Could food be the cause of most disease?
We are willing to bet that you’ve heard people say that your diet is responsible for the health of your body. “You are what you eat,” right? This is a common idea among health professionals. It’s often thought if you eat unhealthily, you will be unhealthy. On the flipside, if you eat healthy, then you will be healthy. There are, of course, exceptions to this idea. . . but for the most part, it is a pretty accurate principle. The body functions better when it has healthy, nutritious foods. It doesn’t work as well if it’s not getting the nutrients it needs. If this is true, could food be the cause of most disease?
food: good vs. bad
When it comes to eating “good” food versus “bad” food, we need to define what those entail. What comes to mind when you think of either of these terms? Good foods are fruits and vegetables? Bad foods are chips and candy bars? Each person reading this probably thought of different things regarding healthy vs. unhealthy foods. To put it simply, think of foods that are good for your body as those that are whole, clean foods. The more whole food (not processed) that you can include in your diet, the better. When we talk about clean foods, we are really looking at the ingredient list. The fewer the ingredients and the lesser number of artificial ingredients, the better! We will say this. . . these whole, clean foods are what we need more of in our diets.The foods that are bad for your body are a no brainer, as they are the opposite of what we just discussed! They consist of highly processed foods full of artificial (harmful) ingredients. The body does not digest processed foods full of ingredients that the body cannot utilize. These should be avoided, as much as possible.
Can you think of a time where your nourished your body with exactly what it needs (fruits, vegetables, high quality protein, and healthy fats)? How did you feel? How did your body respond? How about a time where you overindulged, had too much sugar or carbohydrates. . .or alcohol? What happened with your body during this time? If we really pay attention, our bodies tell us what we need when it comes to food. It will react positively when given what it needs and negatively when given what it doesn’t. With the idea of “good” vs. “bad” food in mind, think of how well the body can process whole, clean foods vs. how hard the body must work to process refined foods full of artificial ingredients. The former provides the body with many nutrients and keeps it functioning properly. The latter bogs down the digestive system and wreaks havoc on the entire body.
disease in summary
What is disease? You may be surprised to learn, that through research, it is hard to really define disease. The World Health Organization defines “health”, but there is no broad definition of disease. This likely has to do with the great number of diseases the world faces today. There are four main types of disease: infectious disease, deficiency disease, hereditary disease, and physiological disease. It is clear by this list that some diseases are genetic, and some may have other causes. . . but does what you eat contribute to disease and its symptoms? Could food be the cause of most disease? It is believed by many that this is certainly true. We will look at this in more detail next.
Let’s dig in to the question at hand: could food be the cause of most disease? Hippocrates suggested that all disease that humans face starts with the gut. This statement is fairly accurate, and has been accepted by many researchers over the years. It is widely believed that your digestive system is greatly responsible for your overall health. What you eat contributes to poor health… which also means it contributes to GOOD health! Heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, diabetes related, and cirrhosis, are a handful of the top causes of disease related death in the world, according to the World Health Organization. We’re not saying that EVERY disease is caused by food; we know that simply isn’t true. What we are saying is that what we eat certainly impacts disease progression, and in some cases, really IS the cause!
artificial ingredients and processed foods
Do you pay close attention to ingredients and nutrition labels on the food you buy? Do you know what ingredients are in foods you regularly consume? Once you learn how to read the labels, you will find it quite shocking how many artificial ingredients are in our food. The number of processed and refined foods in the average diet is astounding. It’s not that people are trying to eat unhealthily but the food manufacturers sure don’t make it easy! Most people don’t know what to look out for. Could food be the cause of most diseases? With the number of artificial ingredients and highly processed foods in the average diet, the answer leans very heavily toward yes.
The number of ingredients on one package can be overwhelming. This is especially the case when similar ingredients can have many different names. A quick Google search shows that there are at least 56 different names for sugar! Can you believe that? If you are trying to look for sugar in your food, you need to know over 56 names for it. For example, sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, and maltose are just a few names for this ONE ingredient! Then, let’s look at the names for artificial sweeteners: aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, sorbitol, etc. This covers just ONE type of ingredient… sweeteners. Can you believe that? How are we supposed to know what to eat and what to avoid if we can’t even tell what is in our food? If you’ve spent any time at the grocery store looking at labels, you probably think it takes too long to read them and maybe you can’t understand what all those ingredients are. We mentioned that whole foods should be in high quantity in our diets. THIS is why… buying whole, organic foods minimize the time and energy that it takes to decipher ingredient and nutrition labels.
