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The Power Of Gut Health and Nutrition
The Link Between Inflammation, Food Sensitivities
And Your Health
We live in an astonishing era of diet and nutrition.
We are currently armed with an astonishing amount of nutritional and health information. Information that can truly change the course of life, prevent illness and find the root cause to many health woes.
Even though this is just the tip of the iceberg, we are in a position to make healthy decisions that can impact our health like never before.
So many diets that we hear about in mainstream media talk about ancestral eating and lifestyle. Eating plans, such as the “Paleo” diets come to mind. People appear to be returning to their roots – meaning that there is a movement to eat more whole foods and diets that we evolved to eat as a human race.
That may look a little different for each and everyone one of us, but there are some basic principles that each follow: Eat anti-inflammatory, whole foods found in nature. Some people lean toward eating more of a fat burning diet, like Keto. While others cut out animal products, such as vegan. The most important diet to follow is the one that perfect for you!
The unfortunate aspect of diet, health and nutrition that is driving some of this movement is the fact that we are very ill because of our diets. Despite or because of our modernized society, we eat highly processed, chemical laden foods that is destroying our gut health.
This, I argue, is the leading cause in the astronomical rise in obesity, diabetes, childhood obesity, food allergies and diseases related to chronic inflammation.
If we rely on the government and the food industry leaders, to define healthy eating, then our diet and health will continue along this path of obesity and disease.
How can we be empowered by this? We have the answers and access to all the information to make informed decisions and change the trajectory of our health both individually and as a nation.
I implore you to weigh the risks and benefits of your current nutritional health. Consider your life and your children’s lives when making decisions to grab and go. Think about health versus the convenient processed foods; those that have changed our taste buds. A change may not be easy. In fact, a change will require more thought and effort to choose healthier options, ones that may be an adjustment.
We do not have to live feeling deprived or believing that food is the enemy.
The culture of eating in this society needs to change at home and in our schools. We need to shift our mindset on food, health and especially how this affects the younger generation. What is in those cupcakes and doughnuts. How does drinking that chocolate milk flavored drink or sports “drink” affect the body? We need to create a massive movement that demands a change in our health culture. It is imperative to realize just how detrimental the food industry and false governmental guidelines and their support to the food industry has become in changing our health perspective.
Would you feed your purebred racehorse doughnuts? No? Then why would you feed them to your children or eat them yourself?
A step in the right direction, may include subsidizing farmers who grow healthy foods. Currently, the government subsidizes foods hat are not particularly healthy, such as the genetically modified corn and soy crops. Organic whole fruits and vegetables which should be a staple in all kitchens,however, are more expensive to buy and not readily available to all citizens. What kind of message does this send? How does this affect our food choices? Harmful foods cost less and more readily accepted as part of our culture!
There needs to be a collective shift in priorities and we all need to demand this by making informed choices, being proactive and taking effortful steps toward our health and wellness.
One of the most exciting areas of nutritional and health science to evolve over the past few years has been in the area of gut health. More than ever before we are seeing how impactful our gut and the food we place into our body’s affects our overall function.
The days are gone when we could drive through a fast food establishment and not know the effects of the processed foods on our organs and overall health.
We know that a diet high in processed, sugary food causes obesity. Furthermore, we are aware that chemical additives are bad for our gut health and cause disease. Also, we have been told how these foods are created to make us want more and that is causing this dependance.
Let’s take a look at how the gut and the immune system actually work and how these systems contribute to our overall health.
I am going to describe for the intricate relationship between gut health, food, nutrition and the inflammatory reactions in the body.
Let’s start with the gut!
Did you know that 70 percent of your immunity resides in the gut? Infact, more than half of your body is made up of foreign cells. That’s right, the majority of your body is made up of cells that are not human!
Digestion runs smoothly when we are eating the right foods. Foods broken down into usable bits by the digestive system, then become usable nutrients the body needs to run properly. The intestinal walls are tightly bound, creating a barrier against potentially toxic organisms and food particles that are not supposed to pass through to the bloodstream. This wall is highly mediated by all of these cells, mostly foreign bacterial cells. Damage caused by processed foods, allergens, environmental toxins and chemical additives cause small tears, creating “Leaky Gut”. Eating the wrong foods can lead to overgrowth, creating an imbalance which leads to digestion problems.
