Overweight but Starving
For the past two decades I have been invested in trying to understand where digestive problems come from. I have personally suffered myself in this time so 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?
The world population has exploded and this has put major pressure on agricultural land. With the shortage of land and this constant increase, farmers are being forced to heavily increase production with new agricultural technologies such as fertilizers and high-yielding crop varieties but this has come at the expense of 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 vitamins and minerals from the food we eat.
The Impact of Fast Food on Nutrients
To add 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 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.
We can’t take about fast food without taking about some of the additives within them. One such is a flavour enhancer Monosodium Glutamate, which is used to stimulate the taste buds. MSG is in fact a toxic substance and some people react even at low doses. Also, 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 far too much salt due to the large amounts contained in processed food.
The Impact of Stress on our Physical and Mental Body
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 certain foods. The higher the amount of intestinal damage the more the reactions are. 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.
How Food Intolerances Impact Us
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 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 to name a few. 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.
2019 is your year and it’s time to make changes. Your health and well-being are in your hands!