An allergy is a reaction of your immune system to a foreign invader, which can enter the body from inhalation, ingestion, contact or injection (such as a bee sting). Your body sees the foreign invader as something that shouldn’t be there, and tags it with a marker. The next time the invader contacts the body, it is immediately recognized. The body mounts a defense, which you feel as an allergic reaction with symptoms like sneezing, runny nose, itchiness, and inflammation.
Evidence suggests that digestive imbalances are a major cause of allergies. 70-80% of our immune system is located within our gut (our digestive system), as this is where the external environment meets the inside world. The most common way of introducing substances in the body is by breathing and eating, and both areas lead to the gut. The tissue of the intestinal walls is made to selectively filter what is allowed into our bodies, and this is where potentially harmful things are first identified by the body.
A key imbalance is called “leaky gut”, where the openings within the intestine walls are larger than they should be because of damage; this allows larger (than normal size) particles of food or inhaled items into the bloodstream. The immune system doesn’t recognize these larger molecules, so it identifies them as “foreign invaders”, and attacks them. Pollen, pet dander and dust qualify as large molecules, much like gluten. If they find themselves in the bloodstream, you have an allergic reaction.
Here are some problem areas of the gut.
- You may not be producing enough stomach acid.
The stomach makes acid to break down proteins, absorb minerals, and kill any bacteria and viruses that might have come in with the food (or what we inhaled). If you don’t produce enough acid, you set the stage for problems further down the gut.
- You may not have enough enzymes to break your food down.
Enzymes from the pancreas break the food down into smaller, more absorbable pieces. Failure to have enough enzymes leads to putrifaction- rotting of this undigested food within us, which makes toxins that damage the gut walls. Enzymes are activated by having enough stomach acid present.
- You are low in probiotics.
Beneficial bacteria live lower in the gut, and are necessary for complete digestion and production of vitamins. A common strain is acidophilus, found in many yogurts. The presence of these good bacteria is dependent on stomach acid.
- You don’t have enough of the right oils and fats in your diet, or too many of the wrong kinds.
Fish oils are very good at combatting inflammation within the gut. Conversely, many of us have an overabundance of vegetable oils in our diets which can cause some of that same irritation.
- You don’t have enough clean foods in your diet.
Eat “clean”- fresh, live, local and organic foods. Watch consumption of processed foods which can be toxic to the intestines.
- You may not be fully chewing your food.
Your food needs to be mechanically crushed to get the nutrients out. Take time to make a mush of your food before you swallow.
- You may not be taking the time you need to eat.
Our digestive processes start at the thought of the food. Taking time for each meal allows our body to shift into nourishing mode, allowing our digestive systems to work at their best.
Clean up your gut, and watch your allergies improve.