In my last post, I discussed the neurotransmitters in your gut, making the connection between what you eat and your brain health. I addressed the gut's role in the immune system and allergic reactions in the brain. I shared that I've been on what I call a “reset diet.” I want to expand on all this, mostly from the perspective of the food we eat. I ended up with a post that was almost 2,300 words, so I moved the final part to a new post. Still, this is a long one because there are a lot of related concepts.
“Let food be thy medicine.”
Food can help us, or food can harm us. No two people are affected the same way. We have different food sensitivities and allergies. Some we're born with, some develop later in life.
What is an allergy?
Simply put, an allergy is a damaging immune response by the body to a substance.
According to The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, “An allergy is a chronic condition involving an abnormal reaction to an ordinarily harmless substance called an allergen.”
If you have an allergy, your immune system views the allergen as an invader, and a chain reaction initiates. White blood cells of the immune system produce IgE antibodies. These antibodies attach themselves to a specific kind of cell, causing a release of potent chemicals such as histamine.
Although allergies can develop at any age, the risk of developing allergies is genetic.
Understanding the immune system
The immune system is a host defense system. It’s made up of a complex network of cells, tissues, organs, and the substances they make that helps the body fight infections and other diseases. The immune system includes white blood cells and organs and tissues of the lymph system, such as the thymus, spleen, tonsils, lymph nodes, lymph vessels, and bone marrow.
To function correctly, the immune system must detect a wide variety of microorganisms called pathogens that can cause disease and distinguish them from healthy tissue.
Immune system disorders can result in autoimmune diseases, inflammatory diseases, and cancer. Immunodeficiency occurs when the immune system is less active than normal, resulting in recurring and life-threatening infections.
As indicated above, the immune system is involved in allergy responses.
There are two system analogies that I tend to use:
- The immune system is like a computer firewall, keeping viruses out.
- The immune system can be seen as an army with a limited number of soldiers and ammunition.
I think that the immune system can only focus its energy on so many things at a time so if there’s a cold or flu going around and you're not taking care of your immune system, there’s a higher likelihood that it will slip in. Everyone has different conditions under which they tend to get sick. For some, it's stress. For others, childhood trauma could keep their immune system chronically weak. For me, sleep is critical. I know that if everyone around me is sick, I need to get enough sleep to keep my defenses up. Some people seem to get sick every time there's “something going around.”
It's not just about getting sick, or allergies. Every time we bang our knee or stub our toe, our immune system goes to work. We bruise, we swell. When we get food poisoning, we vomit and/or have diarrhea. Our body reacts to keep foreign invaders out.
Skin reactions such as cold sores, pustules, and acne are all immune related. Acne has many causes – most notably hormonal – but the immune system also plays a part.
Studies have found a correlation between the bacteria Propionibacterium, acne and the immune system. (Source: Gabby Bernstein's interview with dermatologist Bobby Buka, MD.) Propionibacterium lives in and around the sweat glands, sebaceous glands, and other areas of the skin. One study found that Propionibacterium was the most prevalent human skin-associated genus of microorganisms.
The immune system and what we eat
In addition to allergies, there are other reasons foods might not be suitable for us and yet tolerated by others. Sometimes foods will always harm us, sometimes it's only at certain times.
We all have different needs to thrive. Some people thrive eating high-fat diets (everyone needs fat, but some need more than others). Some do well on a high carb diet. Some stay healthy eating vegan, some can’t eat vegan at all. Some people can’t eat raw vegetables without digestive distress. Some people get kidney stones if they eat too many vegetables. The list of examples goes on.
The point: There is no one-size-fits-all eating lifestyle. However, there are foods that in general, we should all eat more of, and some we should eat less of.
The Candida Connection
You might have a yeast overgrowth and not know it because you don’t know the symptoms or what it looks like, or you hear “yeast infection,” and your only association is TV commercials for vaginal yeast infection treatments.
Candida Albicans is the most common type of yeast infection found in the mouth, intestinal tract and vagina, and it may affect the skin and other mucous membranes. If the immune system is functioning optimally (your soldiers are fully armed), this type of yeast infection is rarely serious. It's usually harmless. However, if the immune system is not functioning correctly, the candida infection can migrate to other areas of the body, including the blood and membranes around the heart or brain. (Source: WebMD)
Candida is a fungus. At proper levels in the body it helps with nutrient absorption and digestion. When there's too much of it, symptoms may appear. That’s when you get Candida Overgrowth Syndrome, a chronic condition that flares up in connection with food sensitivities and a disruption in the gut and skin microbiomes.
Candida can grow out of control when your body's natural pH balance is disturbed.
Symptoms of candida overgrowth
(Note: These symptoms can have a long list of causes, so consult your healthcare practitioner instead of Google.)
Oral thrush is a condition in which Candida albicans accumulates on the lining of your mouth. It causes white lesions on the tongue or inner cheeks. They might hurt, they might bleed. They may cause what The Mayo Clinic refers to as a “cottony feeling” in your mouth. The Mayo Clinic suggests weakened immunity as one of the causes. For prevention, it recommends good oral hygiene and liming sugar, among other things. The consequences of sugar consumption seem to be one thing that’s widely agreed on.
-Recurring Urinary Tract Infections and rectal itching
-Skin and nail fungus
Athlete’s Foot between the toes (painful, cracked skin) is one of the most common skin conditions caused by candida. Some people get infections in their nails.
I get infections on my skin, predominantly in three ways: 1) The skin on my thumb gets cracked and itchy and because I’m a picker, I pick at it, and it continues. 2) I also get an itchy, inflamed scalp and because I’m a picker, I scratch the itch and try to get the crusty bits out of my hair. If I ever shaved my head, I think it would be full of scars, acquired since childhood, from all the scabs. Excessive sweat also causes this because it’s a breeding ground. Bacteria and yeast love a hospitable, warm, moist environment. Think about bread rising. 3) This is the one symptom that makes me stop ignoring the signs: The scar tissue in one of my old ear piercings becomes inflamed. Sometimes it bleeds.
Each skin issue is less likely to flare up when my immune system is strong or if I’m only consuming one allergen at a time.
(BONUS: Sign up for my mailing list, below, and I’ll send readers of this post the Superfoods e-book that I wrote in 2016, and that includes a recipe for a Honey Scape treatment.)
Mood disorders such as mood swings, anxiety, irritability, depression or anxiety attacks. If you experience any of these or have in the past, consider that harmful bacteria could be an issue. As I pointed out in my previous post, taking antibiotics to kill harmful microorganisms has been shown to
If you’re getting enough sleep but are still exhausted, the issue might stem from many things, including candida
Candida overgrowth can cause a lack of focus, poor physical coordination, difficulty in concentrating on tasks and poor memory. If you already have Attention Deficit Disorder in any of its forms, candida can exacerbate it. Clearing candida might clear your ADD symptoms completely. It might not, but taking steps to keep your insides clear of yeast overgrowth can help significantly.
Chronic sinus infections
A persistent cough or post-nasal drip might be related to candida. (It might also be connected to allergies such as hidden mold in your home.)
Flatulence, burping, bloating, constipation or diarrhea, and stomach cramps may be caused by a lack of healthy bacteria in your digestive tract. When yeast takes over, it crowds out the healthy bacteria that are necessary for proper body function.