" between acid-producing foods and alkaline-producing foods. However, I will address it again just in case my original statement wasn't clear.

I tried the suggested approach (eating a positive-PRAL [acid-producing] food, but eating other, negative-PRAL foods to compensate. For me, that approach did not work -- ever.

Perhaps it is true (based on my layman's understanding) that the acidity (as indicated by a PRAL rating) of a food is not the cause of the problem. However, because I found 100% correlation between foods that were positive-PRAL (acid-producing in lab tests when consumed alone) and a reaction in my skin, I have used the PRAL rating as a guide that has never failed me.

One doctor suggested that I was allergic (if that is the right term) to proteins. However, I have tested the idea of eating a lot of protein that is in a negative-PRAL (alkaline producing) food. I got no reaction. For example, even if I eat mostly potatoes, I get no reaction.The problem apparently is not so much the amount of protein I consume but the kinds, perhaps.

I seem to be most allergic to two amino-acids: cysteine and methioline. See here.

In other words, the speculation is that my body is reacting not so much to the level of acidity in my body overall (as manifest in the kidneys), but is instead reacting mainly to two "invaders" coming through holes in the leaky gut.

I don't know if that speculation is valid. I do know from many experiments with foods over the last few years that I cannot compensate for beans, for example, by eating a lot of spinach.

If the other approach (balancing positive and negative foods) works for someone -- thus eliminating all of his inflammation problems -- then I will cheer for him. Why? Because it means he can eat anything -- as long as he compensates with other, negative PRAL foods.

It doesn't work for me.

Texasguy said...

When you say it doesn't work for you, exactly what do you mean? For instance, does that mean that so much as one soybean causes a problem? Or, does it take an ounce or two, or exactly how much of any offending substance does the damage? Would one serving do it, or do you need a minimum of six challenges in a row? If oat bran causes problems after six one-tablespoon challenges, have you ever tried just one tablespoon per week to see if you get a similar result? How quickly do you get back to normal when you are no longer eating the problem food? Is there a direct correlation to the amount and/or number of times you eat an offending food and the severity of your response to it? Or have you perhaps never tested yourself to this degree, being happy not knowing and asymptomatic?

I used the CRONoMeter to see if, e.g., soybeans were high in cysteine and methionine, but they weren't. They were high in glutamate, but then hazelnuts are too, so no answer to the puzzle from that examination. But it seemed like a good hypothesis regarding certain amino acids in higher concentration in offending foods rather than PRAL as the problem. Maybe more careful analysis would turn something up.

Have you ever tried eating offending substances but being completely blind as to their being in a soup or dish where they can be blended and be invisible to you? This would take an accomplice who was cooking your meals or preparing smoothies, for instance. That would truly be the ideal scientific way to look for the trouble makers and rule out preconceptions and mental concern as to the source of problems. And, even if you haven't done that or don't want to in the future, others visiting your site would benefit from a challenge technique that blinded them to whether they were receiving a potentially offending substance or not. The placebo/nocebo effect is very powerful. See Wikipedia for more on these terms.

Jerry Donnelly

Burgess Laughlin said...

A lot of questions have been asked. I will try to answer them in order. Some questions overlap, so I will not address all of them.

1. What does "doesn't work for me" mean? In the context of testing foods, it means my eczema flares up within 24-48 hours, presumably as a result.

All my planned tests involved a single serving per meal, six meals in a row. I never tried smaller and smaller amounts, once I had established that the offending food produced a flare-up at the standard test level. I had no incentive to do so.

I want to simplify my life, not complicate it. I do not want to go through life measuring foods and weighing them against other foods at the same meal.

That is one objection. The other objection is that it would be fallacious for me to "reason" this way": After testing smaller and smaller amounts, I found finally found an amount of an offending substance that did not cause a flare-up in my eczema, therefore I can (and should) eat it in that small amount.

That would be an argument from ignorance, which is a fallacy. The eczema-flare-up test involves only one symptom, eczema. I am still left wondering: Well, have I merely dropped below the threshold for that symptom, while I am still, cumulatively or not, damaging myself internally (that is, not visibly to me)? For instance, am I damaging my kidneys? I don't know. Am I damaging the irises of my eyes? I don't know. Am I am running a low level of damage to my joints that is not now (yet) perceptible to me? I don't know.

