All that changed when I enlisted the aid of a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) as my nutrition coach when I was preparing to compete in the Musclemania Atlantic Bodybuilding Competition in 2004. I realize I’m no Arnold Schwarzenegger so I’ll wait for the laughing to subside. Are you done yet? Yes, believe it or not, I competed as a natural (meaning drug-free) bodybuilder for 10 years. Like the sport of boxing, bodybuilding has various weight classes in which to compete. OK, where was I? Oh yeah, now I remember.
My ND introduced me to the Blood Type Diet, something I had never heard of. To keep it simple, certain foods are beneficial, neutral or harmful to an individual based on their ABO type. What may be a beneficial food for a Type O individual may be one to avoid for a Type A person. After reviewing my diet the ND told me I was eating too many harmful foods and it was the cause of my stomach distress. These improper food choices (at least for my blood type) were also keeping me from reaching my potential as a competitive bodybuilder by causing my body undue stress and fatigue.
I was very intrigued by the belief that there is a relationship between blood type, food and optimum health. I did not only want to follow the advice of my ND, I wanted to learn as much as I could about this fascinating subject. I read a book by Peter D'Adamo, ND titled “Eat Right 4 Your Type” and followed the blood type diet given to me by my trainer. Within two weeks all my GI symptoms had vanished. My energy level increase dramatically. I was able to weight-train five days a week and run four times a week. I often did double work-outs on days when I only ate a total of 30 grams of carbohydrates! At age 49, I was in the best condition of my life and lowered my body-fat percentage to 3.9% for the Musclemania event.
For all you non-believers:
My point is you don’t have to be a competitive bodybuilder, runner, or even an athlete to benefit from eating right for your type. If you are concerned about your general health, prevention of diseases or just plain tired of being tired, you should give this a try. You won’t regret it.
Below are brief summaries and characteristics of the four blood types taken from Peter D’Adamo’s website. I find the personality traits most interesting. Which one are you?
The Type O Profile
Type O was the first blood type, the type O ancestral prototype was a canny, aggressive predator. Aspects of the Type O profile remain essential in every society even to this day – leadership, extroversion, energy and focus are among their best traits. Type O’s can be powerful and productive, however, when stressed Type O’s response can be one of anger, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. When Type O wiring gets crossed, as a result of a poor diet, lack of exercise, unhealthy behaviors or elevated stress levels, Type O’s are more vulnerable to negative metabolic effects, including insulin resistance, sluggish thyroid activity, and weight gain. When you customize your life to Type O’s strengths you can reap the benefits of your ancestry. Your genetic inheritance offers you the opportunity to be strong, lean, productive, long-lived and optimistic.
What Makes You Unique
As a Blood Type O you may be predisposed to certain illnesses, such as ulcers and thyroid disorders. In the 1950’s it was discovered that Type O’s had about twice the instances of ulcers of all kinds than the other blood types. These findings have been replicated many times since then. Type O’s tend to have low levels of thyroid hormone and often exhibit insufficient levels of iodine, a chemical element whose sole purpose is thyroid hormone regulation. This causes many side effects such as weight gain, fluid retention and fatigue. Dr. D’Adamo does not recommend iodine supplements, rather a diet rich in saltwater fish and kelp to help regulate the thyroid gland. Bladder Wrack is also an excellent nutrient for type O’s. This herb, actually a seaweed, is very effective as an aid to weight control for Type O’s. “The fucose in bladder wrack seems to help normalize the sluggish metabolic rate and produce weight loss in Type O’s,” says Dr. D’Adamo. Type O’s also have a higher level of stomach acid than the other blood types, which often results in stomach irritation and ulcers. Dr. D’Adamo recommends a licorice preparation called DGL (de glycyrrhizinated licorice) which can reduce discomfort and aid healing. DGL protects the stomach lining in addition to protecting it from stomach acids. Avoid crude licorice preparations as they contain a component of the plant which can cause elevated blood pressure. This component has been removed in DGL. Dr. D'Adamo also recommends Mastic Gum and Bismuth to soothe Type O's common and even frequent tummy troubles.
Type O Personality?
