Eating foods you are allergic to can drastically effect your your overall health and well-being. The chronic inflammation that begins to brew in your system following repetitive ingestion of foods that your body recognizes as harmful impacts your entire system, and can produce symptoms ranging from joint pain to headaches and migraines, skin rashes to asthma, fatigue to brain fog, weight gain to hormonal imbalance.
To comprehend how benign foods become so harmful, it’s important to understand how normal digestion works. Let’s say you eat a hamburger. You take a bite, chew it, and swallow it. That bit of food travels to your stomach, where it combines with stomach acid and pepsin, and begins to break down into smaller pieces. Once it has mixed with stomach juices, it is dumped into your small intestine. Here it combines with enzymes from your pancreas as well as bile from your liver and gallbladder. These new ingredients allow the protein, carbohydrates, and fats from your meal to be broken down into amino-acids, mono and disaccharides, and fatty-acids, respectively.
In a perfect world of absolute health, it is only these tiny building blocks, the smallest parts of what our food is made up of, that are allowed to pass through the cells lining our small intestine and enter our bloodstream.
Enter Zonulin, a tiny chemical messenger with big repercussions. Zonulin is a protein that regulates how closely the cells of your small intestine come in contact with each other. It was discovered by Alessio Fasano, MD, while researching celiac disease, an illness in which the body’s reaction to the main protein found in wheat called gliadin severely damages the lining of the walls of the intestines.
Ideally, the cells that line our digestive tract should be in such close contact with each other that the only way anything is getting past the barrier is by being very specifically allowed to pass through the cell walls, out the other side, and into the blood stream. We don’t want just anything we take in from the outside world to have access to our blood stream and internal tissues.
When the cells of our small intestine are exposed to Zonulin, those tight junctions between them loosen. Now instead of having to pass through two cellular doors to get into our body, large food molecules, and even bacteria or viruses, can slip between them, entering the blood stream and causing inflammatory chaos. We call this process “leaky gut syndrome” and we see the effect of this inflammatory cascade in the form of indigestion, migraines, hay fever, asthma, and other common maladies.
In this day and age, when more and more of our foods are genetically tampered with and sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, or when we eat while in a traffic-induced panic while driving down the freeway, our bodies get the signal over and over again that we are under attack, triggering zonulin release, tight junction separation, and exposure to larger than usual food particles.
We are meant to recognize tiny amino acids and monosaccharides such as glucose as normal passengers in our blood stream – they provide fuel to our cells and are essential to sustain life. We are NOT meant to have little chunks of hamburger sneaking in through the side door and floating along our arterial highways. Our body will recognize this as an threat, will mount an immune response to the perceived attack, trigger an inflammatory cascade, and make antibodies which will recognize that protein in the future. So the next time hamburger comes along, the inflammatory response is triggered all over again.
A food allergy is born.
So now the answer to the question that likely got you to click on this post in the first place: what does this have to do with my weight?
Your weight is a direct reflection of your body’s chemical response to food. This is why no one diet works for everyone, why some people feel better eating paleo, others eating raw foods, and still others carbo-loading. You are one variable, the food you ingest is another variable, and the outcome is based on what happens when the two combine. If you are eating toast every morning for breakfast and are desperately allergic to wheat (and I could use cantaloupe, or even black beans as an example– it’s not just the “big” allergens like wheat and dairy that can be suspect) your body is getting a daily dose of inflammation with its morning cup of coffee. When people identify and remove their individual food allergies from their diet, weight loss and symptom relief naturally follows.
But it’s not just about weight. And it’s not just about how you feel today.
Inflammation is implicated in not only in weight gain, but also heart disease, IBS, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, acute and chronic pain, polycystic ovarian disease, thyroid imbalance and even cancer. We could create a much shorter list if we asked what conditions weren’t linked to chronic inflammation.
If you know your food allergies, I strongly urge you to do your best to eliminate them from your diet. If you don’t and need help figuring them out, there are some simple tests that can be done to identify them!
A simple blood test run in office can help you determine your own unique diet template, and get you on track to better health. If you have questions about food allergy testing or removal, we offer free 15 minute consults in both offices.