I was introduced to Dr. Jessica Black, N.D., through the Un-Inflame Me documentary (of which I did a review). I liked what she had to say and decided to grab her book on how to eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
And just in case you’re already following some other nutritional approach such as Paleo, Keto, Vegan, Vegetarian, etc., have no fear! You can still take the concepts from this book and apply them to just about any other diet/nutritional approach under the sun. So read on!
Before we get started, you may have noticed that N.D. in her title rather than an M.D. and be scratching your head. N.D. stands for Naturopathic Doctor.
“A licensed naturopathic physician (N.D.) attends a four-year, graduate-level naturopathic medical school and is educated in all of the same basic sciences as a medical doctor (M.D.), with the difference that he or she also studies holistic and nontoxic approaches to healing, with a strong emphasis on disease prevention and optimizing wellness.”Dr. Jessica Black, N.D., The Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Recipe Book
She also explains that they’re currently only licensed in some states. As of August 2019, they are recognized and licensed in only 23 states in the U.S. That number is growing, though. Her book said 14, so they appear to be becoming more mainstream and accessible.
So, why the distinction?
“This paradigm approaches symptoms as indicators of something going on deeper in the body; rather than merely suppressing the symptoms, the doctors using this paradigm strive to find and remove the true cause of illness.”
“…it is my duty and goal to educate my patients about how to change their health by changing their lifestyles. I help put the power of healing into their hands.”–Dr. Jessica Black, N.D., The Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Recipe Book
Great! That sounds awesome. Better than just masking symptoms with pills. But here’s the thing I’m noticing:
Yes, they go to school for the same amount of time as an M.D. and learn the same basics. They take a board exam. However, graduate programs only require a certain number of credits. If you’re adding classes on stuff like “holistic and nontoxic approaches to healing,” then it stands to reason that you’re subtracting classes (from what an M.D. would take) somewhere else. So what are N.D.’s not learning that M.D.s are?
The answer looks to be acute care. An N.D. is just not going to be the doctor you go to for broken limbs, surgeries, etc. And that’s fine, as long as we appreciate the differences and limitations of each of the medical degrees. Your primary care physician would likely refer you out to a specialist to deal with most acute care cases, too. So an N.D. and a primary care M.D. actually seem like they’re dealing with a lot of the same issues, albeit with different approaches.
Alright, seems legit. Carry on, Dr. Black.
The first 62 pages of the book give you the background on the why behind eating an anti-inflammatory diet. If you’ve been following me, we know a few of those reasons already. The big one is this:
That right there should be enough of a reason for you to get started.
But maybe it’s not, for you. Maybe that’s more long term than you tend to think about, and you just want to lose weight. This diet will help you do that, too.
“If the blood and lymph are properly supplied with nutrients and if foods that are difficult to digest or assimilate are eliminated, cellular function–or, in other words, metabolism–improves.”–Dr. Jessica Black, N.D., The Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Recipe Book
Dr. Black also emphasizes that a lot of the things are only on the “avoid” list because they are a common food allergen or something that causes inflammation in some (but not all) people. So once the diet starts showing you results, you can start adding in certain things that you had been excluding to see if they cause any negative reactions. However, if you do re-introduce them, eat them only sparingly.
So you’re essentially going through a detox of all the toxins that are a part of what most of us eat daily: pesticide residues, antibiotics, hormones, preservatives, heavy metals, and other chemicals like artificial colors and flavorings. They’re all contributing to your inflammation.
And I hate to break it to you, but exercise is also important. Fat cells can store toxins. Remember all that crap you’ve been consuming for years? The stuff that made you sick or overweight? Yeah, a bunch of that is still sitting in your fat cells. Fat cells are hoarders.
Some of you may have heard that some of that hoarded “stuff” will be released from those fat cells as they shrink while you lose weight. And that’s true. As they shrink, those fat cells will release those “toxins” and other stuff they’ve accumulated.
At least one study suggests that this release is a potentially dangerous side-effect of losing weight. Although another study claims to have found that our bodies release more anti-oxidants to help combat those toxins. Yay, bodies! Many of certain “persistent” pollutants just end up just getting redistributed somewhere else in your body. But even with these persistent pollutants, there’s supposed to be a “moderate decrease of their total body burden,” so I’ll take it.
By the way, those “toxins” sitting in your fat cells are being released into your body even when you’re not losing weight, just at a slower rate. And they’ll continue to do so for as long as they’re there, so the positive effects of losing weight still appear to far outweigh (pun intended) the negatives.
Anyway, exercise helps get rid of a lot of the things your fat cells will be releasing. No juice cleanse or crazy detox needed. Your body is a pretty miraculous self-healer.
Dr. Black also talks about the role of stress in causing inflammation. Our bodies respond to stress by releasing hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. It’s what’s helps us to run from that tiger that’s about to eat us. Evolutionarily, that is. Not literally these days, unless a local zoo made a pretty big mistake.
“But in modern industrialized society, there is no tiger to run from, just the stress that increases cortisol and blood sugar. Without the sudden and intense exertion of energy that occurs when we run from the tiger, we are left with elevated levels of cortisol and blood sugar that our body does not need… many people live in a constant state of sympathetic stimulation, resulting in chronically elevated cortisol levels.”–Dr. Jessica Black, N.D., The Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Recipe Book
And those cortisol levels promote… you guessed it. Inflammation.
