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HEALTHY GUT, HEALTHY BODY

There is yet another piece to the inflammation–immune system puzzle: eating high-FI foods can contribute to a condition known as leaky gut syndrome.

Leaky gut is pretty much what it sounds like. The cells of your intestinal lining (your gut) are supposed to be pressed up tightly against one another, creating tight junctions. These junctions keep partially digested food securely inside your intestines, where it belongs.

Sometimes, though, your intestinal lining is compromised, allowing particles of partly digested food to leak out into your bloodstream. Other problematic stuff can get out, too, including microbes, waste and toxins.

When these substances enter your bloodstream, your body treats them as foreign invaders and responds accordingly. Your immune system releases a cascade of inflammatory chemicals designed to neutralize the threat, which can also wreak havoc on your intestinal lining. As a result, you have a much harder time absorbing nutrients, which might even cause you to eat more — and gain weight.

Eventually, the poorly digested food combines with IgG antibodies to form large bodies known as immune complexes. These circulate through the bloodstream until they are deposited in various tissues, where they create localized inflammation. That's how you end up with the symptoms we've talked about — the rashes, joint pain, headache, fatigue and skin eruptions.

All of these symptoms together can make you feel as though your whole body is breaking down. You might be tempted to think that this is what happens naturally as you age. It isn't. It's what happens when you suffer from leaky gut. If you've been eating the wrong foods for years, you'll probably develop more symptoms over time, as the problem worsens and symptoms build up.

Ironically, your body starts to crave the very foods that are making you sick. That's because if you keep eating high-FI foods, your body keeps making antibodies to protect you from them. If you try to cut out a particular high-FI food, you have all these antibodies roaming around in search of it, ready to zap it with their special protective chemicals. These would-be protectors actually cause you to crave the food they're longing to zap, setting you up for a vicious cycle of inflammation and weight gain.

Food intolerance can create leaky gut, but other factors can, too:

Chronic inflammation

Lactose intolerance

Gluten as it triggers the release of the protein zonulin, which loosens the tight junctions in the gut

A low-fiber, high sugar diet, which lowers your levels of stomach acid and contributes to leaky gut

Poorly digested food, which may be caused by speed eating or stress eating

A compromised immune system or an autoimmune condition, such as asthma, allergies or rheumatoid arthritis

Overuse of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as aspirin and ibuprophen

Infections, including viral, bacterial, yeast and parasitic

Antibiotics

Accutane (a form of vitamin A used to treat acne)

Acid blockers

Excessive alcohol consumption

Cytotoxic drugs and radiation

Exposure to heavy metals

Exposure to molds

Exposure to toxins

GMOs, including such genetically modified foods as soy and corn, each of which averages about 90 percent of the U.S. crop

If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome or irritable bowel disorder, you almost certainly have leaky gut as well.

The major cause of leaky gut, however — and the one that's been most challenging for me personally — is stress because it causes your gut to become more permeable. So if you've been going through an especially tough time or if your life is chronically stressful, those extra pounds (and unpleasant symptoms) might well be caused by both leaky gut and inflammation.

Leaky gut isn't just caused by food intolerance, it also causes food intolerance. As undigested food leaks through those open spaces in your gut, it makes its way into your bloodstream, and your immune system goes wild. Eventually, even foods that you were not previously sensitive to can become problem foods for you. So, we're looking at a vicious cycle in which leaky gut, inflammation and food intolerance all reinforce one another.

Here's the good news: if you remove the offending foods, your symptoms usually vanish, and the excess weight starts to come off. Once you heal your leaky gut, you might even become able to tolerate foods to which you are now sensitive. And the really good news is that you can heal leaky gut and perhaps also overcome at least some of your food intolerance through the Virgin Diet. When you drop the top 7 high-FI foods and load up on healing foods, you give your body a fresh, healing start. Meanwhile, you'll drop up to 7 pounds in 7 days and look years younger. It's a win–win.

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