Oct 23, 2007


I am a layman, not a physician or a scientist. The therapy I am describing in these posts helped me. I don't know whether it will work for anyone else. I don't fully understand even why it worked for me.

Below (and continually updated) are the -itis (Greek for "inflammation") and other problems I have experienced, and their year of first appearance (as well as I can remember):
- Bronchitis (c. 1957, age 13), many episodes until about age 25.
- Pneumothoraces, cause unknown (18 episodes, c. 1962-2009).
- Dermatitis: eczema, rosacea, and/or seborrhea (c. 1962); and subcutaneous acne (c. 2000).
- Pollen allergy in spring, early summer (c. 1970), gone about two years after starting anti-itis diet.
- Heart disease (clogged arteries) symptoms (c. 1972 - 1974, ended by very low-fat, omnivorous but mostly whole plant-food, Pritikin diet).
- Iritis and conjunctivitis (c. 1974), gone about five years after starting anti-itis diet.
- Tendonitis (c. 1989), gone about a year after starting anti-itis diet and doing daily posture exercises.
- Bursitis (c. 1994), gone about a year after starting anti-itis diet and doing daily posture exercises.
- Tachycardia and arrhythmia, cause unknown, in four episodes: (1) c. Dec. 1997, age 53, stopped chemically in ER; (2) with atrial fibrillation, Dec. 2010, age 66, stopped with e-cardioversion; (3) with afib, March 2012, age 67, stopped spontaneously in July; (4) with atrial flutter, March 2013, age 68, stopped spontaneously after 9 months (3 months after starting Vitamin D3).
- Emphysema discovered (1995), but probably started 25 years earlier (smoking).
- Gout-like pains in right foot (1997), gone a year after starting anti-itis diet.
- Gum inflammation (1997), gone several years after starting anti-itis diet.
- Arthritis (c. 1998), gone about a year after starting anti-itis diet and doing daily posture exercises.
- Acid reflux (c. 1998), gone a few months after starting anti-itis diet.
- Colitis (c. 1999), gone a month after starting anti-itis diet.
[Began an evolving anti-itis diet, c. 2002]
- Hemoptysis (June 2014), probably caused by coughing (from mild spring allergy symptoms) that ruptured an artery in my left lung, the one most damaged by emphysema.

Some of the -itis problems were episodic (for example, the iritis appeared every year or two in one eye or the other). Some were continuous (for example, the dermatitis). As the years passed, the problems accumulated in number and intensity. By the year 2000, I felt like I was living in a nightmare of -itis problems. In that year, I had arthritis, bursitis, colitis, dermatitis, iritis, and tendonitis. I was shopping for a wheelchair and trying to decide whether to buy a manual or an electric model.

Two physicians (out of five I consulted) have identified most of the symptoms as fitting a leaky-gut syndrome. Apparently the speculation is that holes in the intestine (perhaps caused by antibiotics taken when I was 18, following my first lung surgery) allow substances to leak into the blood stream; the immune system reacts to those substances as if they were viruses; and, while the immune system tries to kill the supposed "viruses," it also inflames various tissues and organs (skin, eyes, tendons, muscles, joints, and colon).

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/


Adrian Smith said...

Hello there,

I wondered if you can help,

I have been reading your blog with interest. I have inflammation problems of my own, and funnily enough my skin is the area most affected.

I have recently been following a diet protocol similar to what you describe, so far it has been 80% raw vegan, with the remaining 20% cooked roots and vegetables.

I must say this is working very well so far, and I have only been following this diet for 3-4 days now.

I wondered if you have any reaction to grapes and berries such as blueberries. I know these contain seeds, which you mentioned could be a problem area. I am eating a lot these currently, so I’m a little worried that they are holding my progress back..

Another area is fat. Now I don’t really want to go too low fat. I have been consuming Flax seeds, avocado and olive oil for fat. Flax seeds are a seed obviously so looks like they might be out too. What do you consume for your fat?

Lastly, the 2 amino acids you mentioned; cysteine and methiolin. I would really like to know if flax seeds or the seeds found in berries and grapes contain these aminos. Something I shall investigate or if you could ask DianeR in the McDougall Discussion forums (if you would be so kind).

So all in I’m having success, so thank you for the information you provided in your blog. I shall need to play about with the diet to try and get the best from it.

