Jul 15, 2010

What do I eat now?

[REMINDER TO FIRST-TIME VISITORS: Be sure to read the basic posts first, listed in "Key Posts" in the top right corner.]

LAST UPDATED April 13, 2014

(This list reflects my change from Potential Renal Acid Load to sulphur/methionine as a guide for selecting foods; the two guides overlap, but for me sulphur/methionine is a more accurate guide to preventing my inflammation problems.)

Occasionally readers ask me what I eat and how I prepare it. When I started this diet, the food tasted bland. Now it is delicious, if properly prepared. (Tastes change in a month or two, and one can learn, within a few months, to better prepare even bland foods.)

SUMMARY: I now (Nov. 28, 2011) eat only foods that are low in sulphur, generally less than 80 mg/100 g serving. I eat most tuber and gourd starches; most fruit; and many common vegetables. I eat no animal products (except honey) and no concentrations of "seeds." By no concentrations of seeds I mean no nuts (except noted below), no beans (except "green" beans), no peas, no grains, and no seasonings made from seeds (such as mustard). I eat three meals per day and usually nothing between meals (to simplify my life).

TWO SULPHUR LISTS. The sulphur rating list I use is in this pdf:

That list was made in 1939. Following is a more recent and longer list offered by Steve C in a comment on this weblog; I have not yet evaluated it; the introduction to it provides useful information about protein (methionine) containing sulphur: http://apjcn.nhri.org.tw/server/info/books-phds/books/foodfacts/html/data/data5g.html

Overall the two lists agree. Use them cautiously. Keep in mind that some foods tested by the laboratories had sulphur added to them by the manufacturer. For example, that fact explains why dried apricots (which have sulphur compounds added to preserve them) are much higher in sulphur than fresh or canned apricots.

GENERAL GUIDELINES. For each meal, I can eat unlimited quantities of foods rated at 25 mg of sulphur (per 100 g of food) or lower, without a reaction showing in my skin. Examples are potatoes, celery, and bananas. At each meal, I allow myself up to two servings of any one of the foods ranked for sulphur as higher than 25 mg/100 g serving. Examples are cauliflower or greens. For some foods, I have no sulphur rating. I eat them as if they were ranked higher than 25 mg/100 g: I eat them in small quantities, no more than two servings of any of them at each meal.

Does this sound complicated? It is not. I can eat almost any fruit, almost any vegetable, and any starch from tubers and gourds.

MY MEAL PLAN is always (1) starchy tuber or gourd; (2) vegetables; and (3) fruit. My three meals are interchangeable. I eat as much variety as I can, partly for taste and partly for nutritional safety. An example meal is this breakfast:

1. Starch: 2 large whole Russet potatoes (about 2 cups). The day before, I boiled the potatoes, enough for 3 meals.

2. Vegetables: 1 C already cooked vegetable (bought fresh or frozen). I pour the vegetable into a skillet alongside the potatoes (cold from the refrigerator). I add 1/4 C water (for steaming), add the lid, and set to low heat for 15-20 minutes, until the starches and vegetables are hot.

3. Fruit: 2 C, frozen (e.g., peaches, cherries), fresh (e.g., melons, apples), and dried (plums, dates).

4. Supplements (items added in small quantity for nutritional completeness):
(a) A probiotic capsule or chewable tablet.
(b) B12 (cyanocobalamin) tablet (average 250 micrograms daily, for nerve health), because I have no natural source. Blood tests show this works well for me.
(c) Vitamin D3, 1000 IU, 4 times/week. (I live in a rain forest.)

5. Drink: water or tea (mint or lemon balm).

The low-sulphur starches that I have tested and now can eat in unlimited quantities are: arrow root (2 mg/100 g serving); winter squash (e.g., acorn [frozen] and pumpkin, 10); sweet potatoes (light-skinned, yellow inside, 15); yams (dark-skinned, dark orange inside, 15); parsnips (15); rutabagas (21), potatoes (browns, reds, golds, purple, 22), quinoa (possibly a starchy berry, not a true grain; I eat it in small quantity only, about 2 T, cooked, per meal). I boil the roots and tubers. (I buy winter, hard-shelled squash in frozen blocks, already removed from the shell, ground, and cooked.) I do not freeze starches, as their taste and texture decline. I occasionally eat one serving/meal of these starches: water chestnuts (?) or bamboo shoots (?).

The low-sulphur vegetables that I have tested and now eat in unlimited quantities are: carrots (7 mg/100 g serving), celery (8), green beans (8), eggplant (9), artichoke hearts (16), beets (22), and onions (24).

