Food Sensitivities are not only in your belly
It is likely that at some point in your life you have eaten something that didn't "agree with you", meaning, not that you didn't agree on your favorite color, but that the food made your stomach feel yucky. This may be the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the term "food sensitivity". But sensitivity to food is much more than just an upset stomach.
Remember the lesson about your Microbiome? The amazing and amazingly numerous population of bacteria in your digestive system? Hopefully that lesson started to shed some light on the very complicated processes that we call digestion.
Enzymes, the clippers of the digestive system
Enzymes are substances that do something or initiate a process or allow something to happen. Without enzymes, many chemical processes can't be done. They are the kick-off-ers, the ones who get the party started. They are like the gatekeepers of chemical processes: if they are not there, nothing happens. Well, their process will not happen.
Think of food particles as chains of different sizes and lengths made of different materials, and the enzymes as the clippers that can cut those chains into their individual links. Each type of food is the same type of chain as its type, but a different type of chain than other types of food. There are thousands of different chain types/"types of food"/nutrients - different kinds of protein, fiber, simple carbohydrates, complex carbohydrates, different kinds of fat, many different micro-nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, and lots of different kinds of food additives like food coloring, artificial sweetener and flavor, preservatives, and all those weird ingredients that are in foods that you can't pronounce the names of - all of these are different chain types, and each chain type needs a particular clipper to cut it up. (Some clippers cut several different chain types.)
That ends up being a LOT of different types of clippers to cut up all these different chain types.
These clippers are important because the chains are too big to be absorbed by the body, so the clippers cut them into small enough pieces that they can be absorbed.
"Absorbed", in this context, is not quite like water being absorbed by a sponge. Think of this process as more of a filtering process. There are lots of little "doors" in the digestive tract, and when a food molecule is broken down to the right size, it is allowed through a door and into the blood stream. The clippers need to cut the chains into individual links for them to be the right size to fit through a digestive system door. By the way, the digestive system doors are not too picky - they'll let most chain pieces through.
But the digestive system is not the only place where there are doors. Every cell in your body has a bunch of different special doors. These doors are very picky and finicky. As a chain link (individual nutrient molecule) goes along through the blood stream, it can stop at a cell that needs it and go through the cell's door that is made for that kind of chain link. Can you begin to see how important it is that the clippers do a good job?
Every body is actually different. My body does not work exactly the same as anyone else's body, and neither does yours, and probably no-one’s body works 100% perfectly.
What happens if your body doesn't make a clipper to cut up a certain chain type - either by design or by defect? Well, those chain types might still get cut up, or might not. If they do get cut up, they are not cut up into chain links that our bodies are familiar with, but they are cut up to be small enough to fit through the doors.
One clipper that some people don't make is the clipper that cuts up lactose, which is a sugar found in dairy products. They can't make the enzyme for lactose, and they are referred to as lactose intolerant.
Many people lack the clippers that cut up gluten, which is a protein found in wheat and a few other grains. Some people can make some of these clippers, but not enough, or their clippers don't do a good job of cutting up the gluten chain. These people are called gluten sensitive - their enzymes don't do a good job. There are also people who are actually allergic to gluten, and these people have Celiac Disease.
Microbiome, the contract workers of the digestive system
Then there are some clippers that all humans just don't make - they aren't included in our design. We can't digest the chains that need those clippers, so we could miss out on those nutrients.
Luckily, we have a crew of contract-worker clippers in our digestive system - the microbiome!
Amazingly, some of the members of our microbiome are able to digest things that our bodies are not able to digest - they are the clippers that we don't have. They can cut up chain types that we otherwise could not! These bacteria are happy because we're "feeding" them the types of food that they like, and we're happy because they are breaking down those foods for us: symbiotic relationship. Yay! I love my microbiome!
What happens to the chains that don't get cut up correctly, or the ones that are cut up into chains that our bodies don't recognize?
Even between our clippers and the microbiome clippers, there aren't clippers for every chain that enters our body, especially foods that the human race has not developed clippers for. For example, part of the reason that gluten is poorly digested is because it was not introduced to the human race until several thousand years ago - not all of us have evolved/developed the clipper yet for this protein.
