Nature has been telling us for ages: “Eat what has grown in your field and what was born on your farm, and everything in the least processed form”.

vet. doc.  Jagoda Koniarek, MA Dominika Kuczyńska-Schulz

The human organism doesn’t catch up with changes

The basic processes of our organism are regulated by genes and physiology, which in contemporary humans are almost identical to the ones that existed 100,000 years ago in our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Small, slow changes in environment and lifestyle facilitated the adjustment of the human organism. Since the time of the industrial revolution, however, rapid changes have ensued, which in an unprecedented way have influenced our conditions and lifestyle as humans have been exposed to the action of completely new factors. The level of emotional stress has increased, and physical activity and time spent outdoors have decreased dramatically. In an evolutionary sense nearly three-quarters of contemporary foods are new to the human organism. Previously unknown stress factors constantly stimulate the innate immune system, which had been adapted to make a short, quick and strong response to a sudden threat. In an evolutionary sense, it can’t react to our new ‘enemies’, which leads to an improper response disturbing the process of suppressing inflammation. The result is exacerbation of the chronic inflammatory process.

rodzinny piknik

Epigenetic modifications – a way of adapting or a way to an illness

The contemporary environment and lifestyle, also different than in the past, impact the human genotype and contribute to a large extent to the dramatic increase in the problems which lie at the origin of immune system disorders (the whole spectrum of allergies, hypersensitivities, food intolerance autoimmune diseases). Epigenetic modifications (histone proteins and DNA) were supposed to adapt an individual and his offspring to local environmental conditions, which in the past didn’t change so radically. Gradual phenotype changes enabled the effective digestion of the available food, adjustment to climatic conditions, and proper adaptation of the immune system (quicker enemy-friend identification). ‘Growing out of’ a childhood allergy is connected with the adaptation and ‘self-learning’ of genes, thanks to which the organism adjusts itself to environmental factors. Some modifications are ‘deleted’ and aren’t passed on to the next generation, whereas some are permanently written and might be inherited. As a result, there are regional tolerances and intolerances of some food ingredients. For centuries man has selected particular species and kinds of animals and arable crops having the most beneficial characteristics for the local human population. Currently, epigenetic modifications occur more frequently and are brought about by factors different from previous times.This coupled with insufficient hereditary adaptation leads to an undesirable effect. They are triggered by air pollution, contact with xenobiotics, the decrease in the biodiversity of microbiota, reduced sunlight exposure (vitamin D level), abandonment of local cuisine, increased consumption of antigenically alien processed food coming from remote corners of the world, as well as changes in the nutrition of pregnant women and the newborn. They may lead to the creation of an Allergic Inflammatory Phenotype susceptible to diseases of an immunological nature. Nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics deal with the interdependencies between genes, their expression and diet. Owing to constant epigenetic modifications, it is difficult to define with 100% certainty which genes (increase or decrease of their expression) are responsible for the development of diseases or undesirable reactions to nutritional factors.

Is the Mediterranean diet for everyone?

Due to established and virtually irreversible changes in animal breeding and crop cultivation, movement away from seasonality, as well as a tendency toward diet unification in the world, it is very difficult to restore traditional food and nutrition. Currently dominant nutritional trends impose one nutrition model on the whole population regardless of geographical latitude. It’s worth remembering that what is perfect for a white resident of the Mediterranean Sea Basinwon’t be equally ideal for an inhabitant of the Arctic Circle area. We can’t forget about crucial inter-individual differences. Health problems resulting from a whole spectrum of unwanted reactions to foods have become a challenge for physicians and dietitians. Attempts at using traditional, diagnostic elimination diets based on the potentially least harmful, yet still balanced, foods, don’t always bring about the expected, long-lasting improvement.