In limited quantities (no more than two servings of any one of these), I eat: cabbage (25); palm heart (?), 1 cylinder; seaweed (?), 1 3-gram sushi sheet; cauliflower (29); mushrooms (34); collard greens (39); broccoli (45); asparagus (47); spinach (86), 1/2 c. I buy some of these frozen or dried, for convenience and storability.

The low-sulphur fruits (fresh, frozen, or dried) that I have tested and now eat in unlimited quantities are: pineapple (3 mg/100 g serving), fresh plums (4), apples (5), pears (5), fresh apricots (6), peaches (6), honeydew melon (6), cherries (7), grapes (8), tomatoes (10), nectarines (10), cantaloupes (12), lemons (12), oranges (?), figs (organic, black, 13), bananas (13), blueberries (13), strawberries (13), blackberries (13), dried plums (pure or organic, 18), dates (Medjool, dried, 51). I avoid all fruits that have preservatives added. I am again eating avocados (? mg) but only one-third of one per meal, always prepared as quacamole (lemon juice, lemon pulp, chopped onions, chopped garlic).

The nuts I eat are: hazelnuts, 5/meal.

The flavorings I use: fresh lemon juice; mint; cilantro; tarragon; Italian seasoning (sage, rosemary, marjoram, oregano, basil); turmeric; ginger; honey (1); onions (23); garlic (?); and sugar (14). The quantities of flavorings I use are small (typically 1/4 t of one or two seasonings per meal). I assume their sulphur content, in those quantities, is so low that eating them makes no difference. I avoid flavorings I know (from the list linked to above) to be high in sulphur, such as mustard and horseradish.

For liquid, I drink distilled water between meals. (Where I live, drinking tap water makes me nauseated.) I also drink mint or lemon balm tea.

I avoid:
- Animal products (all of which, except fats and honey, are high in sulphur); I recently tested eating organic kimchi which contains a tiny amount of shrimp, apparently ground. I got a reaction within 2 days, from only 1 T per meal. Possibly the reaction came from the spices in the kimchi or from the spices and shrimp. I now avoid kimchi.
- Concentrated "seeds." I eat no grains such as rice, wheat, oatmeal, etc.; no beans (except "green beans"); no peas (including "garden" or green peas); no corn; no nuts (except 5 hazelnuts/meal); no conventional seeds such as flax and sunflower; and no flavorings made from seeds, such as mustard, curry, and pepper. I do not bother to remove seeds that are part of some other acceptable food, for example, I eat whole cucumbers.
- White rice. I used the standard test for white rice and I saw no sign of inflammation in my skin, which is the part that shows inflammation first. However, after eating white rice everyday for several months I noticed that my bowel movement schedule shifted later and became unreliable. Also, the skin on my face became mildly inflammed.The low fiber white rice was my main suspect. I deleted it. The problems disappeared.
- Isolated fats; on the short-term, eating butter (or any other animal or plant fat) does not trigger my inflammation problems, but I avoid isolated fats, for long-term, general health reasons.
- Plant foods having more than 80 mg of sulphur per 100 g (half cup) serving, except spinach (86).
Plant foods containing preservatives, such as some dried fruit.
- Salt, at any time and any form: not in cooking, not at the dinner table, and not in any product I buy in a box, bag, can (olives), or jar (vegetable juice). No added salt in any form. Excluding salt was the most difficult change I have made. It was an experiment. It worked. Within 3 months by blood pressure dropped from typically 140/90 to about 110/70. I will stay with zero salt eating. My sense of taste is gradually adapting.
- Vinegar, which unfortunately destroys the bacteria in my gut, even when I take a probiotic.
Grapefruit, which in me causes a condition similar to scleroderma (red swollen area from my nose to the sides of my mouth, plus a constricted throat). My reactions to grapefruit seem to be peculiar to me and independent of my other problems.
Lettuce, which does not trigger my usual inflammation problems but does cause intestinal distress (loose stools, rumbling).

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/


MariusA said...

Hi, I see you made a lot of progress with your condition. Me too, but the skin on my face gets red easy when I shave usually.
I just want to ask you if you tested green peas to see if you get a reaction on your skin.
I think that the dermatitis is linked with the amount of protein we get from our diet. Anything, plant or animal, we eat with high amounts of protein determines an inflammation throughout the body.

Burgess Laughlin said...

I am always glad to hear about others making progress!

1. I have two "shaving" tools. One is a conventional three-head, rotary shaver. I use it on the area of my neck that is lower than the top of my Adam's Apple. That area and my scalp are not super-sensitive to abrasion. I shave my head about every two or three days, using the rotary shaver. If I let my hair (on my scalp) grow more than that it begins to bend and rub against the scalp, e.g., when I sleep. That tends to bring back a tiny amount of eczema.

