Decrease Inflammation by Eliminating Inflammatory Food
Purpose: Eliminating the consumption of inflammatory food and chemicals may reduce symptoms of autoimmune diseases, chronic diseases, and mood disorders that are caused by inflammation.
The human digestive system has several defense mechanisms that can prevent toxins from entering through the intestinal lining and into the bloodstream. These defense mechanisms include: a mucus lining that can trap and remove toxins, stomach acid that can dissolve toxins, digestive enzymes that can decompose food and toxins into small molecules, friendly bacteria that can transform toxins into harmless molecules, and immune cells that can capture and remove toxins.
Well-regarded functional medicine doctors: Steven Gundry, MD, Mark Hyman, MD, Terry Wahls, MD, and psychiatrist Daniel Amen, MD have each compiled thousands of case studies of their patients putting autoimmune diseases, chronic inflammatory diseases, and mood disorders into remission after healing the intestinal lining (see the Resources section below for their websites). The theory behind this, is that when part of the digestive system is compromised, toxins and improperly digested proteins can escape the digestive system's defense mechanisms and become absorbed through the intestinal lining and into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, these molecules can bind to cell receptors and disrupt normal cell signaling or cause an immune reaction whereby the immune system attacks both the foreign molecules and the nearly indistinguishable normal cells of the body.
The Functional-Medicine Matrix was designed by Mark Hyman, MD along with the Cleveland Clinic to investigate the root cause of diseases. The Matrix explores a series of biological systems, including the function of the digestive system. The mucus lining, stomach acid pH, digestive enzymes, bacteria composition (microbiome), immune cells, food sensitivities, levels of inflammation, and genetics are just some of the biological markers that can be measured to provide information about the functioning of the digestive system. Since every person has a unique biology, there is no true one-size-fits-all approach to repairing the digestive system. However, there are certain foods and chemicals that are likely to damage the digestive system of the average person. These disruptive chemicals include: antibiotics, pesticides, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), stomach acid blockers, Bisphenol A (BPA), and food that is high in lectins.
Lectins are a family of proteins that are found in most plants and serve as part of their defense mechanism against predators. Some plants contain a very small amount of lectins while other plants contain a very large amount. Lectins are poorly digested by the human digestive system and can damage the intestinal lining. Before industrialization, food that was high in lectins was often avoided or prepared in a way that removed the lectins. As a result, the human digestive system did not evolve to efficiently digest food that is high in lectins. Today, food that is high in lectins can be commonly found in grocery stores, and methods for preparing this food properly are not listed on the labels. The Practice section below contains a list of foods that are high in lectins and may be avoided as well as methods for analyzing food quality and correctly preparing foods that are high in lectins. Though there is no one-size-fits-all approach to repairing the digestive system, the functional medicine doctors listed above have prescribed a diet low in lectins to their patients, which has proven to be successful for putting autoimmune diseases, chronic inflammatory diseases, and mood disorders into remission.
Practice: This practice may help someone to eliminate inflammatory food.
According to functional medicine doctor Steven Gundry, MD, by practicing a lectin-elimination diet of organic, pasture-raised, and wild-caught food, his patients repair their intestinal lining and eliminate biological markers of inflammation within 3-12 months, on average. Once symptoms resolve, foods that are high in lectins can be added back in slowly. Below is a list of foods that are commonly found in grocery stores and have a high concentration of lectins (avoid) and a low concentration of lectins (consume). The list was adapted from Steven Gundry, MD.
In addition to choosing food that has a low concentration of lectins, the functional medicine doctors referred to in the Background section above also recommend the following:
Choose food that is grown organically because food that is not grown organically may contain Biocides. Biocides include herbicides, insecticides, and pesticides. Farmers use biocides to keep pests from eating the food. However, the chemicals within biocides can damage the digestive system and harm the friendly bacteria that live in the intestines.
Choose meat that is pasture-raised or wild-caught. Animals that are pasture-raised are free to roam around the farm and forage for food that they would normally eat in the wild. Animals that are wild-caught live naturally in the wild and have spent their lives eating their native diet. Animals that are farmed or cage-free are often fed diets consisting of foods that contain a high concentration of lectins and antibiotics. The lectins and antibiotics are then contained within the meat.
Avoid drinking milk and eating cheese that are produced by the most common type of cow in North America called the Holstein because its milk contains a genetic mutation (Casein A1) which is difficult for the average human to digest. Milk and cheese that are produced by other milk-producing animals such as goats, sheep, and buffalo do not contain the genetic mutation and can be digested normally. Milk and cheese that are produced by the most common type of cow in Switzerland, France, and Italy contain the normal Casein A2 protein and can be digested normally.
Avoid choosing food that is stored in a container made with Bisphenol A (BPA) because BPA can be absorbed into food and may disrupt normal cell signaling. BPA is banned in Europe.
Avoid using antibiotics unless absolutely necessary. Antibiotics destroy problematic bacteria as well as the beneficial bacteria that help to transform food into useful molecules. For example, fiber is difficult for the human digestive system to digest, but bacteria routinely transform it into useful molecules such as fatty acids. Please review the WavyFields topic “Improve Digestion by Creating a Thriving Microbiome” for more information about the microbiome.
Avoid using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) because they can damage the mucus lining of the digestive tract and interfere with the ability of the digestive system to trap and remove toxins.
Avoid using stomach acid blockers because they can reduce the amount of acid that is produced by the stomach and thereby interfere with the ability of the digestive system to dissolve toxins. Additionally, a decrease of stomach acid may lead to improper digestion of protein and consequently less amino acid absorption. Stomach acid blockers are often taken to reduce symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The functional medicine doctors referred to in the Background section above report that their patients resolve their symptoms of GERD by simply changing their diet.
The following list contains foods that are commonly found in grocery stores and contain a high concentration of lectins (avoid) and a low concentration of lectins (consume).
Please click here to view the food list.
Resources: Below are additional resources that may help someone to eliminate the consumption of inflammatory food and chemicals and reduce symptoms of autoimmune diseases, chronic diseases, and mood disorders that are caused by inflammation.
The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in "Healthy" Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain by Steven Gundry, MD
The Longevity Paradox: How to Die Young at a Ripe Old Age by Steven Gundry, MD
The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles by Terry Wahls, MD
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