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Basically, when we think of the word “inflammation”, we tend to think of acute injuries; redness, swelling, and pain caused by an accident. However, inflammation can happen internally, and over a long period of time, for many different reasons. Stress, lack of exercise, genetic predisposition, and exposure to toxins (like secondhand tobacco smoke) can all contribute to chronic inflammation, but dietary choices play a huge role as well. When we eat foods which don’t agree with us, our body’s immune system can be activated and internal inflammation can occur. While we may not have allergies to particular foods, we can certainly have intolerances towards them.
What Are Food Intolerances?
Intolerances are caused by chemicals naturally occurring in food (or which have been added to food). They cause unwanted reactions by irritating the gut lining, which can then affect nerve endings in different parts of the body. Examples of food chemicals which can cause problems are amines (found in cheese, bananas, tomatoes, oranges and chocolate), salicylates (found in tomatoes, capsicum, coffee, dried fruits, avocado and oranges), and glutamates (found in mushrooms, parmesan cheese, and soy proteins). The small amounts of natural chemicals present in a particular food may not be enough to cause a reaction immediately. However, because one substance may be common to many different foods, it can accumulate in the body over time and cause unwanted symptoms which people can often not get to the bottom of.
Symptoms of Food Intolerance
Sufferers of food intolerance frequently complain of lethargy or ‘fogginess’ and a general feeling of unwellness. However, some people may experience acute reactions such as recurrent hives and swellings, headache, sinus trouble, mouth ulcers, nausea, stomach pain and bowel irritation. Common symptoms of food intolerance are: anxiety, arthritis, bloating, bronchitis, chronic fatigue, constipation, diarrhea, headaches, insomnia, skin conditions and weight management issues.
Children can become irritable and restless, and some behavioural problems can be aggravated. Even breastfed babies can have intolerances due to natural chemicals in the mother’s diet. Babies tend to be more vulnerable to chemicals in food because their metabolism and gastrointestinal system are immature.
What Does Inflammation Do To Me?
Like an unattended fire, chronic inflammation can slowly spread and lead to serious internal breakdown, with vast implications for your long-term health. You may have heard that disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and eczema stem from inflammation. However, chronic inflammation has now been connected to a host of modern diseases, from obesity, diabetes, atherosclerosis, and high blood pressure, to Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s, cancer, and even depression. The medical world is beginning to view all chronic and degenerative illnesses — and even biological aging — as rooted in chronic inflammation.
Why Are Our Guts So Important To Our Immune Systems?
In the many people we treat for immune problems such as allergies, recurrent infections and skin conditions including eczema, the gut is one of the main places we start assessing and this is why:
Did you know: Over 70% of our immune system lives in and around the digestive tract? One of the reasons why your gut has so much influence on your health has to do with the 100 trillion bacteria–about three pounds worth–that line your intestinal tract. This is an extremely complex living system that aggressively protects your body from outside offenders. Good gut bacteria can even influence the growth and formation of organs crucial to proper immune function.
In other words, the health of your body is largely tied into the health of your gut, and it’s hard to have one be healthy if the other is not. If the gut is compromised in any way, for example via inflammation from the foods we are eating, we are setting ourselves up for a weak immune system, and an array of chronic inflammation disorders.
What To Do?
The sooner you discover what foods you react to, the better you can reduce any internal inflammation from occurring.
How Do I Know If I’m Intolerant? Food intolerance can be hard to diagnose because many of the symptoms can be due to other causes. However, at Paddington Clinic we use Food Detective, an advanced diagnostic test which analysis your blood and highlights your individual reactivity to over 55 food types. Once your food intolerances are determined, an elimination diet is required and re-testing then allows us to review your progress.
For more information on this test, the difference between food allergies and food intolerances, and the elimination diet required, click here.