More than 50 percent of our immune system is found in our digestive tract, which is why it is important to have a properly functioning digestive system. Unfortunately, most doctors don't recognize how food sensitivities and food allergies can affect those who suffer with irritable bowel, celiac, Crohn's, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, eczema, psoriases, fibromyalgia, lupus, MS and heart disease.
People who struggle with bloating, gas, indigestion, reflux and other irritable bowel problems may not realize the root cause may be associated with hidden food allergies. These unknown allergens, if allowed to continue, will trigger inflammation and weaken our immune system. It is this constant exposure to allergens that overworks and confuses our immune system. The ultimate result can be autoimmune and heart diseases.
Food allergens irritate and inflame our intestinal lining, which compromises our health and digestion. First, they reduce your ability to absorb the nutrients in your food. Just because you ate it, doesn't mean you absorbed the nutrients in the food. This is a critical step in healing, because the only way to heal and strengthen our body is to nourish it. If our digestive system is compromised, we don't provide the body with an adequate supply of nutrients.
Secondly, undigested food particles can leak across the intestinal wall and enter our systemic circulation. This is where the immune problem begins. These undigested food particles are looked upon as 'foreign invaders' by our immune fighters. This triggers an antibody and histamine response to fight these foreign invaders. This is why the immune system becomes confused. Our immune fighters – lymphocytes, macrophages and other white blood cells, which attack and destroy harmful invaders, become confused as to which are the harmful, bad guys and which aren't. These undigested food particles aren't supposed to be there and are looked upon as the enemy, just as viruses, bacteria and other microbes are.
Stress contributes to this 'vicious' cycle
Stress triggers cortisol, one of our primary stress hormones, causes erosion of our intestinal lining, which can lead to ulcers. This erosion makes us more susceptible to food allergens and other harmful pathogens such as yeast, fungus, candida and parasites which contributes to the bloating, gas, indigestion, etc. Can you see the 'vicious' cycle?
Constant stress will also interfere with your body's ability to produce an adequate supply of digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid (HCL). These two components are extremely important when it comes to good digestion. This is one of the main reasons I recommend a good digestive enzyme with HCL, like 'Digest-Plus' for many of my patients who complain of indigestion and other irritable bowel problems. This is especially important for those of us in our 40's, 50's and better, because as we age we produce less digestive enzymes and HCL.
To properly digest our food we also need to be in our "resting-digesting" mode. Unfortunately, most people's lives are on the fast-track, which puts their bodies in the "fight or flight" mode. When you are constantly running from the 'saber-tooth tiger'…the last thing your body will do is digest your food. This is why we need to eat our meals in a relaxed state, NOT in the car on the way to a meeting, during rush hour. This should also explain the fact that it's NOT too much acid that is causing all the digestive problems, but rather the lack of HCL, which is needed to breakdown protein.
Undigested protein begins to rot and putrefy in your tummy. It is those undigested protein molecules that cross over into your systemic circulation, which causes all the tummy upset many Americans are complaining about. It's a 'vicious' cycle.
The Inflammation connection
Heart disease is the number one killer in America. The true cause of heart disease is inflammation. Inflammation also triggers an increase in cholesterol. Unfortunately, just lowering the cholesterol is like closing the barn door after the cows have gotten out. We need to be addressing the cause, which is inflammation. The greatest source of inflammation for most Americans comes from their diet. Improperly digested food irritates and inflames the body. This causes the adrenal glands to produce more cortisol, which is needed to reduce the inflammation. This constant demand on the adrenal glands can easily overwork them and cause adrenal exhaustion and fatigue, which is a primary contributor to so many health problems.
If you're suffering from arthritis, fibromyalgia, joint pain along with constant digestive problems, you can easily be causing so much inflammation in your body that your adrenal glands can't keep it under control. This could then cause an elevation of your cholesterol, as a result of the inflammation. Are you seeing that 'vicious' cycle now?
Don't forget all the stress triggers increased production of adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine, which causes your arteries to constrict, making your blood pressure go up. Additionally, the extra cortisol will trigger an increased production of insulin, which signals your body to start storing calories – NOT burn them! This will than take you down the road of cravings, weight gain, insulin resistance and diabetes.
Calming down the intestines
The first step in calming down your inflamed tummy is to stay away from ALL potentially irritating foods. NO dairy, wheat, corn, soy, peanuts, coffee, artificial sweeteners or MSG for 2-4 weeks. You need to remove all of these foods, because if you have more than one offending food and don't eliminate it from your diet, you may not give your digestive system a true chance to recover and repair. This is not a lifetime ban! In many cases, these foods can be re-introduced after your digestive system has quieted down and healed.
This elimination diet may cause some people to ask, "what am I supposed to eat, you've taken everything out of my diet." For some people who don't eat enough fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, this elimination diet may make them feel like there aren't many choices. This is why I recommend the NatraLean Health Bars. They are hypoallergenic and contain NO dairy, wheat, corn, soy, peanuts, artificial sweeteners or trans fatty acids to irritate and inflame your tummy. They come with 8 grams of fiber and 7 grams of mono-unsaturated fats (the good fats), which are key in helping to reduce inflammation.
Breaking the "vicious" cycle
The bottom line…Eliminating food allergies can not only help with allergies and sinusitis, but can help with many of the other health complaints including auto immune and heart disease. If you're looking for a natural approach that targets the cause of your problem. Eliminate those common food allergens, add some digestive enzymes with HCL, fish oils and nutrients to support your adrenal glands such as Adrenal Fuel. You'll be amazed at how much better your body will begin to feel and function, and the better your body functions the better it runs.
FYI…One last piece of valuable information – an inflamed intestinal lining also hinders the production of serotonin, which is produced in the gut. Decreased serotonin levels are associated with depression, anxiety, insomnia, PMS, cravings and ADD/ADHD.
Dr. Len Lopez is the author of "To Burn or Not to Burn, Fat is the Question" and hosts the radio show "Action Steps for Health. He is a nutrition and fitness expert and speaks extensively on how to "treat the cause – not the symptoms. To learn more about health and healing take the "online health quizzes" or sign up to receive his weekly health journal Health Tips with Dr. Len.