Autoimmune Trivia – clothing choices for health

I have a new ugly sunhat and it gets just as many funny looks as the last ugly sunhat – sometimes there is no winning solution if you are unhealthy except to do what you have to do to stay healthy. I thought the new hat was slightly less odd as it’s a straw hat, summery, but oh well. I need a broad brim for sun protection. Cute hats don’t always have a brim or a large floppy beach hat has too much brim and can obstruct your ability to see.

Due to a tendency to develop severe rashes or eczema I need natural fibers. Modern fabrics can leave me itching and as my autoimmune disease has worsened I’ve even had problems with rashes that lead to a lack of skin – an open sore over a large patch is painful more than itchy. Fashion may be fun but not as much fun as having skin. Sewing my own clothes allows my own fabric choices. Hunting through resale shops for natural fiber clothing can be another way to find items that don’t make me sick. Organically grown cotton products are available in limited styles and limited places for a price that is generally more than a department store price but probably less than an expensive fashionable brand.

Laundry detergents or fabric softeners can also leave me with an allergic reaction. Having overactive white blood cells means the allergic and autoimmune sensitivities are more likely to occur – there is one bonus, cancer cells may be more likely to be identified and removed. Until it is a severe condition someone with autoimmune disease may be less likely to have cancer due to the overactive white blood cells. Increased inflammation in a patient and those with “dermatomyositis,” type of infllammatory autoimmune disease were more associated with cancer risk than some other types of arthritis like autoimmune diseases, “systemic autoimmune rheumatic diseases (SARDs), in a large study.” [3] Someone with autoimmune disease can be at greater risk of developing another type of autoimmune disease however. [1]

Adequate treatment of hypothyroidism might have an additional benefit of reducing risk of demyelination and development of Multiple sclerosis. [1]

“For example, an intriguing finding based on a rodent model of chronic demyelination indicates that administration of thyroid hormone can enhance remyelination under certain conditions (3132). Relevance of this finding to multiple sclerosis in humans is unknown, but, hypothetically, routine treatment of hypothyroidism could diminish the risk of multiple sclerosis.” [1]

The sunhat is helping reduce inflammatory reactions that can make underlying autoimmune symptoms worse. Oxidative stress is another way to say inflammatory reactions and a variety of things in addition to excessive sun exposure can lead to oxidative stress and increased production of free radicals – a type of reactive chemical which antioxidant foods helps to detoxify safely rather than allowing an increase in negative health symptoms. Pollution and smoking can also be external factors in addition to excess sun exposure which can be a cause of inflammatory oxidative stress. [2]

Eating adequate but not necessarily excessive amounts of antioxidant rich foods can help the body detoxify the free radical chemicals safely. Excessive supplements or very rich food sources of antioxidants can tip the chemical balance too far in the other direction. Studies with supplements of vitamin E and vitamin A found that some is good but more isn’t. Sesame seeds are a good source of a variety of nutrients and have been tested for helping with the oxidative stress caused by athletic exercise, two tablespoons per day were found to be a helpful and safe amount. See: Effects of Sesame (Sesamum indicum L.) Supplementation on Creatine Kinase, Lactate Dehydrogenase, Oxidative Stress Markers, and Aerobic Capacity in Semi-Professional Soccer Players. [4(G3.8)]

More information antioxidant rich foods and on oxidative stress and who is more at risk of having inflammatory oxidative stress reactions is available in this post on my other blog site:

  • Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.
  1. Emily C. Somers Sara L. Thomas Liam Smeeth Andrew J. Hall, 

    Are Individuals With an Autoimmune Disease at Higher Risk of a Second Autoimmune Disorder?, American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 169, Issue 6, 15 March 2009, Pages 749–755

  2. Anu Rahal,  Amit Kumar,  Vivek Singh,  Brijesh Yadav,  Ruchi Tiwari,  Sandip Chakraborty,  and Kuldeep Dhama, Oxidative Stress, Prooxidants, and Antioxidants: The Interplay, Biomed Res Int. 2014; 2014: 761264.
  3. Kuang-Hui Yu, MD, Chang-Fu Kuo, MD, PhD, Lu Hsiang Huang, MSc, Wen-Kuan Huang, MD, and Lai-Chu See, PhD, Cancer Risk in Patients With Inflammatory Systemic Autoimmune Rheumatic Diseases, Medicine (Baltimore). 2016 May; 95(18): e3540