The other "shaver" I use is actually an electric hair clipper (for hair cuts). I use it on my beard area. I set it to its lowest setting so that my beard is trimmed to about a two-day growth, without causing abrasion burns.

That is the only way I can avoid "razor burns" that become red and itchy, and then peel off.

2. Peas were one of the first items I deleted from my diet, years ago. Peas generally are acid-producing, and thus are a warning to avoid them.

As I said in the article, I now avoid all seeds. That means beans, peas, nuts, grains, traditional seeds (such as sesame), seedy spices, and seedy fruit where the seeds can't be separated from the fruit.

3. One factor to keep in mind is that while diet might be the main cause of certain skin problems, it often isn't the only cause. Eczema can be caused by environmental factors (such as rubbing against something rough, or splashes of harsh substances such as tomato sauce) as well as diet.

4. Dr. McDougall, through a comment from Jeff Novick, suggested that I might simply be allergic to protein. So, yes, it does seem that protein is the problem. But is it the total amount at a meal; the concentration in a certain food; the concentration of certain amino acids; or some peculiar combination of amino acids? I don't know.

What I do know is that my diet works for me and even the last tiny bit of skin problem is fading away.

Congratulations on your success!

Tanya said...

Hi Burgess,

After a brief hiatus from the elimination diet (I ate rice, millet, quinoa, and some nut butters for a couple of weeks), I returned to where I had left off with the elimination diet, and am now back to eating the exact diet you describe above! I eat only fruits, veggies, root veggies, and occasional squashes. I also eat quinoa on a limited basis.

I find that I can also eat quinoa with very few immediate reactions, but I am quite sure it inflames my eczema and skin in general when i eat it with any sort of frequency over the course of a week or two. I am limiting it severely right now, and am also avoiding all nuts and seeds including hazelnuts as I consistently seem to react to them.

The protein allergy is an interesting theory and would seem to fit with the concept of 'leaky gut'.

I do eat green beans nearly every day and I am still seeing some eczema and acne on my skin. Perhaps I will remove them from my diet for a time and see if anything changes.

I find it interesting that we have both ended up with such a similar list of 'safe' foods, despite not having a clear understanding of what is behind these food sensitivities. The elimination diet is an extremely helpful too. Even when doctors can't 'diagnose' me, I can learn which foods to avoid so i don't have symptoms.

Have you successfully re-gained any of your weight? I regained weight to a near-normal weight during my two weeks of eating nut-butters and rice cakes. I think I was quite depleted and the extra calories were quite efficiently accepted by my body.

Thank you for sharing your experience. Your blog has been an amazing resource for me.


Burgess Laughlin said...

I am very glad to receive information from those who have tried using the elimination diet and reintroduction procedure. Thank you.

1. MARGINAL FOODS. As I think I mentioned, I've deleted some of the foods mainly to make my diet simpler. I can't prove, even to myself, that green beans definitely cause a reaction. I avoid them simply because they are beans (sort of) and all other beans cause inflammation.

My general rule has been to not eat a food in any quantity if I suspect it might cause a visible problem in some quantity. The reason for that extra caution is that I fear that visible symptoms might appear long after other damage is done in other ways not so easily detected (e.g., to internal organs).

2. EATING FAT TO GET FAT. I think that I have gained a few pounds from the low point. I don't have a way to weigh myself directly. (No scales.) I can only go by the way I look. I know that increasing the calories (especially fats) has certainly stopped the weight loss and probably brought my weight up a few pounds.

3. HIRING AN EXPERT. Someday, perhaps next year, I hope to hire someone such as Jeff Novick, a dietician, who can answer this problem:

What do all animal products (except fats) and seeds (grains, beans, peas, nuts, standard seeds, and seed-packed fruit such as figs) have in common that might be triggering my reactions?

If there is an answer that question, perhaps I can make further progress -- even eliminate all reaction.

Burgess Laughlin said...

Here is a weblog post by Stephan Guyenet, on Whole Health Source, for Dec. 19, 2010:


His post lays out his tentative views on the utility of potatoes. Earlier posts he wrote deal with primitive groups who ate or are still eating mostly starches.

Even where I might question his conclusions as they apply to me, I think Stephan Guyenet is an honest thinker and reporter.

P. S. -- On his weblog, I wrote a comment for his post. My comment is about my diet.

Burgess Laughlin said...

Here is Part I of Stephan Guyenet's series on potatoes. His discussion is informative. I am not endorsing all of his conclusions. I like his calm let's-see-the-facts approach.


Jasmin said...

Thanks, this is very interesting and helpful stuff!

Burgess Laughlin said...

