How to Raise Healthy Families: What Parents Must Know about Immune System Barriers

Raising a child is one of the most challenging and rewarding life experiences. However, as the technological age allows us access to boundless information, making healthful decisions for our families seems to become increasingly difficult. Particularly confusing and complex are decisions about diet and lifestyle. We understand more about the biochemical effects of food to a greater degree than ever before, yet Americans are increasingly challenged by preventable chronic disease. How can we help our children, and our selves, to navigate the competing arguments about what we should eat for dinner?
 
Since 1998, there has been a 265% increase in hospitalizations related to food allergies among children under 18, according to a 2008 CDC report. With an 18% increase in food allergies between 1997 and 2007, an unbelievable 3 million children now have food allergies. Food allergies, which complicate and often compromise the digestive process, are instrumental in poor nutrient absorption, leading to health problems throughout the body. More and more studies point to our digestive system and emotional distress in the development of skin and respiratory issues, not to mention autoimmune disorders. This month’s newsletter is about the gut-brain-skin-lung axis, and how understanding the relationship between these not-so-separate parts of our body contributes to our emotional and physical well-being.
 
History of Chronic Skin Conditions and Mental Health Disorders
The connection between chronic skin conditions and mental health disorders has long been recognized. The 70-year-old gut-brain-skin unifying theory was first discussed by western medical practitioners in 1930 by the dermatologists John H. Stokes and Donald M. Pillsbury, in The effect on the skin of emotional and nervous states: theoretical and practical consideration of a gastrointestinal mechanism. The authors recommended bacterial remedies such as Bacillus acidophilus and cod liver oil. These and other bacterial substances are now referred to as probiotics.
 
History of Chronic Respiratory Conditions and Mental Health Disorders
When we are stressed our breath becomes faster and shallower. Conversely, if we breathe rapidly our level of anxiety increases. The correlation between respiration and mood is apparent in our fight-or-flight response to a stressful event. However, scientists and medical practitioners increasingly point to stress as a major contributing factor to the onset of respiratory disease. Psychiatrists Holmes and Rahe examined the medical records of over 5,000 patients as a way to determine whether stress had influenced their illnesses. Their results were published as the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS), or the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, a scale that found a positive correlation between stressful life events and physiological ailments. More recent studies, such as those conducted by Isenberg et. al (2009) have correlated bronchial constriction and stress in cases of asthma.
 
(1) Skin-Gut, (2) Lung-Gut, (3) Brain-Gut Connection
 In 1967, psychiatrists Holmes and Rahe inspired health practitioners everywhere to consider stress as a major factor in the onset of any physiological disorder. As technology improved over the years a new generation of scientists has demonstrated the correlation between 1) skin and gastrointestinal distress and 2) the lungs, or respiratory system, and gastrointestinal distress, and 3) emotional and gastrointestinal distress. Since 70% of our immune system is located in our digestive tract, it is unsurprising that our bodies are affected by what we eat and absorb.
 
1) Skin and gastrointestinal distress: 
Acne. One study by Zhang et. al published in the Journal of Dermatology in 2008 involving over 13,000 adolescents showed that those with acne more often experienced gastrointestinal symptoms such as constipation, halitosis, and gastric reflux. In the same study, abdominal bloating was 37% more likely to be associated with acne, eczema and other skin diseases.
Psoriasis. John Pagano writes in Healing Psoriasis: The Natural Alternative (2008) that “psoriasis is the external manifestation of the body's attempt to “throw off” internal toxins. In other words...the skin is doing what the bowels and the kidneys should be doing.”
Eczema. Though there are a variety of causes, one of the main contributors to chronic eczema is an allergy to dairy. This is especially true in children.
 
2) Respiratory and gastrointestinal distress
It has been proven that food allergies cause such respiratory disorders as rhinorrhea and sneezing, nasal congestion, wheezing, coughing, stridor, dyspnea and asthma.
Asthma. Asthma is a chronic lung disease characterized by airway spasm and inflammation. It is often triggered by environmental factors, infections, food allergies, exercise, temperature changes and other potential irritants. Discovering and removing food allergens can ameliorate digestive issues contributing to mild to severe cases of asthma.
General congestion and symptoms of a cold. According to the University of Maryland, congestion is a result of inflammation in the sinus cavity which leads to irritated and swollen sinuses. Discovering and removing the offending food can clear up cold-like symptoms.
Dyspnea. Dyspnea, or shortness of breath, is often caused by an undiagnosed food allergy.
 