  4. 8. Barbosa CV, Silva AS, de Oliveira CV, et al., Effects of Sesame (Sesamum indicum L.) Supplementation on Creatine Kinase, Lactate Dehydrogenase, Oxidative Stress Markers, and Aerobic Capacity in Semi-Professional Soccer Players. Front Physiol. 2017 Mar 31;8:196.  (G.8)

Flavanols found helpful at reducing age related memory loss

A small patient based study found that flavanols concentrated from cocoa beans helped improve age related memory loss. The concentrated flavanol extract was prepared by Mars Inc., the company sponsoring the research. The study followed 37 healthy volunteers between the ages of 50 to 69 for three months. Participants in the experimental group consumed 900 mg of the flavanol extract and participants in the control group consumed 10 mg of the concentrated flavanol cocoa drink. Participants were given brain scans at the beginning and end of the study. The brain scans were being monitored for any changes to the dentate gyrus region of the brain which is suspected to be involved in age related memory loss. A twenty minute memory test using pattern recognition questions was also used to assess any memory changes in the study participants. At the end of the study participants on the high-flavanol diet scored significantly higher on the memory test than participants on the low-flavanol diet.

This is a preliminary research study that used a concentrated extract of flavanols. The dose used in the study would not be available from regular chocolate products. There are many plant sources for flavanols in addition to cocoa beans. More research is needed. [link]

In the mean time eating five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day may help reduce cancer risk while providing some healthy flavanols and flavanoids. Blackberries, apricots and apples with the skin are sources of flavanols. And green tea, black tea, and red wine are good sources of flavanols in addition to cocoa beans. [link] Increasing use of green leafy herbs may also be helpful to health. Oregano, rosemary, sage and summer savory may be good sources of a variety of antioxidants including the flavonol quercitin and the flavanoid rosmarinic acid. [link] [link]

Available as a downloadable pdf: Phenols, proanthocyanidins, flavones and flavonols in some plant materials and their antioxidant activities / by M. Skerget et. al. / 2003

/Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and  the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes./

Carrots, spices and baby aspirin help prevent cancer and inflammation

 Aspirin has two active parts that help reduce pain and swelling. The salicylate was first isolated from myrtle and willow tree bark but it has since been identified in many plants and is particularly rich in herbs and spices including turmeric and mint. A compound similar to curcumin found in the spice turmeric has been found to have similar bioactivity and structure to salicylic acid. Benefits may include reduced breast, colon and prostate cancer risks:

“Dibenzoylmethane (DBM) has been reported to exhibit chemopreventive activities in several animal models, including mammary, colon and prostate tumorigenesis during the past few years.2,12–16” [2]

Production of the isolated phytochemicals are being studied but in the meantime spicing up the diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices seems like a good bet and it looks like a baby Aspirin might help protect against breast and prostate cancer as well as cardiovascular disease. Eating more fiber rich produce and spices would help protect against ulcer risks associated with regular use of Aspirin or ibuprofen (I think if I looked that ibuprofen would have similar protective effects because it also reduces the breakdown of endogenous cannabinoids which would reduce free arachidonic acid availability for breast or prostate cancer cells).

From the research article: Table 1: Examples of total salicylate content of food items. [1]
Food Item
Salicylate/ mg/kg
Food Item
Salicylate / mg/kg
Gala melon
Green beans
Green apple
Mange tout
Kiwi fruit
Mushroom (button)
Onion (white)
Spices and Herbs
Apple juice
Black cumin
Cranberry juice
Grapefruit juice
Chat masala
Orange juice
Garam masala
Pineapple juice
Tomato juice
White wine
Red wine

1. [] Garry G. Duthie and Adrian D. Wood, Natural salicylates: foods, functions and disease prevention, Food Funct, 2011, 2, 515-520, DOI: 10.1039/C1F010128E (full text free with login registration)

“Rodent models using ‘‘nutritional’’ rather than ‘‘pharmaceutical’’ dietary intakes indicate that salicylic acid modulates a range of proteins involved in protein folding, transport, energy metabolism and cytoskeletal regulation.40,41 The biological significance of these changes is unclear. However, several of the identified proteins are known to be involved in two major redox pathways (thioredoxin and glutathione). This strongly suggests that salicylic acid modulates interactive components of the cellular redox system, such as glutathione S-transferase yb-2, p53 and AP-1.42 Oxidative stress is implicated in the pathogenesis of many diseases, including heart disease, diabetes and several cancers.43 Consequently, cellular exposure to low concentrations of salicylic acid may benefit health by regulating the activity or expression of transcription factors involved in modulating oxidative stress, such as the antioxidant response element.44 This potential effect is not, however, unique to salicylic acid as other dietary-derived phenolic compounds, such as flavonoids, also activate this enhancer sequence, thus mediating the transcriptional activation of genes in cells exposed to oxidative stress.45”