In Japan, blood type has long been associated with personality type. You might well be asked your blood type on a job interview! In an independent study of 45 MBA students, Type O’s most often described themselves in ways related to the following characteristics; responsible, decisive, organized, objective, rule-conscious, and practical. Both male and female Type O’s reported a higher percentage of the mesomorphic body type when compared to controls. Interestingly, Type O’s also scored significantly higher than the rest in “sensing” – using the 5 senses to gather information, and in the sensing-thinking combination, indicating that they are more detail and fact oriented, logical, precise and orderly. “I believe that the tendency to sense and get facts right stems from the inbred hunter-gatherer need to observe and accurately assess the environment in order to insure survival.” Says D’Adamo.
Manage Your Type O Stress
The legacy of your Type O ancestry causes an immediate “fight or flight” response in people of this blood type. However, this finely tuned response to stress, so vital in early Type O’s, is not always so beneficial in modern times. The Type O response can cause bouts of excessive anger, temper tantrums, hyperactivity and even create a severe enough chemical imbalance to bring about a manic episode. Since there is a powerful, synergistic relationship between the release of dopamine and feelings of reward, Type O is more vulnerable to destructive behaviors when overly tired, depressed or bored. These can include gambling, sensation seeking, risk taking, substance abuse and impulsivity. To avoid becoming overstressed, Dr. D’Adamo recommends following the Type O diet, which focuses on lean, organic meats, vegetables and fruits and avoid wheat and dairy which can be triggers for digestive and health issues in Type O. Additionally, he suggests that Type O’s avoid caffeine and alcohol. Caffeine can be particularly harmful because of its tendency to raise adrenaline and noradrenaline, which are already high for Type O’s.
Energize - The Essential Exercise Component
Type O’s benefit tremendously from brisk regular exercise that taxes the cardiovascular and muscular skeletal system. But the benefit derived surpasses the goal of physical fitness. Type O also derives the benefit of a well timed chemical release system. The act of physical exercise releases a swarm of neurotransmitter activity that acts as a tonic for the entire system. The Type O who exercises regularly also has a better emotional response. You are more emotionally balanced as a result of well regulated, efficient chemical transport system. More than any other blood type, O’s rely on physical exercise to maintain physical health and emotional balance. Dr. D’Adamo suggests that Type O’s engage in regular physical activity three to four times per week. For best results, engage in aerobic activity for thirty to forty five minutes at least four times per week. If you are easily bored, choose two or three different exercises and vary your routine.
In addition to exercising and eating foods that are Right For Your Type, here are a few key lifestyle strategies for Type O individuals:
- Develop clear plans for goals and tasks – annual, monthly, weekly, daily to avoid impulsivity.
- Make lifestyle changes gradually, rather than trying to tackle everything at once.
- Eat all meals, even snacks, seated at a table.
- Chew slowly and put your fork down between bites of food.
- Avoid making big decisions or spending money when stressed.
- Do something physical when you feel anxious.
- Engage in thirty to forty five minutes of aerobic exercise at least four times per week.
- When you crave a pleasure releasing-substance (alcohol, tobacco, sugar), do something physical.
Type A History
The Type A emerges into the 21st century with many more complex challenges than their ancestors could have imagined. The key factor in the development of Type A can be traced to the struggle for survival long ago, when there was a rapidly dwindling supply of hunting game stock. Having exhausted the great game herds of Africa, humans pushed farther out from their ancestral home into Europe and Asia. The cultivation of grains and livestock changed everything. For the first time, people were able to forego the hand to mouth lifestyle of the hunter/gatherer and establish stable communities. Over time the adaptations that produced Blood Type A were based on the need to fully utilize nutrients from carbohydrate sources. These biological adaptations can still be observed today in Type A's digestive structure. Low levels of hydrochloric acid in the stomach and high intestinal disaccharide digestive enzyme levels permit the more efficient digestion of carbohydrates. According to Dr. D'Adamo, these are also the very factors, along with low levels of intestinal alkaline phosphatase, that make it difficult for Type As to digest and metabolize animal protein and fat.
