End of festive season

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Now the festive season has passed we can look at 2014 with all the changes it should bring.  Enough of the overindulging without feeling guilty. Did you sometimes suffer after the pleasure of indulging in the seasonal food delights; did you feel bloated and unwell? Now’s the time to start afresh and do something about it.

After personally suffering for many years with digestive problems I decided to embark on a long journey of discovery to understand just how significantly we are affected by what we put in to our bodies. This is no new information to any one of us. In fact Hippocrates said thousands of years ago that ‘All diseases begin in the gut’. But what does that mean and how can we relate it to our modern, fast and hectic life?

Today’s modern world has put major pressure on agricultural land. With the shortage of land and the constant increase in the world’s population farmers are being forced to heavily increase production. This has been helped by new agricultural technology such as fertilizers and high-yielding crop varieties but at what price to the nutrients that were once in this fertile soil. The result is that the fruits, vegetables, grains, pulses and nuts do not grow in the same organic rich soil that they did in the past. Subsequently we are simply not getting enough minerals from the food we eat.

To add a flame to the fire we also have ‘fast food’. Perhaps you do not think you eat ‘fast food’ but who really makes a wholesome meal, every day, pack filled with vegetables? And when I say ‘make’, I mean make from scratch. Anything that has been in any way ‘pre-prepared‘ like a frozen pizza, frozen fries, microwave dinners and obviously takeaway burgers, etc, have all been tampered with and therefore so have the vitamins and minerals within. Furthermore products such as MSG is used. MSG is a flavor enhancer which stimulates the taste buds. It is in fact a toxic substance and some people react even at low doses. Many products are prepared with hydrogenated fats which are used to solidify oils and fats. They give the product an extended shelf life.  Hydrogenated oil is made by heating liquid vegetable oils in the presence of hydrogen, aided by a metal catalyst. This process can leave residue of nickel, aluminum or platinum in the product. And finally salt. Many people ingest too much salt due to the large amounts contained in processed food. 

 What’s more many people today are living stressful, hectic lifestyles. We all know stress affects us inadvertently, but how exactly? Stress increases intestinal permeability and causes inflammation. An extended period of over-activity, inevitably causes damage to our intestinal lining and flora. As a result we are unable to properly absorb what little nutrients are left in the food leading to an increase in micronutrient deficiencies.  This has become a global health issue and in fact in 1991 the WHO established the Vitamin and Mineral Nutrition Information System to monitor micronutrient deficiencies globally. The WHO considers that more than 2 billion people in both underdeveloped and industrialized countries, affecting all races, suffer from vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Intestinal hyper-permeability and inflammation known as ‘Leaky Gut Syndrome’ simply means that small gaps develop in the intestinal wall allowing partly digested food particles, bacteria and/or toxins to enter the blood stream. This in turn causes an immune reaction and leads to an intolerance to food. The higher the amount of intestinal damage the more the reactions are that we face. Intestinal damage can occur from stress, antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, hormones and environmental toxins. Although this phenomenon is not a new finding in any way, we must recognize that it is on the increase.  Experts say that there has been a tenfold increase in the number of people with food intolerances in the UK in the past 25 years.

It is important to differentiate between what we know as an allergic reaction to food and what is in fact an intolerance. A food allergy triggers an immediate immune response and can cause skin rashes and breathing problems. Food intolerance on the other hand is an immune response that can take days to cause any symptoms. This immune response is caused by the Immunoglobulins IgG and IgA.

An IgG immune response occurs when there has been some damage to the intestinal lining and partly digested food particles can pass into the blood stream. These particles are seen as ‘foreign bodies’ and the immune system releases antibodies in response, causing an inflammation. Each time this food is eaten and not properly digested, the body will respond to it. A recurrent inflammation can therefore occur anywhere in the body. An IgA immune response is found normally on the mucous membranes throughout the body, for example the respiratory and intestinal tract as well as saliva and tear ducts. 

There are ways to diagnose what foods are causing an intolerance. At my clinic, a simple blood test is the method of preference. The sample is sent to a US Biotek® laboratory which has more than 30 years of experience in medical testing. US Biotek® were the pioneers in such testing and the first worldwide to offer IgA Antibody Testing. The test determines whether there are particular food proteins in the blood. If there is a reaction to a particular food, then it will show as a positive reaction.

Once these food intolerances have been identified,   the results can then be analyzed further to make a treatment plan suited to the person. From my experience, food intolerances cause many different symptoms including chronic skin problems, joint pain, chronic urinary infections, headaches, hay fever and bloating and the list is non-exhaustive. What is however important to note, is that often ‘Leaky Gut Syndrome’ or Food Intolerances are   overlooked as the cause of many health issues. Thus my advice is to be aware – : 2014 is your year and it’s time to make changes. Your health and well-being are in your hands!

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