I always believed that good wholesome food affects health, well-being and overall mood. I cook that way and raise my kids that way. However, when the body’s digestive track is impaired, food cannot be broken down to an absorbable form which the body can use to maintain health.
The small intestine is like the second brain of the body – made up of small fingerlike projections (villis and micovillis) that complete the digestion route and absorb the soluble nutrients into the bloodstream to be processed by the body. Chronic stress, food sensitivities, and the like weaken those projections and compromise the function of the intestinal wall, allowing partially broken down molecules to pass through to the bloodstream, causing a constant immune response. The compromised health of the lining also creates a really bad environment in the small intestine leading to an imbalance in the flora and that in turn leads to more and more issues like migraines, joint pains, fatigue, irritability, digestive problems, poor focus and many other autoimmune complications.
I have included a list of some good articles at the bottom which go into more details and are very helpful. Here’s a quick summary of the most prominent toxins that have been found to be the most offensive. There are two main categories that are usually the cause of gut problems: Gluten and Lectin.
We’ve all read and heard a lot about gluten. A protein found in wheat, barley, kamut, spelt and rye which is hard to completely digest. It has the potential to damage the intestinal lining and/or pass through to the blood stream causing a cascade of health issues from arthritis to autoimmune diseases. Over the past five decades, wheat has been hybridized several times to create a super grain with a higher protein (gluten) content in order to achieve better yielding crops and improve pest/pesticide resistance. This increase in gluten coupled with the daily high consumption of wheat products has bombarded our bodies with more gluten than ever before. Gluten gives bread that wonderful fluffy texture and its elasticity. It is also added to many commercial products like dressings, sauces, vegan proteins. This leaves one heck of a digesting job for our body to undertake, leaving much of the gluten partially digested and able to cause major issues. Some researchers believe that gliadin (a lectin) in gluten is responsible for the offense.
As for lectins, there is a whole family of them. They range from those with high toxicity that can cause death like the lectin in castor bean to some that have proven antioxidant activities. Lectin is a sugar-binding protein, present in so many food and acts as the plant defense mechanism. Lectin is widespread in nature and our ancestors, depending on location, had limited exposure in their diet. Today, our food is global and we have access to everything under the sun, which increases our exposure to lectins dramatically. If not properly prepared, lectin-containing foods have the potential to cause chronic gut symptoms and inflammatory responses throughout.
The following groups are the most prominent lectin-containing foods and likely to be problematic for some people:
– Nightshade vegetables including tomatoes, tomatillos, potatoes, eggplants, bell
peppers, chili peppers, and spices like paprika, cayenne, chili powder.
– All Grains and especially wheat, barley, rye, corn, and oats.
– Legumes including all beans, soy and peanut.
– Dairy (all milk products, yogurts and kefir).
– Nuts and seeds