On November 28, 2011, I substantially revised my list of foods. It is narrower than before. That revision is a result of six weeks experimenting with low sulphur foods.

The results have been satisfying. Even the last bit of skin problem (which occasionally flared-up without evident cause) is now gone. For the first time in 50 years, I have no inflammation problems.

The purpose of this comment is to alert previous commenters to the change.

Burgess Laughlin said...

I have now deleted the cod liver oil from my diet. For the second time in a year (during which I was taking cod liver oil), I have had a hemorrhage in one eye, this time the right one.

Previously I blamed the Metoprolol for the hemorrhage I had in the Spring. Since I am no longer taking Metoprolol, I suspect CLO, which is an anticoagulant.

I will need to think again about how best to get Vitamin D (in a very cloudy site, on the Olympic Peninsula) and Omega 3's (which perhaps I can get from flax oil, since I cannot eat the seeds).

bluefizzure said...

I think I have finally found the answer to so many ailments through your blog. Thank you! The foods you currently eat are ones that I have always tolerated well. Thank you so much for putting it all together. I will let you know how I do.

Isabel H said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Isabel H said...


I've been reading some of your posts on the McDougall site as well as your anti-itis and low sulphur diets. I've also been in touch with Ellen Jaffe Jones who explained that she'd done a version of Mary McDougall's Mini Diet in order to heal from her ailments.

I have rosacea, keratosis pelaris, arthritis in my hip and two huge fibroids in my body as a result of estrogen dominance. I feel it's time for me to do something drastic and complete in order to heal and since I have these inflammation issues, I believe that your way of eating might be able to help me and since it's naturally low in estrogenic substances (many seed based flavorings, soy, flax and beans can be very estrogenic.)

I realize this will take some experimentation on my side, but I was wondering if you could give me a few pointers on how you flavor your skillet meals, as far as amounts of the spices that you do use.

Also, can you tell me why you stopped eating olives and avocados? I realize that low fat is good, but I'm concerned about losing weight too fast for a variety of reasons.

Any advice you could give me would be greatly appreciated. And I'm so happy to read how well you've done and how you've healed yourself through diet.


Isabel H

Burgess Laughlin said...

1. ARTHRITIS. If someone says he has arthritis in one place, then I usually suggest that diet might not be the problem. Posture is more likely to be the cause, in my layman's view.

Of course, to make life confusing, both factors might be involved.

Be sure to see the post "Posture Correction as a Partial Solution." I highly recommend Pete Egoscue's book, especially the first chapters which may help you analyze your posture. Or see a competent physical therapist who can do the analysis.

2. AVOCADOS AND OLIVES. I stopped eating avocados and olives because I suspected that they might be triggers, although at a low level. However, today I updated the post to show that I am again eating avocados (1/2 per meal). They passed the standard test (one serving per meal, six meals in a row).

I have not retested olives because I have not found any that are free of preservatives -- that I can afford. If you can find affordable organic olives they would be worth testing.

3. FLAVORINGS. I use only very small amounts of flavorings, perhaps 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon of Italian seasoning, for example, per skillet (which makes one or two meals). I do not use flavorings at every meal. I have finally become accustomed to eating foods for their own sake. Of course, ketchup always helps with potatoes and rutabagas! Adding a small amount (1/4 t) of sugar enhances the tomato flavor too.

It is the crushed tomatoes that add flavor to the skillet stews. Simmering everything (already cooked) seems to help spread the flavors.

If I have missed a question, please ask again. Best wishes on your -- probably long -- adventure in finding the right diet for you.

Isabel H said...

Thank you so much for your prompt response, I found it to be very helpful. I have read Pain Free (after reading about it on one of your McDougall posts) and you're absolutely right, when I was doing the exercises I had no hip pain. I need to start over with that process, but it hasn't been as much of a priority lately as some of my other issues.

Very helpful, thank you for the good wishes as well.

Isabel H.

Paul C. said...

Amazingly helpful... thank you for this great information. Have you also considered Copper toxicity/imbalance as a root to your sulphur sensitivity? I'm finding that molybdenum is essential to processing sulphur, and high copper can depress molybdenum. I'm starting down this path of investigation for myself, and curious if you've already been there for yourself.

Burgess Laughlin said...

I have never had a reason to investigate the role of copper, if any, in my inflammation problems.

A reminder: I do not know for a fact that sulphur is a or the cause of my inflammation problems. It may be only a "confounder," which apparently means a coincident indicator, one that appears whenever the actual (but now unknown) cause of the problem arises.

Nevertheless, I now wonder (1) which foods are high in copper, and (2) do those foods correlate with the foods I know from the elimination diet test to be inflammatory or me?

K.Milo said...

