Mike is a 40-something sales professional with a wife and three kids in a nice part of town. Mike comes to my office to get help with lower back pain, and we do a basic run through of his overall health. we discover some interesting things:
- He has had headaches for as long as he can remember, but lately, they have been more severe. He takes three to six ibuprofen a day. He is thinking about asking his medical doctor for something stronger.
- He doesn’t have the energy he used to have. He likes to play with his kids, but can’t play for long anymore.
- More often than not, he feels bloated and gassy after most meals. After a little digging, we discover that the only time he doesn’t remember feeling bloated is after meals where bread or pasta is not served.
- At times, he suddenly gets so tired that his eyes blur and he has to lay down. When he is at work, he props himself up with coffee and sweets. When he is at home, he naps – often for more than two hours at a time.
- He has some difficulty getting out of a chair if he has been sitting for more than a few minutes. His knees and ankles have been bothering him. His hands get stiff when he works on his computer.
- He has put on about twenty-five pounds since turning 40 last year, after maintaining a consistent body weight through his twenties and thirties.
- He had allergies when he was a boy, but they subsided in his teens years and didn’t bother him again until recently. He has had a runny nose for months.
- Mike’s work is stressful–and has been for years–but he insists that it pays well enough to justify the pressure. He enjoys an alcoholic drink (or two) after work to unwind before going home.
- Mike loves pizza. He eats pizza at least once a week (sometimes multiple times a week), and has done so since he moved out of his parents’ house.
- If he has one trip to the stool a day – some days he doesn’t – it is often painful.
My diagnosis: the pizza is killing him slowly.
By now, you’re probably wondering a few things:
- What does pizza have to do with any of these problems?
- Why am I asking about his boss?
- Why is a chiropractor doing a full dietary workup on a patient instead of adjusting his spine?
I’ll take the last question first.
First, as a holistic doctor, I don’t study any one part of the body in isolation from the rest. The spine and nervous system are parts of a complex, integrated system. The digestive system, nervous system, lymphatic system, endocrine system, circulatory system, immune system, and muscular systems are all braided together. To treat one part of the body without consideration for the related parts is like treating symptoms without looking for cause. I owe it to my patients to understand their complete health picture so I can accurately care for them.
Second, stress is not just an emotional response to circumstances. Your body responds to stress with a neurochemical flood that affects every organ on some level. Even your joints will store the residue of toxic stress over time.
Third, the pizza he enjoys so much is currently toxic to his body, and I’ll use the rest of this article to explain.
Food Sensitivities and Pain
For our purposes here, I won’t deal with negative health effects of tomato sauce, peppers, and other nightshades, although they play a significant role. You can read more about their effect on the body here.
Sensitivity to cheese is a problem for millions of people today, but in Mike’s case it’s a symptom of a larger problem, not the main cause.
That leaves the crust.
The crust is made of wheat flour. Unless he gets his pizza from an unusual source, the flour is almost certainly not made from sprouted or fermented grains, which most people can digest easily. More likely, the flour is made from genetically modified wheat (which is often cheaper), then processed, blanched, bleached, and whatever else they do to it. Wheat is high in the protein gluten and lectin. According to Dr. Josh Axe:
“Lectins are sugar-binding proteins that act as a natural defense system for plants an protect them from outside invaders like mold and parasites…Your digestive lining is covered with sugar-containing cells that help break down your food. Lectins gravitate toward this area and when they attach to your digestive lining, it damages your gut and causes inflammation.”
We’ve been dealing with inflammation for weeks here on the “Wellness Wednesday” blog. The same auto-immune system that responds to toxic invaders in your joints, causing arthritis, causes a breakdown in the intestinal wall, causing a cascading series of problems, often called “leaky gut syndrome.”
Your intestinal wall is designed like a tight sieve to let nutrients out into the blood stream, but keep in toxins, bacteria, and other waste. As your intestinal lining is inflamed, larger holes begin to open in the lining, allowing larger molecules to pass through into the blood stream. As those toxic elements escape, they deposit in other places around the body that aren’t designed to handle them.
How Mike’s Body Is Responding
In Mike’s case, his chronic stress has broken down and inflamed the lining of his digestive tract. Some doctors might call it an ulcer, although it is really dozens or hundreds of microscopic permeations. Food particles, antacids, ibuprofen, and waste have been seeping through the holes in the lining and moving through his blood stream to his other organs, including his sinuses, brain, thyroid, adrenal glands, and to his joints.
Everywhere they go, his immune system is responding with inflammation – pain, swelling, heat, and so on. It steals his energy, leaving him vacillating between anxiety and depression. His pancreas is over-producing insulin and storing it around his midsection and vital organs. His brain is swelling, causing the sudden sleepiness.
His body has developed a sensitivity to the crust of his pizza and his immune system is treating it as a toxic invader. Add to that a sensitivity to nightshades and dairy, and he is on the road to Type 1 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, depression, Irritable Bowel Disease, and a host of other issues. He could develop asthma and arthritis. His body is unable to digest Iron, Vitamin B12, which is an important source of energy for the whole body, and Magnesium, which is a critical nutrient that affects dozens of vital organ processes. The longer he does this, the greater his risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease.
Why Aren’t More People Aware?
Food sensitivity is a poorly-understood field of health science, partly because it is a relatively new phenomenon (most food sensitivities didn’t exist fifty years ago because our food supply was very different then) and partly because the multi-billion-dollar grocery and pharmaceutical industries would be sued out of existence if people really understood what their products are doing to humans. Most food sensitivities are not actually about the food itself, but about the pesticides, genetic modifications, and other treatments applied to the food.
My recommendation to Mike was to quit pizza cold-turkey. In fact, we took all the food out of his diet for 28 days and gave him a schedule of nutrient-rich shakes, to give his body a chance to heal. Over the next several weeks, we added certain safe foods back into his diet, one at a time. Pizza will probably never be back in his wheelhouse – not the way he likes it, anyway. It took a long time for him to get back to breads, pastas, and other grains. When they did come back, his body was much better-equipped to handle them in small amounts.
A leaky gut is a slow death. Once your gut lining is compromised, nutrient absorption is compromised, and your blood stream begins carrying garbage around to your organs. Your immune system takes up the fight, viewing your favorite foods as enemies. We’ve already seen what happens when your gut flora turns against you. Then the cycle begins again, with your badly-damaged gut. You become a walking war zone.
Like many of my patients, Mike is on the road to recovery, doing better at every visit.
What about you?
Did you recognize yourself in Mike’s story? If you live in the Naples area, I invite you to come by my office behind the YMCA on Pine Ridge Road for our upcoming “Fundamental Foods Dinner,” Thursday, February 2nd at 6:15 p.m. Space is very limited, and these dinners get more popular each time, so be sure to RSVP on our Facebook page right away. We look forward to seeing you there.
And if you recognized someone else in this article, take 4 seconds to share it on your socials. You never know who you might save.
“At the end of your feelings is NOTHING. At the end of your principles is a PROMISE.” — Eric Thomas