Adrian Smith

Burgess Laughlin said...

Here are my answers. If they are incomplete or unclear, ask again.

1. A suggestion: Don't assume that the only area of the body affected by inflammation is the skin. The skin might be merely the only tissue having visible symptoms. For example, I wonder if my kidneys and liver and other organs might be affected but without easily detected symptoms. This is why I strive for maximum reduction of inflammation by strictly following the proper diet.

2. If you see any improvement at all after only a week or two, then there is reason to suspect that some kinds of food were a cause of the problem. It is also grounds for hope for much further progress. My return to normality has taken three years, and I still have a tiny amount of skin problem (mostly just sensitivity to abrasion from pillow cases and stiff collars).

Partly I needed three years because I was learning along the way. This weblog shows the results of that learning process. Another reason for the long time in recovering is that some skin problems take months or even years to fully recover.

The important point is to follow the diet strictly, making no exceptions whatsoever. For me that means any vegetable (carrots, collards, celery, and so forth), any fruit (that doesn't contain seeds), and any starchy root (potatoes, sweet potatoes, rutabagas, and so forth).

3. I eat only seedless grapes. I have not formally tested blueberries. I would avoid them until you have tested them, and even then, if they seem safe, I would eat them only occasionally and in small quantities. Remember, variety in this rather limited diet is even more important than in a regular diet.

Always suspect anything you enjoy so much that you eat large quantities of it--especially if it has seeds in it.

4. I avoid all seeds. This rule is very simple and easy to follow. That means flax seeds too. Of course, never use spices made from seeds: pepper and so forth.

5. Suggestion: Don't be afraid to being "too lean" by conventional (unhealthy) male standards.

6. To keep my weight from dropping too much, I eat 1 small avocado and 1/2 to 1 cup of olives (green or black) per day. I avoid free oil for the reasons Dr. McDougall has stated. Free oil is, however, much less expensive, so if prices continue to rise, I might resort to canola oil out of a bottle.

7. I don't know how much cysteine and methioline amino acids are contained in flax, blueberry, and grape seeds.

I only suspect those two amino acids are culprits, wherever they appear, but I am not sure. I assume they are present in all foods to some extent. I also assume that it is possible all amino acids are culprits but to a much lesser extent. Hence, my diet is low in protein as well as specifically low in the two amino acids named.

8. Formal testing of a suspect food is crucial. For example, I recently learned that I also have a plain allergic reaction to grapefruit. Years of scleroderma have now disappeared because I avoid all citrus fruit. (I will test oranges in a month or so. My hope is that it is the grapefruit alone and not all citrus fruits that are the culprits.)

Follow Dr. McDougall's (and my) exact guidelines for reintroducing a food after an Elimination Diet. Basically that means eating at least one serving per meal for six meals in a row. If you see a flare-up, don't eat that food.

Learning what works and then implementing it, while making no exceptions whatsoever, takes time--at least months. Be exacting and patient at the same time.

I wish you the best in your long journey to health.

sheri said...

I am on day 5 of Mc D diet . I have only been eating vegies, fruits and brown rice. No potatoes, tomatoes or citrus. I woke up in alot of pain this morning. Yesterday I had brown rice, 2 advocados, watermelon, grapes and mangos. I thought brown rice was safe, now I don't know.
I have Rheumatoid Arthritis in my knees, wrists, feet, neck and fingers. I have kids to take of and I am trying my best to avoid medicine. How long after you eat something do you feel pain and for how long does it stay?
Thank you.
Sheri M.

Burgess Laughlin said...

1. Of the many inflammation problems that I had, the one that most quickly reveals a problem food is my skin. My eczema flares up within about 24-48 hours after eating an acid-producing food.

See this post for an explanation of acid-production and its relationship -- which is coincidental -- to my inflammation problems: http://anti-itisdiet.blogspot.com/2007/10/3-why-this-diet.html

I do not know for sure how much time passes between eating acid-producing food and my arthritis. I never established a short-term connection.

I would ask myself these questions:
- Where is the pain?
- Is it always in the same place?
- Could there be another cause of a flare-up -- such as misuse of a joint or improper posture?

In my case I found that improper diet and improper posture were both factors in causing my arthritis. A change in diet greatly diminished my pain over a period of about three months, but some pain (too much) remained. Only posture correction exercises stopped that pain. I felt some relief within a few weeks. (Learning the exercises takes time, and strengthening weak muscles takes time.)

