Not too long ago I attended a functional medicine conference, and the attendees were entitled to receive a free stool analysis. Although I can’t say I enjoyed the collection process (especially since this required three different stool samples collected on different days), I was curious to see what the comprehensive stool panel results showed. Fortunately I tested negative for pathogenic bacteria, yeast, and parasites. And most of the other markers looked great, which of course made me very happy. However, even though I hadn’t been experiencing any digestive symptoms, I had some positive markers for inflammation. Fortunately the markers that are commonly high in inflammatory bowel disease looked good, although I was still surprised to see some of the other inflammatory markers on the high side.
You might wonder why I’m sharing this story with you. Well, the main reason is to demonstrate that it is possible to have inflammation yet not experience any overt symptoms. Another reason is to demonstrate that I’m not perfect, as while I eat a pretty good diet overall, I admittedly had been indulging more than usual prior to collecting the stool samples. Not to make excuses, but I traveled a lot in 2015, and I probably gave in to too many temptations. And while it’s a little bit embarrassing to admit this, I thought it was a good idea to share this experience so that you realize that it’s not only a challenge to eat well when trying to restore one’s health when dealing with a thyroid or autoimmune thyroid condition, but it’s also a challenge to eat well when trying to maintain a state of wellness.
Is It Possible To Eat Too Many Healthy Foods?
When I was a teenager and young adult, there were certain foods I ate on a regular basis that I thought were healthy, but I eventually learned that this wasn’t the case. A few examples include pasta, whole wheat bread, and soy chicken nuggets. Of course now I have a pretty good idea of which foods are healthy and unhealthy, but one thing to be aware of is that you can eat too much of a healthy food. For example, in the second half of 2015 there is no question that I ate too many nuts and too much dark chocolate. Yes, I did eat some foods worse than these (i.e. pizza), and this probably was a factor as well. But I don’t want you to overlook the fact that eating an excess of other foods that have some health benefits can also cause problems.
So was overindulging in nuts and dark chocolate a potential factor in my inflammation? I’m honestly not sure, and I did mention earlier that I ate other foods far worse than nuts and dark chocolate. For example, I attended my younger sister’s wedding in August of 2015, and Italian food was served. And while we did put in a request for gluten free pasta, I ate a cannoli that definitely wasn’t gluten free. Speaking of which, if anyone has a gluten free cannoli recipe please feel free to share it with me in the comment sections below! I wish I can say that the cannoli was the only bad thing I ate, but the night before I also had some pizza at a Brooklyn pizzeria. And while I ordered a gluten free pizza, I admittedly was naughty and also had some regular pizza. Of course even gluten free pizza isn’t considered to be healthy, especially when you consider some of the ingredients used by many restaurants. But eating pizza is even worse from a health perspective when it’s loaded with gluten (no matter how delicious it might be…and believe me, that Brooklyn pizza tasted amazing).
In last week’s blog post I spoke about gluten, and whether someone should avoid it even if they don’t feel bad upon eating it and/or don’t experience any improvement in their symptoms upon avoiding it. I usually don’t feel bad when eating foods with gluten, but this doesn’t mean that it’s not having a negative effect on my health. If you read last week’s blog post, you’ll recall that I mentioned that gluten apparently causes an increase in intestinal permeability (a leaky gut) in everyone, and not just those with Celiac disease or a non-autoimmune gluten sensitivity.
Do YOU Have Gut Inflammation?
After reading this post, I’m sure there are some people who are wondering if they have gut inflammation. The truth is that many people have gut inflammation and are unaware of it. You of course can test for some general inflammatory markers through the blood such as high sensitive c-reactive protein (hs-CRP), or erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR). Just keep in mind that negative findings don’t necessarily rule out inflammation. While you can do a comprehensive stool analysis like I did, such testing can be expensive. If you are eating gluten and/or dairy on a regular basis then this can be problematic. But even if you are gluten and dairy free but are eating a lot of nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes, then these might cause inflammation when eaten in excess. And so rather than spend a lot of money on additional testing, it might be best to just minimize your consumption of these foods for awhile and see if your health improves.
What’s the solution to get rid of gut inflammation? Well, it of course depends on the cause of the inflammation. If someone is sensitive to gluten and they eat even a small amount of it then this can result in inflammation. On the other hand, not everyone with gut inflammation is sensitive to gluten. In fact, some people who avoid gluten still have gut inflammation. Other foods can cause inflammation, along with other factors such as an infection, and even chronic stress. Taking certain nutrients and herbs can also help to reduce gut inflammation, such as fish oils, probiotics, and turmeric. However, if the cause of the inflammation isn’t addressed then these natural anti-inflammatory agents aren’t going to be as effective.
In summary, many people have gut inflammation but are unaware of it. And while some people with gut inflammation experience overt symptoms, this isn’t always the case. Eating foods that contain gluten and dairy causes inflammation in a lot of people, but eating too many healthy foods such as nuts, seeds, grains, and legumes might also lead inflammation in some people. While you can do some testing to confirm or rule out inflammation, regardless of the findings you of course want to eat a healthy diet, try not to overindulge in certain foods, and do a good job of managing your stress.