Although my definition for wellness has changed throughout my life, wellness has always been a priority in some form or another. I’ve tried almost every diet or fad imaginable, especially in college when the foundation of my nutritional ideologies was most lacking and pretty malleable.
I’ve tried a new diet for aesthetic purposes or the sake of experimentation, but never for the purpose of lessening or eradicating my response to seasonal allergies. It just wasn’t something that occurred to me. I live in New Orleans. Everybody struggles through allergy season. That’s life here, right? And I used to get a major sinus infection at least twice a year. For whatever redness Visine took away from my eyes, the bags under them were a dead giveaway as to how miserable I was. I’m not quite sure medicine made it any better though. Allergy medicine took away those symptoms, but made me feel dehydrated or drowsy. As you probably know, it’s not great.
HOWEVER, it wasn’t until one workday in which every single gym client came in complaining about their allergy symptoms that I had my “aha!” moment. Allergy season was here, yet I had no headache, puffy, itchy eyes, aches, head pressure, or drip— none of it.
Mind was blown.
It’s safe to say that if something you eat triggers an inflammatory response, it’s probably not safe to to consume it depending on the degree of inflammation it causes. Sure, some foods might trigger an acute response and it’s often difficult to pinpoint which food is doing so. However, focusing on those foods becomes a matter of splitting hairs, especially when there are OTHER foods that trigger full out systemic inflammation that you are consuming. A lot of the designated U.S. “health foods”, or their ingredients, do just that.
There are many foods that shouldn’t be considered food at all, whether it be for humans or any animal of that matter. Just because we have the ability to eat almost anything doesn’t mean that we should.
Your digestive system is in direct contact with the outside environment, which means the gastrointestinal system has to play a huge part in your immunity. This ALSO means that you can easily compromise/weaken your immune response with poor nutritional choices. This direct line of exposure starts at the nose and mouth with inhalation and ingestion. These areas are just two of many that have a lining composed of specific lymphoid tissue. This tissue is responsible for creating a protective layer between systemic circulation and the external environment. Each system has its own type of lymphoid tissue, such as gut-associate (GALT) or skin-associated (SALT). The GI (gastrointestinal) tract is a lymphoid organ comprised of ~75% of all immunoglobulin producing cells, making it the largest mass of lymphoid tissue in the body. Lymphoid tissues, such as the thymus, lymph nodes, and tonsils, are responsible for producing antibodies and lymphocytes (your body’s troops).
When you eat something that the body deems unfavorable, inflammation occurs, which is the activation of the immune system. What happens when you eat one or (let's be real) many unfavorable things during each meal? You put your body into a state of chronic inflammation, which means that the troops get closer and closer to being outnumbered. What’s crazy is that most people are so used to chronic inflammation that it has become their norm. You have no idea how good your body is supposed to feel!!
Allergy season eventually rolls around, and instead of being close to outnumbered, the troops have met their match and can no longer handle the added stress of the allergens. Trigger the runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, sinus infection, change in blood pressure, migraines, dizziness, etc.
You can think of your body having this inflammation threshold. A stress response and inflammation is normal, but only to a certain extent. If you are exhausting your body day after day, placing you close to that threshold, it won’t take much to set you past that and compromise your entire system. If you choose the right foods and manage your lifestyle stress, you’ll find yourself far below this threshold. And then when allergy season does roll around, you’ll find yourself asking what all the fuss is about around you.
| Processed food | You can be fussy and say that all food is processed unless you grow it yourself— but you know what I’m talking about. I’d like to say that processed food is going to be anything that you couldn't grow or make at home. Food comes from the earth. Condiments, minimally processed dairy, minimally processed snacks, or something SIMPLE of that sort is perfectly fine. These items that you COULD healthily make at home, but for convenience’s sake choose not to, are okay to buy. However, cereals, common chips, cakes, crackers— all things with an exceptionally long shelf-life and ingredient list— should not be eaten. Good food should go bad and there’s a reason that processed food doesn’t. I realize that there’s a lot of grey area here. For example, I’d never approve of a client eating Doritos, but there are chip options that will get the job done, such as potato chips fried in coconut oil without the preservatives. It's called compromise. You might not be able to marvel at your Dorito dust fingertips, but who cares when you’re marveling at your new-found health.
Also, have you ever noticed how processed foods contain added synthetic vitamins? That should be a dead giveaway that the product is void of micronutrients, and you should already know the importance of vitamins and minerals.
| Wheat-- in its many forms | Bread, pasta, couscous, crackers, cookies, cakes, wraps, etc. You don’t have to be diagnosed with Celiac’s or a gluten intolerance to cut wheat out of the diet. Dropping wheat products has been that "quickest fix" for every single client in terms of weight loss and lessening inflammation.
Gluten (from Latin gluten, “glue”) is a mixture of proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, oats, and spelt. The protein is responsible for giving baked goods an elastic texture. Modern wheat contains substantially more gluten than it ever has in the past. It's like wheat on major steroids. The consumption of gluten triggers an inflammatory response as gluten fragments cut into the walls of the small intestine. This increases intestinal permeability allowing anything from large molecules to pathogens to enter the bloodstream. Also, the lining of the small intestine houses important enzymes responsible for the breakdown of whatever you eat. If there is no home for these enzymes, you are unable to break down and absorb whatever it is that you eat. The most common illnesses and diseases link back to a loss of barrier function in the gut. Aside from being genetically modified, wheat is sprayed with a chemical compound to force a larger yield for harvest. This chemical, glyphosate, is used to kill weeds that compete with crops and used as a drying agent right before harvest. Unless you are buying organic, whatever wheat products you ingest will be chemically laden with this stuff. The World Health Organization has deemed glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic”, yet it’s still allowed to be used on our food.
| Soy | tofu, edamame, soy milk or soy products used as emulsifying agents (soy lecithin). Soy is another GMO like wheat, which means it’s chemically laden. Additionally, soy is estrogenic, which goes hand in hand with cortisol and amplifying the stress response. (Guys, your worries with soy only starts with man boobs.)
| Additives and preservatives | Check out my past blog article here on what to avoid in this department. In one way or another, these ingredients are detrimental to the body. The health of the cell and its ability to carry out oxidative metabolism is crucial for total body health.
| PUFAs | Polyunsaturated fatty acids, found in certain vegetables, seeds, nuts, and cold water fish. Avoid vegetable oils such as safflower, palm, sunflower, sesame, and canola oil. Consume nuts and cold water fish, such as salmon and tuna, minimally! These oils are needed in very small amounts by the body. Given the degree of unsaturation, these oils range in levels of instability and suppress the immune system, thyroid, thymus, and liver in many ways!
Eliminating these foods from your diet is a GREAT way to start your journey towards health and feeling the way your body should. My biggest question for you: Is what you’re doing working? I guess that depends on what your goal is. For myself, the goal is to look good but only if my body feels good. I was able to achieve my desired physique on other diets, but I’ve never, EVER felt this healthy. And that's because weight loss does not equal health!! I truly take pride in helping my clients achieve these same goals. If your diet focuses on weight management while neglecting the health of any organ or system within the body, then it’s time to reconstruct your values and habits.
As always, thank you for reading!!
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