In the western medical model there is a name for every disease and condition under the sun based upon a set of symptoms. In order to qualify for a particular diagnosis, you have to have enough of those symptoms that fit. However, the box that holds all those symptoms does not explain why they occur. Currently, there is a lot of research that suggests that chronic inflammation is at the bottom of a great many diseases that plague us today.
That begs the question, where does this inflammation come from? Generally, the answer to that is toxic environmental exposures such as in food, water, drugs, air, etc. Heredity can also predispose one towards inflammation.
But the real question is, what, in the body produces inflammation?
Most people do not realize that 80% of the immune system resides in the intestinal tract. That’s right. In the gut. That is why is it so important to have a healthy microbiome of gut bacteria (see more about gut bacteria here).
Integrative health practitioners and researchers are beginning to understand that most of the modern diseases of civilization have a common denominator: a disordered intestinal microbiome. For instance, according to Dr. Campbell McBride, (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) every single autoimmune disease can be traced to gut dysbiosis and/or leaky gut.
Conventional medicine is still not informed about the critical importance of good gut flora and a healthy mucosal lining. Even if they were, medical doctors are trained by the pharmaceutical companies and given perks for prescribing medications. Probiotic supplements are rarely recommended and special diets even less. (See information about the GAPS diet and how it is used to heal and seal the gut).
The immune system resides in the gut
There are two arms of the immune system called TH1 and TH2.
When the immune system becomes damaged, one of the two arms (TH1 and TH2) becomes dominant. This causes the development of chronic allergies, autoimmune diseases and recurrent infections. The more unbalanced the relationship between Th1 and Th2, the more damage to the healthy tissue occurs and the more advanced the disease may become.
Overactive TH2 (and suppressed TH1) is implicated in a wide variety of chronic illnesses and the majority of autoimmune diseases. Some examples are systemic autoimmune diseases such as Lupus, Sjögren’s syndrome, allergies, multiple chemical sensitivities, and asthma.
TH1 dominant immune responses manifest as organ specific autoimmune conditions such as multiple sclerosis, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel diseases, Hashimoto’s and Graves’ disease.
In healthy individuals, TH1 and TH2 responses are balanced and able to switch back and forth according to the body’s requirements. These responses will activate when appropriate to eradicate a threat and then it will calm down appropriately until the next time an invader appears.
The immune system creates inflammation
Every time an immune response is activated, chemicals called cytokines are released. These cytokines are purveyors of inflammation. Therefore, each time an immune response is initiated, inflammation occurs under the radar. If the person’s immune response is unbalanced in the two arms (Th1 and TH2) the response may be inappropriate and will create inflammation.
Inflammation is destructive and chronic inflammation is the basis of all kinds of degenerative diseases.
I have already talked about the inflammatory effects of gluten and grains on susceptible individuals. However, there are other triggers of inflammation that are associated with consumption of grains that involve the immune system.
Visceral fat is an endocrine organ that generates inflammation
Inflammation is not only created by the immune system, it may also be produced by visceral fat or fat around the middle of the body. There is an epidemic now of people developing visceral fat or wheat belly as outlined in the book Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis.
According to Dr. Davis,
Visceral fat not only produces abnormally high levels of inflammatory signals but is also itself inflamed, containing bountiful collections of inflammatory white blood cells (macrophages). The endocrine and inflammatory molecules produced by visceral fat empty … directly into the liver, which then responds by producing yet another sequence of inflammatory signals and abnormal proteins.” (P. 62 Wheat Belly)
Wheat belly fat is a special fat
This visceral fat does not just accumulate as a result of too many calories eaten. It is far more deadly. This visceral fat acts just like an endocrine gland, producing substances critical to bodily functions. However, it does not act in concert with other hormones, it acts on its own, working against good health.
Where does this visceral fat come from?
Eating those healthy whole grains that are recommended by the USDA and other government officials is the cause of this belly fat. Visceral fat refers to the fat that accumulates around internal organs such as the liver, kidneys, pancreas, intestines and heart.
The wheat belly that encircles the abdomen is simply the external manifestation of what is happening inside to the organs. The fatty internal organs are behind the protrusion of the belly. This is not good.
Insulin stores sugar as fat
Visceral fat accumulates as a result of years of spiking insulin levels in response to high blood sugar levels. This occurs on a daily basis to people who consume a lot of grains and carbohydrates.
Wheat is easily converted to sugar in the body. So much so — that the glycemic level of a piece of whole wheat bread (the measure of how quickly a food becomes sugar) is actually higher than that of a snickers bar.
A vicious cycle of high insulin and visceral fat deposition ensues
Insulin is released in order to bring the excess sugar out of the blood into the cells. This happens normally. When someone constantly eats carbohydrate foods, there will be spikes in the insulin levels in response to the sugars and then drops, as the sugar is removed to cells.
The person may experience low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) symptoms of fatigue, irresistible hunger, shakiness and irritability. Then another carbohydrate fix, usually in the form of a wheat based snack, and insulin levels spike again, the person feels better for a couple of hours and then the drop again — another snack and so on.
This is how insulin resistance develops. When visceral fat develops, as a result of constantly repeated high blood insulin levels, there is an accompanying rush of inflammatory signals which cause tissues (like muscle and liver) to respond less to insulin. In turn the pancreas has to output more insulin in order to get the same result (lower blood sugar). In turn, more visceral fat is deposited as a result of increased insulin levels.
This study published in the American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinolgy and Metabolism in 2012 found,
In conclusion, independently of total body fat mass, increased visceral fat accumulation and adipose tissue dysfunction are associated with IR (insulin resistant) obesity.
Visceral fat drives inflammation
This study published in the journal Current Hypertension Report in 2010, identified cardiometabolic syndrome with a cluster of risk factors that include abdominal obesity (wheat belly), dyslipidemia, hypertension, insulin resistance/glucose intolerance, and proteinuria. These researchers state,
This syndrome is due, in part, to the accumulation of visceral fat, which promotes synthesis of proinflammatory adipokines resulting in a visceral adipose tissue-specific increase in reactive oxygen species derived from NADPH oxidase. Adipose tissue oxidative stress results in the development of systemic oxidative stress and inflammation, which further lead to development of metabolic dyslipidemia, impaired glucose metabolism, renal disease, and hypertension. Importantly, visceral-not subcutaneous-fat is the significant source of the circulating adipokines that promote these systemic abnormalities. Chronic low-grade inflammation develops within adipose tissue because of the additional infiltration and accumulation of inflammatory macrophages. (My italics for emphasis)
Clearly, visceral fat (wheat belly fat) is driving chronic inflammation which in turn leads to not only the above listed diseases, but a slew of others as well.
The solution is to go grain-free
Isn’t it time you got off the roller coaster of insulin spiking and crashing, wheat addiction and the hormone disruption created by visceral fat?
Isn’t it time to try a grain-free lifestyle?
Get Started Today with my online self paced class that shares how to cook grain free meals, snacks and treats.
Email me at Jill at Realfoodforager.com for the current discount code.