I have a sensitivity to Oxalates which manifest in eczema/burning rash in the vaginal and anus tissues. I was tested today for sulfur in the urine and have high levels. 20 years ago i had a kidney infection, they gave me sulfa prescription and i broke out in hives all over the body and rash. what is the relationship between high oxalate foods and sulfa sensitivity? it appears i have a problem with both high sulfa and high oxalate foods. i also get eczema rash/burning on the front of the legs. it is difficult to know what to eat as many of your low sulfa foods are high oxalate.

Burgess Laughlin said...

Based on only my own personal experience, as a layman, I can suggest only the Elimination Diet:


It is a diagnostic tool. It requires exactness in application. The process is long and tedious. The results can be informative.

I would try, as preliminary steps, to:

1. Make sure that I understood what "sulfa" means and how it relates to sulphur (sulfur) as an element.

2. Test the idea that foods high in oxalates are the cause of the eczema.

3. Test the idea that foods high in sulphur cause a problem. (How does the sulphur manifest?)

Anonymous said...

Hi Burgess

I've a feeling you're going to say that they are not very available where you live, but I discovered recently that Cherimoya (aka custard apples) are high in omega 3fats. They do score 33 on your sulfur rating chart but are probably better than most other sources? 2 a day when they are in season takes care of all my omega 3 needs and i love them! I hope they are available in your part of the world in summer :-)


Burgess Laughlin said...

Thank you for the suggestion of Custard apples for Omega 3's. What is your source?

According to my source ...


(selecting "Total Omega 3's, far down on the list, and the Vegetable and veg products category)

... these foods (that I can eat) are highest in Omega 3's, from most to least: grape leaves, spirulina, bell ("sweet") peppers, leeks, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, and winter squash.

I intend to rely on those (and many others, though at a lower level).

You are right, though. I have never heard of custard apples. And this is apple growing country, here in Washington State, USA.

Anonymous said...

I just read a comment on the 30bananasaday forum, which of course is not necessarily reliable, but when I put it into Cron-o-meter 2 fruits come up as having 0.7 grams of omega 3, with the target being 1.1 for me. Without trying, the other 0.4 seems to be covered by the rest of my diet. Plus they are delicious ;-)

Anonymous said...

Hi friend,
My name is Lee and I do have this skin and gut problem for about 3.5 years and I tried to improve my skin and gut condition by changing my diet from omnivor to vegan.I had attended holistic nutrition science course and doing T.Colin Campbell plant based nutrition course now.

From omnivor change to vegetarian my problems improved a lot but not totally heal until this year I apply low fat raw vegan diet all the problems seem to be solve.I tried to follow very strict to this low fat raw vegan diet for a month all the problems seem to be disaappear.Right now I still follow the low fat raw vegan diet but not 100%raw with 3/4 days dinners I eat some of the cooked vege due to take care some of my family members feeling.They thought that I am an extremies.

I agree with you that seeds and nut may cause a lot of problems but the main problem is the salt . After I give up my grain(rice)my skin inflammation reduced but not totally.When I give up the intake of the salt t he inflammation in stop 100%.When some of the day I eat something season with salt the inflamation start immediately after I consume the salt.
So I think you should try to eliminate the intake of the salt then if you consume a little bit of seeds/nut it is still ok.Once I think that I totally cannot eat seeds /nuts but after I stopped consuming salt if I consume 1 tablespoon of Chia seed it is still ok.

Anonymous said...

Burgess, first of all, amazing blog. I use it as a reference all the time.

I noticed you started including 3 brazil nuts per day. Isn't that a lot of selenium? I would guess you need no more than 1/2 of 1 kernal per day.

3 kernals gives you 575% of your daily value, while 1/2 of 1 kernal gives you 96%, likely a much safer amount.

Anyway, i just felt like chiming in. Thanks for posting and updating your great blog.

-Nick S

Burgess Laughlin said...

Thank you for the suggestion about selenium. I have been ambivalent about it. Seeing the numbers makes me realize that I am overdosing, though I haven't noticed any harm so far. I will cut back to one per day. Thanks again.

Anne Buzzelli said...

Hello, Burgess,
FIrst of all: congratulations on the hard work it took to decipher your ideal diet! That is not an easy task- requires dedication, insight, faith and perseverance.

You'd mentioned a curiosity about what common quality all those foods have that make your symptoms flare... I wanted to throw this in the pot:

It may be less about the food and more about how your genetics are set up to handle the foods.

Have you heard of the CBS genetic flaw (I prefer "flaw" over "mutation." :)

The CBS (cystathionine beta synthase) enzyme converts homocysteine 
to cystathionine. This pathway removes sulfur-containing amino acids (methionine, cysteine & taurine).

