Fennel Seed Diet

New/extra short term goal- regain health, reduce inflammation and lose weight by adding fennel seeds back to my daily diet. I ran out of them earlier this summer and since then hurt my knee and gained weight with the decreased activity, (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevate (RICE) can help sprained ankles and strained ligaments but 6-8 weeks is expected for recovery).

Fennel seeds are used as an after meal dessert or breath freshener in India and elsewhere. They also are a digestive aid and may help preserve bone density/prevent osteoporosis from reading I did on the topic last winter when I first added them to my daily diet. It turns out they also are thought to help weight loss based on search results-(fennel seed weight loss). I love the internet. More specific information includes potential help with anxiety & depression and also mentions the possible help as digestive aid and weight loss as an appetite suppressant : “21 Health Benefits of Fennel, and Risks & Side Effects,”  selfhacked.com. Excessive amounts daily are not recommended however the crunch and taste are lasting and a pinch, ~ 1/2 teaspoon, is a little like chewing minty gum for little while.

So my simple plan – try to eat my healthy meal choices and have a teaspoon of fennel seeds after meals and whenever I feel like snacking in between meals – and just see if that helps curb the desire for more snacking. /Day one, already feeling some positive effects./

Fennel seed are an alkalizing food – meaning after digestion the body system is more alkaline than acidic which promotes health more and may help reduce cancer risk: Alkalizing foods refers to the alkalinity after digestion.

From my wintertime notes: 

A gift from nature to help us build Nrf2 (10) and which may improve digestion  (11) and bone density (12) are the licorice flavored Fennel Seeds that might be served in a tiny dish as an appetizer or after a meal at an Indian food restaurant. The tiny crunchy seeds can be eaten directly raw or may be toasted.  A few pinches, a teaspoon or two are a reasonable digestive health aid and even seem to freshen the breath somewhat as there is also a slight minty flavor to the more predominant licorice flavor. They are sold in larger quantities, (400 gram package), in India food markets but may be found in a one ounce jar in the spice section as they are also added to soups in Western recipes.

One interaction caution is for women using estrogen based birth control pills. Fennel also contains estrogen like phytonutrients which may interfere with the use of the birth control pills as a pregnancy preventative. (11) Regarding quantity for health benefits – a study on bone density effects in post menopausal women did not find 300 mg per day effective (12) – that would be less than an 1/8th of a teaspoon. I have seen a portion described as “a handful” in an unlinked source, which is about 1/4 – 1/2 cup, and which would be a lot compared to what I eat in a day but an 1/8th teaspoon wouldn’t be much at all. I eat a pinch or two, 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon at a time several times per day. So a tablespoon (three teaspoons) to an 1/8th cup (two tablespoons or 6 teaspoons) might be consumed throughout the day when snacking from an open dish as seen in the image below. They do seem to help settle my stomach after a meal.

Not as conducive to weight loss, but delicious – putting ground fennel powder in cookies – they were incredible: Fennel Cookies-lightly licorice.

Fennel seeds, raw.

/Disclaimer: This 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./

Brain cells and aging

Within the majority of the brain the type of brain cells that send nerve signals generally do not get replaced, however they also generally don’t lose function. Dementia – loss of memory and other cognitive skills – is not a normal part of healthy aging. Age related forgetfulness has to do with loss of the connections between brain cells but the brain cells remain functional – so continuing to take part in learning and social activities may help prevent dementia and forgetfulness by helping to maintain current connections between brain cells and add new connections formed during learning or socializing. 

And yet Alzheimer’s dementia now “afflicts 5% to 10% of the U.S. population over the age of 65 and as much as 45% of the population over 85.” (page 694, Neuroscience, 6th. edition, 1)

Research for medications for Alzheimer’s treatment have focused on reducing the levels of certain types of protein that collect in the damaged areas of the brain of a patient with the condition, however even if successful at reducing the amount of the protein the medications have not been found very helpful for restoring the patient’s cognitive health. (previous post) People with normal brain function also can have excess of the protein and it is also found in the brains of people with autism disorder – confusing, yes. Adequate quality sleep may help the brain waste removal system keep the levels of excess protein from building up to damaging amounts. (previous post on sleep and the glymphatic system)