What Makes Type A Unique
Many neurochemical factors in the Type A genetic disposition favor a structured, rhythmic, harmonious life, surrounded by a positive, supportive community. The harried pace and increased sense of isolation experienced by so many in today's society often make these needs difficult to achieve. Type A best exemplifies the powerful interconnections between mind and body. This was vital to the shift away from hunting and procurement to building and growing. However, Type A's more internalized relationship to stress, which served your ancestors well, can be a challenge for the modern Type A. The Blood Type Diet's proactive mix of lifestyle strategies, hormonal equalizers, gentle exercise and specialized dietary guidelines will maximize your overall health; decrease your natural risk factors for cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The result: high performance, mental clarity, greater vitality and increased longevity.
Type A Diet
"When we discuss 'diet,' we are not talking necessarily about a weight loss plan, that's a side benefit to following this plan. We are actually discussing diet in the more traditional sense, meaning a way to eat," explains, Dr. D'Adamo. Type As flourish on a vegetarian diet - if you are accustomed to eating meat, you will lose weight and have more energy once you eliminate the toxic foods from your diet. Many people find it difficult to move away from the typical meat and potato fare to soy proteins, grains and vegetables. But it is particularly important for sensitive Type As to eat their foods in as natural a state as possible: pure, fresh and organic. "I can't emphasize enough how this critical dietary adjustment can be to the sensitive immune system of Type A. With this diet you can supercharge your immune system and potentially short circuit the development of life threatening diseases."
In this busy, ever changing world, it's almost impossible to avoid every day stress. Type As have a naturally high level of the stress hormone cortisol and produce more in response to stressful situations. Cortisol is released in 24-hour patterns, typically in the early morning between six and eight A.M. with a gradual decrease during the day. It helps to cue the body's other cyclical rhythms. Due to the naturally elevated cortisol in type As, additional stress often manifests in several ways; disrupted sleep patterns, daytime brain fog, increased blood viscosity (thickening), and promotes muscle loss and fat gain. In extreme cases in Type As, stress can manifest in more serious ways, causing obsessive-compulsive disorder, insulin resistance and hypothyroidism. To help balance cortisol levels, Dr. D'Adamo recommends that you limit sugar, caffeine and alcohol. Don't skip meals, especially breakfast; eating smaller, more frequent meals will also help to stabilize blood sugar levels.
He also points out that the following factors are known to increase cortisol levels and increase mental exhaustion for Type As - be aware and limit your exposure when possible:
- Crowds of people
- Loud noise
- Negative emotions
- Strong smells or perfumes
- Too much sugar and starch
- Violent TV and movies
- Lack of sleep
- Extreme weather conditions (hot or cold)
Heightened cortisol levels make it harder for Type As to recover from stress. Research has demonstrated that overall cortisol levels can be lowered through a regular program of exercises that provide focus and calming effects. Make these activities a regular - and life saving - part of your lifestyle. Dr. D'Adamo recommends, Hatha Yoga, Tai Chi and Meditation and Deep Breathing Exercises. Meditation has been studied for its effects on stress hormones. It was found that after meditation, serum cortisol levels were significantly reduced. Writes Dr. D'Adamo, "While it's fine for Type As to participate in more intense physical activity when healthy and in good condition, be aware that these forms of exercise do not act as safety valves for stress in your blood type. I have seen Type As excel at weight lifting and aerobic activities, but you have to be careful about not overtraining, as that will actually raise cortisol levels."
The Personality Connection
Blood Type is a marker of individuality - and perhaps of personality as well. In Japan, it has long been believed that Blood Type is an indicator of personality - in fact, you are likely to be asked your blood type in a job interview or while out on a date with a potential mate! In a study conducted by Dr. D'Adamo in 1999, he found some interesting connections between blood type and personality. Type As most often described themselves in ways related to the following characteristics: sensitive to the needs of others, good listeners, detail oriented, analytical, creative and inventive.
In addition to exercise, stress management and eating the right foods, here are some key lifestyle strategies for Type A individuals.
- Cultivate creativity and expression in your life
- Establish a consistent daily schedule
- Go to bed no later than 11:00 PM and sleep for eight hours or more. Don't linger in bed, as soon as you get up, get going!
- Take at least two breaks of twenty minutes each during the work day. Stretch, take a walk, do deep breathing exercises or meditate.
- Don't skip meals
- Eat more protein at the start of the day, less at the end
- Don't eat when you are anxious
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals.
- Engage in thirty to forty five minutes of calming exercise at least three times a week.
- Plan regular screening for heart disease and cancer prevention.