Leaky gut makes us more susceptible to compounds slipping through the gut wall, causing the immune system to attack. That leads to inflammation, symptoms etc.
Another problem is that certain foods take longer to digest, and if there are tears in the intestinal lining the longer the substances linger, the more likely they are to be absorbed through the gut lining, entering the bloodstream.The body recognizes this as foreign, thus mounting an immune response.
This food then becomes recognized as an invader and your body responds each time it is eaten, creating a sensitivity.
Food is Fuel
Remember food is fuel. If we cannot absorb the nutrients our cells need to work properly or we absorb the wrong compounds creating an inflammatory response each time we eat that food, then disease develops over time. Inflammation then breeds new sensitivities – a vicious cycle.
Until somewhat recently, we did not consider the gut an integral part of our health or the possible culprit in many diseases. We know now that there are significant interconnections between the brain, the gut and immune system. They intertwined, each affecting every other cell in our body!
Food allergies are an interesting topic in the conversation. Did you know that food allergies are on the rise? Between 1997 and 2011, the CDC, found that food allergies rose 50 percent! More people than ever before now have allergies and food sensitivities.
What is going on here?
Let’s break this down.
Every bite of food you take causes a reaction in your body. If you have a food allergy, your immune cells react by creating antibodies. Once your body creates these antibodies, every time you eat the food, the antibodies react,prompting an immune system response. Common allergic responses are: redness, swelling, pain, heat, itching and difficulty breathing.
Allergic reactions can happen immediately and be life threatening. True food allergies are only a small fraction of the adverse reactions that occur after eating certain foods. Allergies are mostly attributed to either milk, eggs, soy, wheat, shellfish, peanuts, tree nuts or fish.
Most food reactions are not true allergies, but fall into the category of sensitivities or intolerances. These reactions are a bit more difficult to detect and not as easily found with blood tests.
Intolerances can begin when the body does not have the right enzyme, organism or nutrient to break down the food and digest it properly. When these food particles build up in the digestive system, it can feed the bad bacteria in your gut or throw off the healthy balance of organisms within the gut. This can lead to symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, migraines, joint pain and skin problems. Other symptoms may even include brain fog, mood issues, fatigue, weight gain, sinus issues and asthma.
When the body deems something as harmful it builds up a response, creating inflammation to get rid it. With low levels of inflammation, especially when constant, the good cells in you body also become targets. Healthy tissues then begin to destruct and this can lead to autoimmune disorders where the body starts attacking itself to the point that disease is apparent.
In addition to damaging the body, the inflammatory responses can cause weight gain. For example, people with non-celiac gluten intolerance, the immune system attacks the gluten. Reactions such as this create excessive inflammation, making the body more prone to food sensitivities. Damage to the intestinal wall creates leaks where food particles can now enter the bloodstream, now creating another food intolerance and the vicious cycle continues.
Why is inflammation bad?
Normally, the human body triggers an immune response which then creates inflammation in order to heal. It is like an emergency responder to the rescue to rid the body of a possible harmful substance and a chain of events that them creates healing. This process, while necessary, is the basis of how the human body responds to foreign invaders.
Inflammation is great when it’s short lived and gets the job done. For example, our body attacks a virus like the influenza virus. After the virus is gone, we are all good! Yay!
Chronic exposure and inflammation is the major problem. When its happening on a daily basis, repeated low levels of inflammation becomes a problem. This chronic low level inflammation begins to target cells and organs – like in the case of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Furthermore, chemicals created in the chronic process of inflammation cause atherosclerosis which is the plaque building up on the arterial walls. Sleep apnea, high blood pressure and depression can even be caused by damage to the gut.
The food intolerance and inflammation cycle is self- perpetuating – people who have sensitivities are more likely to have higher levels of inflammation which in turn makes them more likely to develop additional food sensitivities.
This cycle of inflammation creates conditions ripe for chronic disease and obesity.
In fact, numerous studies have shown that immune reactions to food are likely involved with obesity and cardiovascular disease. A study done in 2008 in the Journal of Experimental Clinical Endocrinology and Diabetes found that overweight children were 2 and half times more likely to have food sensitivities than normal-weight children. These children had increased levels of inflammation as a result of food reactions and had a three times greater risk for arterial wall thickening. According to the study, immune reactions to food likely lead to the development of both obesity and atherosclerosis.