Things that may increase risk include chronic stress and the excess cortisol and inflammatory oxidative stress chemicals production. Moderate exercise may help reduce stress and promote detoxification of inflammatory chemicals. Staying socially and mentally active also may be protective of brain function. Prevention is the best medicine for conditions that cause irreversible degenerative changes such as the damage in Alzheimer’s Disease. Learning about new foods and recipes and then making healthy meals to share with others can be a way to combine physical and mental activity and gain from nutrients that help detoxify inflammatory oxidative stress chemicals. (previous post, Foods for beneficial T-cells) – (Nrf2 promoting foods)

T cells are a type of blood cell with immune system functions. Beneficial T cells can help clear excess protein found in Alzheimer’s (2) while other types can increase inflammation and the types can transform based on the level of oxidative stress chemicals that are present so having antioxidants and other phytonutrients in daily meals can help signal the T-cells to take the beneficial forms instead of the inflammatory forms. (The non euphoria producing endogenous cannabinoid 2-AG (acts at the CB2 receptor, somewhat similar to CBD) may also help signal T cells towards the less inflammatory type, and reduce migration of them. page 96)

Nrf2 is a gene and protein that help promote the more beneficial types of T cells and help the immune system in other ways and also promote our own production of antioxidants for reducing the oxidative stress chemicals that are a natural waste product left from energy metabolism – when blood sugar is turned into a usable form of energy.

The long story is complicated, the short story remains,

  • include moderate exercise most days of the week,
  • have adequate sleep, 6-8 hours/night, ideally with complete darkness, blackout curtains and cover the light from an electric bedside alarm clock (put it in a nearby drawer or cover it with something),
  • get some natural sunshine or full spectrum light during the day if possible (may help with vitamin D, bioactive sulfate, and circadian rhythm metabolism within the body which includes production of melatonin,
  • stay mentally and socially active,
  • reduce stress when possible and/or practice relaxation techniques,
  • drink adequate water and regularly eat a good variety of colorful fresh produce, whole grains, nuts, beans, seeds, and include omega 3 fatty acid sources on a daily or weekly basis.
  • Clean air quality is also important. Formaldehyde (from secondhand smoke or even excessive use of decorative candles), and other air pollutants (released by plastics or new carpeting/flooring for example) can collect in poorly ventilated buildings. See this post for more information about formaldehyde sources and ways to reduce it: Formaldehyde: Health Risks, and Environmental and Dietary Sources.(effectiveselfcare.info)
  • Adequate water, not getting dehydrated regularly, is important enough to repeat because dehydration allows toxins within the body, including formaldehyde, to collect, instead of being removed by the glymphatic/lymphatic and vascular system, and to then be excreted by the kidneys. Brain Formaldehyde is Related to Water Intake Behavior, Ting Li, et al, 2016, (PubMed) A discussion of how much water is typically needed for health each day, and how much protein to eat for basic needs without being too much for long term kidney health, is available in a previous post: Make Every Day Kidney Appreciation Day. (effectiveselfcare.info)

More of the long story – the Cannabinoid Receptor Type 2 is also activated by a phytonutrient called beta-caryophyllene (BCP) which is found in many aromatic herbs and spices including: oregano, cinnamon,  clove , rosemary,  thyme, black pepper, (4), and copaiba oil. (5) Benefits may include reducing inflammation and pain, anti-anxiety, anti-cancer, (4), and protection of the brain by helping reduce increased activity after brain trauma which can lead to scar like tissue walling off the area of trauma instead healing.(5)

The problem in Alzheimer’s may not be the protein itself but instead the cells that over-actively making it in response to inflammatory signals so the solution would be not trying to remove excess protein but to stop the production of excess protein by signaling the overactive cells that all is well again, stop walling off the supposed injury. Formalin, a more dilute buffered form of formaldehyde was the toxin used to create inflammation in an animal based study of the potential benefits of beta-caryophyllene. A dose of 5 mg/Kg purified beta-caryophyllene essential oil given by mouth (rather than by an injection) was found to help reduce inflammatory pain from the formalin. (4) For a 75 kilogram adult that would be a capsule with 375 milligrams of the purified oil.

