Why do you need to avoid processed foods?

Have you ever faced a situation where a mild headache turns into a serious one and you nag all day long? Well, it could be a migraine, a common headache condition characterized by recurring, throbbing headaches that can sometimes last for three days. Migraines differ from normal headaches by several symptoms, including nausea and sensitivity to light, sounds, and smells. But do you know why migraines occur?

According to Sushant Kumar, Founder and CEO of Genefitletics, “these headaches are related to our eating habits.” Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? He explains that depending on the composition of your intestinal microbiome, the consumption of canned and frozen food as well as meat can lead to migraines, leaky gut and even an increased risk of gastrointestinal diseases.

Qua Nutrition’s chief nutritionist, Ryan Fernando, adds: “The problem could either be with the food you eat. It could poison the body, causing a pain response in the body. the food may be magnesium deficient, leading to migraines and headaches. “

Eat (un) wisely

Humans have outsourced many biological functions to 40 trillion microorganisms living in the intestine, namely bacteria, fungi, viruses and algae with around 20 million genes of their own. These groups of organisms are known as the gut microbiome and are in a symbiotic relationship with the body. “The microbial community in our intestines is the CEO of our body and makes all life decisions. However, our gut bacteria are in charge and are key decision makers in all aspects of our health, be it metabolism, digestion or mental health. By optimizing our gut microbiome, we can take care of our health, ”says Kumar.

To explain, he adds how the microbial community rents the property in the gut and feeds on some of the calories a person ingests. In turn, the microbial community releases metabolites that help digest our food, train our immune systems, minimize inflammation, and synthesize important vitamins and neurotransmitters.

For decades, people with heart disease have been prescribed various drugs, including nitrogen supplements. “Nitrogen supplements convert to nitric oxide when consumed. It is used to lower blood pressure. It makes blood flow easier through the veins and arteries, which helps people with heart problems. Athletes also use nitric oxide to optimize their exercise performance. Medicines and supplements have side effects.

The production of nitric oxide (by taking nitrate supplements) can lead to the onset of migraines. “However, there have been cases where people who neither had heart problems nor were athletes even had migraines due to increased nitric oxide production even though they did not take nutritional supplements took: “Could diet be the reason for this?” he asks.

About 5% of migraineurs may experience headaches hours or even minutes after consuming processed meat products. A “hot dog headache” was coined to describe this type of headache. “Alcoholic beverages, processed meats, and aged cheeses are among the most commonly reported dietary causes of migraines. Caffeine deficiency, hunger and nutritional deficits should also play a role, ”explains Fernando.

Salt formula and nitrate molecules are added to canned foods and meat to extend their shelf life. These foods can release nitric oxide when consumed. “It depends on the composition of the intestinal bacteria. If our intestines contain bacteria that convert nitrate molecules into nitric oxide, this can lead to migraines and headaches,” says Kumar.

Comfort costs

Ready-made, processed foods and meat, while convenient and cheaper, are at the expense of your health. The consumption of frozen food and meat has numerous health consequences. Shweta Mahadik, clinical nutritionist at Fortis Hospital, Kalyan, lists some of them: “Eating processed foods and meat is harmful to health.

The ingredients used in frozen foods are not the same as in freshly prepared dishes. Processed foods are high in sodium, sugar, monosodium glutamate (MSG), nitrates, etc. They also contain palm oil, which is harmful trans fats. Preservatives like corn syrup, starch etc. are made up of adhesives that lead to carcinogenic effects. “Nowadays, many food companies use MSG in ready-to-eat products, which increases the risk of non-communicable diseases like diabetes, cancer, blood pressure, obesity in the younger generation.

Nitrites, a category of preservatives that includes potassium nitrite and sodium nitrite, are also likely causes. “Sausage, ham, bacon and lunch meat like salami and bologna are examples of processed meats that contain nitrites. These preservatives prevent dangerous germs like Clostridium botulinum from growing. They also add flavor to processed meat by keeping their color, ”adds Fernando.