I see the situation as partly analogous to cigarettes. I might be able to smoke one per day without getting cancer and without becoming a chronic cougher. But what would be the point? I don't need a cigarette to live a happy life. Why take a chance? I can find no answer that would justify doing so.

My present diet is, so far as I know, nutritionally complete (except for B12). I see no justification for doing more than the three years of tedious and sometime painful testing and retesting that I have already done.

If eating amounts of an otherwise offending food produces no symptoms and if one is prepared to live with that situation (the complexity, the doubt of non-symptomatic damage), then one should do so.

Burgess Laughlin said...

2. How quickly did I get back to normal when I stopped eating the offending food? The question is confusing. What does "normal" mean? When I was testing during the first few years, I always had some level of eczema. So a "flare-up" was an increase in the level. The reason for this situation of course is that I needed years to eliminate all the offending sources.

Given that as background, my answer is two-fold. First, I usually could see a "bell curve" peak within 48 hours of stopping eating of the offending food during the standard test. That means that the flare-up would begin fading within a few days.

That of course is the reason for starting a test on Monday and then starting the next on the next Monday, assuming the flare-up was mild. That give me enough time to reduce the inflammation to the point where the next test would show a flare-up, if there was one.

Sometimes, however, the flare-up was so severe and so unpleasant that I waited three or more weeks to perform the next test if the next test was one I suspected might be offending. Waiting weeks between tests was one reason the whole testing program took so long.

Burgess Laughlin said...

3. Did I see a positive correlation between the amount of an offending food that I ate in a given period (two days) and the degee of flare-up in my "litmus test," my facial eczema?

Yes. As the years of testing went by, I began occasionally stopping a test halfway through (before breakfast on Tuesday). In other words, if I got a clear reaction to food X after only the first three meals, I did not continue.

Ironically, as my skin cleared on average over the years, I could see a flare-up more easily. It is analogous to writing with chalk on a freshly washed board compared to writing on a board already heavily chalked. In other words, a mild flare-up appearing on healthy skin shows up more easily than on the skin of one who is already suffering a very high level of eczema.

If I retested a food (planned or not!), but at only one serving at one meal, then the flare-up was not only milder (at the top of the "bell curve") but it faded faster too. (The more intense the flare-up, the longer time was required for fading to get back to "normal.")

4. Have I been happy not knowing answers to any of the puzzles arising from this condition? No.

Ignorance is not bliss. Life is a constant adventure in learning -- but because of the "economics of knowledge," everyone must decided for himself how much time to invest. In other words, what is the marginal utility of continuing to test and retest and retest when a pattern has already emerged that works beautifully?

5. Have I been happy being asymptomatic? Absolutely. I have been very pleased ("happy") at being asymptomatic for the first time in 47 years.

Burgess Laughlin said...

6. I am glad to hear that information about the protein content of soybeans tends to undermine the speculation (which is all that it was) that two proteins in particular might be the culprit. If that evidence is valid, then I can dump the speculation. I am still left with no comprehensive explanation. Of course, I no longer need one, since what I do now works. But knowing would be better, if I could gain such knowledge at a reasonable price in time, effort, and money.

7. Have I ever tried a "blind" test? Not intentionally! Such a test, performed systematically, would be a more scientific approach than I have used. But would it be worth all the trouble? If anyone thinks the answer is yes, the burden of evidence of its worth to me in particular is on him to provide. I have no interest in knowing for the sake of knowing.

Another answer to the question is: Yes, but not intentionally -- that is, I underwent the test only anecdotally. There are two groups of these experiences.

(a) Several times friends have prepared dinners for me, assuring me that they were following my guidelines. I got mild flare-ups from at least two such instances. In both cases, I politely asked the cooks about what they had done. They each separately said, in effect: "I did follow your guidelines -- oh, except for . . ." and the exceptions were significant. For example, in one dessert, the cook had added "only a small amount" of cloves and two other seed-based spices. A little bit of one offending substance, a little bit of another offending substance, and a little bit of a third offending substance apparently were enough to trigger a reaction. (That particular dessert -- a Christmas holiday gift -- was enough for several meals.)

