TRYING A MODIFIED AIP + HIGH LYSINE / LOW ARGININE DIET OUT FOR SIZE
Since penning MY HEALTH UPDATE FOR 2021 not so very long ago, I’ve had a wrinkle. I’ve been diagnosed with active Epstein Barr Virus and Thyroiditis. As ONE part of my treatment for the former, I’m trying a modified AIP + High Lysine/low arginine diet out for size…
Before I dive into this new dietary approach that I’m sampling, I want to share that according to my lovely integrative doc’. active EBV diagnoses are on the rise. Everywhere, not just here in Australia. There is also a definite correlation between COVID and the rate of EBV infection. Dr Mark estimates that pre-COVID, about 20% of his patients tested positive for active EBV. Now, it’s around 50%. Keep in mind that Dr Mark’s practice centres on troubleshooting things like chronic fatigue and looking for root causes.
There are two particularly interesting things of note to come out of this increase. The first is that EBV is now being taken more seriously by the pharmaceutical industry in the United States. As a consequence, more money is being thrown at research, which is good. The second is that Australia has a very low COVID rate, suggesting that the actual COVID virus itself is not actually causing the upswing in EBV diagnoses. That leaves us wondering what is?
What is the Epstein Barr virus (EBV)?
The Epstein-Barr virus is a member of of the herpes family of viruses. You may have heard of it as ‘mono’ (mononucleosis), Glandular fever, human herpesvirus 4, or even ‘the kissing disease’. It is one of the most common human viruses. EBV is found all over the world. Most people get infected with EBV at some point in their lives. It is usually passed through saliva.
Most commonly, teenagers come down with this condition and first notice there’s a problem when they experience extreme fatigue. This fatigue can also cause reactivated Epstein Barr virus symptoms.
Though there are many conditions where EBV is the cause or a trigger, extreme fatigue is a symptom that tends to stand out in most cases. Other symptoms of an active Epstein-Barr virus, include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Enlarged spleen
- Swollen liver
- Emotional concerns (like worry and anxiety) and other lifestyle stressors
- Autoimmune diseases, like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
There is no known cure for EBV. Treatments focus on returning the virus back to its inactive or dormant state. This is achieved by manipulating the condition of your body; – essentially, the environment in which the Epstein-Barr virus lives.
In case you’re wondering, my symptoms of note are fatigue, thyroiditis, weird outbreaks of unusual skin ‘stuff’ indicating a compromised immune system, general worry (and a little existential angst thrown in for good measure).
I also have an ongoing struggle with my weight which is the original reason for continuing to seek the root cause of my health ‘stuff’. Despite all my efforts, it simply won’t budge.
As you can imagine, it was not part of my grand plan to be told my immune system isn’t where it should be (as evidenced by weird skin ‘stuff’, blood test results and the active EBV diagnosis). If I’m honest, it threw me. Not least because it makes me wonder what my health would be like if I hadn’t been following an AIP way of life for the past few years.
And, it further reinforced for me the need to take a good look at my stress management practice. I may have come a long way, but I still have more work to do.
But that is all by the by.
Today, I want to introduce you to the idea of a high lysine/low arginine dietary approach as one tool to help combat active EBV. At the very least, as a potential way to minimise the virus’s ability to grow.
One of the very best ways to ensure your immune system is functioning at a high level is to feed your body the best foods.
A nutrient-dense diet is your best defence in ensuring your immune system stays as strong as possible so an opportunistic virus like EBV doesn’t reoccur. Learning which foods to eat regularly and which foods to avoid helps to ensure your immune system doesn’t weaken and allow the herpes virus to take hold and cause future problems.
What’s the deal with lysine and arginine, then?
Lysine and arginine are two of the amino acids that your body uses to synthesise the protein that makes up much of your body’s tissues, including your muscles and bones. You need amino acids for growth and development, tissue repair, digestion and other important functions.
While your body can produce some amino acids, you get the others from eating a nutrient-dense diet. The amino acids your body makes are referred to as nonessential amino acids because it’s usually not necessary to get them from your diet. The amino acids your body can’t make by itself are known as essential amino acids because you must obtain them from the food you eat.