Several thousand years and our bodies still haven't perfected the gluten clippers. Just think of nasty stuff that wasn't introduced into our diet until 50 years ago, like artificial sweeteners! There is no way our bodies have special clippers for artificial food additives.
What's the big deal if we don't get all of the chains cut up right?
Some chains that have not been cut up will pass right through and come out at the other end without incident. Insoluble fiber passes through without being absorbed. Many vitamin supplements pass through because they aren't made from the right kind of chain link to pass through the special doors in the cells. Sometimes spicy pieces of chain pass through (ouch!).
Some chains that have not been cut up will pass through, but not without incident. Lactose, for example, ends up in the colon where it ferments, which creates gas … A similar thing can happen with beans (beans, beans the musical food …).
As unpleasant as that can be, it's even worse when the chains are cut up into chain pieces that our bodies aren't familiar with and pass through the digestive system doors, because those chain pieces are in our bloodstream, going and doing who-knows-what.
The reason I want you to know this is because I want you to realize that the majority of what goes into our mouths will end up in our bloodstream, going around to our cells knocking on their doors. (There are a couple filtering steps that occur in the liver and kidneys, but we'll skip those details for now.)
Good Chain Links
The individual chain links that are actually nutrients, such as amino acids that came from a protein chain, go around through the blood stream, find a cell that needs them, the chain link passes through its special door into the cell, and all is good.
Bad Chain Links
The chains that did not have a specialized clipper to cut them up are not good. Think of them as crooked, jagged chain links. Just like the other individual chain links, they're in the bloodstream, going around to the cells. At this point a number of bad things can happen. For example:
- They can end up somewhere that they are not supposed to be. Our immune system is alerted that there is a strange chain link, and they come to deal with the chain link. This causes inflammation. If that crooked chain link is in your elbow, you might feel pain in your elbow. But it could be anywhere.
- The crooked chain links can fool the cells into letting them in. The crooked chain link might look close enough to a regular chain link that they can pass through a special door into a cell. This causes the cell to not function properly. This is bad for the cell.
- The crooked chain link might be close enough to a regular chain link that it tries to fit through a special door, but then gets stuck in the door. This is what hydrogenated fat does. The special fat doors are then clogged up with the crooked hydrogenated oil chain links, and the good oil chain links can't get into the cell, and the cell doesn't get the oil that it needs. This is also bad for the cell.
- The crooked chain links are wreaking havoc where ever they go. They don't belong in our bodies.
Note: remember that our cells are us. When the crooked chain links are keeping our cells from functioning correctly, they are keeping some part of us from functioning correctly
Both real food and artificial foods can be cut up into crooked chain links. For real food, if you don't have the right clippers for the real food, or if the real food has been so highly processed that it doesn't fit the criteria of the specialized clippers, it will be cut up into crooked links.
Note: In some cases, real foods come with the right enzymes needed for digestion, but processing gets rid of that enzyme. This is the case for cane sugar. If you eat some sugar cane (the actual cane), it is not at all the same as ingesting cane sugar, the white stuff, which is highly processed. In it's natural state, sugar cane contains nutrients and enzymes that help your body make use of the sugar.
Artificial food just doesn't belong in your body. It is all crooked and you could even call it toxic, since it provides no nutrition and does damage to your cells. This is "foods" like artificial sweetener, food coloring, artificial flavor, etc. (We'll discuss why this toxic stuff is legal in a later lesson.)
If you have pain in your elbow, or a headache, or you feel tired, it is not immediately obvious that this symptom could have been caused by what you are eating. But it certainly could be because those crooked chain links go anywhere and everywhere in your body. This situation is called "Food Sensitivity". You eat something that gets cut up into crooked chain links and they make some part of your body not function properly.
This is why this program focuses on whole real food – because it is the best stuff for your body. Don't worry, though, if you eat some not-real foods – our bodies are very resilient and can deal pretty well with a small amount of insult. And every day we can work on making our intake a little bit better!