- Always chew food thoroughly to enhance digestion. Low stomach acid makes digestion more difficult.
The mechanics of blood type's influence have to do with the way the genes influence each other, seemingly unrelated, genes located immediately adjacent or nearby. This mechanism explains why your blood type can have an impact on such a diverse number of bodily systems - from digestive enzymes to neurochemicals. Many nutrition experts are baffled when they first hear about the link between blood type and digestion. That's because they are only considering the physical significance of blood type as a surface antigen. Actually, it's not your blood type antigen that is influencing the level of acid in your stomach, but rather the gene for your blood type influencing other seemingly unrelated genes located immediately adjacent (or very close) to the ABO blood type gene that can exert an effect on your stomach acid levels. This phenomenon, called gene linkage, isn't well understood yet, but it is well known: Many genes influence the actions of other seemingly unrelated genes. As we explore Blood Type B, we will learn more about this intriguing relationship.
B Is for Balance - B Blood Type History
Blood Type B developed in the area of the Himalayan highlands, now part of present day Pakistan and India. Pushed from the hot, lush savannahs of eastern Africa to the cold highlands of the Himalayan Mountains, Blood type B may have initially mutated in response to climactic changes. It first appeared in India or the Ural region of Asia among a mix of Caucasian and Mongolian tribes. This new blood type was soon characteristic of the great tribes of steppe dwellers, who by this time dominated the Eurasian Plains. As the Mongolians swept through Asia, the gene for Type B blood was firmly entrenched. The Mongolians swept northward, pursuing a culture dependent upon herding and domesticating animals - as their diet of meat and cultured dairy products reflected. Of all the ABO types, Type B shows the most clearly defined geographic distribution. Stretching as a great belt across the Eurasian plains and down to the Indian subcontinent, Type B is found in increased numbers from Japan, Mongolia, China and India up to the Ural Mountains. From there westward, the percentages fall until a low is reached at the western tip of Europe. The small numbers of Type B in Western Europeans represents western migration by Asian nomadic peoples. This is best seen in the easternmost western Europeans, the Germans and Austrians, who have an unexpectedly high incidence of Type B blood compared to their western neighbors. Modern sub continental Indians a Caucasian people, have some of the highest frequencies of Type B blood in the world. The northern Chinese and Koreans have very high rates of Type B blood and very low rates of Type A.
What Makes Type B Unique
As a Type B, you carry the genetic potential for great malleability and the ability to thrive in changeable conditions. Unlike blood types A and O, which are at opposite ends of every spectrum, your position is fluid, rather than stationary, with the ability to move in either direction along the continuum. It's easy to see how this flexibility served the interests of early Type B's who needed to balance the twin forces of the animal and vegetable kingdoms. At the same time, it can be extremely challenging to balance two poles and Type B's tend to be highly sensitive to the effects of slipping out of balance.
The primary challenges that can get in the way of optimum health for Type B include a tendency to produce higher than normal cortisol levels in situations to stress; sensitivity to the B specific lectins in select foods, resulting in inflammation and greater risk for developing Syndrome X; susceptibility to slow growing, lingering viruses - such as those for MS, CFS, and lupus; and a vulnerability to autoimmune diseases. "If I were to generalize," says Dr. D'Adamo, "I would say that a healthy Type B, living right for his or her own type, tends to have fewer risk factors for disease and tends to be more physically fit and mentally balanced than any of the other blood types." Type B's tended to have a greater ability to adapt to altitude and interestingly, are statistically the tallest of the blood types.
Type B Diet
For Type Bs the biggest factors in weight gain are corn, wheat, buckwheat, lentils, tomatoes, peanuts and sesame seeds. Each of these foods affect the efficiency of your metabolic process, resulting in fatigue, fluid retention, and hypoglycemia - a severe drop in blood sugar after eating a meal. When you eliminate these foods and begin eating a diet that is right for your type, you blood sugar levels should remain normal after meals. Another very common food that Type Bs should avoid is chicken. Chicken contains a Blood Type B agglutinating lectin in its muscle tissue. Although chicken is a lean meat, the issue is the power of an agglutinating lectin attacking your bloodstream and the potential for it to lead to strokes and immune disorders. Dr. D'Adamo suggests that you wean yourself away from chicken and replace them with highly beneficial foods such as goat, lamb, mutton, rabbit and venison. Other foods that encourage weight loss are green vegetables, eggs, beneficial meats, and low fat dairy. When the toxic foods are avoided and replaced with beneficial foods, Blood Type Bs are very successful in controlling their weight.