This is a great resource: http://www.heartfixer.com/AMRI-Nutrigenomics.htm#CBS

You'll see that the typical symptoms don't include the ones you had previously experienced (glad about the previous part!) But, since we humans have 30,000 genes, the odds of having more than 1 flaw are pretty high. A combo of flaws will result in individually varying symptoms.

The least expensive test for these flaws is here ($300): https://www.23andme.com (I'm not affiliated...)
There are often coupon codes circulating on the net.

Another option is Amy Yasko's test ($495): http://www.holisticheal.com/health-tests/nutrigenomic-testing

However, all that said, it seems you've figured out the nutrigenomic solution for yourself.

Another very common genetic flaw is the MTHFR mutation. It makes it hard for the body to methylate (required for detoxification, protection from free radicals & robust immunity). If the CBS and MTHFR genes are flawed, a low-sulfur diet is the first step to address the build-up of ammonia (caused by too much sulfur. Then, after that's under control, methylators are added (specific forms of B vitamins (http://www.emersonecologics.com/Products/EmersonMain/PID-HOMO4.aspx) to compensate for that 2nd genetic perturbance.

To conclude, it seems like you're doing what you need to be doing and covering your bases nutritionally. So, this is all just brain candy. :)

Congratulations again & thanks for such a thorough blog!!

daisy said...

how did grains affect you?do you currently eat corn and frozen green peas regularly?your favorite potato type and how you cook them-do you ever oven bake them?

Burgess Laughlin said...

1. In varying degree, grains affected me the same way that other high sulphur foods affect me: They increased my inflammation problems. Dermatitis, specifically eczema, flared up first.

2. I currently eat green peas and corn regularly, perhaps once or twice a week, in the amounts indicated (about one tablespoon at a time).

3. I eat about 30 pounds of potatoes per week. Of that, now, about 25 pounds are the brown (Russett, Idaho) potatoes. The remainder are reds, golds, whites, and yams.

Why browns? Because they are very cheap, about 30 cents per pound compared to one dollar or more per pound for the others.

4. I boil a pot of potatoes every day. I do not bake them in the oven. That is only a personal choice, not a health issue.

I also usually eat about 1/2 C of thick pumpkin soup per meal. The ingredients are: canned pumpkin, water, and a tiny bit of each of these flavorings ... garlic, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon.

daisy said...

do you eat air popped popcorn ?just asking because i see you eat corn once a week.

Burgess Laughlin said...

No, I do not eat air-popped popcorn. I am trying to keep my life as uncluttered as possible. I gave away my air-popper years ago.

I will not be answering any more questions about the details of what I eat. The post is clear. Everyone needs to experiment on his own, to be sure of results.

P. S. -- A reminder to all readers who are making comments: Please make an attempt to write with proper punctuation and capitalization.

xShelbyx said...

Would u mind answering one last question?

I think I react to high sulfur foods, but i also have significant yeast/fungus overgrowth (diagnosed by a stool test). The diet for that is low carb/low starch and fruit-free, which generally translates into foods that are high sulfur/thiols.

I'm not sure what to do... Any advice?

Burgess Laughlin said...

I can offer only these points as possibilities:

1. Why do you "think" you react to high sulphur foods? How does your reaction show up? How quickly after eating suspect foods? Are you certain the high sulphur foods are the cause, or is it a probability, or is it a mere possibility?

2. I am not familiar with "yeast/fungus overgrowth." I did have a fungus problem, and it showed up in my toe nails.

3. Is there scientific evidence that a "low carb/low starch" diet solves the problem of the "overgrowth"?

4. Ultimately, if I were in your situation and had satisfactory answers to the questions above, I would experiment. I would choose one of the two diets and follow it with 100% strictness for a minimum of three months. If that diet didn't bring improvement, then I would experiment with the other diet, again 100% compliance and for a minimum of three months.

Based strictly on personal experience, I seriously doubt that a high-sulphur diet is good for anyone at any time.

xShelbyx said...

Thanks for replying

I tested my sulfur level with quantofix sulfur strips and they were high. Normal levels should be below 400 and mine are 2-3 times that, at least

Also, it is suspected that i have the cbs snp... I won't get my genetic test back for a few more weeks (23andme)

I have a yeast/mold/fungus and parasites issue as dx'd by a stool test and bad gi issues

I was in a fruitarian diet for 1.5yrs (from an nd) but that caused many problems after some time (it healed other things tho)

I'm not off fruit and trying to do an anticandida/yeast diet, but it is hard bc most of the foods for this are high sulfur (crucifers, eggs, meats, fish, nuts seeds etc). Starches can be fuel for dysbiosis bc they thrive off carbs and sugars

So, I'm a bit confused lol

Anonymous said...

