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Inflammatory symptoms, immune system and food intolerance

Dr. ner. rat. Silvia Slazenger

Inflammatory diseases and degenerative processes have greatly increased in the last decades and parallel the industrialization of food and modern life style. According to the GEK health report 2011 the most common disease of the German population is high blood pressure followed by depression and metabolic disorders such as diabetes 2 and over weight. Atopic disorders affect 5 -20%, about 50% of those patients suffer from atopic eczema. A 2010 survey of the Society for Nutrition Therapy and Prevention e.V. reported that 67% of respondents suffer from intermittent or persistent gastrointestinal symptoms including bloating or abdominal pain after eating. An important cause may be food intolerance, which is mediated by the innate immune system. It leads to typical adverse reactions and inflammatory processes. Defense reactions, e.g. of neutrophils, create the basis for micro inflammation and centres of inflammation. The whole system is a very effective first defense strategy against acute infections but chronic activation will lead to health disorders. A study by the University of Pavia in 2011 on 48 patients with gastrointestinal disorders (GI) and 35 patients with skin problems (H) illustrates the influence of incompatible foods in the body: the not tolerated substances were removed from the diet, improved symptoms after 2 months significant at 71% (GI) and 66% (H) of the patients.

1. The barrier corresponds to a kind of coarse filter that catches potential germs by mechanical or biological barriers.

2. The barrier includes a directional response of the body. The cells of the innate immune system are the evolutionarily oldest part of our immune defense. They attack all substances and germs, which are not endogenous or molecular patterns (antigens) that are recognized as pathogenic and therefore not being tolerated. This type of immune response is a kind of vanguard, an initial “firewall” that is intended to eliminate invading pathogens within minutes or initiate further combat creating inflammation.

3. The barrier, the adaptive immune system, which is comprised of specialized cells and their products, detects pathogens and infected cells and directs attacks against same utilizing customized antibodies and response to specific molecular patterns on cell surfaces.

The gut contains an estimated 70-80% of the immune system: With almost 400m ² it is the largest contact area with the external world. Around the intestine a simultaneously extensive lymphoid tissue (GALT, gut-associated lymphoid tissue) that forms the largest immune organ in our body.

Causes of Food Intolerance

Various influences, which the immune system is exposed (see Figure 2), which can decide between “alien / dangerous” and “self / harmless” disrupt and normally harmless dietary components put an immune reaction.

Specific immunity – Allergy

In classic food allergies type 1, the specific immune response (third barrier) plays the lead role. After repeated antigen contact the body responds with an excessive reaction (IgE antibodies, histamine release). The symptoms are dramatic and acute as of sneezing, coughing, watery eyes, skin rash, nausea and even anaphylactic shock. The occurrence of true food allergies in Germany is approximately 2.5% (BMG, 2004).

Innate immunity – differentiation from allergy

Food intolerance mediated by the innate immune response (second barrier) happens often. Specific pattern recognition receptors in the cell membrane (Toll-like receptors; TLR) or in the cytoplasm (NOD-like receptors) of immune cells initiate the release of an inflammatory cascade (Fig. 3). NODS involved, inter alia, in the formation of the inflammasome. This is a protein complex, which is responsible for the maturation of interleukins and thus inflammation proactively sets in motion. Neutrophils mainly play an important role in this process, since they make up almost 70% of the leukocytes. Activated granulocytes produce reactive enzymes inside the cell (e.g. myeloperoxidase) and radical oxygen molecules, which they distribute to combat the foreign substance. Thus, the cell volume increases initially until the cells degranulate finally on to dismiss these biochemical cocktail into the tissue. In addition, they send out chemokines (messengers) to fetch other immune cells to help. The ground is prepared for inflammation.

Innate immune defense and systemic inflammation

The consequences of food-induced activation of the immune system can initially be subtle, but may become serious over time. The continuous intake of reactive substances causes local micro-inflammation in the intestinal tissue, which spreads insidiously and can manifest itself in other tissues. Therefore the ormonal-, the nervous and the metabolic system can be affected and symptoms may manifest in varioush forms. This makes it complex and symptoms might not be identified with food intolerance as the initial cause.

Reference: The ALCAT Test

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