(b) Several times, fairly early in my testing, I tried using commercially prepared condiments. For instance, I tried a certain brand of ketchup. I got a mild reaction. (I used a lot of ketchup on potatoes at that time because the potatoes seemed so bland, at that time.) Before I bought it, I checked the ingredients on the label. Every individual ingredient named was acceptable, so I didn't expect a reaction. I nevertheless got a reaction (a mild one).

I suspect that the cause was the collective "ingredient" labeled "natural flavors." An email inquiry to the manufacturer revealed pepper and some other seed-based spice, which I can't recall at the moment. I have learned to not buy any factory food that does not specify all the ingredients individually. In practice, this means I buy almost no factory foods. I have learned to "eat simple."

So, yes, there have been some unintentional -- and unwanted -- "blind" tests.

Burgess Laughlin said...

8. Have I ruled out a placebo effect? No, not systematically as one would in a full clinical study.

On the other hand, I have no reason to suspect that I have psychosomatically corrupted the results of my informal testing. Here are two reasons:

(a) At the beginning of the testing, no patterns were evident. I had no grounds whatsoever for even suspecting that a whole category of foods would be offending foods. I assumed that it was just particular foods that caused problems--as I had heard that some people get severe reactions to strawberries, for example, but not any other fruit.

Nevertheless, patterns emerged. I have no reason to suspect those patterns.

(b) In a reverse sort of way, apparent exceptions to generalizations should have tripped me up if I had been psychosomatically distorting the results of my informal testing. For example, I tested several kinds of nuts. I got a reaction from each. I generalized that nuts were offending, so I stopped eating all nuts and went on to testing other food categories.

Later, I tested two other nuts -- hazelnuts and (in very small quantity) Brazil nuts (for selenium). I had expected a reaction, but didn't get one. Why? I still don't "know" except that I see now that the hazelnuts are listed as being alkaline-producing. I can't find an entry for Brazil nuts on the list reproduced on Berardi's site, a list apparently drawn from measured PRAL tests and not merely calculated (as a prediction).

In summary, yes, a placebo effect is imaginable, but I can't go through life efficiently being guided by what imaginatively "might" be. There needs to be some evidence before I take action, and not speculation, when it comes to me personally investing any more time into testing and retesting.

Burgess Laughlin said...

9. Here is another caution -- not mentioned among the questions in an earlier post to this thread -- that anyone examining this site should always be aware of.

The caution is to avoid negligently committing the fallacy of post hoc, ergo propter hoc, which means "after this, therefore because of this."

That is the fallacy of assuming that if B follows A, then A must have caused B.

A fully scientific study would try to eliminate variables except the one being tested. That approach would help reduce the chance that a flare-up, for example, might have been caused by some factor other than the one being tested.

If I eat beans at six meals in a row and get a flare-up, that is not proof that the beans caused the flare-up. If I repeat this informal test and get the same results, I have strong grounds for suspecting that the beans cause the flare-up. The grounds are strong enough for me to proceed in life, though not strong enough to publish a scientific paper on the subject.

I am very much aware that I have no explanation for why certain categories of food cause flare-ups. The resort to PRAL is not a causal explanation but it does help me predict and in a general way account for things.

However, the correlation between acid-producing foods and flare-ups is very strong. The situation for me is analogous to the experience of doctors at the time of Hippocrates. They didn't know why eating vegetables cured constipation, but they knew that it did. That is good enough for me for now. I have many other, more personally important, things to do in life.

That is all I can offer at this time. I am drained.

Burgess Laughlin said...

I am grateful for the many questions. Answering them has given me a chance to clarify some points.

Anyone who disagrees with my suggestions might be more effective, from this point on, in writing up his own experiences and presenting them systematically on his own website.

I would be very glad to link to that website after it is completed.

Texasguy said...

I know you are burnt out on this, so don't post this note if you don't feel it has merit. But I want to suggest my final thoughts on the cause of your problems, if you can confirm my thinking.

