Over a year ago I began my fat loss journey and as part of it I had to take photos and send them into my online trainer (pretty awkward). Looking back I am very glad we did this as taking the photo on day one was eye opening. It was then that the penny dropped what it was I had become. The big white Michelin man!
The most interesting part looking back was comparing the first photo with the second photo, two weeks later. As you can see, my gut looks incredibly swollen, not just fat, but then this drastically reduces by about half in only two weeks! What was the secret? Am I a super skilled fat loss king or was there something else going on? My trainer mentioned the word inflammation, something I hadn’t heard at the time. As part of my protocol I had to cut out dairy, gluten and grains as these are typical food sensitivities. Was it coincidence that as soon as I cut these out my gut size dropped and I lost about 6KGs in two weeks?
Today I am going to explain how inflammation can be caused by food sensitivities and how you can find out more about them.
Before I villainize inflammation, I should point out it does have its benefits to the body. Inflammation is essentially an immune response to anything it perceives as a threat such as a cut, or when you receive an injury. The body responds by sending along some antibodies to the localised spot, fends off any pathogens and promotes healing. So you can see how in acute situations it is vital for us to survive.
The problem arises when we begin to face a chronic stressor that creates a permanent state of inflammation in the body. There are various sources such as poor quality sleep, mental stress and stress brought about by eating the wrong foods. I am going to specifically look at how eating the wrong foods for you (this is important as it varies for each and every person) can cause chronic inflammation across the entire body.
Inflammation caused by diet is usually a result of the gut lining in the small intestine being compromised, often by gluten. Over time, the gut lining can slowly have tiny little holes appear in its walls. Then as the food you ingest comes to pass through the system, tiny particles can slip through these holes in the gut lining, allowing them to enter the bloodstream. This is what they are referring to when they say ‘leaky gut’ as essentially your intestines can no longer contain the food you eat 100%.
Once these food particles enter the bloodstream, your body detects that there is something ‘alien’ in the blood stream and sends out an immune response, just like it would when you get an infection. If the culprit was say, nuts, then every time you eat nuts this same involuntary immune response (autoimmune) occurs.
Things start to get really nasty in the body when it can no longer distinguish between the foreign food particles and your own body! Eventually, your body begins sending antibodies to your own tissues such as cartilage or organs. I experienced this first hand as I was facing a lot of joint pain, which I thought was down to years of playing rugby. One holiday in Hawaii I had to sit out of walking to a beautiful waterfall as I was in such pain…. at age 25! Old man Jamie.
To the Doctor’s office
During my weight loss journey, even though I had eliminated a lot of the main culprits something still wasn’t right. I was still getting symptoms every now and then of bloating/indigestion/brain fog. I had some suspicions it was my beloved oats and possibly cashews. I headed to the Doctor’s office and asked about food intolerances. The first question he asked was ‘are you a hypochondriac?’ and said that food intolerances are largely a myth and they can only test for celiac disease (a genetic condition that means you are extremely allergic to gluten), which is actually quite rare in the population. I told him that I don’t even eat gluten so he replied ‘it must all be in your head’. Anyway, he still tested me and unsurprisingly it came back negative.
What next? Cyrex Labs
I was really frustrated the doctor had just dismissed me like that and was so narrow minded, not acknowledging that my diet could be the cause of my issues. I started carrying out my own research and discovered that oats causes a lot of people autoimmune issues. Gluten itself is a protein molecule and oats contain similar protein molecules to gluten, although they are slightly different. A lot of people fall into the trap that when they give up gluten they replace it with oats, which can cause equally as bad, or worse, symptoms than gluten.
After spending a long time researching myself and hearing what experts such as Charles Poliquin, Christopher Kelly and Chris Kresser had to say, I decided to order array 4 (gluten associated cross reactive foods and foods sensitivity) and 10 (multiple food immune reactivity screen) from Cyrex Labs. Cyrex labs tests immunoglobulin A & G (IgA & IgG), which the body makes to combat different antigens.
People have reported that Cyrex is the only lab that is consistent with its results. Charles Poliquin told me at a seminar that he sent the same sample with two different names on for the Mediator Release Test (MRT) and they came back with two wildly different results! Cyrex are renowned for their consistency, but the other reason I like Cyrex’s array 10 was that they test food in the form it will actually be ingested. For example, meats are all cooked rather than on every other test they are raw. It almost seems pointless to test an intolerance in a different form to how you consume it!
The huge downside to Cyrex, as always, is the price. £225 for array 4 and £465 for array 10, makes it the most expensive on the market. However, you really do get what you pay for. If you are interested, I ordered mine from Pure Health Shop in the UK. Fortunately, there is a very very low cost alternative to these blood tests, which I share with you at the end.
Rye, Barley, Spelt, Polish Wheat
Soft & hard cheese
Rice, white + brown cooked
Brazil nut, raw + roasted
As you can see, the culprits I suspected, oats and cashew, were on there and then some! The most interesting thing I discovered was the quite evident intolerance to dairy. What’s confusing, is I am lactose tolerant, which means I produce enzymes that can break lactose down. This means it is not the lactose, but rather the dairy proteins itself I cannot tolerate, which means giving up dairy. This even includes ghee as it still contains milk proteins. So, a word of warning… if one test says you are lactose tolerant you may still be giving up dairy!
I mentioned about the high price of the tests and I fully appreciate this a barrier for most, so I want to take a look at an elimination diet.
Recently, I have been consulting with Christopher Kelly from Nourish Balance Thrive who has been helping me with my blood work. I will go through all that in a later post, but one thing that has stood out and has left us scratching our heads are my extremely elevated liver enzymes. One possible cause could be an autoimmune disease of the liver, so we have decided to try a paleo autoimmune protocol, which Christopher recommends ‘The paleo approach: reverse autoimmune disease and heal the body’ by Dr. Sarah Ballantyne. I should point out a lot of other things have already been ruled out as I have had a liver scan, so it is not just a random stab in the dark!
I have agreed to give the diet a go. I already eat a very ‘clean’ diet that doesn’t include dairy or processed foods. I’ll have to cut out nuts, nightshades (potatoes, not sweet potato, tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant/aubergine etc.) and a few other small ticket items. I will then retest my liver enzymes and see if these have dropped. For a list of typical problem foods look into FODMAPs.
The elimination diet is a great way of finding out what works for your body and what doesn’t. The principle is that you eliminate all likely causes for a few weeks and then slowly reintroduce one item at a time and monitor your body’s reaction that day and for three days afterwards to see if any symptoms surface.
I’ll keep you posted if I find this helps with my elevated liver enzymes in a follow up post.
As you can see clearly in the pictures I was inflamed, not just overweight! Even my face looked swollen looking back. If you get headaches, joint pain, stiffness, brain fog and gastrointestinal issues then I encourage you to do some digging. In my opinion, there is no point trying to lose weight before tackling this issue as it will hold you back in your progress, which can cause a loss in motivation. If you can afford the tests then great, if not then try the easily accessible elimination diet.
Please let me know how you get on!