Causes of Inflammation (TLDR: Food Sensitivities)
In the previous blog post I talked about how colon hydrotherapy can assist in reducing the inflammatory load carried in our bodies, helping us to feel better. Inflammation is exceedingly common and has a huge impact on the quality of our health and wellbeing. That is why today’s blog post is about how inflammation develops and what, beyond colon hydrotherapy, we can do about it.
Some inflammation is the product of disease. There are over 100 known inflammatory diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, asthma, COPD, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel, autoimmune disease, plus any condition that ends in “-itis.” Diabetes and heart disease are also associated with inflammation.
Unfortunately, people free from disease do not get a pass – inflammation is an immune system response that all of us are hardwired to generate when our bodies perceive threats inside our bodies, including from the foods we eat and the air we breathe. This particular aspect of the immune system is mediated by proteins called immunoglobulins, which attach themselves to the offending molecules and trigger inflammation. There are two subtypes of immunoglobulins: IgE and IgG. IgE responses are fast developing and are considered true allergy reactions; the most common culprits are airborne substances (ie. pollen, dander and dust) and foods that cause immediate and severe reactions that require people to carry Epi-pens (ie. peanuts and shellfish).
Still, for most people the predominant causes of inflammation are IgG mediate food sensitivities, which often take a concerted effort to identify. The reasons food sensitivities are notoriously hard to detect include the fact that symptoms from IgG reactions take 2-3 days to develop; frequently eating a food we’re sensitive to causes our bodies to semi-adapt so we only experience the worst symptoms 2-4 days after we stop eating the food; and the most commonly problematic foods are in many (most?) processed foods and thus are easily ingested without our knowing it.
Here’s a story for you: there was a time when I had hip pain that caused me to walk with a limp for a number of weeks. There was no trauma involved, it just spontaneously developed. From experience I knew this to be a signal there was an issue with my diet, but I was hard pressed to understand what it could be. I went on an elimination diet, eating only plain chicken, rice and vegetables. My symptoms should have cleared within two weeks but they didn’t. I persevered with my limited diet but was very confused about what the problem could be. Then finally I looked at the label of the herbal tea I was drinking…who the h@## puts soy in herbal tea? Celestial Seasonings wild berry zinger, that’s who! There couldn’t have been much in the teabag, but between the severity of my soy sensitivity and the daily exposure I was hooped until I figured it out.
I’m not saying everyone has food sensitivities. There are constitutional types (more on that in my next blog post) and when it comes to diet there is no “one size fits all” solution. However, I’ll tell you what I know in case you someday decide you want to explore the possibility that something you’re eating is making you feel sub-par.
First of all, the bodies of young people are incredibly resilient. My food sensitivities didn’t start showing up until my late 30s/early 40s after/during a time when I was living with a lot of stress. They arrived one-by-one and out of the blue. In my case it was sudden onset, severe joint pain – eventually I could tell which food it was based on which joint was affected! However, everyone has their own particular weak area, so other people’s symptoms might present as chronic asthma, rashes, headaches, stomach issues, virtually anything. I once met a woman who would hallucinate from eating eggs!
It’s commonly accepted among natural health practitioners that food sensitivities are associated with candida yeast overgrowth and leaky gut syndrome. Honestly, I think these conditions are endemic. Yes, we can cut out sugar and simple carbs to minimize the candida growth but I personally believe stress plays a huge role and know very few people who aren’t up to their eyeballs in it. So for most of us I expect it’s only a matter of time before we have to come to terms with our diets.
Secondly, there are no foolproof shortcuts to figuring out which foods are causing your symptoms. Skin scratch tests are best suited to determining IgE mediated allergies and are terrible at identifying food sensitivities. I did Vega testing many years ago and a blood test more recently. The Vega testing had the added benefit of detecting candida, as well as determining the best product to kill it with (here’s a plug for my friend Dr. Dorothy Fairley in Kitsilano, if you want a Vega test please consider going to her). I was very disappointed in the blood test; it was expensive and in my opinion fairly inaccurate. The truth is, the results from either of these methods should serve simply as a basepoint to your own investigations. The blood test in particular is telling you it’s detecting fragments of these foods in your bloodstream, but it’s not specifically measuring your immune response to these molecules. So while the test may tell you that you are “sensitive” to 20 foods, it’s likely only 2 or 3 of them are actually causing your symptoms. Unless you are prepared to eat a severely limited diet for an extended period of time, it’s in your best interest to figure out which foods are the most problematic for you. (It could be argued that to heal a leaky gut one should avoid everything on the list for three months, in combination with an anti-candida protocol. However, not everyone is prepared to do this, and it’s more likely that it’s the foods causing the inflammation that contribute to the leaky gut, while the other food particles making it through the gut lining are just taking advantage of the break in the fencing, so to speak.)
So back to that “elimination diet” I mentioned earlier…in a nutshell, it takes 5 days of avoiding a food for symptoms to abate and 2 weeks for them to disappear completely. Start with the basics by cutting out the usual suspects: dairy, wheat, soy and eggs. No cheating and read all labels. If your symptoms disappear after 2 weeks then you are on the right track. If not, you are likely still eating something you are sensitive to and will need to try again eliminating other foods after you’ve tested the dairy/wheat/soy/eggs. You will need to reintroduce these foods one at a time and will need to eat that food two days in a row, then assess for symptoms on the 2nd & 3rd days. If no symptoms then move on to the next food. If yes, symptoms, then it’s best to wait until these abate before moving on to the next food. Sorry, it’s time consuming and requires dedication. (I suggest you reintroduce eggs first as they are the least likely of the group to cause a reaction.) The good news is that all but the most sensitive people can eat a problem food on a “rotation diet” basis and still remain symptoms free, which means only ingesting it once every five or more days. So you will likely still be able to enjoy the occasionally latte or cinnamon bun!