Epstein-Barr virus protein can “switch on” risk genes for autoimmune diseases

I just wanted to share with you this new piece of research that I have come across….

Basically, it is saying that if you carry the genes for autoimmune diseases (and many of them – celiac disease for example) are genetic, then if you contract Epstein-Barr (also known as the kissing disease, mononucleosis or glandular fever) the virus can “turn on” those autoimmune disease genes and result in the development of an autoimmune disease.  This “turning on” of genes is called Epigenetics which is a new and emerging branch of science.  Basically certain environmental conditions (could be external environment or internal environment) can trigger the genes to start expressing whatever they are coded to express.  This can result in disease states such as the autoimmune diseases.

Well I guess that this explains why I developed celiac disease. I am heterozygous for all of the celiac genes (this means I have a copy of them each of my chromosomes), and I had EBV as a young adult when I was in my very early 20’s… Interestingly, I started developing the symptoms of a gluten sensitivity in my early 20’s as well, a couple of years after my EBV Dx…. but it was not diagnosed as full celiac disease until I was in my 40’s. That means I was probably suffering from it for a good 20 years as an undiagnosed celiac, which explains the extensive gut-damage that they found at the biopsy.

“the researchers found that EBNA2 [a protein produced by EBV] and its related transcription factors activate some of the human genes associated with the risk for lupus and several other autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, type 1 diabetes, juvenile idiopathic arthritis and celiac disease.”

In other words for me, celiac disease was a foregone conclusion….

And it was probably the damage to my gut-lining that resulted from the Celiac diseases, that lead to my development of the dairy (Casein) allergy in my mid 30’s. Not only is casein cross-reactive with gluten, but the damage to my gut lining would have lead to the partially digested casein molecules leaking into my blood triggering the autoimmune response. And it is probably also responsible for my sensitivity to nightshades as those proteins will also leak through the damaged gut lining.

Now it all makes sense.

But this also demonstrates the importance of a few things:

  1. if you have a close family member with Celiac disease or another autoimmune disease, get genetically tested. .A close family member is defined as a sister, a brother, a child or a parent.  (Please my children take NOTE of this!  I have celiac disease which increases your susceptibility to getting it yourself!).  These tests are non-invasive, they are a simple blood test that can be ordered at the same time that you have blood taken at your annual health check – just ask your doctor to include them.  For the genetic testing you can also use companies as simple as 23-and-me or Ancestry genetics that use saliva or mouth scrapings, and then run the results through a program like genetic genie (there are others too).
  2. if you find that you have the genes for any autoimmune disease (this includes celiac disease) get regular blood tests (best done at the time of your annual bloodwork) to test for autoimmune antibodies specific to the AI disease that you carry the genes for.  If you test positive for the autoimmune antibodies, it means you have developed the autoimmune disease and then you can get treatment for it before it becomes problematic.  In the case of Celiac disease, this would mean eliminating all gluten in everything you eat to avoid further gut-lining damage.
  3. If you have the genes for an AI disease but not the antibodies, get tested regularly for the antibodies (at your annual blood check) to monitor if you develop the antibodies which would signify that you have an AI disease.
  4. If you develop EBV (Epstein-Barr) in any of its forms (kissing disease, Mononucleosis, Glandular Fever etc,) even if it was in the past, get tested for autoimmune antibodies in your blood work.

And if you test positive for all of the above, consider AIP (the Autoimmune Protocol) to help control the development of the symptoms and manage it.   The best jThs would be in addition to any recommendations that your doctor makes.   AIP is not an “instead of what the doctor says” kind of protocol, it is an “in addition to what your doctor says” protocol.

Eggs – One Of The Healthiest Foods You Can Eat

Eggs have got a bit of a bad reputation in the past – not only because industrially produced eggs are infected with bacteria, including salmonella.  But also because they are high in fat and cholesterol.  We are told to limit our consumption of eggs, or to eat only the protein rich egg-whites in order to not gain weight and to keep the cholesterol levels in our blood to within acceptable levels.

