Published 12/15/2013. Last updated 2/5/2014.
When the immune system detects a threat from toxins, germs, environmental pollutants, injury and stress, it sends troops to fight the battle and inflammation results. The same is true when the immune system has become overly reactive and launches attacks against perceived threat, as happens in people with allergies and autoimmune conditions. Inflammation is the body’s effort to heal itself but the inflammatory process can go awry and become chronic.
Chronic inflammation is the result for many of us consuming multiple pharmaceuticals and a Western diet of nutrient-poor foods that have been genetically modified or overly processed and altered with preservatives, emulsifiers, artificial food dies, other FDA-approved additives, growth hormones and antibiotics. An out of balance microbiome wreaks havoc on our bodies in a wide variety of ways. Instead of being able to heal itself, the body suffers from chronic inflammation, leading eventually to a disease process. (Bested, 2013) (Brogan, 2013)
The presence of chronic inflammation has been noted in people with cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and cancers – the combination is called Metabolic Syndrome. Chronic inflammation is also found in people suffering from the whole list of unpleasant conditions on the gut dysbiosis symptoms page.
The gluten found in wheat and some other grains has long been known to be a cause of intestinal inflammation and damage. Since we know the gut and brain are intimately connected, it’s not a big leap to learn that gluten has adverse effects on the central nervous system as well.
The inflammation may even be there for many years before overt symptoms are noticed or a recognized illness makes itself known.
GreenMedInfo (a well-respected, open access, evidence-based resource supporting natural and integrative modalities) searched the biomedical literature from the National Library of Medicine and found over 200 documented adverse health effects linked to gluten-containing grains. Neurotoxicity appeared at the top of the list of 21 distinct modes of toxicity stemming from gluten – including neuropathy, ataxia, autism, acute manic states and schizophrenia. (Ji, 2013)
Gluten is Latin for “glue” and refers to the doughy complex of proteins inside the wheat plant. Because wheat is the by-product of three separate ancestral plants that became one, it has six sets of chromosomes and 6.5 times as many genes as are found in the human genome!
And here’s another shocker: Gluten is made up of over 23,788 different proteins, many of them pharmacologically psychoactive and having adverse neurological and cognitive consequences. (Ji, 2012); (Ji, 2013)
When the gut’s immune system identifies any one of these wheat proteins as ‘other’, it launches an attack producing inflammation to vanquish the indigestible enemy. Some of these 23,788 wheat proteins are disulfide-bonded (ie, strongly glued together) with the same sturdy sulfur-based bonds found in human hair and vulcanized rubber – in other words, not possible for our guts to break down fully. The result is a cycle of autoimmunity and systemic inflammation.
Given the recombinatorial potential of 23,788 distinct proteins, some of them have become nearly identical in structure and configuration to both opiates and virulent components of immune-system activating microbes. (Ji, 2012); (Ji, 2013)
No wonder we so often crave wheat-containing baked goods!
See the Addictions page for further discussion of wheat addiction.
THERMOGRAPHY AND INFLAMMATION
If you’re interested in seeing actual images of the inflammation in your own body, you may want to have non-invasive, thermal imaging done.
A thermography camera, about the size of a camcorder, measures the infrared radiation emitted by the body to produce a thermogram showing temperature variations in the body. The color-coded images make it clear if and where a disease process is developing. A healthy body produce thermally symmetrical images. An asymmetrical images may indicate a problem brewing.
Thermography measures the infrared radiation from our bodies so is safer than mammography, which exposes us to radiation. And since it is a way of measuring inflammation, thermography is an excellent tool for those of us who are interested in prevention rather than waiting for something serious to develop.
Two examples of thermal imaging of the breasts:
The image on the left shows symmetric heat contrasts. The image on the left clearly shows asymmetric inflammation.
When my GI tract was very inflamed by the activity of highly overactive mast cells, I could see the resulting inflammation clearly on the color images in my thermography report. And when I’d succeeded in calming those mast cells down, I could see that clearly too.
Above are thermograms of a woman medically diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The image on the left, taken during her initial examination, clearly shows the circular inflammatory pattern indicating IBS. The image on the right was taken 45 days following treatment with acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Much of the red circular, spotted pattern (indicating inflammation) is gone and is being replaced by the increased green area, demonstrating a return to a healthier, cooler thermal pattern. (Louiselle, 2013)
Here’s information on the nature and uses of medical thermography … from my holistic dentist’s office. That may seem strange but actually makes sense: He started offering thermography as a way to see what’s going on inside his patients’ mouth tissues and jaws. His thermography technician is trained in taking images of any area in the body. The images are analyzed by two trained professionals who write a detailed report of the findings along with recommendations on ways to reduce any inflammation seen.
Bested, A. et al. (2013). Intestinal microbiota, probiotics and mental health: from Metchnikoff to modern advances: part II – contemporary contextual research. Gut Pathogens 5:3. See http://dash.harvard.edu/bitstream/handle/1/10609763/3601973.pdf?sequence=1
Brogan, K. (2013). This Is Your Body (and Brain) on Gluten. See http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/your-body-and-brain-gluten
Ji, S. (2012). Wheat Contains Not One, But 23K potentially Harmful Proteins. GreenMedInfo.com. See http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/wheat-contains-not-one-23k-potentially-harmful-proteins
Ji, K. (2013). The Grain That Damages the Human Brain. GreenMedInfo.com. See http://www.greenmedinfo.com/blog/grain-damages-human-brain
Louiselle, M. (2013). Screening Inflammation to Better Monitor Women’s Health: What are your body’s heat patterns saying about inflammation and your health? See http://www.cimwellness.com/screening-inflammation-to-better-monitor-womens-health/
A version of this page content will appear in my forthcoming 2014 Oriental Medicine Journal article THE MICROBIOTA-GUT-BRAIN AXIS: The constant two-way communication between our guts and our brains.
© Copyright 2013-2014 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.