With new research supporting that a Mediterranean diet can help alleviate asthma and allergies in children and in adults, many people are left wondering how to reap the rewards if they live in Kansas, not Cannes, and lunch in a cafeteria, not a cantina. Andrew Larson, M.D., and his wife, Ivy Larson, are living proof that it’s not only possible, but life-altering.
The Larsons, who live along the Gold Coast of Florida, have become a poster couple for the phrase “in sickness and in health.” At the age of 22, Ivy was diagnosed with debilitating multiple sclerosis. Desperate for answers, she turned to her childhood friend, Andrew, for help, since he was studying to become a doctor. Over the next months, not only did they find a way to put her MS into remission, they also found true love. Since then, the couple got married, and they are busy raising their young son. Their resulting diet, The Gold Coast Cure, has become known for helping to alleviate a wide variety of inflammatory conditions, including fibromyalgia, seasonal allergies, and asthma.
Dr. Larson, who is not opposed to using prescriptions to treat inflammatory conditions, has seen the benefits of dietary changes firsthand in many of his patients. For example, a59-year-old woman had asthma for over 25 years, and was taking up to four different medications daily. Since she began following the Gold Coast Cure, she now only occasionally uses medication.
Dr. Larson explains that one reason inflammatory diseases are on the rise is because our modern diet is far more pro-inflammatory than our ancestors’. “Most of us eat too many processed convenience foods,” he explains, "many of which are advertised as being “˜healthy.’ But because the human body wasn’t designed to process these fake and chemically altered foods, if you eat too many of them, as Ivy did, you set up a chain reaction in your body that causes inflammation.” The Larsons advise people to focus on a few key dietary changes.
Modern, Meet Mediterranean: What to Add to Your Diet
Omega-3 Fats. “The omega-3 fats are the most powerful anti-inflammatory substances available without a prescription,” Larson says, because your body uses them to make anti-inflammatory substances called prostaglandins.
Sources of omega-3 fats: Fatty fish like salmon and sardines, fish oil supplements, flaxseeds, and flaxseed oil (flax is a good alternative for people who are allergic to fish).
Eat at least 2 servings of fatty fish a week, plus supplement with ¼ teaspoon of high-quality fish oil a day for kids less than 50 pounds; ½ teaspoon a day for kids over 50 pounds (Nordic Naturals ProEFA Liquid); 2 soft gels a day for adults (Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega).
Eat 1 serving of flax a day. Either sprinkle 3 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds into low-fat yogurt or old-fashioned oatmeal (not quick-cooking), or mix them into a smoothie. Or, use 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil (Barlean’s) to make a salad dressing. Note that flaxseed oil cannot be heated and must be refrigerated.
Omega-6 Fats. Omega-6 fats help your body produce anti-inflammatory hormones with the side benefit of lowering bad cholesterol levels.
Eat 1 serving of healthy omega-6 fat a day: 1 tablespoon of walnuts, almonds, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, all-natural peanut butter or nut butter (make sure nuts or nut butters are all-natural and don’t contain hydrogenated oils); or one 4-ounce serving of tofu; or ½ cup edamame beans.
Monounsaturated Fats. These healthy fats boost your body’s ability to metabolize omega-3 fats, with the side benefit of tasting good.
Choose 1 serving a day from one of the following sources: 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil, 15 small olives, 1 tablespoon of expeller-pressed canola oil, 2 tablespoons of nuts, or ¼ of an avocado.
Good-Bye, Inflammation Nation: What to Eliminate from Your Diet
- Say “no” to trans fats. Trans fats block healthy fats from converting to inflammation fighters and they have been implicated as a cause of heart disease.
- Say “no” to over-processed vegetable oils. While unadulterated omega-6 fat is healthy, most people eat too much of the unhealthy kind of omega-6 fat in the form of vegetable oils. Omega-6 fat that has been damaged by heat is not healthy, so avoid all vegetable oils, including corn oil, cottonseed oil, “pure” vegetable oil, safflower oil, sesame seed oil, soybean oil, and sunflower oil. (Use the healthy oils listed above instead).
- Say “no” to processed white-flour carbohydrates. These foods are nutrient-poor and worsen inflammation. Examples include bagels, baked goods, cookies, and crackers. Fortunately, there are many healthy substitutes. Look for “whole grain products” with more than 3 grams of fiber per 25 grams of carbohydrate. For example, replace white pasta with high-fiber whole-grain pasta and white bread with whole-grain bread like Alvarado Street Bakery Bread. Some gluten-free replacements include barley, buckwheat, and quinoa.
If you’re confused, here’s what a typical day would look like:
Breakfast: ½ cup old-fashioned oatmeal made with 3 tablespoons ground flaxseeds, ¾ cup low-fat milk or soy milk; sweeten with Splenda or stevia, to taste; top with blueberries or banana slices.
Lunch: Chicken, feta cheese, and roasted pepper wrap (Use a sprouted, whole-grain tortilla; reduced fat feta; pre-cooked deli chicken and canned red peppers). Add a side salad with dressing made of balsamic vinaigrette, olive oil, and spices and herbs.
Snack: 1 cup low-fat, no-sugar yogurt with 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts or flaxseeds, and chopped fruit of choice (peaches, strawberries, etc.)
Dinner: Baked salmon with favorite fish rub (Emeril’s Fish Rub), ¾ cup whole-wheat couscous or brown rice with side salad made with flax oil dressing, optional glass of wine.
With some practice and some pantry fixes, you’ll soon be saying “Bon appetite!”-and “bon” health. For more information on the Gold Coast Cure program or sample recipes, visit www.thegoldcoastcure.com.
We hope you find this general health information useful, but this article is meant to support and NOT replace the professional medical advice you receive from your doctor. For all personal medical and health matters, including decisions about diagnoses, medications and other treatment options, you should always consult your doctor.