3) Emotional and gastrointestinal distress: 
Stress severely alters intestinal functionality.Studies, such as those by Wang et al in World Journal of Gastroenterology in 2005, have shown that psychological distress stalls normal intestinal transit time, spurs an overgrowth of unhealthful bacteria, and compromises the intestinal barrier.
Increased gut permeability found in those with depression.New findings by Maes, Kubera and Leunis in Neuro Endocrinology Letters (2008) correlate a leaky gut and intestinal distress with emotional disorders.
 
Why and Where Do These Gut-Brain-Skin-Lung Axis Breakdowns Occur?
We have evidence that supports the gut-brain-skin-lung axis, but why do these breakdowns in this normally healthy alliance occur? Investigations point to nutrition and lifestyle choices that are easily changed with proper analysis and diagnosis.
 
1) Unbalanced intestinal microflora. Though very few English-language health journals touch on this subject, much has been written in Europe. One Russian investigation by Volkova, Khalif and Kabanova in 2001 reported that 54% of acne patients have drastically altered intestinal microflora - they lack healthful microbes.
2) Unhealthful foods that are sugary, fried, calorie-rich and low in nutrients. Again, few studies in the United States deal with this subject matter. But many international scientists are increasingly convinced that consumption of sweet, fried, dense and nutrient- absent foods are major contributors to skin conditions.
3)Consumption of unfermented dairy products, especially processed or homogenized varieties. Many studies, such as the work by Melnik and Schmitz (2009), also find correlations between dairy from cows that were administered unnatural hormones to be particularly detrimental to our digestive tract, emotional well-being, skin organ, and respiratory system. It is interesting to note that there have been no notable studies linking fermented milk products (i.e. yogurt) with similar health issues.
4) Food allergies. Consumption of foods that trigger latent allergic reactions are responsible for a wide variety of systemic reactions including, but not limited to, eczema, psoriasis, acne, and asthma. Even autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis or neurological disorders such as ADD/ADHD can be caused by consumption of an allergen.
 
Childhood: A Critical Time 
It's important to teach our children not only to eat their vegetables, but also to listen to the messages their bodies send. If they feel depressed, anxious, or have a case of eczema, acne, or asthma, their body is telling them that something is wrong. With proper dietary and lifestyle changes, physical and emotional well-being can be improved. Our children will not be children for much longer. As parents, we have the responsibility to counsel and support our children through hardships to prepare them to do it alone in the future. Give your child as many tools as possible so they more gracefully navigate their coming-of-age years and avoid chronic emotional and physical conditions.
 
The Gut-Brain-Skin-Lung Axis: Not Just for Kids
The gut-brain-skin axis applies to adults, as well. Acne, psoriasis, eczema, asthma and dyspnea are just a few examples of many possible manifestations of disruptions in our bodies or emotions. Other possible manifestations include:
 
1. Neurological disorders such as Parkinson's, ADHD, multiple sclerosis, numbness, tingly extremities.
2. Stomach bloating, nausea, diarrhea, constipation, flatulence.
3. GI disorders including, Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis & IBS
4. Tiredness, drowsiness, no energy.
5. Frequent headache or migraines.
 
Help your Child Grow into a Healthy Adult
The best way to help our families and ourselves is to undergo food allergy testing, eat natural and organic foods, and avoid environmental toxins – both emotional and physical. The ALCAT (antigen leukocyte cellular antibody test) is a simple and cost-effect food allergy test which can quickly determine which offending foods may be causing behavioral, mental and physical issues in your body. The test identifies physiological reactions to over 350 foods, chemicals and other potential inflammation triggers. This food allergy test is available at Ann Arbor Holistic Health and Digestive Health Ann Arbor.
 
Raising a child can be challenging, but it can also be an opportunity for personal growth. Take your family's health seriously and pay attention to the body's messages - your children will thank you.
 
Please call 734-222-8210 to schedule a free consultation and evaluation.  
 
People know that we provide professional and compassionate care. We strive to guide you towards a comprehensive and holistic healing strategy. Restoring your body to health will restore the quality of your life.

Gluten Intolerance is not a fad: gluten & the foods you love

I. Did you know?: Facts about Gluten
II. What is gluten?
III. Where can gluten be found?
IV. 12 Warning Signs of Gluten Intolerance
V. Gluten Intolerance and Celiac Disease: What is the difference?
VI. The Dangers of a Leaky Gut
VII. Why Almost No One Tests Positive for Celiac Disease
VIII. Diagnosis: How can I test for Gluten Intolerance?
IX. Links to more information, past newsletters, and gluten podcast
X. What's next? A list of health topics for future newsletters.
 