When it comes to hormones, type B is closer to type A, producing somewhat higher levels of cortisol. When a Type B is out of balance, this manifests in overreaction to stress, difficulty in recovering from stress, disrupted sleep patterns, daytime brain fog, disruptive to GI friendly bacteria and suppresses immune function. This leads to increased risks for depression, insulin resistance, hypothyroidism and high stress can further exacerbate virtually all health challenges.
The Nitric Oxide (NO) molecule also has implications for Blood Type B's stress response and ability to recover quickly from stress. NO has emerged as an important substance capable of modifying many biological processes - including the nervous system and the immune system. Nitric Oxide functions as a kind of mediator of certain types of neurons in the central nervous system. Unlike the other neuro-transmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, NO does not bind to specific sites on the cell, but rather is infused into the cell and works directly at the biochemical level, making it a "rapid response" neurotransmitter. NO also seems to be involved in the regulation of the endorphins produced in the brain. The ability to rapidly clear NO can be highly beneficial to the cardiovascular system, but it also has implications for the activity of neurotransmitters, enabling faster recovery of stress. Scientists found that patients who possessed the Type B antigen appeared to clear NO more rapidly than do people of other blood types - the scientists had no clue as to why this might be, however, one of the possible answers lies right next to the ABO gene as the gene that influences the ability to modulate Arginine conversion to NO is right next to the gene that codes for blood type. Remember the gene linkage that was discussed earlier? Does this sound familiar? Dr. D'Adamo has observed that type B's have a wonderful gift to be able to gain physiological relief from stress and maintain emotional balance through the utilization of mental processes such as visualization and meditation.
To maintain the mind/body balance that is unique to Type B's, Dr. D'Adamo recommends that you choose physical exercise that challenges your mind as well as your body. Type Bs need to balance meditative activities with more intense physical exercise. "You tend to do best with activities that are not too aerobically intense, have an element of mental challenge and involve other people." Says Dr. D'Adamo. Excellent forms of exercise for Type B's include tennis, martial arts, cycling, hiking and golf.
The Personality Connection
The connection between blood type and personality has long been studied. In an independent study, Dr. D'Adamo found that most Blood Type B's often described themselves in ways related to the following characteristics: subjective, easygoing, creative, original and flexible. In another study, Type B's scored significantly higher on "intuiting," indicating a preference or sixth sense information; and they scored high on the "intuiting/feeling" combination, indicating that they tend to be insightful, mystical, idealistic, creative, globally-oriented, people-oriented and good at imagining. They also reported that they learned best through listening, then reflecting on and interpreting what they had observed. Perhaps the nomadic life of the steppes contributed to long hours given over to talk as well as ample time for meditation and reflection.
Here are Dr. D'Adamo's key lifestyle strategies for Type Bs:
- Visualization is a powerful technique for Type Bs. If you can visualize it, you can achieve it
- Find healthy ways to express your nonconformist side
- Spend at least twenty minutes a day involved in some creative task that requires your complete attention
- Go to bed no later than 11:00PM and sleep for eight hours or more. It is essential for B's to maintain their circadian rhythm
- Use mediation to relax during breaks
- Engage in a community, neighborhood or other group activity that gives you a meaningful connection to a group. Type Bs are natural born networkers
- Be spontaneous
- As they age, Type Bs have a tendency to suffer memory loss and have decreased mental acuity. Stay sharp by doing tasks that require concentration, such as crossword puzzles or learn a new skill or language
The Blood Type AB Individualized Lifestyle
Type AB blood is rare – it’s found in less than five percent of the population. And it is the newest of the blood types. Until ten or twelve centuries ago, there was no Type AB blood type. Type AB resulted from the intermingling of Type A with Type B. Type AB is the only blood type whose existence is the result of intermingling rather than environment. Thus, they share both the benefits and the challenges of both Type A and Type B blood types. Type AB has a unique chameleon like quality – depending on the circumstances, this blood type can appropriate the characteristics of each of the other blood types. Type AB is sometimes A-like, sometimes B-like and sometimes a fusion of both. Today, as we look back at this remarkable evolutionary revolution, it is clear that the genetic characteristics of our ancestors live in our blood today.