We have eliminated the PRAL of the foods and their amino acid concentration, but not the proteins themselves, which would be my last suggestion. And it would be reasonable to me because the main proteins you have stopped eating are what I would call the "modern proteins." Those which humans have only been eating since the agricultural revolution. Here is an article on the topic of protein intolerance in children that explains the main ideas of how this could occur: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/931548-overview.

If your sensitivity is IgE-mediated, you might be reactive to something as simple as isolated soy proteins that were finely ground, moistened and placed upon your skin with maybe a small band-aid. Or, if you are sensitive to corn, you should be able to eat corn starch with no problem because it has no protein remaining. The same should happen with wheat starch, which exists, but I don't know where to get it. Have you by chance tried corn starch already? If so, what were the results? Either or both of these tests, that gave the suggested results, would be almost conclusive that you are simply intolerant of the proteins themselves in all the high-PRAL foods you no longer eat. If they don't give the right result, I would be completely out of ideas.

Knowing this wouldn't change a thing in your life, but would just be providing the correct cause of your problem rather than linking it to dietary PRAL.

Jerry Donnelly

Burgess Laughlin said...

The comments -- which are welcome -- have offered a lot of new points to consider. I am not ready to respond in an essay. I will try to deal with elements one one in the next few hours, and then try to integrate them later if appropriate.

[I am tempted to violate my rules of etiquette and quote passages of preceding comments and then respond to them. That is the easy way to proceed. However, I always gain from rephrasing a comment -- especially if my rephrasing is a misinterpretation and receives correction.]

1. CYSTINE AND CYSTEINE. Until this morning I thought "cystine" and "cysteine" were alternative spellings of one amino-acid. Apparently they aren't. Apparently they are separate amino-acids and the body can transform one into the other as needed.

2. PRAL OF FOODS. As a double-check on my understanding, I would suggest that the phrase "PRAL of the foods" is short-hand for "the Potential Renal Acid Load" -- that is, the acidity in the kidneys -- "caused by eating a certain food." A particular food itself, before being eaten, might be acidic or alkaline, but that fact itself does not predict what the effect will be in the kidneys of the person eating and digesting the food.

If all that is true, then I would say I have not eliminated the "PRAL of a food" as a predictor of what is benign or inflammation causing. To the contrary, the PRAL of the foods contained in Berardi's list remains perfectly predictive.

But, yes, I do know, and have known all along, that merely identifying the PRAL of a particular food -- that is, the acidity in the kidneys -- is not a causal explanation of an inflammation following eating a certain food.

I see it as analogous to saying: "Why is there thunder right now? Because there is lightning."

That isn't a causal explanation itself, just an identification that when there is one, thunder, there is the other too.

I don't know the technical term that applies. But perhaps I can say a particular food's PRAL rating is a sort of proxy or coincident indicator. At any rate, the PRAL numbers give order to the otherwise chaotic process of trying to decide what I can or cannot eat without reaction (in my skin initially).


Burgess Laughlin said...

3. MODERN PROTEINS. I will need several days to read the provided link:


The suggestion that my present pattern of acceptable foods largely eliminates "modern proteins" is intriguing.

First, Dr. McDougall did casually suggest, according to an off-hand comment that Jeff Novick offered, that I might simply be reacting to proteins.

Second, I have, in other forums, humorously described my diet as "prelithic" -- the sort of diet that very primitive people might have eaten at the peak of growing season for uncultivated plants: fruit, vegetables, and starchy "roots" (tubers, bulbs, etc.).

4. FIBERLESS TEST SUBSTANCES? If I have understood them correctly, the tests mentioned seem to be of substances which are extracted from the original plants -- e.g., corn starch is removed from whole kernels. I assume that means that the fiber (among other things) is removed.

I have noticed -- and mentioned elsewhere -- that there seems to be a loose correlation (in the plant realm) between high fiber and inflammation.

Most seeds (grains, nuts, beans, peas, etc.) seem to be high fiber compared to other plant parts (leaves, roots). Most seeds cause inflammation in me. Is there a connection? Or perhaps is there something that accompanies fiber that might trigger an inflammation? Those are the questions that have arisen for me.

