There was an article on the BBC news website a day or two ago with a medical student or junior Doctor (I forget which) calling for them to receive more information and teaching on the effects of nutrition. Now this is not my speciality, but I do find it very interesting.
A little over 20 months ago I “developed” a food intolerance seemingly out of nowhere which progressed to a point where I wanted to address it. Funnily enough the development of this intolerance happened to coincide with a period of a large number of changes in my personal and professional life. I had just relocated to Newcastle 6 months prior and was in the process of building a business from scratch (again), and I was going through the breakdown of an important personal relationship. My sleep suffered, my energy levels dropped, I was strung out, emotionally and mentally fragile – the hallmarks of adrenal fatigue. Not a good place. So is it a surprise that my digestion suddenly flared up? In my mind absolutely not.
You do not live for 30 or 40 years of your life happily eating whatever it is you like to eat and then suddenly become intolerant of it. There is a reason why you cannot process whatever it is any more. In my case it was gluten – or bread specifically in my case. So what did I do? I cut bread out. That’s what you do right? You stop eating the thing that causes a problem and the problem goes away. But why was it that after 30 years that my body suddenly stopped “liking” bread? Could it be that everyone had suddenly changed their recipe? Or could this “intolerance” be a symptom of an underlying problem and it was just bread that acted as the catalyst for symptoms? I know what I think.
Fast forward 20 months and I can eat as much or as little bread as I like and not suffer any digestive disturbances – unless I happen to be particularly stressed at the time in which case I will sometimes suffer very minor disturbance. So it seems I am not intolerant of bread any more.
Now if you talk to someone who is really into their nutrition a number of them will tell you that we were not designed or should not be eating such things as bread or dairy anyway and cutting them out is a good thing. But that is not the point.
You have a tolerance level within your system for all types of stress, emotional, physical, mental, and processing foods that we are not necessarily meant to eat also create a stress. It is often the case that when background stress levels are high that then eating something which is difficult for you to process or if you have an underlying digestive issue linked to a sluggish lymphatic system that this will present as an intolerance. This is why it is common for someone to cut something out and they are great for a few months or a year and then they develop another intolerance. This is a sign of an underlying stressed system.
In these cases treating something purely as a food intolerance, while great if it improves quality of life, is missing the underlying cause. And who doesn’t want to be able to eat what they want?! Dr Rangan Chatterjee (of the BBC’s Doctor in the House) has done a lot to raise awareness of the lifestyle medicine as he terms it and not looking at problems in isolation and this is what needs to be done. Looking at problems in isolation often leads to the treatment of symptoms and not the underlying cause. The term stress when used often makes people think of emotional and mental health but I invite you to start thinking of it instead in terms of anything that challenges the body be it emotionally, mentally, spiritually, or physically, work related and personal.
When you add up all of these stresses for a lot of us we suddenly become aware that we are under enormous stress and the most common place for these stresses to leak out is: in our mental health – anxiety, depression and so on; into our emotional health affecting the relationships with people around us; and also into our physical health – and this is the one that people seem less aware of. But this may mean in terms of stress headaches, digestions issues, acne and so on.
Without treating the underlying problem we will continue to become "intolerant" of lots of things that cause us physical, emotional, or mental stress. We will become emotionally intolerant, we will become physical exercise intolerant. All symptoms of an underlying problem.
In 2012 there were reportedly 10.4million days lost at work due to "stress" meaning workplace stress was calculated to cost the UK economy a total of £6,427,200,000. That's £6.4 billion! So who know's what it is now.
Treat the underlying cause and these symptoms such as digestion problems, acne, sleep problems, constantly getting ill and so on and on will often improve "by themselves".