As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, food and I have a complicated relationship. For over three years I’ve been dealing with intestinal issues of one sort or another. I’ve read journal articles and blogs, cut various foods from my diet, and added an assortment of nutritional and herbal supplements.
It wasn’t until I added in the two herbal supplements I’ve been taking that I saw significant improvement. Being a scientist, I have a chronic case of “But, WHY?”
Why had my innards revolted in the first place? Why were other foods continuing to join the list? Why had my allergies gone berserk at about the same time my innards revolted?
As most scientific discoveries, I happened upon the answer quite by accident.
First, let me explain a bit about the difference between Celiacs and gluten intolerance/sensitivity. Both involve an inappropriate immune response from the body to a protein called gluten. Current studies confirm that Celiacs is autoimmune in pathology. This means that your body attacks itself. This is mediated via IgA (a type of antibody). I tested negative for IgA, which, while not conclusive, suggested that I did not have Celiacs, or at least not yet.
Gluten intolerance is a different creature altogether. It presents with much the same symptoms, but proceeds through all manner of immune responses. Often, though, it is through the innate immunity branch of your immune system.
Adaptive immunity is what handles things like bacteria and viruses. Innate immunity is the first line of defense. It also happens to be the part of our immune system that is supposed to handle parasites, but those suckers are tricky and can sneak past our defenses.
There are a number of proponents that suggest leaky gut syndrome leads gluten sensitivity and other food intolerances. I suspect that’s on the money, but what causes the gut to be permeable may differ from one individual to another. Antibiotics and other drugs which irritate the gut, poor diet, infections, and stress can all pile on top of each other. Maybe one day you pick up a stomach bug and that’s one too many things for your body to handle.
For me, the straw that broke the camel’s back was a nasty stomach flu virus which went around in Jan. 2010. Prior to that I had sporadic flare ups of intestinal upset, but after that my gut threw up its metaphorical hands and refused to function properly at all.
The key to healing any wound is to decrease inflammation, support the immune system, and ensure the body has the nutrients needed to facilitate healing. If infection is present, that should be treated.
Makes sense, right?
For the gut there are three major things to consider: bacteria, yeast and parasites.
I began taking probiotics several months back. The first three days were horrid. The package did not warn me about “die off”. When the bad bacteria die, they release endotoxins which send you running to the bathroom. I quit taking them and then after a week or so resumed at half the dose. I had no problems after that initial die off. Clearly, the bacterial population of my gut was skewed. I saw an improvement, but not anything to write home about. The probioitcs also aid in keeping yeast in check, so that’s kind of a two-in-one thing.
I added quercetin with bromelain and lastly, turmeric. All of these have either been shown or suspected to decrease inflammation and support immunity. What I did not realize is that the latter two also have mild antiparasitic properties.
Long story short, the unknown silent battle in my gut was caused by parasites. The typical western diet, high in carbs and processed foods, lacks the fresh herbs and vegetables known to eliminate or keep those suckers in check. The frequent headaches I’d been getting were due to toxin build-up as they died off. My tendency not to drink enough water didn’t help matters.
I purchased an herbal cleanse and my usually gurgly innards are much less gurlgy. I’ve gained a degree of regularity I haven’t seen since I was pregnant with Mr. Smarty-pants twelve years ago. I ate the quinoa/corn blend pasta without feeling queasy. Even better, I ate out at a sushi place we loved and had fried rice without feeling sick afterward!
These are tiny baby steps on the path to healing, but they are hopeful, positive signs that I’m not doomed to an ever decreasing diet. I won’t have to repress a surge of panic at the suggestion of eating out. One day, I might even eat cheese again.