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Question of the Week: Seaweed, not Needweed

by Denis Faye - The Nutrition Nerd | June 2, 2011


Our question of the week comes from Coach Jeff, who I admire primarily because he scored the handle “Coach Jeff.” I bet a lot of Jeffs out there would like to have a “Coach” before their name, but there can be only one Coach Jeff, or you win.

Nerd,

Shellfish allergies. Worse… Kelp allergies. I am guessing shellfish eat kelp and that’s why my wife is allergic to both? Or is it?

Being the super-fabulous source of iodine that it is, I would love for my wife to be able to have vitamin supplements that have kelp in them. Finding a suitable multi is a bear… add that to the fact that she prefers gummy vitamins and you’ll see I have pulled out all my hair!

Look at our BB line-up! They put kelp in EVERYTHING!

Some food allergies you can grow out of, take blockers for, whatever. What are my options here?

Why are we allergic to stuff that’s so good for others, how does it work, are there any studies that show how we can work around, who cuts your hair, is there any hope for us?

Signed,
Kelpless on the Coast

Jeff, bubala, calm down. You’re gonna be okay. It’s not like she’s allergic to something crucial to living such as air, water, or Star Trek re-runs. It’s just seaweed.

I’m reading about this dentist from the 1930s named Dr. Weston Price. Yes, I know, the notion of early 20th century dentistry doesn’t really inspire a sense of peace, tranquility, or trust, but this guy was pretty cool. He wondered why primitive, isolated cultures tended to have incredibly healthy teeth whereas people in “modern” society experienced crowded dental bridges and cavities, so he decided to investigate.

Luckily for Dr. P, western society hadn’t completely homogenized the planet back in the 1930s. There were still a couple places where you couldn’t find a Starbucks, so he traveled the world, documenting all these indigenous peoples. He discovered that it was all about diet. When they ate meats, produce, and grains the land provided, they all had great teeth and excellent health. When they were exposed to refined flour, added sugars, and all the other hallmarks of the Western diet, they all got messed-up teeth and tuberculosis.

Admittedly, the bulk of these indigenous diets consisted primarily of raw meat and veggies. But before all your primal eaters out there start throwing a beef party, keep in mind that there were also healthy groups with completely different diets. Isolated communities in the Loetschental Valley in the Swiss Alps ate rye bread as a staple and only consumed meat once a week. While the meat-eating Nilotic Tribes in Africa, a herding culture, were crazy healthy, their agricultural neighbors, the Kikuyu tribes, came a close second.

While seafood played a big part in many of these diets, in North America, several Native American tribes existed for generations in incredible health – with no access to fish or other sea-life whatsoever.

Why am I sharing all this? Three reasons. 1. It’s super interesting. 2. I wanted to show off my Big Brain. 3. If kelp is a challenge for your wife, skip it. There are lots of ultra nutritious foods out there that don’t contain kelp or shellfish. If you’re looking for iodine, try yogurt, eggs, or strawberries. And she can still enjoy scale fish with all its excellent omega-3’s, right?

I don’t understand the nuances of food allergies and intolerances. I don’t think anyone truly does. For example, I can’t eat oranges. If I do, my nose clogs up. No Western doctor can tell me why. I do know that in traditional Chinese medicine, oranges are considered a damp food, which is probably the problem, given I also have an intolerance for cow’s milk, another damp food. It’s a pain in the ass skipping those foods, especially considering I have an orange tree in the middle of my side yard, but it’s not the end of the world.

As for supplements, by definition, they’re just that: supplements. In other words, they supplement a healthy diet. They aren’t the required part. (Okay, that’s not “in other words.” It’s technically the same word: “supplement,” but you get the point.)

And a multivitamin is a nice-to-have, but if you’re eating a balanced diet, you shouldn’t need that either, so go forth and tell your wife to enjoy a landlubber’s diet. Also, avoid sea cruises because if your ship sinks and you end up on a deserted island were you need to live off coconut and crabs, she’s screwed.

Keep the questions coming, everyone! This is fun!

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