Mahadik, on the other hand, points out MSG, which is the main active ingredient in soy sauce, processed meat, etc. and can cause migraines within 20 minutes of consumption. “MSG affects your blood vessels and the nerve signals in your brain. These lead to a throbbing headache that can last for days. Nitrates and nitrites found in cured and processed meats get into your system and cause blood vessels to swell, which can lead to headaches, “she says. Some studies have found that regular consumption of foods rich in MSG can reduce gastritis, Can cause stomach and duodenal ulcers.

Health effects

But not only migraines can be triggered by consuming such nitrate molecules (or proteins) from processed meat. “The effects of nitric oxide go beyond migraines. Depending on the composition of the intestinal bacteria, the consumption of preserved foods can lead to the release of ammonia gas, which can promote inflammation and damage your intestinal lining directly. It also leads to the onset of chronic diseases like inflammatory bowel disease, “says Kumar.

Dr. Rakesh Patel, Consultant Gastroenterology and Hepatobiliary Sciences at Fortis Hospital, cited how the diet change has led to corresponding changes in the health of people on the Indian subcontinent. “Preserved and processed foods contain chemicals, especially salt, acid, preservatives and food additives that alter gut microbiota and can lead to disease. Fatty liver, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and inflammatory bowel disease are epidemic in countries like ours because of it Changed eating habits, as well as so-called “healthy foods”, contain microbiota-changing chemicals that lead to such diseases, ”says Dr. Patel.

Kumar adds that the gut microbiome is connected to our brain (gut-brain axis) via the vagus nerve, so different body systems have a complex, symbiotic and interconnected relationship. “Our gut microbiome plays a critical role in our neurological health, either by communicating with the brain through the vagus nerve or by producing various neurotransmitters. Generally, most of us resort to medication, medication, and antibiotics to relieve the pain of migraine-related headaches, which exacerbates the gut microbiome imbalance. Diet changes (eliminating processed meats), including probiotics in the diet, can go a long way in overcoming this painful headache, “suggests Kumar.

Course correction

The human body consists of 20,000 to 25,000 human genes, while microbes that live in our intestines form 2 to 20 million genes of their own, which epigenetically makes us only 1% human! “Every two people have 99% common genes. So we can’t change our genes, but we can change how those genes are expressed,” says Kumar.

A gut microbiome test helps identify different types of microorganisms in the gut by analyzing stool samples. Based on this, the nutritionist can give necessary recommendations for one’s own nutritional practice. “Altering the balance of gut composition and promoting a more balanced flora of gut microbes can reduce our use of medication for temporary relief from migraines,” says Kumar.

Fernando advises that if there is a feeling that certain foods are causing migraines, consider removing them from your diet to see if it helps. “A nutritionist can help you determine if any of the things you eat are related to migraines and prescribe treatment based on that. For some people, supplements like coenzyme Q10 and butterbur can help minimize the frequency of migraines, ”he says.

Mahadik advises carefully checking the food labels. “In general, we see that children often need a snack during the day. Instead of giving children sweets or salty snacks, opt for healthier options like nuts and oilseeds, cheese, yogurt (preferably unsweetened), chopped or dried fruit, boiled or eggs other locally available healthy options like kurmura, makhana, puffed jowar, puffed bajra, khakara, etc.

These food options are nutritious, more filling, and help build healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime, “she says. Patel can no longer agree with her. Everyone has a genetic make-up that changes gut microbiota, and” So, take these Get rid of fast and frozen foods and opt for fresh and healthy foods, “he adds.

According to Fernando, “The most important thing in the future would be a blood test, a microbiome test, a genetic test, removing the foods that are toxic to the body and adding foods that take the microbiome and nutritional needs of the body to the next level.”

Kumar explains succinctly the current health care system and explains how the current model solves the wrong thing – symptom management. “Here’s a symptom, here’s a drug for it. It’s like any e-commerce or marketplace model. In our fight against chronic disease, we need to recruit an invisible army of microbes that live in our gut to learn how our body works and how to make it operate optimally and how to fix problems sustainably without collateral damage when something goes wrong goes.”

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Posted on: Monday September 06, 2021 7:00 AM IST