5. NATURE OF THE TESTS. I am not sure I understand what is being suggested. Apparently the suggestion is to use a homemade patch test. (I have never done one, either at home or in a lab.) That would mean moistening one of the following into a paste, daubing it onto a quarter-size area on the skin of my arm, for example, and covering it with a band-aid to hold it in place for a day.

The three suggested test substances are:
a. Wheat starch.
b. Corn starch.
c. Isolated soy proteins, finely ground.

I did test corn by eating whole kernels, and I did get a reaction on my face.

If I now try a patch-test with corn starch, and I get no reaction (at the point where the paste is?), then I have some evidence that something else in the kernel, something left behind when the starch is extracted, might be the trigger for my eczema reaction.

If I do get a reaction to these seed extracts, then that suggests that the extracts themselves might be the trigger -- rather than the materials left behind after extraction.

(I will stop for now unless there are corrections.)

Burgess Laughlin said...

I will next go shopping on April 15. So I won't have test results for at least a week.

Thanks for the leads!

Texasguy said...

Here are a couple of updates so you'll be sure you understand what I meant, which probably wasn't clear enough.

To understand the "modern protein" (my term, not used in the paper) concept, this is probably the best article: Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 Dec;76(6):1308-16. Estimation of the net acid load of the diet of ancestral preagricultural Homo sapiens and their hominid ancestors. Sebastian A and others. PMID: 12450898. Go to PubMed and type in the number portion of the PMID only. This is not light-hearted reading, even if you have a good science background, but it does explain the concept of our diet making a drastic change from base-forming to acid-forming at the time of the agricultural revolution. This mainly because we began to eat proteins from grains, dairy and farm-fed meats, none of which were available to our evolutionary ancestors for 99% of our evolution.

The emedicine link that I gave you is not regarding modern proteins, but proteins causing allergy and hypersensitivity.

Your explanation and understanding of PRAL using it as a proxy indicator is right on target. You have removed from your diet all the post-agricultural revolution foods, which happen to have a high-PRAL, but my hypothesis is that their PRAL is a confounder, and it is really their protein antigenicity that is the factor.

Regarding the test substances.

1. The isolated soy protein would be a SKIN TEST because the proteins would be the antigens, and could react directly with the skin as when pollen allergy testing is done. Ideally I would suggest using two band-aids, one with the test substance and one with just the water or whatever liquid you use to moisten the protein isolate. Thus you have a test and a negative control to show it wasn't the band-aid itself that caused the irritation, should you develop that.

2. The starch tests would be from EATING the corn starch, not using it as a skin test. The corn starch is corn without the proteins. Thus you should be able to eat it freely without fear of normal skin irritation caused by eating an offending food--it doesn't have the antigen protein. The idea is you would either know from past history that corn is an irritant and causes your skin problems, or you would eat some corn a week before eating the corn starch and presumably then develop skin irritation. You would let that irritation subside, and rechallenge yourself with the corn starch. My hypothesis is that the irritation is due to the proteins and thus, the only time skin irritation would develop would be when you EAT corn. You could EAT corn starch freely with no fear of skin irritation, if my hypothesis is correct--a big if. So the whole logical construct looks like this: Corn protein causes your skin irritation; if you eat corn you get skin irritation; if you eat corn starch (which has no corn protein), you won't get skin irritation; therefore the cause of your skin irritation is corn protein. And, my hypothesis does not take the fiber into consideration at all. High fiber foods are often high protein, so that could be a factor for consideration, but I'm thinking only of the protein at this time.

Amino acids: Here is a link with a good table of amino acids with full names and three-letter names. Cystine is not on it and is probably an incorrectly spelled term, or perhaps a spelling used in some countries, as my best guess. http://chemistry.about.com/library/weekly/aa080801a.htm.

Jerry Donnelly

Burgess Laughlin said...

If I have understood correctly, the following are the steps I can take to maybe achieve greater understanding of the situation:


1. READ Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 Dec;76(6):1308-16 to understand the general historical switch in typical human diets from base-producing foods (fruit, vegetables, and starchy roots) to acid-producing foods (farm meats; dairy; and grains). Without a science background, I should expect to only glean a few key points.