“The bioactivity of Aspirin is unique in that it is characterised by two compounds within the same molecule. In addition to salicylic acid, the acetyl moiety is released within minutes of Aspirin consumption by enzymatic hydrolytic cleavage by esterases in the intestine, blood and liver.68 The binding of the acetyl group to serine530 in platelets inactivates the active site of cycloxygenase-1, thus preventing the access of arachidonic acid and irreversibly inhibiting prostaglandin synthesis. (*** also preventing access by prostate and breast cancer cells to the arachidonic acid breakdown metabolite 5-HETE) The resultant prevention of platelet aggregation is a major reason for the widespread use of Aspirin in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease.69 However, the other primary metabolite of Aspirin , salicylic acid, has a much longer half-life of several hours.70 It is likely that its broad spectrum of cellular targets, already discussed, contributes to disease prevention through, for example, its anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative and antioxidant activity. This view is supported by meta-analyses,71–73 which strongly corroborate the hypothesis that the regular consumption of Aspirin -derived salicylic acid can inhibit the incidence and progression of several diseases where platelet function is not a major consideration. However, the doses employed in such trials (30–1300 mg day 1) exceed that which can be obtained from diet alone. Current clinical data are most supportive of a 75 mg daily dose of Aspirin 74 (equivalent to 66 mg salicylic acid), which is readily available from pharmacies and retail outlets in the UK. Larger doses may be required to obtain significant anticancer effects, although a recent population study75 showed for the first time that doses of around 100 mg day 1 may confer some protection. This does not preclude the possibility that the sustained lower intakes achievable by the regular consumption of salicylate-rich diets may also have a disease-preventative activity. However, to date, no double-blind randomised controlled trials using doses of 5–10mg salicylic acid have been conducted in support of the hypothesis that dietary salicylates have long term health benefits. It should also be pointed out that even with therapeutic doses of acetylated salicylic acid of 75mg day 1, there is a peptic ulcer incidence of 5–10% over 3–6 months of usage, a bleeding complication rate of 0.5–2.0 per 100 patient years and a mortality rate of ulcer complications of about 5% of those who have been admitted to hospital due to ulcer bleeding.76 It is likely that the risk of GI toxicity from salicylate levels in food is low, but as a note of caution, Aspirin intakes as low as 10mg day 1 are reported to produce demonstrable gastric damage in humans.77”

Future perspectives

“Interest in the potential beneficial effects of dietary salicylates has arisen, in part, because of the extensive literature on the disease preventative effects of Aspirin . However, it should not be forgotten that plant products found to contain salicylic acid are generally rich sources of other phenolic acids. For example, rich sources of hydroxycinnamic acids such as ferulic, synapic and caffeic acids include legumes, cocoa, fruit, herbs, nuts and cereals. In addition to salicylic acid, other hydroxybenzoic acids such as protocatechuic, vanillic and syringic acids are present in wine, berries, herbs, fruit juices and tea.78 Daily intakes of many may markedly exceed that of salicylic acid. Estimated intakes of caffeic and ferulic acid in a Finnish population are 417 and 129 mg, respectively.79 Many of these compounds also have a marked anti-inflammatory and redox-related bioactivity in mammalian cells.80 Their potential protective effects should not be overlooked. In this context, the importance of dietary salicylic acid should not perhaps be over emphasised. “

***This research team is encouraging the use of whole foods and the intake of a variety of active phytochemicals in the same dose. Earlier within the article the anti-cancer benefits of the dose available from food intake are compared with the dose from a baby aspirin or regular dose aspirin. Within the discussion section, excerpted above, the authors point out that many other active phytochemicals contained within a food would boost the active dose from eating more produce, herbs and tea (and moderate amounts of wine).

2. [] Chuan-Chuan Lin, Yue Liu, Chi-Tang Ho and Mou-Tuan Huang, Inhibitory effects of 1,3-bis-(2-substituted-phenyl)-propane-1,3-dione, β-diketone structural analogues of curcumin, on chemical-induced tumor promotion and inflammation in mouse skin, Food Funct., 2011, 2, 78-83 DOI: 10.1039/C0FO00098A
Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.