The herb rosemary is pine needle like plant that has been used as a pain killer in traditional folk medicine for arthritis pain and was thought of a s a memory aid. Studies more recently have found the essential oil beneficial for improving memory. (6)  **Use care when purchasing essential oils, some are intended only for external use either on the skin when diluted in a small amount of milder oil such as almond oil for massage or topical pain relief, or as an aromatic for scent (example, put a few drops on a cotton ball that is attached to a fan or on the outlet of a humidifier to circulate the aroma through a room).

/Disclosure: This 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.  Neuroscience, 6th Edition, Editors D. Purves, G.J. Augustine, D. Fitzpatrick, W.C. Hall, A.S. LaMantia, R.D. Mooney, ML. Platt, L.E. White, (Sinauer Associates, Oxford University Press, 2018, New York) (Barnes&Noble)
  2. Anna Mietelska-Porowska and Urszula Wojda, “T Lymphocytes and Inflammatory Mediators in the Interplay between Brain and Blood in Alzheimer’s Disease: Potential Pools of New Biomarkers,” Journal of Immunology Research, vol. 2017, Article ID 4626540, 17 pages, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/4626540. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/jir/2017/4626540/
  3. edited by Karsten Sauer, Klaus Okkenhaug, Lipid Signaling in T Cell Development and Function, Frontiers Media SA, Nov 12, 2015 page 96
  4. A.-L.Klauke, I.Racz, B.Pradier, et al., The cannabinoid CB2 receptor-selective phytocannabinoid beta-caryophyllene exerts analgesic effects in mouse models of inflammatory and neuropathic pain. European Neuropsychopharmacology, Vol. 24, Issue 4, April 2014, Pages 608-620, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0924977X13003027
  5. Guimarães-Santos A, Santos DS, Santos IR, et al. Copaiba Oil-Resin Treatment Is Neuroprotective and Reduces Neutrophil Recruitment and Microglia Activation after Motor Cortex Excitotoxic Injury. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM. 2012;2012:918174. doi:10.1155/2012/918174. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3291111/
  6. Rachel Hosie, Surge in Rosemary Sales as Aromatic Herb Found to Boost Memory, May 19, 2017, independent.co.uk,  https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/rosemary-sales-surge-herb-boost-memory-holland-barrett-a7745231.html

Foods and phytonutrients that may benefit T cells

T cells are a group of white blood cells with immune functions that may be beneficial or which may promote inflammation. They can change from one type of T-cell to another based on the amount of oxidative stress chemicals present in their surroundings. Our own body can produce antioxidants that reduce oxidative stress when we have adequate Nrf2. We also can get antioxidants from foods and often the foods that are good sources of antioxidants also contain phytonutrients that promote our own production of Nrf2 which then can help us produce our own types of antioxidants. Other nutrients are also helpful for promoting T cells to become the less inflammatory producing types. (1)

Reduced antioxidant production and prevalence of the more inflammatory type of T cells may be involved in aging and many types of chronic illnesses including cardiovascular diseases, neurological disorders, carcinoma’s and leukemia’s, autoimmune disorders, inflammatory bowel disease and vitiligo. For more details see: (1) Figure 13)

See Table 3: Antioxidant Compounds of Natural Dietary Products with Role in T Cell Function. (1)