The switch in diets occurred when many people began changing to agriculture (a term which, I assume, covers pasturage as well as farming of grains) to provide the bulk of their food.

2. TEST ISP. Test isolated soy protein using the band-aid patch test. I should use another, merely moistened band-aid as a control.

(I had been thinking of using canned pumpkin, the paste, as a comparison, because I eat a lot of it without any reaction visible in my skin; perhaps I can do both.)

3. TEST CORN STARCH. Before or after the ISP patch test, test corn starch by eating it. The test would be the standard one I have followed before: 1 serving (1/4 C) per meal, six meals in a row. I should see a reaction, if any, within 24 hours or so of the last of the six meals.

4. EXAMINE THIS PROTEIN LIST, as a future reference: link here:


This is very exciting.


1. Generally, are the proteins in grains, farm meats, and dairy different from the proteins in fruit, vegetables, and starchy roots? If so, are they different in kind or different in mix?

2. What does protein antigenicity mean?

From my unabridged dictionary, I see antigenicity means the condition of causing some tissue, organ, or system to produce antibodies. E.g., if an antigen is placed on the skin, injected, or eaten, something in me responds by producing "antibodies," that is, substances which destroy or counteract the antigen (a "body").

3. I have been contrasting "acid-producing" with "alkaline-producing." Is that incorrect? Should I have been contrasting "acid-producing" with "base-producing"?

Thank you!

Burgess Laughlin said...

I consider Wikipedia to be suitable mainly as a place to start a new subject. So, with that caveat, I note that this site . . .


says cystine and cysteine are separate but related substances: "Cystine is the amino acid dimer formed when a pair of cysteine molecules are joined by a disulfide bond."

And this site says cysteine is a nonessential amino acid:


Texasguy said...

My answers:


When you do a controlled clinical test in a scientific study you want to compare the active ingredient to the inactive, ideally. That is why I suggested the moisture and the band-aid compared to the moisture plus the ISP, plus the band-aid. There is only one difference between the two band-aids, the ISP. So, if that patch causes a reaction, the logical conclusion is the protein caused it, not something in the moisture or the band-aid. The pumpkin would be a separate test that you could do, but it wouldn't be related to the ISP test, just something for your own benefit.

TEST CORN STARCH. Yes that would be an acceptable way to do the test with your standard methodology. And, if I'm right, you should also be able to eat it in whatever amounts you want.


What would be different about those proteins is that they could be treated as foreign bodies, especially to some humans who lack the genetic traits to deal with them because they are so new to our systems. Obviously we, as a species, weren't brought up in the pre-agricultural time frame drinking cow's milk or eating milk products. Thus there was no need for our genetic make up to allow us to handle milk products, other than human breast milk. But most of us do have that capability, for who knows what reasons.

So once milk products get incorporated into our diet, if we have the genetic tools to deal with them, no problem. But perhaps some of us lack the genes that allow us to handle milk products, and thus we treat those proteins as foreign bodies. The same could go for grains, since they also have such a short life span in the human diet. This is pure conjecture on my part, but seems logical to me. Only further testing could determine if my thoughts are right or wrong. That is what I'm hoping you will find following the suggestions I've outlined.

Your unabridged dictionary is correct regarding antigen-antibody reactions. It isn't the amino acids that make up the protein that cause the antigen reaction, but the way they are joined together to make the protein. Our immune system doesn't recognize certain proteins as normal, and thus treats them as invaders, setting off one of many possible foreign-body reactions, like hives, eczema, anaphylaxis, etc.

"Alkaline-producing" and "base-producing" are synonymous terms. That is, in acid-base reactions, a basic substance is also an alkaline substance, or an alkali is a base.

I stand corrected on the cystine, having never run across it before. I suspect it gets included with cysteine when you see "Cys" as an amino acid, since it is just two cysteine molecules joined by a sulfur bond. Thanks for the clarification.

Jerry Donnelly

Burgess Laughlin said...

Yesterday afternoon I applied three patches:
1. Plain warm water.
2. Corn starch, as a paste.
3. "Soy protein isolate, less than 2% soy lecithin," as a paste.

