Friday, January 29, 2010

Food of the Day: Onion

It has been far too long since I wrote about food...

Onions are supposed to be on the list of a Crohnie's worst nightmares because of their acidity and propensity to cause gas.

I have two secrets.  Although you definitely to not want onions anywhere near your gut during a flare, when the slightest irritation can cause a major downfall...

1)  Onions are infamous for their anti-inflammatory properties.  Namely, [Lanzotti 2006].  But of particular interest to me as a Crohnie was a study by Merhi et al of Paris and Tours, France, indicating that some of the thiosulfinates in onion (and garlic) inhibit the production of TNF-alpha.  Albeit this study used leukemia cell lines (U937, established from a diffuse lymphoma; NB4, isolated from a promyelotic leukemia) to implicate foods high in thiosulfinates as cancer fighters.  However, they happened to also suggest that thiosulfinates might be directly inhibiting TNF-alpha.  The U937 and NB4 cell lines were developed for their proliferative properties, and this being a characteristic of the immune system it is not inconceivable that a similar mechanism might be working in the intestinal cells overexpressing TNF-alpha in Crohnies.  Maybe I should go into gastroenterology research instead of neuroscience... I'm already proposing breakthrough studies.

In 1990, Walter Dorsch of the University of Munich claimed that another thiosulfinate (diphenylthiosulfinate) displayed anti-inflammatory activity greater than that of prednisolone (yes, the active metabolite of the infamous Prednisone).  Although Dorsch's group was also using leukocytes, the implication for general inflammatory activity is clear.

2) If you cook the onion, the acid content goes down considerably... 

During this latest escapade wherein H.B. has switched his career to film making and is now diligently and scrupulously working on his first grand production, his brother, h.b. (hungry brother) is inhabiting our guest/lego room... and kitchen.  And yes, I am talking about the next generation of Coen Brothers.

h.b. is a fine chef, and has graced us with several superb meals thus far in his stay, not the least of which being Onion Soup.  He bought 8 giant onions -- never before had I seen so many in a kitchen at once -- and sauteed/wilted them down to a meager pile of oniony goodness.  It is thoroughly embarrassing to admit it, but I was like a small child watching cotton candy being made.

Two quarts of chicken broth and a generous splash of red wine later, we were pouring this most amazing olfactory treat over toasted french rolls and Gruyere (my "Gruyere" was, of course, grated soy cheese).

I survived this meal with zero ramifications.  Zero.  Finally, one of these drugs is doing something right.

Can anyone tell that I've been reading a lot of Alison Weir lately?


  1. Three cheers for Alison Weir! Our parallel lives continue.

  2. What's weird is lately I have been eating mushrooms and cooked onions. I swear before I got the Crohns, I hated veggies and now I just love them to pieces. Especially mushrooms.

  3. no kidding... what are you reading, kara?

    mushrooms can be a life saver; they and avocados are soluble fiber goldmines. i should do an ode to mushrooms next -- thanks, lindsey.