Detecting even some of the nutritional triggering factors and identifying the safest products require additional diagnostics. What kinds of tests should be performed? Standard IgE-specific allergy tests detect a very narrow range of adverse reactions to foods. Elimination diets based only on the results of such tests frequently prove not very effective or completely ineffective because only reactions stemming from one influencer (IgE-dependent) are detected without information about hypersensitivity induced by the participation of other influencers (IgE-independent), e.g. cytotoxic, pharmacologic, metabolic and other reactions. Usually a few factors as well as genetic predisposition, nutrigenetics and nutrigenomics are responsible for the occurrence of symptoms. A model allergic reaction takes place with the participation of IgE-type immunoglobulin and the release of histamine and histamine-like substances from the impaired cells.

However, the inflammatory process triggered by our nutrition is significantly more complex than the IgE-dependent allergy. There has been a growing conviction among clinicians and diagnosticians that a significant impact on different ailments (e.g.  bronchial asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, reflux, migraines and other head pain, body weight fluctuation, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, skin eruptions, atopic dermatitis, autism, ADHD) can result from delayed hypersensitivity reactions (DHT – Delayed Type Hypersensitivity) to the elements of a diet, namely food hypersensitivity. Marking antibodies from IgG class (overall or subclass) or IgA also doesn’t give a clear answer when increased blood pressure is also a marker of harmful food.The presence and concentration of antibodies IgG/IgA class in blood, characteristic of food antigens, might be easily found and measured. However, it is an element of accurate immunological response (food tolerance to mild antigens). The concentration of these antibodies is proportional to the frequency of exposure to antigens (if we eat something very often then the level of specific antibodies will be higher). Nutritional antigen-antibody complexes are formed at the moment of contact of a specific antibody with a corresponding antigen and they circulate briefly in the bloodstream, as they are constantly eliminated from the blood. Undesirable inflammatory reactions occur only when thecomplexes are large, or they build up in tissues and organs. Excessive, uncontrolled activation of complements follows as well as the strong inducement of scavenger cells, which causes a destruction of surrounding tissue. An example is the Arthus reaction, which lies at the heart of allergic inflammation of the pulmonary alveoli most often connected with occupational exposure to breathing in antigens, including farmer’s lung, pigeon breeder’s lung, and washer’s lung

Marking the level of antigens doesn’t provide the answer to the question whether such large complexes are formed or if they build up in tissue. The presence of such complexes isn’t marked in any examination, but only prognosticated indirectly.

The immunologist Dr Mark Pasula noted that, after contact with food antigens, white blood cells change their volume with varying intensity, which is the result of their release of mediators, the concentration of which determines the intensity of the inflammatory response. Dr Pasula’s development of techniques for objectively measuring the volume changes led to the creation of the MRT test(Mediator Release Test).The examination is performed with the use of MRT III analyzer, which combines Coulter method with flow cytometry.  The test defines the level of sensitivity to foods and food additives; therefore, it can lead to the elimination of the most reactive products from the diet and nutrition based on the safest foods. The MRT has the greatest diagnostic value among all commercially available food hypersensitivity tests.Given test results, as well as an interview and patient examination, it is possible to devise an individual diet plan in accordance with the LEAP Program (Lifestyle, Eating and Performance), which leads to the elimination or easing of many ailments, and the enhancement of the quality of life.

One cannot neglect the diagnostics of digestion disorders (enzymes) and the absorption (transport proteins) and metabolization of nutritional components. Some metabolic defects, e.g. mucopolysaccharidosisor phenylketonuria, may lead to a significant delay in  mental and physical development and should be diagnosed in infancy. Others such as gout develop slowly, gradually limiting human performance. Breathing tests available on the market allow for detection of lactose intolerance (the paucity of the lactase) and fructose intolerance (deficiency of protein transporter GLUT-5). Trying to limit the negative impact of food, one needs to conduct complex diagnostics facilitating the selection of the safest foods.

One shouldn’t forget about what the instinct has been telling us for ages. “Eat what has grown in your field and what was born on your farm, and everything in the least processed form”.

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