I used band-aids that have patches about one square inch in area. I placed the patches on my upper left arm for about 12 hours. When I removed them this morning, there was no redness underneath any of them.

So, I now I know -- what? That I don't react through my skin to any of those three substances.

I suppose my next step is to try eating corn starch, using the standard test procedure -- 1 serving (here, 1 T) per meal, six meals in a row. I suppose I could make a "milk" of it, add a little sugar, and drink it with each meal.

I can't imagine eating it in the future in large quantity -- certainly not as my main starch. One reason is that it has zero fiber.

That again raises the question I have asked before, in another appendix: Why does there seem to be a general positive correlation between plant foods that have lots of fiber (beans, grains, most nuts) and flare-ups in dermatitis? Is it the fiber in those foods that is causing the inflammation?

Exceptions are pumpkin and artichoke hearts and parsnips. I make sauces of them as a way of adding fiber to my usual potatoes and vegetables meals.

Texasguy said...

Here is a list I did using the USDA nutrient database with the food followed by the fiber/protein in grams for 100 grams of each food:

Pumpkin, canned w/o salt 2.9/1.1
Beans, Black w/o salt 8.7/8.8
Raspberries, raw 6.5/1.2
Artichokes, boiled, w/o salt 8.6/2.89
Hazelnuts, 9.7/14.95
Almonds, 12.2/21.22
Avocado, 6.7/2
Vital wheat gluten 0.6/75.16
Cornstarch, 0.9/0.26
Wheat bran crude, 42.8/15.55
Corn, sweet, white, canned, whole kernel, drained solids, 2/2.62

At first look it appears that everything you tolerate (on this list) has a protein content of less that 3 grams in 100 grams of food. Yet, the corn is less than 3 grams and you don't tolerate it. I can't imagine fiber being the problem and the chart lends credence to that. Hazel nuts are 9.7, much more than corn and avocado has 6.7 grams/100 grams of food, and you tolerate it.

If protein was the problem you'd think there would be a correlation between the protein content and the severity of the reaction. For instance, vital wheat gluten would be severely reactive and/or would cause a reaction at a very small dose. And cornstarch would be nonreactive in any amount.

There are probably hundreds or thousands of other micronutrients in the foods we eat with no way to determine if they might be problematic. I think the only hope for a magical answer was for the protein to be the culprit, and no such luck with the easy testing. Thankfully you have a solution even not knowing exactly why.

Thanks for the efforts and time, sorry this didn't find the magic bullet.

Jerry Donnelly

Burgess Laughlin said...

(Fiber/protein in grams for 100 gram serving)

I. In diet test, these foods produced no eczema reaction:
- Pumpkin, canned w/o salt 2.9/1.1
- Artichokes, boiled, w/o salt 8.6/2.89
- Avocado, 6.7/2
- Hazelnuts, 9.7/14.95

II. In diet test, these foods produced eczema reaction:
- Almonds, 12.2/21.22. Worst reaction.
- Beans, Black w/o salt 8.7/8.8
- Corn, sweet, white, canned, whole kernel, drained solids, 2/2.62. Least reaction (?).

III. Following were either not tested with diet (cornstarch) or produced unsure results (berries, if my fading memory serves me still):
- Raspberries, raw 6.5/1.2. (A suspect)
- Vital wheat gluten 0.6/75.16.
- Cornstarch, 0.9/0.26.
- Wheat bran crude, 42.8/15.55. (?)

So, I am still left with generalizations that might at best merely identify a sort of proxy:

1. All of the foods that cause inflammation problems (category II) are seeds and are shown on the PRAL listing as acid-producing.

2. All of the foods that caused no problem are shown on the PRAL listing as alkaline-producing -- and only one is a seed.

Summary generalizations: All acid-producing foods cause problems; and almost all seeds are acid-producing. The former is more comprehensive and serves as a perfect predictor -- for reasons unknown.I greatly appreciate the commenter's effort put into discussing this issue. Perhaps some of the information will enable someone else to benefit directly or indirectly (by fitting more pieces of the puzzle together).