Okay, so reduce your stress. No problem, right? Hah. We’ll be looking into tips on this later.
Exercise. Check. Gotcha. Less stress. I’ll give it the
She says your macronutrient percentages should be:
- 20-30% Protein
- 20-30% Fat (primarily a balance of essential fatty acids or “good fats”)
- 40-60% Carbohydrates (primarily complex carbohydrates like veggies)
This table is taken from her (outdated) website:
In place of the fish, you could try fish oil tablets, although there’s a study in the New England Journal of Medicine about how fish oil tablets don’t help decrease the risk of heart disease like we thought, but they definitely will help your cholesterol triglycerides, so they are still worth taking.
The book also adds these:
- Pineapple (it contains bromelain, which decreases inflammation)
- Flaxseed oil
- shellfish (at least at first, to make sure you’re not sensitive to them)
- citrus fruits other than lemon and lime
- limit consumption of coffee
Everything in the book after page 71 is recipes (over 3/4 of the book).
I tried a couple of them, and they were pretty decent. Nothing mind-blowingly yummy, but very good. And not too hard to make. And I’ve only tried four recipes so far. I’ll try to remember to update this page as I try more of them. There’s also more recipes on drjessicablack.com.
I noticed that a lot of these recipes were, to be kind, lacking in thoroughness. I made 5 of them, and 4 had errors somewhere. Two of them referenced ingredients in the directions that had absolutely no listing under the ingredients section, so I had no idea how much of that ingredient to use. I couldn’t find the same recipes online in an updated version, either, which is unfortunate. Luckily, I cook a lot, so I was pretty good at guessing amounts.
The 4 main recipes I tried were for:
- Stuffed Mushrooms – 3/5 stars – too much coconut for me!
- Chicken Curry Made Simple – 4.5/5 stars – yummy!
- Cucumber Salad – 4/5 stars – good, but very strong tasting
- Banana Bread Muffins – 4/5 stars – really darn good, and will be even better when I substitute walnuts or almonds for the ground coconut!
One of the most helpful recipes in the book was her Gluten-Free Baking Flour, which is an excellent substitute for regular flour in baking (such as with the Banana Bread Muffins I made).
But then she has odd “recipes” in there. Just in case you can’t read the directions on the side of a bag of rice, “Brown Rice” is literally one of the recipes. Same thing with “Gluten-Free Oats” and “Quinoa.” Add to boiling water and cook. Yep. Thanks. Got it.
Dr. Black talks a lot more about how exactly to implement her anti-inflammatory diet, as well as how the recipes and diet have helped thousands of her patients with chronic issues. So if you want the specifics, grab the book here.
Who could benefit from this? I think everyone. But particularly those of you that come from families who are predisposed to certain diseases that are inflammation-based. (See my Un-Inflame Me Review for a list of those diseases!)
If you are on the cusp of developing type 2 diabetes and you’re looking for a fix, this diet should absolutely help. However, Dr. Black does have a newer book out called The Freedom Diet, which is specifically tailored for those battling type 2 diabetes and trying to regulate their blood sugar quickly. It’s very similar to the Anti-Inflammation Diet, but with a few more restrictions. But it works fast. Sixty days is what she recommends. After those sixty days, you may have your bloodwork under control enough to switch over to this Anti-Inflammation Diet instead.Overall Book Rating: 4/5 Stars
My rating would have been 4.5 stars if it weren’t for the problems in the recipe section. And photos would’ve been nice, for recipes. I understand that its main purpose is to explain this diet, but 3/4 of the book is recipes. So it’s really more about the recipes than the explanation, and recipe books should always have pictures. 🙂
Dr. Black’s diet is very similar to the Mediterranean Diet, which is considered by most to be the healthiest diet in the world, so you can’t go wrong giving this a try. It does have a few changes specific to fighting inflammation.
Incidentally, Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D. also has a much more popular and mainstream anti-inflammatory diet that looks pretty similar to Dr. Black’s. You can check out his food pyramid here. The most significant difference I’m noticing is gluten, which he allows. Dr. Weil claims it has no ties to inflammation. Furthermore, he claims that when you substitute rice flour for wheat flour (which Dr. Black does, in her Gluten-Free Flour Recipe), you could end up with dangerous levels of mercury and arsenic in your system because of the rice “bioaccumulating” them from fertilizers, soil, and water. Something to consider.
Gluten is a hot topic lately, and a lot of people claim that eliminating it, even if they don’t have celiac disease makes them feel a lot better. The wheat we eat these days has been pretty heavily genetically modified. Dr. Black recounts speaking with a woman wheat farmer who noticed the physical changes in wheat as we genetically modified it throughout her lifetime. Dr. Black suggests that through that process, wheat may have become something that our bodies don’t recognize as well anymore.
So perhaps gluten should one of the things you eliminate for a while, then try to re-introduce to see if it causes you issues. If it does, using other flour substitutions other than rice flour whenever you can seems to be a good plan.