Dr. Weil Answers Your Questions

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When Dr. Andrew Weil appeared on The Dr. Oz Show, he graciously offered to answer questions that viewers submitted on Twitter. From inflammation to the glycemic index, read on to learn more about your health.

#WeilOnOz Dr Weil. How much does sodium play on inflammation?

An interesting question, and one that was put to the test by a British research team in 2009. They examined blood and urine samples from 2,633 people, looking for correlations between the amounts of sodium and C-reactive protein (a marker for inflammation) in each sample.  As it turned out, higher sodium showed a small correlation with higher concentrations of inflammation markers, but only in subjects who had a relatively high body mass index, suggesting that they were overweight or obese. When this “confounding” effect was eliminated, the researchers concluded that lowering sodium intake is unlikely to lower inflammation in most people.

Bottom line: I advocate keeping sodium intake under two grams per day, well below the average American intake of about six grams daily. Restricting sodium intake is particularly important for people who have high blood pressure. The best way to do that is to limit processed food in the diet – most of it is heavily salted. However, I agree with the British researchers that lowering sodium intake alone is unlikely to have much effect on inflammation levels. Visit my website for more on controlling inflammation, including my Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid.

#weilonoz You say we should avoid bread. Should we avoid whole grain bread as well? I thought whole grains had a lower glycemic index.

I don’t suggest that everyone should avoid bread entirely. We just need to be more selective. Many people believe that what’s called “whole wheat” or “whole grain” bread in supermarkets is a healthy alternative to white bread. It’s simply not true. These “whole” products are often light and fluffy, and made with finely textured flour. If it can be compressed into a small, dense ball, avoid it. This indicates it is made of finely textured whole wheat, and likely has about the same GI as “compressible” white bread.

If you choose to eat grains, I recommend two options:

  • True whole grains – such as wild rice, barley, quinoa, millet and wheat berries, which are typically eaten intact or in a few large pieces.
  • Heavy, dense bread and other baked goods that can’t be compressed. Some of my favorites are sourdough rye and sprouted-grain tortillas. I even occasionally consume unbleached white flour in the form of high quality, long-fermented French-style sourdoughs, sometimes called pain au levain.

Visit my website for more on making the glycemic index work for you.