So last week, I talked about how making some simple, yet "radical" changes made an almost immediate improvement in my health. This week Im getting into the detail of *why* this worked for me, Inflammation and Gluten. Disclaimer: this is an n=1 experiment, its just me in my experiments and findings. So what works for me, may not work for you or for someone else. However, what has worked for me, has certainly worked for a lot of others; I'm no where near the first one to try these changes and see immediate benefit in health. Just check out this amazing TEDx video of Dr. Terry Wahls and how food, real food, helped her make an unbelievable improvement in her MS symptoms.
Battling Inflammation - the fire fighter
Often times we are used to seeing inflammation as the redness or swelling associated with a cut, or injury. But also, our entire body can have internal inflammation amongst our internal organs and digestive system. Inflammation is the body's natural response to pathogens or other irritants. This is how we fight off disease. But if the body is constantly being exposed to irritating foods, then chronic inflammation can result. Specifically with food, this inflammation can cause gut issues - poor digestion, poor elimination, gas, bloating etc.
Some of the most common food irritants are also some of the most common foods in the western, standard american diet: grains, dairy, processed seed oils like canola oil, legumes. This list is starting to sound familiar, isn't it? It's the same list that my practitioner wanted me to cut out in the beginning of my treatment. The premiss is to give the body a break from being bombarded all the time with foods that are potentially irritating.
By focusing on reducing irritating foods, and increasing foods that calmed the body (fresh vegetables, grass fed meats containing lots of Omega-3, Omega-3 fish and some fruit) I was able to start healing from the inside out. As Dr. Wahls states, I was feeding my mitochondria.
Gluten - the identity thief
Gluten is the protein that is commonly found in wheat, barley and other grains. It's also the thing that gives wheat flour its sticky-ness when forming a dough and for a baker - its nearly magic! At first it seems harmless, but when you start digging in deeper you find that gluten is bad news when it comes to having a thyroid problem.
Many studies show a link between gluten intolerance and thyroid disease [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. So many in fact, that its recommended that all thyroid patients have gluten intolerance screening done. Further, when your body is chronically inflamed, the chances of having a leaky gut are pretty high.
A leaky what? Leaky gut, simply is your intestines having larger than normal "pores". Normally these junctions allow nutrients to pass through, but when the junctions are bigger than normal they also also allows larger food particles, toxins and proteins to get through - namely our buddy, gluten.
Here's the kicker. My body has a case of stolen identity. Chris Kresser states it well from his article when he mentions the following:
It’s a case of mistaken identity. The molecular structure of gliadin, the protein portion of gluten, closely resembles that of the thyroid gland. When gliadin breaches the protective barrier of the gut, and enters the bloodstream, the immune system tags it for destruction. These antibodies to gliadin also cause the body to attack thyroid tissue. This means if you have AITD and you eat foods containing gluten, your immune system will attack your thyroid.
So this whole time I was trying to eat better, increase my healthy whole grains, I was just adding fuel to the bonfire on my thyroid! Going gluten (and grain) free has measurably halved (and then some) my thyroid anti-bodies in lab tests. It allowed me to reduce the overall amount of thyroid medication I was on, and I could notice a difference with all the symptoms related to low thyroid hormone.
If you've gone Gluten-Free, leave a comment and let me know if you have noticed improved health from banning gluten!