Eat Right for Wellness
Type AB reflects the mixed inheritance of their A and B genes. According to Dr. D’Adamo, “Type AB has Type A’s low stomach acid, however, they also have Type B’s adaptation to meats. Therefore, you lack enough stomach acid to metabolize them efficiently and the meat you eat tends to get stored as fat. Your Type B propensities cause the same insulin reaction as Type B when you eat lima beans, corn, buckwheat, or sesame seeds.” Inhibited insulin production results in hypoglycemia, a lowering of blood sugar after meals and leads to less efficient metabolism of foods.
Type AB should avoid caffeine and alcohol, especially when you’re in stressful situations. Dr. D’Adamo recommends that Type AB focus on foods such as tofu, seafood, dairy and green vegetables if you are trying to lose weight. “Avoid all smoked or cured meats. These foods can cause stomach cancer in people with low levels of stomach acid,” recommends Dr. D’Adamo. There is a wide variety of seafood for Type AB, and it is an excellent source of protein for Type AB. A few highly beneficial fish are mahi-mahi, red snapper, salmon, sardines, and tuna.. Some dairy is also beneficial for Type AB – especially cultured dairy such as Yogurt and kefir.
Dr. D’Adamo also recommends smaller, more frequent meals, as they will counteract digestive problems caused by inadequate stomach acid and peptic enzymes. “Your stomach initiates the digestive process with a combination of digestive secretions, and the muscular contractions that mix food with them. When you have low levels of digestive secretions, food tends to stay in the stomach longer.” Explains D’Adamo. He also suggests that Type AB pay attention to combining certain foods. For example, you’ll digest and metabolize foods more efficiently if you avoid eating starches and proteins in the same meal.
Stress and Exercise
Even though people have different capabilities for accommodating stress, we ultimately all have a breaking point. Given enough stressors of a high enough intensity for a long enough period of time, anyone will maladapt. For a Type AB, when it comes to stress hormones, you most resemble Type O in your tendency to overproduce catecholamines like adrenaline. Yet you also have the additional complexity of Type B’s rapid clearing of nitrous oxide, so you suffer the physical consequences of high emotions. Your greatest danger is the tendency to internalize your emotions, especially anger and hostility, which is much more damaging to your health than externalizing it. Exercise plays a critical component in stress reduction and maintaining a healthy emotional balance for Type AB. Dr. D’Adamo recommends a combination of both calming activities and more intense physical exercise to help maintain an optimal balance. For example, three days of aerobic exercise such as running or biking and two days of calming exercise such as yoga or tai chi.
Type AB often receives mixed messages about emotional health. While you tend to be drawn to other people and are friendly and trusting, there is a side of you that feels alienated from the larger community. At your best, you are intuitive and spiritual, with an ability to look beyond the rigid confines of society. You are passionate in your beliefs, but you also want to be liked by others and this can create conflicts. In an independent study, Type ABs described themselves as emotional, passionate, friendly, trusting and empathetic. Type ABs are considered some of the most interesting of the blood types, both John F. Kennedy and Marilyn Monroe were Type ABs and although both are long gone, they hold a place in our national psyche to this day.
Here are Dr. D’Adamo’s key lifestyle strategies for people with Blood Type AB:
- Cultivate your social nature in welcoming environments. Avoid situations that are highly competitive
- Avoid ritualistic thinking and fixating on issues, especially those you can’t control or influence
- Develop a clear plan for goals and tasks – annually, monthly, weekly, daily – to avoid rushing
- Make lifestyle changes gradually, rather than trying to tackle everything at once
- Engage in forty-five to sixty minutes of aerobic exercise at least twice a week. Balanced by daily stretching, medititation or yoga
- Engage in a community, neighborhood or other group activity that gives you a meaningful connection to a group
- Practice visualization techniques daily
- Also carve out time alone. Have at least one sport, hobby or activity that you perform independently of others
- Break up your workday with some physical activity, especially if your job is sedentary. You’ll feel more energized
I hope this post will get you to think about how the food choices you make impact your overall health and well being.
I'll be back...