2. Questions (you don't need to answer here)

a. Have you tried the elimination diet?


The current diet you have described is very close, except I would recommend replacing the brown rice (which is acid producing) with sweet potatoes or yams or white potatoes, which are not acid-producing.

b. Have you read the four posts listed in KEY POSTS in the upper right corner of every page of this weblog? They should give you a lot of information.

If I have not answered your questions, please ask again.

Information that could help me discuss your experience includes:
- Do you have excellent posture?
- Are you lean or overweight?
- Which McDougall diet are you following? The Regular diet or the Maximum Weight Loss diet?

I wish you the best. I know how frustrating and frightening seemingly out of control medical problems can be, especially pain problems.

Paul said...

Hi Burgess

have you ever done an ALCAT blood test to determine food allergies?What are your thoughts



Burgess Laughlin said...

I do not know what the ALCAT blood test is, how reliable it is, or its advantage over a carefully conducted elimination diet (which has cured over 99% of my inflammation problems).

I will look into it.

Thanks for the lead.

Burgess Laughlin said...

Wikipedia has an article on ALCAT.


The evaluation given by the Wikipedia author is not encouraging. Basically the article says that the test is not reliable -- the results are not reproducible and the techniques are unproven in effectiveness.

Wikipedia is itself sometimes not reliable. Are there other sources that offer an objective review of ALCAT?

If not, I doubt that I will go further.

Paul said...

I came across this in Barbara Allan's
Conquering Arthritis book, she also has had web site,its highly recommended by her. It's quite expensive , about $700 or so.I'm not sure about it at the moment but I shall continue with the elimination diet,although its proving very difficult to calm down the inflamation of my RA.
I've gained a lot by reading your blog, so thanks.

Paul said...

Dear Burgess
have you experienced any dental problems whilst on this diet?
many thanks

Burgess Laughlin said...

Yes, I have experienced some dental problems in the 10 or more years I have been following this diet. (Keep in mind that the diet has been evolving as I have tested and retested some foods, and as my understanding has developed somewhat.)

My gum inflammation problems have disappeared. In fact, my gums have come back slightly, which one dentist said never happens.

However, there have been some problems with my teeth. In those 10 years, I have had three crowns done. Two were replacements of crowns I had done about 12-14 years ago (several years before the diet change). The originals leaked and the teeth became infected. In one case, I needed a root canal, which was not as unpleasant as I had feared -- but very long.

I have also had three tiny cavities filled in that 10-year period.

All in all, my dental health has improved, but note that I am also much more careful about dental hygiene. Everyday:
- Flossing.
- Interdental brushing.
- Brushing with a regular toothpaste.
- Ending with a brushing with a flouride/preventative toothpaste.

I now need to see my dental hygienist only twice a year, not the quarterly visits I needed when I had gum inflammation problems.

Anonymous said...

Hi Burgess,
congratulations for your healing journey! I sincerely admire your constancy.

What are your thoughts about treating/curing the leaky gut syndrome?
I've seen a very interesting lecture by Michael Klaper talking also about this issue and saying that some behaviours (such as cut off offending foods as you're doing) and introducing some substances such as probiotics can treat it. Have you ever tried something?
Did you diagnose the syndrome with a specific test?

Sara M. from Italy

Burgess Laughlin said...

I know of no way to cure Leaky Gut. I treat it with my diet. That eliminates the symptoms.

Five or six years ago I experimented by eating a small amount of clams (for Vitamin B12). I had a swift reaction in my skin. My eczema flared. (My skin problems are the first -itis problems to appear.)

I also tried liver, oysters, and salmon. All caused a flare-up. My conclusion is that the leaky gut condition is still there and permanent.

Last year I tried white rice, the mildest of the grains. At first I had no adverse reaction, but within two months my eczema increased. As soon as I stopped eating white rice, the eczema began fading.

I never used any particular test. The diagnoses I received from three doctors were driven by the symptoms not by a laboratory test.

Anonymous said...


just in case you're interested, this is the lecture, from the McDougall channel


Michael Klaper MD - From Operating Table to Dining Room Table

1:04:00 or so

Maybe you'll find one more way to strenghten your immunitary system. Good luck!

Sara M. from Italy