INFLAMMATION: The Root Cause of Chronic Illness
Inflammation is the common denominator when it comes to chronic conditions, such as diabetes, obesity, arthritis, heart disease, hypertension, autoimmune disease, fibromyalgia, cancer, etc. Inflammation is initiated by our immune system in the form of cytokines, interleukins, and other immune modulators to help us heal from acute conditions such as a sprained ankle or common cold. Inflammation becomes a problem when this acute response persists and becomes chronic.
For example, inflammatory cytokines can induce an autoimmune attack against myelin which can cause multiple sclerosis. This not only strains and drains our immune system but causes cellular stress, oxidative damage and hormonal imbalance. This chronic immune system response creates chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation destroys brain cells, contributes to coronary atherosclerosis, and promotes thromboembolic events.
Since 70% of our immune system is in our gut, the majority of inflammation originates in the gut. This gut inflammation can be asymptomatic, or can be associated with localized GI symptoms or generalized systemic symptoms. In all, chronic illness starts in the gut.
As a result, treating the gut is key to support our immune system and to ultimately break up inflammation. Since carbohydrates, from grains to sugar, are so inflammatory and immune system provoking, decreasing carb intake is crucial. I advise patients to limit carbohydrate intake to 100gm per day or less. In some cases less than 50gm is advised. To put this in perspective the Standard American Diet (SAD) averages about 300gm of carbs per day.
Equally important is avoiding Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Such genetically modified foods are recognized by our immune system through our gut as being foreign, they provoke an immune system response further straining and draining our immune system. In addition, GMOs are engineered to withstand a lot of pesticides, resulting in a higher pesticide burden when consumed. This burdens our system’s detox pathways and contributes to damaging our gut microbiome, which compromises our immune system to function. As a result, supporting our gut microbiome and immune system with nutrients such as high dose multi-strained probiotics, digestive enzymes, and GI support products that have the amino acid glutamine is helpful.
Above all, as it pertains to supporting gut and immune health, diet is key. Applying a simple (not too many ingredients), rotating, one menu day can be the single most important lifestyle change to help support our immune system and decrease inflammation. This menu is low in carbs, moderate in proteins, and high in good fats and veggies. Example of good fats includes olives (and olive oil), organic-pasture raised egg yolks, grass fed beef and butter, fatty wild caught fish (such as sardines and salmon), lard tallow, ghee, avocadoes, coconuts (and coconut oil), raw nuts, especially macadamia and cashews.
This type of menu not only decreases inflammation, it also preserves our immune system because one of its functions in the gut is to identify every different type of food and spice we consume. So if we consume a wide variety of foods and spices in a day (example, American breakfast, Italian lunch, Chinese dinner) the more our immune system has to work to identify all the varying foods and spices that enter the gut in that 24 hour period. This further strains and drains our immune system. On the other hand, limiting variety by consuming a minimally processed clean simple whole food menu throughout a 24 hour period (example the same menu for Dinner, Breakfast, Lunch) is immune system preserving.
So the key is to come up with at least 3-4 different simple menus that are low carb, moderate protein high in good fats and veggie that you consume for a one day period and then rotate amongst the different menus every 24 hours throughout the week. Rotating the menu after 24 hours is one way to help prevent food sensitivities. This is important because having multiple food sensitivities can further strain and drain our immune system.In conclusion, the root cause of chronic illness is chronic inflammation. The causes of chronic inflammation is multi-factorial but always initiated by our immune system primarily in the gut. Food choices and how we organize our menu directly affects the well-being of our gut and immune health. Food can be medicine or poison, and can ultimately help prevent or cause chronic illness.