Anything that puts stress on your body, also eventually affects your immune system. When we are at a balanced healthy state our immune system is effective in fighting off invading infections. Some research suggests that if our immune system is compromised in any way, whether it is from prescription drugs or food intolerances, then we stand a higher chance of experiencing some type of inflammation. Food intolerances, if left unattended compromise the immune system with two-fold consequences of infection and inflammation.
Before we begin, it is important to not confuse food intolerances with food allergies. A food allergy arises when the immune system over reacts to a certain food particle, causing the body to mistakenly produce an antibody, to fight off what is otherwise a harmless antigen. Food intolerances are more common and often go unnoticed because symptoms can arise hours or days after the food is ingested.
Modern foods are those which were typically not available to our ancestors. I am not going to go as far as to say our prehistoric human ancestors, as this is not a push to sample a paleo diet. Rather I’m talking about your great-grandparents. These foods typically fall into dairy, grains and refined sugars.
I know it sounds hard to believe, but according to many scientists and nutritionists, these simple foods that we have become accustomed to, are in fact causing chronic disease.
Identifying food intolerances is important, as they are very often linked to many chronic diseases and symptoms such as headaches, migraines, colitis, epilepsy, heart disease, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, stiff joints, arthritis, neuro muscular disorders and even some behavioral disorders in children. They can also cause asthma, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), chronic fatigue, eczema and fibromyalgia. Food intolerances may be the major factor causing these illnesses, or they may exacerbate an underlying genetic predisposition.
I know some of you reading this may doubt me, but it is simple. The food we are consuming could be making us sick, and what is even sadder is that many of us don’t even know it. We don’t know that it’s not normal to be tired all the time, or to crave certain food types or to be constantly run down. This is not normal and often these issues can be rectified over a relativity short period of time.
Current research states that the most likely food intolerances, leading to dozens of inflammatory disorders, are those which are caused by ‘leaky gut syndrome’. When your body can’t digest foods properly then the partly digested proteins and sugars actually damage your small intestine. Small holes develop in the tissue lining causing unfamiliar protein pieces (peptides) to get into the blood stream. This is what health practitioners call ‘leaky gut syndrome.’ The immune system then fires up after immediately detecting these “foreign invaders” and sets up inflammation. Over a period of time this builds up until there is a chance of experiencing chronic disease.
Below is a list of the most common offenders;
- Dairy intolerances (via casein protein)
- Gluten intolerances (gluten protein)
- Yeast sensitivity (yeast proteins)
- Corn allergy (zein protein)
- Nightshade sensitivity (lectins)
So now the immune system is weak and thus can become more prone to infections from common germs, bacteria or fungi, but can’t the doctor just give antibiotics to fix this? Well yes, they can, but the problem is that they may reduce the probiotics in the intestine by up to 60%. This severe reduction in probiotics in the immune system further handicaps the already weak immune system.
When these low grade or recurring infections are allowed to continue to develop (because you’re still ingesting foods your body cannot tolerate) then the immune system gets more and more inflamed. You can now start to see a vicious cycle appearing and as more antibiotics are prescribed to treat the new and remaining infections and inflammations, these just continue to reduce the probiotic levels and weaken your immunity.
Sounds bad? Well it gets worse. History has suggested that if these conditions persist, then blood sugar levels swing, chronic pains and inflammation rises, fatigue increases, intestinal upsets occur and the liver becomes so overloaded it can’t detoxify the body. The body reaches a level where it becomes more sensitive to chemicals found in smoke, alcohol, yeast, fungi and fumes. Somewhere along this path mental and emotional problems arise.
What might start as mood swings and poor concentration develop into fatigue, lowered motivation and depression. More medication is prescribed which in turn cause the intestines to leak more, and the spiral continues. The liver becomes further damaged with pain medications making it more toxic. These underlying immune stresses can progress to more serious diseases such as autoimmune diseases if they are left untreated.
What can you do? The great news is that if you suffer from any of these symptoms, you may be able to fix this yourself, but you’re going to have to wait until next issue, when I teach you how to break the cycle.
For more information on the discussions above, I recommend you check out the following sources: Food sensitivities and intolerances: Here’s how to do an elimination diet by Bryan Walsh, The Comprehensive Elimination Diet by Liz Lipski, Eating with Purpose by Doug Kaufmann, Natural Solutions for Digestive Health by Dr. Jillian Sarno Teta and Jeannette L. Bessinger or visit The Food Intolerance Institute of Australia on www.foodintol.com.