In my recent blog and newspaper article, Tomatoes are Healthy – Usually, Amelia just had one problem. On the other hand, Martha and Margaret in I am So Sick of Being Sick and There is No Way That Food Could be Causing This had many problems. Interestingly, in the end the root cause of all their problems came from the same place.
They all started in the digestive system, the gut. No matter what medication you take, you can’t reverse an illness if you don’t find and fix the root cause. So let’s take a look at digestion.
Your digestive system extends from your mouth down into and through your intestines. The stuff you put in your mouth is broken completely down into nutrients and delivered to your blood stream. The blood stream then delivers the nutrients to the locations in your body that need them. The waste is passed on out the other end. Sounds pretty simple in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t it? Maybe not.
Consider this like the plumbing in your house.
Under ideal conditions, water is distributed through various connections to the hot water heater, the kitchen sink, the shower, the toilet, etc. If something blocks the delivery/distribution of the water or drainage, the system fails to do its job. Pipes corrode, clog, and leak. Appliances get bound up in minerals. Sewage back up.
Your body is much the same way. If the digestive system isn’t doing its job, there will be symptoms and all the rest of the body (including the brain) will pay the price.
The digestive system is a “closed” system, protecting the rest of your body. Nothing put in your mouth is supposed to get into your blood stream until it is completely digested. About 70% of your immune system resides in the lining of your intestines, on the alert for indigestible stuff or toxins that might arrive, preventing them from reaching the blood stream, and shipping them out of your body.
And this may blow your mind! Within your intestines there are trillions of bacteria which, in balance, are required to maintain the health of the intestinal lining and facilitate the movement of “waste” including those nasty toxins out of the system.
This system breaks down in stages, just as your plumbing does. Here is how.
Digestive system breakdown
Some foods are just fine for some people but not digestible in your particular system. Indigestible elements trigger the immune system causing inflammation and nasty symptoms.
So then we take medications to sooth the symptoms, medications that are all toxic, damage the intestinal walls, and kill the good bacteria – doing damage on their own. Take a look at my website blog describing what happens with the use of NSADs. The link is http://allaboutthefood.org/2017/05/what-to-do-about-pain/
What you get from that damage is a leaky gut; the structure that is supposed to keep bad stuff out of your blood can start to “leak.” Undigested food escapes through the leaks into the blood stream. The rest of the body’s immune system knows that stuff doesn’t belong in the blood and responds creating more inflammation and illness.
All this accompanied by a nutrient absorption problem. That means that the nutrition in food, stuff like vitamins and minerals, doesn’t make it into your blood stream, further impacting all organs in your body including your brain.
If this happens persistently the immune system can get confused and think that some part of our normal body looks a lot like the offender mentioned above. So it attacks your own body part. This is known as an autoimmune condition. One autoimmune condition frequently multiplies into several.
The medical community has names for these conditions depending on what is being attacked. For example, if joints are being attacked, they might call it some kind of arthritis. If the skin is being attacked, it might be called psoriasis. Lots of possibilities, some common and some more rare.
Autoimmune conditions are treated with medications to suppress the immune system and reduce inflammation. Repeat: all medications have toxic effect. In the meantime your suppressed immune system is unavailable to respond to other illnesses like viruses or bacterial infections.
People who have organ transplants have a body part that their immune systems see as a threat. These folks spend the rest of their life suppressing their immune system with medications that ultimately keep them constantly susceptible to illness and do damage to other organs.
When you are sick, you can be referred to a variety of doctors, depending on the symptoms. But the body part being attacked could almost be irrelevant. Any group of people might be reacting to the very same food with different body parts under attack.
How to fix a broken digestive system
In a perfect world, a patient with lots of symptoms and illnesses might go to a functional medicine specialist whose job it is to ferret out the root causes. Medication either stops you from dying immediately or creates interim comfort. Medicine is good at both but neither keeps the problem from cropping back up.
In today’s world, functional medicine treatment is usually “out of pocket” because most insurance companies including Medicare manage the cost of sick care by making coverage rules, including what testing is allowed and how much time a doctor can charge for. Root cause analysis takes more testing and more time. Some can’t afford that.
Regardless of how far your health has moved down the chain described above, you can intervene and sometimes stop the stages of development before they even start. That is what a functional medicine specialist would help you do.
But if you can’t afford that specialist, you may have to be your own doctor like Amelia, Martha, and Margaret. So, as your own doctor, your first question is this: what am I eating that might be bothering me? Your instincts may be better than you think.
But the specialists in autoimmune disease and food reactions say the same thing. Start with removing all grain and dairy from your diet for a couple of months. This requires the effective elimination of all processed food because grain and dairy hang out in most if not all of them.
You may need help being your own doctor.
I can suggest consideration of several experts whose material I have studied. But there are certainly others. Before you leap off and buy their books, you might take a look at their websites. For example, look at Dr. Amy Myers, Dr. Tom O’Bryan, Dr. William Davis, and for particularly complex issues, Elaine Gottschall.
If you enter autoimmune on the search line at the top of the page you will find other posts on autoimmune, including the posts linked in the first paragraph of this post.
Step one in health is a diet that your body accepts. Other stuff like toxins in your environment, stress, lack of sleep and exercise, will matter. The experts say that. But FIRST is diet.
Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All about the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Pat is a resident of Montgomery County, AR, president of Ouachita Village, Inc. board of directors (Montgomery County Food Pantry); chairman of the Tasty Acre project; and member of the Mount Ida Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors. Her website is http://allaboutthefood.org/