The Environment Plays A Role
Triggers from the environment, bacteria in the drinking water, harmful chemicals on the food supply, mold and other allergens in the air, processed foods and stress, all have an impact on gut health and the immune system. Americans are exposed to over 10,000 chemicals in the food supply, in addition to eating sugar more than ever before.
Most lab tests do not reveal food intolerances, making diagnosis a bit trickier. One way to know for sure if a food is causing a negative reaction in your body is to try the elimination diet which is a step by step approach to eliminating the most common food allergens and then carefully reintroducing them while monitoring symptoms.
The Gut Brain Connection – How Food Intolerances Affect The Brain
There is a direct link between the gut, the brain and food sensitivities. For example, people who have trouble breaking down certain substances can develop headaches. MSG is one common substance. People who are sensitive to MSG may report heachaches after eating food with this substance. There is in fact mounting evidence suggesting that migraine sufferers may find the source of their pain in the food they are eating and their gut flora. In fact, studies are showing that many migraine sufferers experiences headaches after consuming gluten products.
Other foods may include sulfates, coffee, sugar, aged cheeses, red wine, chocolate and smoked meats. Certain food dyes increase hyperactivity among children. Excessive sugar intake also impacts the brain by stimulating the addiction center of the brain. Increasing sugar intake, especially in the form of soda and sweetened juices, creates this loop of craving and intolerance which leads to increased need for the sugary foods.
Some food intolerance reactions are obvious. The onset of a headache immediately following eating a food trigger is one such obvious symptom. Other foods may cause only mild reactions and go undetected. The problem is that these reactions occur constantly over time without anyone being aware of the damage. This chronic damage may not become apparent for quite some time and the steady rise of inflammation causes a more chronic condition over the span of many years. Diseases such as, adult onset diabetes, Parkinson’s and atherosclerosis develop over a period of years often undetected.
The Immune System – A Deeper Dive
The body acts to destroy a threatening substance when exposed. The substance could be potentially threatening or a virus, bacteria, food protein, toxic chemical or medicines. If the first response is not enough, the body gauges a need for a second level of attack, creating antibodies. These antibodies go after the specific invader to finish the job. Antibody levels after exposure can stay high for months after. Unrelenting exposures that the body deems threatening can wear out this system. Chronic inflammation subtly creates damage to the body or brain in the process.
The results of chronic low inflammation levels take years to manifest, but when it does, autoimmune issues are often the end result. The symptoms that were initially present are not always apparent, but these small signs eventually lead to chronic disease if left to continue. Diseases such as Parkinson’s and MS are examples of inflammation that affects the nervous system which over time creates the disease. More subtle symptoms may be brain fog, forgetfulness, anxiety or depression that can begin in your forties.
Food intolerances affect everyone differently, depending on unique genetic susceptibility. The weakest link will be the area to have problems which for one person may be the liver, for another it may be the brain. For someone with a gluten sensitivity, severe constipation may result. ANother person may experience gluten intolerance as acne or ADD.
A New Perspective
The difference in perspective in this way of thinking, versus the way conventional medicine has portrayed disease is that the symptoms may be caused by something different for each person. Looking for the individual root cause and addressing that will minimize the disease.
Conventional medicine looks at the symptoms and ways to control them and one cause for the entire disease category, rather the triggers in many cases. We know that disease is often multifactorial and complex – affected by environment, genetics etc.
Why not look at each individual and try to find the root cause? What is causing the inflammation or the autoimmune response? Can they have different triggers in everyone?
Chronic diseases that may be linked to excessive inflammation include:
- Multiple sclerosi
- Rheumatoid arthritis
What is exciting is that we can prevent these triggers by arming ourselves with the information to fuel our body’s properly.
So, what are causing problems in our gut that we can take steps to change? One step is to perform a nutritional reset. This can help you figure out the exact foods to eat and avoid, allowing your gut to heal and immune system some time off. This is one proactive way to eat a diet, individualized for you.
You can sign up here for the 21 day reset and 60 day group to uncover the optimal nutritional needs for you!
This site contains affiliate links. Click here to read my disclosure policy.