How have you been feeling?
The most common answer is: tired, achy, bloated, fat, anxious and/or depressed.
That is unless you’ve already been avoiding your food allergens and supporting your adrenals!
I’m going to explain how feeling that way (tired, achy, bloated, fat, anxious and depressed) is a direct result of inflammation.
Cytokines are messengers for the immune system. They deliver messages throughout the body, including in the nervous system (brain), to increase inflammation.
In some ways cytokines are like email messages between cells, and the message is “create an inflammatory response – redness, swelling – there is something to fight off and repair here – hurry!”
The body responds to that request leading to rapidly increasing amounts of inflammation, which I refer to as an “inflammatory cloud.”
What got the cytokines going in the first place? Well…it could be a significant trauma or infection…such as a broken leg, Lyme-bearing tick-bite, or flu virus. It could also be a food that looks to your immune system as if it’s a foreign substance.
“Food, really? How could that be?” you might be thinking. Yep, when food is not well digested (from eating quickly, stress and/or antacids), and when the intestinal lining is not-so-healthy (which is the case for most of us as a result of antibiotics, gluten and other toxins), leaky gut can develop and then food can go where it’s not intended to be – below the intestinal lining where antibodies (IgE, IgG, IgA) and cytokines are on guard to protect us from foreign stuff (viruses and bacteria).
What are the antibodies and cytokines to do when they come into contact with bread, cookies, milk, cheese and eggs over and over each day?
They do their job. The antibodies attack the food, and then signal the cytokines to alert the system (your body) to attack!
For some people the result is diarrhea, bloating, gas and/or reflux – focused in the belly.
For others, depending on your genetic tendencies, the outcome of cytokines can be anything from feeling like you have the flu (achy, fatigue, headache, blah) to irritability (cytokines in the nervous system), sinusitis, menstrual cramps, frequent urination, high blood pressure or heart disease, low thyroid function, eczema or psoriasis, and even an overall condition such as autoimmunity (confused immune system impacting areas of the body), fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue.
This is how Nitika Chopra, founder of YourBellaLife.com and my patient, describes how the “inflammatory cloud” feels to her: “I feel faint afterwards, totally cloudy and weak/exhausted. I can’t stream words together. This is when I have honestly eaten something that doesn’t normally bother me, but I probably should avoid.”
To read more about how what is going on in your gut could be causing symptoms in your head, see this recent (Jan 17, 2012) article in The Wall Street Journal.
What’s more, these symptoms can go on for days, weeks or months, depending on whether the cytokines continue to be triggered by reactive foods.
Now that we know what cytokines are and how they affect us, see part 2 where I’ll share strategies for how we can turn them off.