Your Blood is Your Blueprint
The Diet Roller-coaster
For nearly 2.5 decades (since the age of 18) I’ve experimented with all kinds of diets (vegetarian, vegan, macrobiotic, raw fruitarian, paleo, ketogenic) and none of them truly suited me. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the philosophy or ethos of many of them. I especially loved the raw fruitarian approach – eating sun-kissed fruits, reminiscent of our time in the Garden of Eden. But alas, eating damp and cold melons and bananas in our damp and cold winter very nearly killed me… Let’s just say this experience and the repercussions helped me become a self-taught Candida expert.
I think the one diet that would have suited me well (and I didn’t follow it properly) is the paleo one. I have to be honest, I feel physically really well whenever I eat meat. But for ethical and environmental (and financial, too!) reasons I do not wish to consume animal flesh on a daily basis.
So at the end of the day, the only approach to eating that seems to have lasted me for years (and truly worked) is intermittent fasting, avoidance of dairy and wheat, and eating animal protein a few times a week.
What is intermittent fasting? It is a lot less strict and complicated than it sounds and requires just a little discipline. Basically, you limit your food intake to 3 (or less) times a day. There is no snacking between meals – all my calories (including treats – like chocolate or homemade cacao balls) are eaten with my meals. You can drink non-sugary drinks but should avoid fruit juices – or have them at the beginning of your meal for proper food combining. The same goes for fruit – eat it before your main meal and grains (as fruit gets digested quickly and would ferment, sitting on top of carbs, protein and fats in the stomach). Also, drinking tea or coffee with milk needs to be done with food.
Intermittent fasting gives your digestion a break so the body can use its energy on healing and rebuilding, rather than digesting.
Not having to constantly produce insulin helps balance hormones, too. This approach is especially vital when healing inflammation, digestive and autoimmune problems or more serious illnesses.
Yet, despite being a nutritionist and pretty switched-on when it comes to my diet, until recently I felt like something was amiss. For example, whenever I eat a lentil stew/dahl I later suffer with heartburn. No matter how long or soft I cook the lentils, whether they had been soaked or not, what spices and herbs I use, it happens every time.
And finally, what really prompted me to ‘dig deep’ was my toddler. At the age of 2 he refused to eat avocados, legumes or potatoes and even vegetables are tricky. He pretty much just ate meat, some fruits and vegetables, butter, eggs (on and off), tofu, rice and nuts. To me, his natural selection of foods resembled the hunter/gatherer approach. And what is more, whenever he had cashews or peanut butter he tended to overdo it and then there was the ‘explosion’ in the nappy to deal with.
Somewhere at the back of my mind I remembered the book about ‘the blood type diet’ and the recommended foods for the hunters, farmers, nomads...
Eat Right For Your Type
It turns out the blood type based approach to diet may be the most significant one for me to explore yet.
Our unique and individual human genetic code is replicated through our blood.
A single drop of blood contains the entire DNA blueprint.
Blood is our life.
And so, it is surprising that our unique blood qualities do not receive more attention in the health-conscious community to this day.
Depending on the antigens, there are 4 blood types – O, A, B and AB; O being the oldest and AB being the most recent and rarest. If you ever donated blood or needed a transfusion, you would know that O is a universal donor but can’t receive blood from another type. AB is a universal receiver but can give blood to AB only.
It is all to do with antigens (chemical markers which determine if a substance is foreign or not). These antigens determine the blood type and play a crucial role in protecting the body from invaders. Non-compatible blood types are considered invaders, too.
Just like the chemical reaction between different blood types when mixed together, a similar reaction happens between our blood and the foods we eat. This is part of our genetic inheritance.
To this day, our immune and digestive systems retain a memory of foods that our ancestors ate and adapted to.
We know of this factor because of lectins. Lectins are proteins found in foods that have agglutinating properties. Agglutinate means to ‘glue’ or attach – to other organisms in nature. Germs, parasites and even our own immune system use this ‘superglue’ to their benefit.
