What conditions is this diet best for?
The author of the Seignalet Diet blog, which is the only information available in English on Dr. Jean Seignalet’s diet thus far, notes that Dr. Seignalet originally developed the diet for rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and Behcet disease. Good results from the diet moved him to eventually expand into treating all autoimmune disorders and even other diseases of unknown cause.
What are the main tenets of the diet?
The basic premise of the diet is that modern foods are chromosomally/genetically different from ancestral foods, and the human gastrointestinal tract has not had time to adapt to these changes. Dr. Seignalet also believed that cooking at high temperatures can modify the protein structure of foods, which can lead to autoimmunity as well as alteration of the gastrointestinal flora (bacteria that colonize the GI tract and play a large role in immunity and gastrointestinal function). Dr. Seignalet believed that these modified proteins may not be fully digested, which can change the bacterial flora from a fermentation flora (physiologically preferred) to a putreficaiton flora (not physiologically preferred). Bacteria, which work to putrefy proteins, create toxic by-products, which can cause many imbalances and lead to disease. The philosophy of the diet involves eating non-modified foods, which can be completely digested and assimilated, or used properly by the body.
Foods given up/Foods eaten frequently:
Cereals and grains
Wheat and its products (see exceptions below), oats, corn, barley, rye, kamut, millet, bulgur, couscous, farro (even though it is marketed as an ancestral grain) are not allowed. Buckwheat, quinoa, rice, wheat starch and corn starch are allowed. Soaking and sprouting of allowed grains is preferred.
All animal-source dairy are avoided.
Raw meat is preferred, such as in the form of carpaccio or steak tartare. Gently cooked meat is allowed. Raw deli meats such as parma ham, sausages and salami are allowed. Cooked deli meats (like cooked ham, turkey, chicken, roastbeef) are not allowed.
True foie gras is allowed and its fat is considered healthy, although many people choose to avoid foie gras for ethical reasons. Pate is typically not allowed, as it contains both milk and flour.
Just as with meat and eggs, the recommendation is, the less cooked the better. The author notes that lightly steamed fish is not as “dangerous” as cooked meat. Shellfish and oysters are allowed, preferably raw.
Best raw or poached, never hard-boiled. The reviewer notes that soft-boiled would be preferential to hard-boiled.
Fruits and Vegetables
All are allowed and recommended in large quantities. Pulses and legumes are allowed as well.
Dried Fruits and Nuts
Recommended in large quantity, although the reviewer notes that these are likely intended to be preservative-free. The author notes that nuts should be consumed raw, and the reviewer notes that soaking nuts, as well as pulses, legumes and grains, before consuming improves digestion and assimilation.
Dr. Seignalet recommended eating honey and pollen; chocolate must be pure and dark with no additives. It may be sweetened with brown sugar, agave, honey or maple syrup; white sugar must be eliminated.
Any oil from a first cold press is allowed.
All are allowed in pure, additive-free form, including herbs and spices. Salt should only be taken in whole form, versus refined.
Tap water and mineral water are encouraged. Coffee and tea are tolerated in reasonable quantities. Achicoria (Spanish for chicory root) consumption is recommended. Chicory root contains inulin, which is a type of carbohydrate that serves as a prebiotic. Prebiotics are indigestible carbohydrates for humans, but friendly gastrointestinal flora are able to digest them and use them for energy. All alcoholic beverages (excluding beer and drinks with added sugar) are allowed in moderate amounts. Drinks with added sugar, such as soda and commercial juices and prohibited.
Dr. Seignalet recommended avoidance of cooking as much as possible, with over 70% of diet consumed as raw. He recommended that cooking temperatures, when cooking is unavoidable, to remain below 212° Fahrenheit, with a preference for steaming. Over this temperature (and especially over about 400°), he stated that many mutagens, Maillard molecules and isomers are created, which turn into toxins once inside the body.
Light sautéing, stewing, steaming and dehydrating are allowed, since all of these methods don´t reach high temperatures. Frying and oven cooking are not recommended, since these methods allow very high temperatures to be reached. Eating smoked foods with moderation is recommended because of the carcinogen effect in the stomach.
Meal Frequency and Portion Sizing:
No specific recommendations given.
No specific recommendations, although bee pollen can be considered a supplement.
Will this diet require shopping at a specialty or organic grocery store, or buying the diet’s pre-packaged food (aka, is this diet going to be very expensive to sustain)?
This diet will require some shopping at a specialty or organic grocery store. Genetically modified foods are not recommended, so organic foods would be the obvious choice. Also, since quinoa, rice and buckwheat are the only recommended grains, one may wish to find flours made of these to use in cooking, as well as nut, bean and banana/plantain flours. All of these will require specialty shopping. There are no pre-packaged diet foods associated with this diet. This diet can be expensive, although careful meal planning and the minimization of eating out (which is implied) can help to off-set costs.
What other autoimmune diets is this diet similar to?
This diet is similar to most autoimmune diets in that organic and unprocessed foods are highly recommended. It is also similar to elimination diets for autoimmunity, since dairy, gluten, additives/preservatives are excluded. This is diet is unique to other autoimmune diets with its recommendation for mostly raw foods, including meats, fish and eggs. The reviewer notes, however, that the concept of consuming mostly raw or gently cooked meats/foods is not new or unique to this diet. The idea of protecting the structure of proteins as well as fats is an idea that the reviewer believes is worth considering for optimal health and well-being. Anytime raw meat is consumed, one must make sure the meat has been handled appropriately prior to consumption.
Questions for your doctor:
- Is there anything I should consider before beginning this diet, from a medical or safety standpoint?
- Would you recommend any diet and lifestyle changes, including nutritional supplements, to compliment this diet?
- Should I consult, or can you recommend a nutrition professional for help with dietary planning and input on nutrition lab recommendations, supporting gastrointestinal function/healing and nutritional supplement advice? Find a Dietitian in Integrative and Functional Medicine (DIFM).
About the Author
Angie King-Nosseir MS, RD is an Integrative and Functional Registered Dietitian, with a passion for walking with people along their path toward health transformation. Angie has a Master’s degree in Nutrition, is a Certified LEAP Therapist, corporate wellness health coach, freelance nutrition and wellness writer, and certified yoga instructor. She is trained in Functional Nutrition and Medicine through the Institute for Functional Medicine and in Food as Medicine through the Center for Mind-Body Medicine.