I have some pretty good suspicions about what I should not eat. After 5 months of feeling less than vibrant, I have taken most of the usual suspects out of my diet: gluten, dairy, caffeine (sigh), chocolate (sigh), and refined sugars and carbohydrates. Okay, so far, so good, right?
Not exactly. I decided to have some allergy panels run (blood tests, which are more accurate than skin tests), including 96 common foods and an array of enviornmental or "inhalant" allergens. I will get my results next week, along with some tests on my hormone levels (the diagnosis of "adrenal burnout" is in play).
I've mostly enjoyed good health and a strong immune system, but a switch flipped this summer and I was suddenly allergic to weeds and who knows what in terms of foods. The whole topic of nutragenomics is all about the relationship between diet and genes, how the wrong diet can actually turn genes on and a reformed diet can turn errant genes off.
I was rolling the dice every time I had gluten products (bread, semolina pasta, pizza, etc., etc.). I knew it, as I sneezed every time I ate these things. Sure, I had the rice bread, rice pasta, and rice crust pizza in my house, but we, until recently, ate out a lot, and I resented being the lone spartan (ah, yes, I'll have three sides of vegetables) at a table of hedonists.
Not now. I always remember my friend, Dr. Hugo Rodier, saying that some patients simply weren't "suffering enough" to stick to his dietary recommendations. I guess I hit that point this summer. As strange symptoms started to crop up and the diagnostic path pointed to a leaky gut, resentment was replaced with re-committing myself to a gluten-free (and dairy and refined sugar and caffeine free) diet.
It was incredibly confronting. Me?! Leaky gut? My dry eyes (ocular rosacea, potentially Sjogren's) was related to a leaky gut? But, but, but....I couldn't believe as I wasn't eating junk food and I was supplementing with excellent nutrients. What was the deal?! In a word, stress and overwork had changed my body's chemistry (evil little chemicals come out during stress, especially bad when stress is prolonged). Sensitivity to gluten had flipped over to outright intolerance, creating cellular TOIL in my gut that no amount of supplementation could counteract alone.
When cells become toxic, oxidized, inflamed, or lacking in energy from nutrients, then the membrane of the intestines starts to leak as cells become more rigid and less able to connect with each other. The supplementary nutrition I took over the summer wasn't taking so well because stress had activated my fighting Irish blood genes that like to do unnecessary battle with gluten proteins.
With a leaky gut, my friendly bacteria had no place to colonize effectively, and calcium absorption was being minimized, affecting the healing of my fractured ankle. If the immune system is fighting undigested food molecules that leak from the gut into the blood stream, voila, there's a battle with the perceived antigens.
Drat. Human after all. Foiled by this thing called having a sensitive system and required to pay more attention--or else.
In retrospect, my family history is clearly rife with intestinal problems. At 18, I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, but it turned out to be nothing more than a long-ruptured appendix, or so we thought back then. At the time, I was getting into health, eliminating dairy and refined foods, focusing on more vegetables, etc. and so I probably averted an early onset of GI problems.
My older brother, Jim, loved his Winchell's donuts, Coke, and junk food of all kinds. Under stress, when he was in "nuke school" (he was training to be an electronic technician for nuclear submarines), my brother fell ill and was diagnosed with, you guessed it, Crohn's disease.
Sadly, Jim never reformed his diet and died from a bad blood transfusion during a bowel surgery. Recently, Jim's son, Brandon (a handsome lad and excellent salsa dancer, by the way), who went through officer training at the Naval Academy, was, coincidentally, diagnosed with Crohn's disease.
And, as many of you know, my father died of a leaky gut (the doctors wondered about Crohn's and celiac and all sorts of diagnoses, but they all had to do with a bad gut). My dad ignored his symptoms for years, recovering briefly under Dr. Rodier's care, but returning to a junk food diet and a stress-filled life and dying of wasting and malnutrition, as his body could not absorb nutrients properly.
I'm grateful for all the resources and knowledge I have. Otherwise, I might be pursuing pharmaceutical interventions for my dry eyes (permanent prescription of antibiotics which play dreadful havoc on digestion not to mention making your skin ultra sensitive and vulnerable even during short periods of sun exposure). Otherwise, I might be on a fast track to end up like my dad.