Sunday, February 22, 2009

Food Allergies can be an Open Invitation to Disaster

Allergies, especially food allergies, can be an open invitation to a world of unwanted trouble. From the seemingly innocent yet extremely common skin rash or itching and swelling symptoms, to the more intense but often overlooked stomach cramping and intestinal issues; from the more frightening respiratory and heart conditions, to the most extreme and often fatal anaphylactic shock, your body is constantly sending out warning signs that all too often go overlooked, ignored, or simply looked over during diagnosis. More people are suffering from food allergies than are currently aware, and it has been documented that many of today’s health problems can be linked to these food intolerances.

It may seem like a stretch, linking food allergies to most health problems, but in reality this should not be a difficult connection to make. Allergic reactions to food starts with improper digestion, a process that begins in the “Cephalic phase” of digestion, which occurs long before the food ever reaches the stomach, triggered by nothing more than the sight and smell of food to the very first bit of saliva produced from that initial bite. This is a crucial part of digestion because the food must be properly broken down before it ever reaches the stomach or the gastric phase of digestion. The stomach is designed to continue the digestive process, not start it, and this is why the Cephalic phase of digestion is so important. Improperly chewed food not only deprives your body of the nutrients that would otherwise be obtained, but also greatly hinders the effectiveness of the next crucial phase of digestion.

During the “Gastric phase”, digestive enzymes living within the stomach do their part by breaking down proteins. Although this may be thought of as a harsh almost terrestrial environment within the body, it’s one that requires a precise pH in order to support these tiny yet necessary helpers (digestive enzymes). The importance of this phase cannot be overlooked since many food allergies are a direct result of the body’s inability to properly breakdown proteins within the food. It’s this unfortunate chain reaction of improper digestion that began in the mouth long before the stomach ever came into the picture, which undoubtedly sabotages the final, and possibly most important digestive phase.

In this third and final phase of digestion, the “Intestinal phase”, digestion continues. It’s here in the small intestine where a precise mixture of digestive enzymes and juices do the bulk of the digestion. During proper digestion nutrients are absorbed through the intestinal walls, carried through the blood stream, and delivered throughout the rest of the body. Unfortunately when poorly digested food enters the small intestines, these undigested food molecules are collected along the intestinal wall, some of which are absorbed into the blood stream where they are perceived by the body as foreign bodies (invading the body), while the rest continue to build up where the food begins to rot creating a perfect environment for unwanted parasites and bacteria.

All of this taxes the immune system, making us susceptible to other allergies, viruses, and diseases. I have experienced this first hand, living many years with an undiagnosed dairy allergy. As I unknowingly ignored my body’s initial cries for help, my immune system became weaker and weaker. Although I maintained what I thought was a healthy diet, I was slowly poisoning myself, causing damage that would later be diagnosed as the primary cause to other, more severe health problems. With my immune system operating in this compromised state my body became unable to properly digest other proteins specifically those from soy. For years I continued to live oblivious to both my dairy and soy allergies, only later to find out that this unintentional abuse on my body would be the cause of even more severe health problems all of which could have been prevented.

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