I. Did you know...?
• 1 in 7 people in the U.S. are gluten intolerant.
• Gluten is one of the most common food allergies which often leads to additional food allergies.
• 60% of those with Gluten Intolerance do not exhibit any digestive system symptoms.
• Gluten Intolerance is implicated in approximately 50 other diseases.
 
Manfred certainly didn't know. At 80 years old, Manfred had enviable health and an infectious zest for life. He was always active, exercising daily, operating a landscaping business, and baking delicious and crispy rye bread. He fell ill suddenly with Ulcerative Colitis,a type of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) that affects the large intestine. Manfred was hospitalized and given steroids to reduce intestinal inflammation. When his condition finally stabilized, Manfred still experienced terrible bouts of diarrhea. Having lived healthfully until this point, Manfred did not want to spend the rest of his life on medications which left him physically unsettled, but there seemed no other choice.
 
By working with the appropriate holistic practitioner, Manfred realized he was exhibiting symptoms of Gluten Intolerance. He removed gluten from his diet and the Ulcerative Colitis slowly dissipated. Now Manfred is back to building, gardening and even baking (though now, gluten-free!).

II. What is gluten?
Gluten and gliadin are two proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye that give flour elasticity.
 
III. Where can gluten be found?
Gluten can be found in cookies, breads, pastas, oats, couscous, spelt, some non-dairy creamers, teriyaki sauce, beer, bran, anything that uses flour and much more.
 
IV. Are you Gluten Intolerant? Check these 12 Warning Signs: 
1. Diarrhea, flatulence, bloating, constipation, nausea, vomiting.
2. Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome).
3. Implicated in neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's,andepilepsy. 
4. Implicated in autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and Type I Diabetes, among others.
5. Mouth ulcers.
6. Gradual weight change.
7. Fibromyalgia, bone pain, joint pain, numbness or tingling in extremities.
8. Frequent headaches or migraines. 
9. Chronic fatigue.
10. Interstitial cystitis.
11. Psoriasis and other skin disorders.
12. Abnormal menses, infertility, miscarriage.
 
V. Gluten Intolerance and Celiac Disease: What is the difference?
Gluten Intolerance and Celiac Disease are delayed allergic responses to the proteins gluten and gliadin. This allergic reaction inflames the small intestine, the effects of which can be felt all throughout the entire body. Over time, this inflammation causes the villi, which line the small intestines, to atrophy. The villi, which look like shag carpeting, are primarily responsible for nutrient absorption. If the villi deteriorate, the body will be challenged to absorb nutrients. When the villi are severely compromised, Gluten Intolerance becomes Celiac Disease. Therefore, Gluten Intolerance and Celiac Disease are the same illness, differing only in severity. The treatments for Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance are the same - the complete elimination of gluten from your diet.
Below is an image depicting healthy villi on the left, and worn down villi on the right.

villi-comparison

VI. The Dangers of a Leaky Gut 
Food allergens, such as gluten, trigger inflammation in the digestive tract. This inflammation creates increased permeability in the walls of the intestines, leading to a phenomenon called Leaky Gut syndrome. Partially digested or undigested food enters the blood stream through the intestinal wall, triggering an immune response to the food. Many people develop secondary food allergies due to a Leaky Gut, the most common of which are allergies to casein found in dairy products, or eggs.
 
VII. Why Almost No One Tests Positive for Celiac Disease
Most people who are gluten intolerant do not test positive for Celiac Disease. Doctors generally test only for Celiac Disease through a biopsy of the small intestine to check for villi deterioration and some other minimal blood tests. Unfortunately, the biopsy and blood tests most often do not screen for Gluten Intolerance, so many patients continue to suffer needlessly for years, develop autoimmune disorders, and even unwittingly pass it along to their children (Gluten Intolerance can be inherited).
 
VIII. Diagnosis: How can I test for Gluten Intolerance?
We recommend a complete blood test which checks for both Gluten Intolerance and an additional 96 potential food allergens. This comprehensive screening can detect secondary food allergies which may be due to Leaky Gut syndrome. Digestive Health Ann Arbor is one of the few practices that offer such an inclusive exam.