  • Green tea: Catechin hydrate (CH) and Epigallocatechin 3-gallate (EGCG). Teas (white, green, and oolong), cocoa, grapes, berries, apples; Catechins are monomers of Flavan-3-ols; see more:(Flavonoids)
  • Carrot, celeriac, parsnip, and parsley: Aliphatic C(17)-polyacetylenes. The Apiaceae plant family, see more: (Aliphatic C(17)-polyacetylenes) Commonly used herbs spices in the plant family include caraway seeds, coriander seeds/cilantro leaves, cumin seeds, dill, fennel; see more: (Apiaceae plants)
  • Turmeric (yellow spice in curry powder): Curcumin (diferuloylmethan). See more: (Curcumin)
  • Garlic: Ajoene. Organosulfur compound, others also present in onions, see more: (Ajoene/organosulfur compounds).
  • Plant foods/beverages with yellow pigments: Chalcones (precursors for flavones). Chalcones are found in many plant foods including; “fruits (e.g., citruses, apples), vegetables (e.g., tomatoes, shallots, bean sprouts, potatoes) and various plants and spices (e.g., licorice),” see more: (Chalcones). Flavones, (found in Parsley, thyme, celery, hot peppers), are part of the Flavonoid group; see more: (Flavonoids). 
  • Anthocyanin (purple/blue pigments): Wild blueberry, bilberry, cranberry. Red, blue, or purple berries; red and purple grapes; red wine, Anthocyanidins combined with sugar molecules are anthocyanins; see more: (Flavonoids).
  • Proanthocyanidin: Grape Seed and Jamapa Bean. Apples, berries, cocoa, red grapes, red wine; Proanthocyanidins are dimers and polymers of Flavan-3-ols; see more: (Flavonoids).
  • Resveratrol: Peanuts; Grape skins, red wine; dark colored berries including blueberries, bilberries, and cranberries; dark cocoa; see more: (Resveratrol.
  • Lycopene: Tomatoes; guava, watermelon, papaya, pink grapefruit, mango; red sweet peppers, asparagus, purple cabbage, carrots: (Lycopene).
  • Carrots and other orange/yellow fruits and vegetables: Beta-carotene (orange/yellow pigment, precursor to Vitamin A). Sweet potato, squash, carrots, apricots, cantaloupe, mango; broccoli, greens; red sweet peppers; tomato juice; black-eyed peas, beans; see more: (Vitamin A – provitamin A, beta-carotene, is found in plant sources)
  • Vitamin A: Carrots, cheese, eggs, and meat. Liver; fish oils; fortified milk; see more: (Vitamin A-preformed, retinol, is from animal sources primarily).
  • Vitamin B6: Whole grains, vegetables; liver, meats and fish; nuts; chickpeas/garbanzo beans and other beans, tofu; cottage cheese; banana; see more: (vitamin B6).
  • Vitamin C: Citrus fruits, cantaloupe, kiwifruit, strawberries, cauliflower, the cabbage family, tomatoes, peppers, and greens, green peas, potatoes – see more: (vitamin C).
  • Vitamin D: Cod liver oil, egg yolk. Fortified dairy products or orange juice, or other fortified foods such as breakfast cereals or meal replacement bars; salmon, tuna, sardines, krill oil; liver; some types of mushrooms; – see more: (vitamin D).
  • Vitamin E: Wheat germ oil, sunflower oil. Nuts, greens, asparagus, pumpkin, mango, avocado – see more: (vitamin E).
  • (1)

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. Kesarwani P, Murali AK, Al-Khami AA, Mehrotra S. Redox Regulation of T-Cell Function: From Molecular Mechanisms to Significance in Human Health and Disease. Antioxidants & Redox Signaling. 2013;18(12):1497-1534. doi:10.1089/ars.2011.4073. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3603502/ (1)
  2. Flavonoids, Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University, https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/flavonoids
  3. Christensen LP, Aliphatic C(17)-polyacetylenes of the falcarinol type as potential health promoting compounds in food plants of the Apiaceae family. Recent Pat Food Nutr Agric. 2011 Jan;3(1):64-77. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21114468
  4. Apiaceae: Parsley or Carrot Family. Identify herbs, plants, and flowershttps://www.wildflowers-and-weeds.com/Plant_Families/Apiaceae.htm
  5. Curcumin, Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University,  https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/curcumin
  6. Garlic and Organosulfur Compounds, Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University, https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/food-beverages/garlic
  7. Orlikova B, Tasdemir D, Golais F, Dicato M, Diederich M. Dietary chalcones with chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic potential. Genes & Nutrition. 2011;6(2):125-147. doi:10.1007/s12263-011-0210-5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3092904/
  8. Resveratrol, Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University,  https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/dietary-factors/phytochemicals/resveratrol
  9. Top 10 Foods Highest in Lycopene, myfooddata.com,  https://www.myfooddata.com/articles/high-lycopene-foods.php
  10. Vitamin A: Health Professional Fact Sheet, National Institutes of Health, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminA-HealthProfessional/
  11. Vitamin B6: Health Professional Fact Sheet, National Institutes of Health, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB6-HealthProfessional/
  12. Vitamin C: Health Professional Fact Sheet, National Institutes of Health, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminC-HealthProfessional/
  13. Vitamin D: Health Professional Fact Sheet, National Institutes of Health, https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/
  14. Vitamin E and Health, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/vitamins/vitamin-e/