Have you been tested for an MTHFR mutation? A glutathione deficiency could be to blame, and from what I understand simply taking glutathione doesn't provide a remedy.

I ask because I wonder if sulphur may be an issue with me, and I was thinking about being tested for the mutation. I react negatively to many high sulphur foods. The supplement MSM, which is basically nothing but sulphur made me very sick.

Rick A.

Paul said...

Dear Burgess
what form of B12 do you take, cynocobalamin or the methylcobalamin?

Burgess Laughlin said...

For B12, I take now half of a 500 milligram tablet per day. It is cyanocobalamin. If I remember correctly, this form is said to be less effective in being absorbed but more stable in its shelf-life. Less effective does not mean ineffective. It works for me.

Blood tests have shown that my B12 level is mid-range.

Paul said...

Dear Burgess
did you experience any numbness or neurological problems on this diet?



Burgess Laughlin said...

I have experienced no numbness, other than the usual posterior numbness when sitting for too long. Standing up, moving around, and long walks have been part of my life for decades, long before I began this diet.

I began this diet about 10 or so years ago. Since then, I have had three episodes of tachycardia/arrhythmia. The first of the four episodes, however, occurred about six years before I began this diet. So, this diet could not be a cause of the series as a whole. The condition commonly occurs around age 65. I am 68. So the timing is not unusual.

I make sure to take Vitamin B12 daily (about 250 micrograms) and to have my B12 checked occasionally. I have always been mid-range.

Eric said...

Haven't had enough time to read everything on your site yet. So, I hope my comment is not redundant. My daughter is 11 years old and has had UC for about 3 years now. I'm trying to find solutions for her that may eliminate or at the very least reduce the amount of chemicals doctors are pushing into her. Am I to understand you have eliminated most of your "-itus" issues with limited or perhaps none of the typical prescriptions pushed by the medical community? Thank you in advance for your reply. Eric Coard

Burgess Laughlin said...

1. I assume UC means ulcerative colitis.

2. Yes, I solved my inflammation problems with a change in diet. (The change was gradual as I learned more each year over the last 10 years or so.)

I still occasionally have inflammation flare-ups. One example is dermatitis, for which there are, for me, three causes: wrong foods (problem solved), abrasion (such as hiking through woods and being swiped by a branch), and caustic substances (such as rain water dripping from a power line).

Another example is iritis. I have had two episodes (if memory serves me) in the last ten years. However, I have not had a single episode in about four years, which is the longest I have ever gone without an episode. Diet, I am confident, is the big factor—but not the only one. I have learned to be very careful not to irritate my eyes by rubbing them or letting them dry out or introducing foreign substances such as the bleach used in facial tissue.

During each episode of iritis (about 20 over the last 40 years), I used Prednisone, without regret. And for the occasional short-term dermatitis flare-up I do use hydrocortisone cream (over the counter is strong enough) to speed up the healing process at a certain stage.

In my case, colitis was one of the first problems to go away.

I wish your daughter the best of health. Colitis for a child would be even more of a nightmare than for an adult.

Eric said...

Thank you so very much for your reply and for posting your arduous personal research. Your reply to my question gives me hope for my daughter. And, hope hasn't been easy to find with respect to Ulcerative Colitis. Thank you! - Eric Coard

Paul said...

Dear Burgess
do you take your B12 before,after or with food, at what time of the day, do you have any preferences?

Burgess Laughlin said...

I now take half a 500 mg tablet of B12, once per day, always in the middle of a meal, at the evening meal, though I have no reason to think timing is relevant. The general rule I follow, unless required otherwise, is to take all medications in the middle of one meal or another.

Paul said...

Dear Burgess
which brand of B12 do you prefer?

Burgess Laughlin said...

I do not have a brand preference. I buy by convenience. I buy the Safeway brand, 500 micrograms, which uses cyanocobalamine, which I know from blood tests works well enough to meet my needs. Safeway is where I do most of my shopping.

Anonymous said...


I think that your a-fib is caused by the ingestion of sulfites in your food and possibly your medications.

It seems to be in everything and on everything. It is also the result of natural fermentation.

I found your blog as I am doing better going sulfite free, but still having problems with sulfur. So, now I am eliminating all of those good for you foods like broccoli and cauliflower.

Best of luck to you!

Shirley LeFever
Boston, MA

Paul said...

Hi Burgess
do you find taking B12 to have a stimulant effect on you,ie similar to coffee, keeps me awake at night makes me anxious,I seem to be having this trouble?

Burgess Laughlin said...

Paul, no, B12 does not have a stimulant effect on me when I take it (now, two or three times per week). Be sure that you are taking a minimal amount. Consider taking it only once or twice per week. I have nothing else to suggest.

ljones said...