The thing is, we don’t need to do this.  While 1 egg contains a large amount of cholesterol compared to other foods (212mg in 1 large egg), dietary cholesterol does not affect our blood cholesterol levels – if we don’t consume enough in our diet, our livers will simply make more.

And consuming eggs will actually improve your blood cholesterol profile.  They will increase the levels of the “good” HDL cholesterol while limiting the “bad” LDL cholesterol to a large “fluffy” subtype that is not associated with heart disease (1, 2, 3, 4).

Not only that, eggs are simply packed with nutrients that our bodies need.

They are full of protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals.  They also contain choline which is vital for healthy brain function (5).

1 egg will provide you with the following (6):

  • Protein – 6g
  • Fat – 5g
  • Vitamin A – 6% RDA
  • Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)  – 2%RDA
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) – 15% RDA
  • Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid) – 7% RDA
  • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) – 3% RDA
  • Vitamin B12 – 9% RDA
  • Choline 113mg
  • Vitamin E – 3% RDA
  • Folic acid  – 5% RDA
  • Calcium – 2% RDA
  • Iron – 3% RDA
  • Magnesium – 1% RDA
  • Phosphorus – 9% RDA
  • Potassium – 2% RDA
  • Zinc – 4% RDA
  • Selenium – 22% RDA

And all with only 77 calories and minimal amounts of carbs.  Most of the nutrients with the exception of protein are found in the yolks, meaning that if you are eating only the egg whites you are missing out on most of the nutritional benefits of all these vitamins and minerals.

Eggs also measure highly on the satiety index.  This means that they are very effective at satisfying hunger, make you feel full and stay full for longer.  And as a result, you will eat less.  There have been numerous studies that have shown that eating eggs for breakfast leads to weight loss (7, 8).

One thing to remember is that not all eggs are the same.  The vast majority of egg-laying hens are confined in small cages and lead incredibly unhealthy lives.  They are fed a grain based feed that alters the EFA (essential fatty acid) profile in an unfavorable way. And because they are caged with such a high stocking density, a large proportion of the birds will be infected with salmonella and other bacteria.  This can lead to salmonella-tainted eggs

Even eggs that claim to be free-range may not be as free-range as you think – in order to receive the designation of “free-range”, the hens just have to have access to the outdoors for part of the day.  Access is the key – they usually are raised in huge barns, with a tiny little opening to the outside.  The food and water is all in the barn, so guess where the hens stay.  And they are fed the same kind of diet as the caged birds…  one that is too high in omega 6 and too low in omega 3.

If at all possible, buy omega 3 enriched or pastured eggs as they will be laid by healthier birds and have a better omega 3 : omega 6 ratio.

So there you have it – eggs, cheap, nutritious and very tasty.  What is not to like about them?

Another good reason to eat organic and avoid all GMO crops

Research has found a link between Glyphosphate (the active ingredient in Roundup weedkiller) and human breast cancer.

This page explains… and this is a link to the original abstract.

The study, which was accepted for publication in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology last month, indicates that glyphosate, the world’s most widely used herbicide due to its widespread use in genetically engineered agriculture, is capable of driving estrogen receptor mediated breast cancer cell proliferation in a parts per trillion concentration range.

What it essentially means is that if you eat something that is genetically engineered, or that has been grown with the use of Roundup, you stand an increased risk of getting breast cancer.  This could be a reason why breast cancer is becoming increasingly more common.

I wonder what Monsanto will say about this – with all their “Roundup ready” seeds.

As far as I am concerned, this is the best reason ever to only eat organic produce and to avoid ALL GMO crops and anything that might contain GMO ingredients, especially since most processed food manufacturers don’t have to reveal that they use GMO ingredients in their products in the USA.

More Research

A quick post about some recent nutritional research that I have found recently…

First up, seafood is still considered a good source of nutrients although consumers are confused about it’s safety.  The current recommendations are to eat two 3-5oz servings a week of seafoods such as salmon, oysters and rainbow trout but to limit consumption of the large predatory fish such as shark, swordfish and king mackerel.  They don’t mention it, but I would also say to limit  consumption of farmed fish and stick to wild caught varieties as they will have a better omega-3/omega-6 ratio.

