When our gastrointestinal tract is dysregulated, it can have a profound impact on our health. It is a relatively sensitive organ and many of today’s common insults to it can cause dysregulation or imbalances, wreaking havoc on our health. Our gut has an incredibly complex relationship with so many other parts of our body, it produces large amounts of our neurotransmitters, which are responsible for communicating feelings in our body. It also produces a large amount of the tissue that makes up our immune system. It contains 10 times more cells than the rest of our body combined. The GI tract also incredibly high metabolic activity compared to other organs. With all of this in mind it’s easy to see how problems in the gut can influence so many other areas of our body. A large portion of Americans have digestive related symptoms and diseases.
You may have heard the term “intestinal permeability”. Our gut is made of cells that are held together by “junctions”. In a healthy gut, small molecule should be able to pass and be absorbed. However, larger membranes should not be able to get through. When junctions between the cell become damage, this allows larger molecule to pass. Damage to the cell junctions come from many different things; poor diet, food allergies and sensitivities, certain drugs including anti-inflammatory medications, toxins, improper nutrients, stress, infections, etc. When larger molecules cross the intestinal membrane, they initiate an immune response. This plays a role in initiating the inflammatory response.
Our gut is host to hundreds of different bacteria, called our microbiome. These bacteria in our microbiome help us digest our food, regulate our immune system, and protect against other disease-causing bacteria, and produce essential vitamins. What we eat influences the population and metabolic activity of our microbiome. The composition of our microbiome can shape a healthy immune response or cause us to be predisposed to disease.
Food reactions are often overlooked when considering health conditions. An allergy is classified by severe symptoms immediately after a trigger food is eaten. Allergies can be triggered by even tiny amounts of food exposure. Many foods can be associated with allergies some of the top ones include dairy, eggs, peanuts, wheat, soy, fish, shellfish, and tree nuts. Food sensitivities are characterized by a more delayed response occurring over hours or days. This usually causes in imbalance in the GI tract that affects the immune system. Due to the delayed response for onset of symptoms, it can be difficult to pinpoint which food is causing the reaction. The severity of the symptoms can also be dependent on the amount of the food eaten. Symptoms of sensitivities also are a wide array, they can include congestion, fatigue, sneezing, migraines, nausea, eye watering, itchy skin, and cramps just to name a few. Food intolerances are reactions to a specific for chemical such as lactose, histamine, MSG, for examples. This results when a person lacks the enzyme or nutrient responsible for metabolizing (or breaking down) that chemical. Determining what type of food reactions you may have plays a big role in balancing your GI tract and alleviating many uncomfortable symptoms.