So when we eat a certain food whose lectins are incompatible with our blood type antigen, the lectins can attach to the mucosa (GI track lining), initiate inflammation or escape into the bloodstream (= leaky gut). Once the lectin protein interacts with the body tissues, it clumps the cells together in that region and looks like an invader, waiting to be destroyed by the body. However, when our antibodies attack this invader, part of our own tissues will be damaged in the process. This is called an autoimmune disease – where the body attacks self.
In most of my articles I mention chronic low grade inflammation, autoimmune disease and leaky gut as the culprit for many more serious problems. There are many published studies out there confirming that Hashimoto’s (autoimmune hypothyroid) as well as rheumatoid arthritis and colitis are closely linked to wheat/gluten and possibly dairy intolerance (AND leaky gut, of course), yet I believe the missing link was WHY.
With the explanation by Dr Peter J. D’Adamo and his book Eat Right 4 Your Type it makes perfect sense.
A few of my clients told me that their blood was ‘sticky’ when analysed under a microscope. They had been told to drink more (because dehydration can make blood clump together), yet now we can see that eating the wrong foods for our blood type will result in plenty of agglutination (or 'sticky blood'). And inflammation.
Dr D’Adamo divides foods into 3 groups for each blood type – highly beneficial (medicine), food (nutrients for the body) and to be avoided (as the body treats them as poison).
Very briefly, I will talk about each blood type, their characteristics and which foods are beneficial and which not. However, for more detailed information I recommend reading Dr D’Adamo’s book or check his website (4yourtype.com or dadamo.com).
O – the Hunter/Gatherer
O and A are the two most common blood types, O being the oldest.
O also means zero antigen – thus O is a universal donor.
Interestingly, to this day, in virtually every indigenous population (such as the Inuits or Native Americans) who lives isolated from other groups, the prevalent blood type is O. Where possible, these people would pursue the hunter-gatherer lifestyle.
As an O, we are blessed with
- a hardy digestive tract
- strong immune system
- natural defence against infections
Unfortunately, we tend to be intolerant to new environmental conditions and have a tendency towards allergies, inflammation and low thyroid.
The ideal diet consists of high animal protein, vegetables, fruits and a limited amount of legumes and grains.
Foods to avoid are dairy (except butter or long cultured very hard sheep cheese), wheat, peanuts, cashews, lentils, coconut, avocado, sunflower, pork.
Our medicine is beef, cod, flax/linseeds, walnuts, hemp, broccoli, fenugreek seeds, figs, blueberries, kombu, nori and green tea.
The O type requires intense physical exercise (also to deal with stress), like aerobics, running, martial arts and contact sports.
It looks like the hunters were in a mild state of ketosis – a scenario where sugar and carb based calories are very restricted. This could explain the high ratio of diabetes type 2 (the ‘lifestyle’ diabetes) among O’s eating our ‘modern’ diet, heavy in grain-based carbs, soft drinks etc.
A- The Farmer/Cultivator
Blood group A is the Nature’s response to the dietary changes from the Palaeolithic hunter-gatherer to the Neolithic urban-agricultural revolution.
Plant lectins are among the most allergy-inducing things in nature, especially grasses from which our modern cultivated grains come from. Blood type A’s digestion and immunity therefore have to be tolerant and good with negotiation when it comes to food (perhaps this affects their personalities, too??).
A’s are highly adaptable to different environmental as well as dietary conditions.
As A’s stomach acid is not designed for high amounts of animal protein, there is more tendency towards microbial problems and anaemia.
Certain types of cancer have A-like antigens – thus the blood A antigens may not detect them as invaders, which in turn can make A’s more susceptible to certain cancers (e.g. breast cancer).
A’s can easily be vegetarian or pescatarian – perfect for the typical Mediterranean diet rich in vegetables, legumes, grains, seafood and fruit.
