“The DeFlame Diet” by David Seaman, DC, MA
Dr. David Seaman graduated from New York Chiropractic College in 1986. He quickly migrated from chiropractic practice to a broad range of research. His specialties include inflammation, nutrition and pain. Out of his work has come a series of books focused on the effects of low grade inflammation. In this review, I will focus on his first book, The DeFlame Diet.
The central tenet of Seaman’s work is that a vast number of Americans live in a perpetual state of low-grade inflammation; a state he refers to as “flamed.” Seaman notes that inflammation is almost always discussed within the context of traumatic injury or infection. The common signs are swelling, redness, heat and pain.
It is now known, however, that the same inflammatory bio-chemicals released due to trauma or infection, can also be produced due to emotional stress, lack of sleep and exercise, and the consumption of pro-inflammatory, processed foods and refined sugar. (There is a question among scientific researchers whether to characterize refined sugar as a food, or a drug.) This inflammation can be present without the classic signs and symptoms listed above. But the effects of this inflammation can be potentially devastating, contributing to many chronic diseases–from hypertension and diabetes to obesity and a variety of musculoskeletal disorders.
For those interested in understanding this process on a cellular level, Seaman goes deeply into the biochemistry. One of the fascinating aspects of this is that so many diseases, including those expressed during the COVID-19 pandemic, share this inflammatory bio-stamp.
But the primary focus of The DeFlame Diet is practical. How do we “DeFlame?” How do we prevent this inflammatory process, avoiding the onset of chronic disease—or even reverse the process after disease has manifested? It is now well known that 75-80% of all chronic diseases arise from our lifestyle. Therefore, in many cases, these diseases can be cured with a lifestyle shift.
Seaman names the foods that lead to what he calls “flaming.” The list is long: refined sugar and grains, flour products, trans fats (found in many processed foods), and seed oils such as corn, safflower and peanut. Unfortunately, these foods make up the bulk of the American diet. But the good news is that, without adopting a radically stringent food regimen, we can shift to a “DeFlame diet:” one that prioritizes grass-fed meats, wild caught fish, shellfish, chicken, cheeses, vegetables, healthy oils, and even dark chocolate!
One of the things I find so refreshing about Seaman’s work is his assertion that there is no single protocol to become “deflamed;” that one does not have to adhere to a strict vegetarian, vegan, or paleo diet. He describes how Inuit Eskimos traditionally eat a very high fat diet, while the Masai in Africa have lived on meat, blood, and milk from their cattle–yet neither group exhibits widespread heart disease or other chronic conditions. With an appealing edginess, Seaman eviscerates what he calls the radical “food ideologues” who insist that there is only one right way to eat.
As human beings, we have co-evolved with our environments, adapting to local, nutrient rich foods. It has been the combination of industrial food production and mass marketing that has created the pro-inflammatory diets and the subsequent health crisis our country finds itself in.
While the focus of Seaman’s work is customarily on nutrition, he always circles back to remind us that our inflamed states are due not just to the food we consume, but also to the (amount of) alcohol we drink, how well we sleep and exercise, and the stress that so many of us experience on a daily basis. To avoid becoming “flamed,” we must be mindful of all of these contributors.
As a chiropractor, I had not always thought deeply about the connection between my patients whose conditions would not heal and poor diet. Most patients come to see me for structural complaints: joint and muscle pain, disc herniation, sciatica, etc. And because the pain and dysfunction these people experience is generally of a mechanical origin, my tendency has always been to look for a mechanical solution: whether joint manipulation, rehabilitative exercise, or soft tissue therapy. Dr. Seaman connects the dots between structure, biochemistry, and diet.
The DeFlame Diet is the foundation upon which Dr. Seaman has built his body of work. His other books address musculoskeletal pain, women’s health and weight loss. For health care practitioners who want to deepen their understanding and work more holistically with their patients–and for those of us who want to live long and healthy lives–The DeFlame Diet is essential reading.
Dr. Ricky Fishman has been a San Francisco based chiropractor since 1986. In addition to the treatment of back pain and other musculoskeletal injuries, he works as a consultant in the field of health and wellness with companies dedicated to re-visioning health care for the 21st century.