The omega-3/omega-6 issue in farmed fish is mentioned in another study.  Despite the health benefits, most children and adults have a “nutrition gap” in omega-3 fatty acids.  In part, the authors attribute this to under consumption of fish and other omega-3 containing foods.  But they also do attribute it in part to 50% or more of seafood consumed being raised in farms on diets that don’t foster a healthy omega-3/omega-6 ratio.  In other words eat more wild caught seafood.

Eating eggs is not linked to high cholesterol in adolescents.  They have found that it is not unsafe to eat more than 2 eggs a week and it does not increase the risk of heart disease….  something that us Paleo folks have been saying for ages.  They also suggest that blood cholesterol levels are more affected by saturated fat and trans fat levels.  So avoid those over processed industrially prepared foods…

High intakes of milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter were not associated with a significantly increased risk of mortality compared with low intakes.  They do say in this one that high intakes of meat, especially processed meat was associated with increased mortality – I suspect that this is due to the processed meats affecting the results.

And finally habits, not cravings, drive food choices during times of stress.  In other words, when you are stressed and reach for that chocolate bar or the carb laden comfort foods, it is not because of cravings.  It is caused by habits.  And habits CAN be broken.  It usually takes around 21 days to break a habit, the same as it does to create one.

A good reason not to use artificial sweeteners

Some more research…  this time showing that artificial sweeteners are not as good as the manufactures like to claim

“Consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks has been linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome—a group of risk factors that raises the risk for heart disease and stroke. As a result, many Americans have turned to artificial sweeteners, which are hundreds of times sweeter than sugar but contain few, if any, calories. However, studies in humans have shown that consumption of artificially sweetened beverages is also associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome as well as cardiovascular disease. As few as one of these drinks per day is enough to significantly increase the risk for health problems.”

If consumption of artificial sweetened beverages results in the exact same health problems that sugar sweetened beverages cause, why not drink the real sugar-sweetened ones in the first place, especially if it means that you avoid the additional problems that artificial sweeteners cause:

“Moreover, people who regularly consume artificial sweeteners show altered activation patterns in the brain’s pleasure centers in response to sweet taste, suggesting that these products may not satisfy the desire for sweets. Similarly, studies in mice and rats have shown that consumption of noncaloric sweeteners dampens physiological responses to sweet taste, causing the animals to overindulge in calorie-rich, sweet-tasting food and pack on extra pounds.”

If these artificial sweeteners do not satisfy the desire for sweet stuff, they could be one very real reason for the obesity epidemic simply because people are consuming these sweeteners, not getting the sugar hit that they are craving and then are overeating, which results in overconsumption.

The best thing would be to just try to cut down on the sugary snacks and sweet drinks in total, but if you simply cannot do that, go for the real deal…  at least it will be more satisfying and won’t lead to over-consumption the way things sweetened with artificial sweeteners will…

But seriously, if you need a fizzy drink, try plain soda water (club soda) either by itself or flavoured with a squeeze of lemon/lime juice.  It still gives you that bubbly satisfaction without all the sugar and artificial additives.  And club soda and lemon/lime juice are paleo/primal.

How to get kids to eat more veggies – and a homemade mayo recipe

There has been some research that shows that kids will eat more veggies when they are paired with a dip.  Now personally I have never had a problem getting my kids to eat veggies – heck B will even eat raw brussels sprouts (Blech).  But I do know that a lot of people do struggle to get their kids to eat enough veggies.  So I thought that this piece of research was interesting.

OK so the dips used in this experiment were Miracle Whip based, which is over processed and uses questionable ingredients.  But what about a homemade dip…  Maybe one based on a homemade mayonnaise.

Homemade mayonnaise

I know making mayonnaise seems a little scary to a lot of people – they have heard stories about how it is very difficult, how it curdles easily, how it is time consuming to make, how the eggs have to be at room temperature, how they should be straight out of the fridge…  you name it.  Those stories are out there.

