Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Nerdy Guest Host

Good morning to all of the PRG readers.  I’m going to warn you right-of-the-bat, your usual host is on vacation!  I am PaleoRunnerGirl’s husband, Non-PaleoSitOnTheCouchBoy, and I have been asked to guest host the blog this weekend.  My wife, in all of her wisdom, thought that I could actually bring some worthwhile information to her readership (and I hope she’s right), but I will give you the following disclaimer: this entry’s going to have a little science in it.  So for all of you science-aphobes … NAVIGATE AWAY NOW!  Just kidding.  This is going to be fun science.

Alrighty, so here’s a quick introduction to your guest-host: I am in my final year of medical school at Temple University in Philly.  Now, while my picture may suggest otherwise, I am no “quack medical student.”  In fact, most scientists pride themselves on their stubborn refusal to believe anything until the last possibility of plausible deniability remains (note how long it took us to admit that the earth is neither flat nor the center of the universe), and I count myself among them.  So when PRG sheepishly told me a month or so ago that she was going to eat Paleo, I was my usual skeptic self.  But it sure didn’t take long before I became a believer!  
Making life-or-death medical decisions for our kids based on the advice of this lady?!  Really?!
The reason scientists (and especially medical scientists) are skeptical, are important ones.  Mainly, there’s a lot of pseudoscience out there that can harm people.  For example, if it weren’t for Jenny McCarthy and Andrew Wakefield, kids wouldn’t be dying from whooping cough right now.  But here’s the thing on Paleo eating: it’s pretty simple science!  There’s not much to be skeptical about.  It’s a nothing-to-lose lifestyle.  If it helps: great.  If not: no biggie.  (Though it usually helps.)
Let’s do a quick talk on immunology and autoimmunity (don’t be scared).  All human beings get a nice little gift from mommy and daddy upon birth: it’s called your genome.  That’s just a fancy word for the miniature library that your cells check books out from, and learn what they’re supposed to do.  One particular shelf in that library has a bunch of books that teach the cells what kind of immune system you’re supposed to have.  Those are called the “HLA Haplotype” books.  Some people’s HLA Haplotype books teach the cells to be super-lazy, and therefore, their immune system becomes a bum, and creates an immune deficient person (e.g. the book called, HLA Class II Homozygosity teaches cells to create SCID, also known as “Bubble Boy Disease”).  Some people have HLA Haplotype books that tell their immune cells to work exactly as they should—no more, no less.  However, there is a third type of haplotype book out there, and here’s where eating Paleo comes into play.  That third shelf of HLA Haplotype books teaches the immune cells to work overtime … in a bad way.  An overzealous way.  In fact, they work so hard that they create huge inflammatory responses, and sometimes even attack our own bodies creating autoimmune disorders (e.g. the book HLA-DQA1/B1 teaches our cells to create asthmatics, and HLA-DQ2 teaches on Celiac Disease).  The unfortunate thing about this, is that usually our libraries look a lot like our parents’ libraries.  That’s why a lot of people with autoimmune disorders also have a parent or family member with an autoimmune disorder.
Now, the shelf with HLA Haplotype books in my library is the middle kind.  My immune/inflammatory cells are punch-card employees: they come in at 9 and leave by 5 … no more, no less.  So I can eat anything I want, without having to worry about inflammation, etc.  But PRG, on the other hand has a shelf of HLA books that teach overzealousness, and that makes eating tough for her.  Why is this?  Because a lot of foods out there create huge targets for those already overzealous little HLA-educated cells.  Foods have little chunks of proteins on their surfaces called antigens.  Certain foods, like glutenous ones, have enormous antigens.  They put a humongous target up for those overworking little immune cells, and they go straight for the target.  When they hit the target, the immune cell creates an inflammation party, and BANG! You’re miserably bloated and cramping and spending the rest of your night in el baño.  Those foods with big antigen targets are said to have high “immunogenicity.”
So to summarize Paleo in one scientific sentence, it’s this: for those people with overzealous, HLA-educated immune systems, stay away from highly immunogenetic foods.  Duh.  I’m on board!  (Hope 1/3 of you stayed until the end.)

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed this post and understood most of it! I'm a bit of a science geek (love chemistry, but hate biology) and was originally a pre-pharmacy major...but then I switched to fashion. Quite a turnaround!