What brand of tea do you drink? I'm getting tired of plain distilled water. I currently drink a tea made from a piece of fresh ginger and a bit of local honey. It is good, but I'd like more options.
L. Jones

Burgess Laughlin said...

Please read the post. It answers your question: "For liquid, I drink distilled water between meals. (Where I live, drinking tap water makes me nauseated.) I also drink peppermint or lemon balm tea."

Anonymous said...

Hi. I just came across a government research website in Taiwan that expands your "list of foods and their sulfur content" from the 1939 paper. I hope that you find it of use. http://apjcn.nhri.org.tw/server/info/books-phds/books/foodfacts/html/data/data5g.html

Steve C.
(chicha29 on the McDougall forum)

Burgess Laughlin said...

Steve C., thank you for the new list. I will evaluate it closely.

I notice that the paragraph introducing the list has information about the amino acid methionine containing sulphur. That confirms a suggestion that a biochemist made several years ago: The problem is not sulphur itself, as an element, but some amino acid (protein) that contains sulphur.

Perhaps now I should look for a list of foods ranking them by their methionine content.

Again, thank you!

Anonymous said...

About seven years ago, I wrote an e-mail to Dr. Thomas Remer. He wrote me a reply. He is a professor of medicine in Germany and was one of the original researchers into the Potential Renal Acid Load of diet. If you would like, I will send you his e-mail address in a PM through the McDougall forum or this blog. He may give you some additional insight into this issue. I can't guarantee to you that he will reply. I think he will. Steve C.

Anonymous said...

You wrote: - I avoid "Lettuce, which does not trigger my usual inflammation problems but does cause intestinal distress (loose stools, rumbling)." You should do what they do in Mexico. Soak your fruits and vegetables in a capful of bleach for five minutes. U.S. grown vegetables don't offer the level of sanitation that they once did. Never mind that we have a free trade agreement with Mexico. MANY vegetables sold in the U.S. are now imported from Mexico, including lettuce! Steve C.

Anonymous said...

"Two B vitamins contain large amounts of sulfur. These are thiamin, or vitamin B-1, and biotin..."

"Another major source of sulfur in your diet is methylsulfonylmethane, or MSM. This sulfur-containing compound naturally occurs in high concentrations in many plants and herbal remedies, such as horsetail. Plant foods that are typically high in MSM include Brussels sprouts, garlic, onions, asparagus, legumes, kale and wheat germ."


The primary sulfur-containing amino acids are methionine AND cysteine. The problem with that is that the USDA database only gives values for methionine and cystine (not cysteine). No value is given for methylsulfonylmethane, either.


Perhaps adding the two together, methionine and cystine, will yield a value which more closely identifies foods that have untoward effects. And then cross-checking that list with foods that are also high in vitamin B1 and biotin, for more precision.

As far as using cystine values in place of cysteine, I came across this: "The intake of cystine using the USDA food composition data were strongly correlated with those of cysteine calculated from gene sequencing data (0.98)."

So the combining of methionine with CYSTINE may be more precise than using just methionine.

Burgess, you have more experience than most of us in matching foods with symptoms. Let me know if this information helps to more comprehensively narrow the search beyond "sulfur", as the sulfur value of foods has never been fully cataloged.

Steve C.

Anonymous said...

Burgess, what is your opinion of the 80-10-10 diet? The diet consists of 80% sweet and non-sweet fruits. You write that you currently consume a variety of fruits - without any issues. By substituting banana for potato in your current diet, your caloric intake would be about the same. You'd be moving from complex carbohydrates to simple carbohydrates, starch to fruit sugars. http://www.amazon.com/The-80-10-Diet/dp/1893831248/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

I was bowled over by the research and writings of McDougall. And of others in the same camp. Just like you. I would be curious to know what you think of this other, vegan way of eating. I'm not an advocate of raw food, and so would include your current cooked foods in this dietary scheme. The only difference being a substitution of high-calorie fruits in place of potato.
Steve C.

Anonymous said...

Interesting suggestion, Steve. Obviously I'm not Burgess, but I basically have the same condition that he does and very similar food sensitivities and skin issues. I've gotten to the point that for my calories, I eat fruit instead of potatoes and squash, as you described, because even potatoes give me skin problems and I don't find squash palatable.

I do eat cooked vegetables sometimes (but no cooked starches).

I think Dr. McDougall's work is wonderful and I truly wish that I could follow his plan by eating cooked starches, but I can't.

Apologies to Burgess if my comment is inappropriate on this blog, which is obviously about how he eats and solves his issues, not how I eat.

Jeremiah N.