But really, it is easy…  I have been making mayonnaise since I learned how in Home Ec class when I was 13…  And while it has curdled on me once in a while, for the most part it works just beautifully.  And if it does curdle, it is no biggie.  You just start again with an extra egg, add the curdled mixture, followed by the rest of the oil and the only outcome is that you end up with more mayo than you planned on having in the first place.  And seeing that it keeps in the fridge for at least a week that is not a problem in my book!  But if you add the oil drop by drop it is unlikely that you will have a problem as this recipe contains mustard which is an emulsifier and helps to stop it splitting and curdling.


2 egg yolks

1 tsp Dijon mustard (I usually use a grainy one, but smooth works well too)

1 tsp lemon juice

300ml/1.25 cups of olive oil (If you don’t like a strong olive oil taste, you may want to use a mild tasting olive oil rather than extra virgin, or even a mix of olive oil and almond oil)

2 tbsp whey (optional) – it adds some friendly bacteria.  if you don’t do dairy you could use an acidophilus/probiotic capsule instead

2 tbsp flax oil (optional) – mitigates the effects of using almond oil somewhat.

unrefined sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


Put the egg yolks, mustard and lemon juice in a blender (you can also do this long-hand using a balloon whisk and a mixing bowl if you don’t have  blender.  It will just take longer.  Put a damp cloth under the bowl and it will stop it moving around).

Very slowly add the oil drop by drop, blending the mixture the whole time (if making this by hand it is even more vital that you really do add the oil drop by drop – adding the oil too fast is the primary reason that mayo curdles…)

As the mixture starts to thicken, you can add the oil a little faster, in a steady stream.  Don’t stop mixing (even if you are making it by hand and your arm aches… you develop good arm muscles that way!)

Taste and seasaon.

As I mentioned earlier, if it does curdle, just tip the curdled mixture back into the oil mixture, add another egg yolk  and start adding drop by drop again… don’t rush it, or it will curdle again and you will end up with a ton of mayo by the time you are done!

This recipe can be stored in a sealed jar in the fridge for at least week….  I don’t know what the upper time-limit for keeping this is because my mayo never lasts a week!  But seeing as it contains raw egg I would not be comfortable keeping it any longer.

And just to allay peoples fears of eating raw egg, yes there is a slim (very slim) chance of getting sick.  But really, unless you are already sick, immune-compromised, pregnant, very young or very old, you are going to be fine.  If you are in one of those groups I mentioned, I would not recommend that you make this mayo…  go and buy some that is made with pasteurized eggs instead.  Just read the ingredients first OK?  Back when the whole salmonella-in-eggs things blew up, some 20 years ago, my microbiology professor (I was still at university at that point) calculated that you could eat a raw egg every day and still not get sick.  And the site I linked to above says that the chance of encountering an egg contaminated with salmonella is 0.005%.  That means that the average egg consumer will only eat a contaminated egg once every 84 years.  And if you are using good eggs – organic, pastured, from a reputable source, the chance is probably even smaller than that.  And seriously, I have been making this mayo almost weekly for the past 30 years (now I have just let on how old I am!), and I have never had a problem.   Plus I add raw eggs to the smoothies that I eat for breakfast (to provide extra protein) and again, I never get sick.

Now you have your mayo base, go and make some awesome dips for the veggies.  You can flavour this base in any number of ways…  add a garlic clove with the mustard/egg-yolks/lemon and you have aioli – but your kids might not like that (it is yummy though!).  Add chopped herbs to the ready made mayo – parsley, basil, tarragon, thyme are all good.  Add chopped capers.  Add finely diced tomatoes and roasted pepper.  Add a pinch of chilli and use lime juice in place of lemon juice to make a chilli-lime mayo.  And if you add the garlic clove, and then use the chilli and lime you get an awesome chilli-lime aioli that works amazingly with oven baked sweet potato fries…..

Fructose Consumption Causes High Cholesterol

A new study that is being published in the Journal of Nutrition has linked high fructose consumption to high cholesterol….

Hopefully this will put paid to the sugar industry’s claims that high fructose corn syrup is not harmful….