So, one of the less talked about symptoms of Adrenal Dysfunction is achy, flu-like pain in the joints and sensitivity of the skin. Technically speaking, this symptom is known as Myalgia. Now, if you haven’t had these, let’s hope you don’t ever get them! But, if you have, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about when I say it’s just a general pain, ache or heaviness in your limbs that often is most intense in the joints like your hips, shoulders or neck. The best way I know how to describe this pain is that it’s like the body aches you get before or during a cold. The kind where you can’t get comfortable, feel like you’ve just run a marathon and even the blanket feels like sandpaper against your skin.
But if you’re not sick with the flu, what are the other reasons this kinds of pain can randomly pop up? Today I want to dive into how digestion, specifically eating foods that cause reactivity in our bodies, lend their hand to achy, painful sensations in our limbs and joints and give you some tools to start addressing the problem at home.
So, here’s the thing. If your stress response has been working overtime and you’re feeling burned out, chances are your digestion has gone to shit as well. Digestion is a parasympathetic activity, meaning it only occurs when we are in “rest and digest” mode, in other words, a calm state of mind. When we are feeling stressed, anxious, hurried or overwhelmed, the processes which break our food down into usable nutrients get down-regulated. In other words, they either don’t work as efficiently or they get turned off completely. This leads to a breakdown in function that eventually leads to inflammation in the gut. This inflammation then wears down at the gut lining creating what we call Leaky Gut, or “holes” in the gut lining that are larger than they should be. A few other things contribute to Leaky Gut, the main players being food sensitivities and high levels of stress/cortisol.
So now that you know how stress contributes to leaky gut, let’s focus the rest of of the post on food sensitivities and intolerances and their role in inflammation. All of us have bio-individual nutrient needs which is just a fancy way to say that our bodies are all unique and different. The foods that make one person thrive and feel amazing will make another feel sick and beat down. Genetics, along with our personal environment, are what make up this ability to tolerate or not tolerate certain foods. The problem arises then when we choose, knowingly or not, to eat the foods which we do NOT tolerate sometimes on a daily or meal-by-meal basis. These foods then become like a sort of poison in the body having the opposite effect of giving health and instead cause chaos and illness.
We’ve talked a lot about healthy digestion but remember that an optimal digestive system breaks down foods into smaller, usable nutrients and then your small intestine decides which ones to let into your blood stream. When leaky gut is a problem, this barrier is compromised and now anything and everything can flow easily into our body. Assuming some of the ‘anything and everything’ is food that your body reacts to, an attack from your immune system is triggered.
During an immune attack a few things happen. White blood cells are triggered along with certain cells that are specifically designed to attack certain foods. You’ll also see things like inflammation pop up which kill off invaders entering from the breached gut. If you’ve ever had a cut, you know what inflammation feels and looks like. It causes redness, heat, swelling, pain and sometimes infection. This same process is happening internally when inflammation is trying to “kill” an invading problem such as a food your reactive to.
Some of the proteins released by your immune system during the inflammatory process are called cytokines. Some of these cytokines are pro-inflammatory and are responsible for the pain felt during the attack process. These are also the proteins which are released during a cold or flu that cause body aches. It’s kind a neat process if you think about it. Our body can’t “speak” to us in a language we understand, so you can think of pain and symptoms as just that. Joint pain, body aches or muscle pain are ways for our body to tell us that something is off, something isn’t right and to pay attention. So fascinating!
So, now that you know WHAT causes this pain, you’re probably wondering HOW to get rid of it. When working a client through adrenal dysfunction, one of the first things we do is to do some food elimination testing and find out which foods are causing stress and inflammation in the body. It’s a pretty simple technique, but almost infallible when done correctly. I suggest working with a practitioner who can guide you through the ups and downs and details of the process, but if you want to give it a shot on your own here is the basic premise.
1. Choose a food you think may be causing you problems. The most common culprits tend to be gluten, dairy, corn, soy, eggs and nuts.
2. Remove this food (or multiple foods) for a minimum of 30 days, preferably 60-90. This allows your gut to rest and repair fully and is an important step in getting an accurate test result.
3. At the end of the elimination period, choose one food at a time to add back into your diet and check for reactions of any kind.
4. Continue this process, waiting 72 hours between reintroductions, with a new food until you have worked them all back into your diet.
5. If reactions occur, remove the food responsible for another 90 days and try reintroducing once again after that period. Sometimes more gut healing is required and you can once again eat that food. Other times, it’s fixed allergy and you’ll want to find alternatives for the future.
Personally, I found that after I removed dairy for a year, I can tolerate it in small, irregular doses and feel just fine. This is just one example, but keep in mind that food elimination and intolerances are not always linear and fixed. Your body is ever changing as is the world around you. Learning to listen to the signals from your body, such as joint pain and digestive issues, will give you all the insight you need to stay tuned in and aware of your body’s changing needs.
Until next time.