What is food-related inflammation?



Inflammation is an experience shared by everyone to such an extent, that anti-inflammatory drugs (known to many as analgesics, antipyretics, painkillers, anti-migraine medication, and so on) are by far the most sold in the world, at least in number of sold portions.

Food-related inflammation is today a certain reality; the true novelty is the possibility to measure and describe it (by assessing the values ​​of the B-cell activating factor, known as BAFF, and of the platelet activating factor, or PAF), thus going beyond the knowledge provided by ESR (Erythrocyte Sedimentation Rate) and CRP (C-Reactive Protein), which have remained the only two “inflammation markers” used in medicine for over 50 years.

Instead, modern medicine is confronted daily with episodes of low-intensity inflammation, which often lasts a long time and has been poorly understood for years.

The possibility that nutrition may play an important role on such conditions has always been strongly supported, but researchers have often approached the topic of the so-called food intolerances through a controversial lens, which led them clash against prejudice, petitions and questionable diagnostic practices.

The scientific world has almost controversially paralyzed to look for responsible antibodies, while the clinic and the research lab have already contributed to understand that any type of food is able to lead to cytokines and inflammatory substances production in sensitized individuals, whose result is to trigger a series of conditions, symptoms and disturbances ​​previously linked to the so-called food intolerances.

The discovery that an aliment may induce BAFF or PAF production and trigger all the inflammatory symptoms that are usually ascribed to that substance dates back to a few years ago, but only recently it has started to be seriously applied within a clinical setting.

Yet, the levels of BAFF (which are measured by the means of a specific test) help understanding the degree of food-related inflammation possibly present in a person and lead to take action accordingly to reduce inflammation itself and to keep its effects on the health under control.

The recent novel definition of “gluten sensitivity” (a form of gluten intolerance causing the same symptoms of celiac disease without being it, and that applies to over 20% of the healthy population) has shed more light on food-related inflammation.

The reaction towards gluten (often clinically indistinguishable from the one typical of celiac disease) is only due to the activation of the organism’s inflammatory defensive reactions.

In scientific terms, we are talking about the activation of Type-2 Toll-like receptors (TLR2), which play the role of warning the body of a danger (on this context, the overcoming of a diet intake threshold level) and display the inflammatory reaction as a “red-light alarm”, so that the dietary habits may be changed.

If the warning goes unheard, the consequences can be serious.

Immunological conditions such as Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) or rheumatoid arthritis are certainly connected with this type of inflammation. However, without having to reach these extreme conditions, the simple facts of senselessly putting on weight (due to insulin resistance) or of suffering from colitis are certainly in connection with such inflammatory aspects.

The frequency of inflammatory or autoimmune syndromes due to a reaction from yeast or fermented substances is constantly increasing.

Today, the study of these conditions, in a modern and reasonable fashion and in accord with the latest scientific findings, benefits from the novel definition of food-related inflammation, which is a measurable phenomenon, thanks to the analysis of BAFF and PAF, or the evidence given by blood tests such as the assessment of the complement (C3 and C4), of the white blood cells number and of the eosinophils number (often high in these cases), along with a thorough profiling of the individual dietary regime.

One of the main goals for well-being is to generate immune tolerance, that is, to recover and reinstate tolerance if it had been lost, to learn how to follow a varied and healthy diet without unnecessary restrictions.

Thanks to Professor Finkelman discoveries, we realized that the immunoglobulin G (IgG) against an aliment may be simply the footprint of a previous immune activation against that substance (like, for example, when we suffered of a particular food reaction when younger) or, according to Professor Ligaarden’s studies, it may indicate the excessive use of a specific type of food or its repetitive and systematic intake in the case of small quantities.

Therefore, IgGs themselves should be considered solely for what they are, i.e. an immunological sign proving the past contact with a certain aliment, and a guide helping to set-up a new nutritional approach aimed at rebalancing that aliment or food cluster.

Using IgGs as signals of “previous contact” or as indicators of current abuse of a certain aliment, it is possible to help the body regaining the control of the immunological response towards food by adopting a procedure very similar to child weaning, following the physiological path of nutritional and immunological health.

Along the nutritional course toward healing, many natural supplements can help reaching the recovery of tolerance and the control of inflammation.

For years, in our Milan practice we have been following people who want to heal from food-related inflammation, through specific therapeutic pathways.

Phytotherapics such as perilla oil, black currant oil and turmeric come often into help. In addition, benefits are offered by antioxidants such as lipoic acid, intestine-rebalancing products such as colostrum and certain strains of probiotics, not to mention the potent antigen control action exerted by digestive enzymes. When digestion is not sufficient, food antigens, instead of being digested, arrive at the intestinal level, where they may become the cause of reactivity and inflammation. The use of specific enzymes may be able to attenuate or solve this type of problem.

→ UPDATE: Following the publication on the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera of an important article by Adriana Bazzi entitled “The inflammatory point of view of food intolerances“, food-related inflammation and food intolerances have been thoroughly discussed in public meetings, on recently published articles and video clips, which may be helpful to deepen these topics.