Blood group A needs to avoid lamb, dairy, coconut, cashews, brazils, chickpeas, wheat, sweet potato, cabbage, sauerkraut, banana, black tea.
On the other hand, coffee, fennel, echinacea, apricots, figs, broccoli, spinach, buckwheat, lentils, tofu, peanuts and salmon are considered medicinal.
A types need a calming and centring kind of exercise like yoga and tai chi.
B - The Nomad
B originally comes from the area of the Himalayan highlands where it may have developed in response to climatic changes. Interestingly, some of the B physiological characteristics differ with altitude.
The small number of type B’s in Europe represents western migration by Asian nomadic peoples, usually around rivers.
The northern Chinese and Koreans have very high rates of type B blood, yet (unfortunately to their blood type) they mostly avoid dairy in their cuisine as they still consider dairy to be a barbarian food (many of the nomadic warlike tribes consumed dairy).
B’s are the balanced omnivore – thriving on meat, dairy, grains, legumes, vegetables and fruit.
They are blessed with
- a balanced nervous system
- strong immunity
- capability of adaptation to different environmental and dietary conditions
The only disease tendency they have is towards rare viruses and autoimmune breakdown when imbalanced.
B’s benefit from the consumption of lamb, cod, salmon, cultured/fermented dairy, millet, spelt, sweet potato, cauliflower, broccoli, grapes, ginger, green tea.
Blood type B should avoid chicken, trout, pumpkin, sesame, cashews, peanuts, sunflower, lentils, soy, wheat, rye, radishes, avocado, coconut and cinnamon.
B’s require moderate physical exercise with mental balance, such as swimming, cycling, hiking, tennis.
AB – The Modern Mystery
While some blood types are submissive, others are dominant. The formation of blood type AB is Nature’s complete rule breaker and cleverly resolves the problem with both A and B types being dominant.
AB is thus not a result of adaptation to the environmental or dietary conditions, but is the result of blood type A and type B cohabiting. Thus, AB’s have inherited tolerance from both A and B which gives them enhanced antibodies against microbial infections, minimizing their chances of allergies and autoimmune conditions.
What makes AB an enigma is the merging of opposing forces of tolerance and adaptation.
AB benefits from eating turkey, cod, salmon, yogurt, kefir, hemp, walnuts, peanuts, chestnuts, soy and tofu, oats, rice, broccoli, cucumber, spirulina, cherries, figs, oregano, green tea.
AB type should avoid consuming chicken, trout, haddock, butter, sunflower, pumpkin, tahini, poppy seeds, adzuki, chickpeas, buckwheat, avocado, radishes, bananas, anise and coffee.
The ideal exercise is calming yoga or tai chi combined with moderate exercise like tennis, hiking or cycling.
How to eat for your type
While it’s impossible to avoid all the triggering foods for the individual groups at all times, minimizing them will help your digestion and lighten up the load off your immune system. Again, it’s nearly impossible to include all the beneficial (‘medicinal’) foods on a daily basis with every single meal, so try to include some of them a few times a week.
As an O, I have noticed better sleep and zero bloating since I’ve stopped eating avocados, peanut butter, cashews, lentils, coconut and minimizing sunflower seeds. For example, I eat walnuts, hemp seeds, broccoli, nori and sprouted fenugreek seeds several times a week (they’re super easy to sprout and quite delicious!). I try to have at least one of the beneficial foods every day.
Final Take On Diets
There have been MANY diet hypes out there over the years – after all, I have experimented with many myself. I have to say, though, that I feel immensely excited by this latest discovery of mine (although the blood type approach is some 27 years old now) as it seems to take my own genetic blueprint into consideration. I feel this has been the missing link not just in my own health journey, but the one of my clients’.
Whether we want to balance our body weight, eliminate inflammation and allergies, strengthen our immunity or simply have more energy and better sleep, eating right for our blood type may just be the answer.