Lysine is an essential amino acid. Arginine is a nonessential amino acid.
This distinction is important when it comes to arginine and any of the human herpes viruses. Because your body makes arginine, it’s not crucial to get a lot of arginine from food. Too much arginine may be a trigger for the herpes viruses.
Interestingly, lysine may help counteract the activity of arginine in your body. And, becau8se it is a nonessential amino acid, it’s super important you get enough lysine from your diet both for potentially lowering the ability for active EBV to replicate and for your overall health.
Importantly, lysine is the amino acid that prevents the virus from multiplying and growing. (If you suffer from active EBV, You may even like to talk to your doctor about taking lysine supplements to offset the arginine in your diet and further weaken the virus.)
When it comes to eating a diet high lysine and low in arginine it is the lysine-arginine ratio that matters.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the last wee while using the USDA’s Nutrient Ratio Tool to identify which of the foods in my AIP-esque diet are also highest in lysine and lowest in arginine. Let me tell you, it’s a rabbit hole!
The good news is that in general at least, most fresh fruits and vegetables provide the correct ratio. I shall keep aiming for 8+ serves a day and 30 different vegetables every week
Quality sources of poultry and sustainable seafood, and (moderate) red meat are also fine.
So far, so AIP…
ARE THERE ANY AIP-RECOMMENDED FOODS THAT DON’T MEET THE HIGH LYSINE/LOW ARGININE REQUIREMENTS?
Sadly, yes. And the news isn’t good for some of the stalwart foods. Nor, for a few of my favourite post-reintroduction foods, either.
Bone broth, gelatin and collagen – as any AIPer worth their nutrient-density knows, gelatin and collagen – found in bone broth – is used for oodles and oodles of beneficial purposes in your body, including gut health. Unfortunately, the high arginine levels in gelatin and collagen (and bone broth) may not be so great for AIPers trying to mitigate their active EBV.
This is a bit of a shizzle, to be honest. I eat a lot of bone broth-based soups. This month, I’ve made a big batch of my Beef Shin and Vegetable Broth to keep me going. It has a much shorter cook time than your average bone broth and is FULL of vegetables.
Many coconut products like fresh coconut, shredded coconut, desiccated coconut and coconut flour (although not coconut oil or coconut water) have a high arginine to lysine ratio.
I’ve removed coconut from my diet for the next while.
The other AIP-elimination friendly food group to approach with some care is citrus fruits. Foods that contain higher acid levels can make you more vulnerable to viral infections. It is important to make sure citrus is balanced out with lysine-rich foods.
For example, I like my fresh papaya with a squeeze of lime. Lime is not so great but this is off-set by the high lysine/low arginine ration of the fruit.
It gets trickier still if you have successfully reintroduced foods.
I have long thought that a little high-quality dairy is well tolerated by my body. The good news is that most dairy is high in lysine and low in arginine. Yogurt is arguably one of the best foods.
I’ve invested in a good quality sheep’s milk yogurt and I’m eating that with a little fruit.
The not so good news is that almost all nuts and seeds are near the top of the list for worst culprits. So, none for me. Not even activated.
This can be tricky for those who replace dairy milk with nut versions, especially since coconut milk is also not an option.
And, perhaps MOST disappointingly, I’m off dark chocolate, too.
What am I eating?
I am sticking to my AIP knitting!
- Lots and lots of fresh vegetables and a little fruit. My lucky dip green sauce features almost every day. Thankfully, it’s summer here – so lots of salads.
- High-quality protein – at least 3-4 serves of fish and shellfish each week. I’ve increased my poultry and decrease my red meat. Eggs are my friend. My standard breakfast is currently a variation on my easiest vegetable frittata in the world.
- Extra virgin olive oil is my fat of choice for drizzling and dressing.
- Sheep’s milk yogurt and goats cheese because I bloody can. Yahoo!
- I’m allowing myself one coffee a day with some cream. That’s my treat.