Food Allergies, Inflammation, and Chronic Disease
Inflammation: swelling, redness, heat. We’ve all had minor cuts and scrapes and experienced the body’s inflammatory response. It turns out that chronic inflammation anywhere in the body due to tissue injury or infection can lead to increased risk of cancer, heart disease, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s Disease.
The inflammatory process is actually a very useful and brilliant setup which, when operating normally, leads to a quick resolution of injuries and infections. The initial tissue injury leads to a cascade of events that bring white blood cells and many other factors to the injury site, clearing out debris, eliminating infection and rebuilding the injured tissue. The injury also triggers the release of cytokines—chemical messengers—that alert the immune system to the problem.
In more serious injuries and infections, more cytokines are released, ramping up the immune response. Cytokines have been found to increase inflammation virtually everywhere in the body—the liver, the intestines, the brain—because our bodies have immune cells imbedded in those tissues as a safeguard against overwhelming infection. When cytokines are released in quantity anywhere in the body, virtually all of the body’s immune cells respond to the call, increasing the inflammatory response. But the body also has a backup plan if the inflammatory response gets out of hand. The adrenal glands, the topic of another article, secrete cortisol (the body’s anti-inflammatory hormone) to settle the situation down—unless the adrenals have been weakened by poor diet and chronic stress. A weakened adrenal response often leads to low-grade chronic inflammation, which further taxes the adrenals and the immune system.
So what do food allergies have to do with this? Foods to which we are allergic or hypersensitive cause inflammation in the intestines, triggering the inflammatory cascade, often several times daily. Two thirds of our immune system is clustered around our digestive system, so our bodies are very vigilant about the foods we eat. In light of this information, it makes a lot of sense to avoid the foods we’re sensitive to, and to eat a wide variety of foods, rotating those that are common allergens.
Most people don’t attribute their “normal” aches, pains and dysfunctions to food sensitivities, but in many cases following your optimal diet (which I define as being allergy-free and containing adequate protein, vegetables and nutrients) can improve or eliminate many nagging health problems such as headaches, fatigue, bloating, indigestion, depression, brain fog and poor exercise tolerance. It can also significantly reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, arthritis and Alzheimer’s, all of which have proven links to chronic inflammation.
If you know what your food allergies are, I strongly urge you to follow them; if you don’t and need help figuring them out, contact us!
Thanks for reading!