We’ve discussed this rule of thumb that what you eat affects much of your health. Sugar and high fructose corn syrup, artificial trans fats, vegetable and seed oils, refined carbohydrates, excessive alcohol, and processed meat are all inflammatory foods.They wreak havoc on many parts of the body. Long term inflammation plays a huge role in chronic diseases. The gut and your skin are just two issues that we’ll look at! Gut health is so important to your wellbeing and skin is the largest organ, so it makes sense to dig into these a little bit when it comes to disease.
Inflammatory foods disrupt the balance of bacteria in your gut biome. The intestines are designed to prevent toxins and other harmful substances from getting into the bloodstream. Leaky gut happens when the joints and junctions of the intestines become loose enough that these toxins can “leak” out. Unhealthy gut bacteria can instigate inflammation in your body which already occurs if things are moving across the intestinal walls that shouldn’t be.A diverse diet that incorporates lots of whole foods (veggies, fruits, etc.) is best as it nurtures the growth of healthy bacteria. A healthy gut biome will have diversity in its gut flora. Many health problems come from issues in your gut microbiome. Prebiotics and probiotics in your diet can help create balance in the good and bad bacteria within your body.
Sugar often causes acne as inflammation increases. Consumption of sugar can affect your hormones. Estrogen is a hormone that is linked to sugar.A high sugar diet can disrupt some of the processes that this hormone regulates. Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that is exacerbated by consuming inflammatory foods. We recommend avoiding inflammatory foods that we mentioned above: trans fats, sugar, and processed food. To avoid issues with inflammation, increase consumption of anti-inflammatory foods. This includes things like fatty fish (salmon, herring, etc.), foods that contain probiotics (fermented foods, kefir, etc.), and foods high in quercetin (blueberries, spinach, etc.).
Removing inflammatory foods will not only improve skin health but encourage a healthy gut biome which will minimize risk of disease, especially chronic diseases. Inflammation is often a precursor to and usually a symptom of autoimmune diseases. Minimizing the inflammatory foods in your diet will aid in helping the body function at its best.
Lectins are a protein that binds to sugar and carbohydrates. They can’t be digested, and they pass through the body without changing. Lectins are resistant to the body’s digestive enzymes, and they move from the stomach into the gut in the same form that they entered the body. Because they are a binding protein, they become sticky in the body. This stickiness becomes an issue when they stick to the cells lining the gut. Some foods that are high in lectins include: soybeans, red kidney beans, wheat, tomatoes, lentils, eggplant, peanuts, and potatoes.Lectins are also often referred to as anti-nutrients. These are compounds that hamper the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
Consuming high quantities of lectins can cause digestive issues and other health concerns.Too many lectins can become a “sticky situation!” Lectins building up along the walls of your gut creates problems with metabolism and increases digestive stress.Without the “housekeeping,” cells become damaged by normal wear and tear of the digestive system. Diarrhea and vomiting can be signs of irritation from lectins.
Considering the situations that we’ve discussed, it should be no surprise that regularly consuming lectins over an extended period can incur damage in the intestines. Consuming lectins regularly can induce leaky gut (increased intestinal permeability) as damage occurs in the intestinal wall.We discussed that this is when the joints and junctions of the intestines open up and toxins find their way into your bloodstream. Lectins can not only cause of leaky gut, but they can also then leak out of the digestive system into the body! This means that lectins can interact with cells outside of the digestive system. If this happens, the body responds in a harmful way to the immune system = autoimmune response. Because of leaky gut, lectins can increase the risk of autoimmune diseases!
Lectins can build a wall inside the digestive system which becomes a blockade for nutrient absorption. As your body digests, lectins prohibit the things that NEED to filter out into the body such as vitamins, minerals, and certain necessary proteins from doing so. If you are consuming too many lectins, your body may be unable to properly use the nutrients you are consuming.
Sticky lectins can attach themselves to cells and it can be harmful if they disrupt communication with the brain creating “brain fog.” Lectins impact gut health which is connected to the brain. Your diet plays a huge role in brain health. Even more so, your body’s ability to put the nutrients to use impacts the functions of the brain. It should be clear that the brain-gut connection is strong and because lectins can interfere, you are likely to see issues with your overall health.
For the most part, the phrase “we are what we eat” really is true. The foods in our diets are in great part responsible for the health of our bodies. If we eat junk food, we usually feel like junk. If we eat healthy then we usually feel good. Healthy, nutritious foods help the body function properly. The answer to the question, “could food be the cause of most disease?” is most definitely YES. We invite you to pay close attention to what foods make your body feel good and eat more of those things. The body usually knows what is needed, we just have to listen and be aware of the signals it gives us.