By Dr. Varsha Rathod, M.D.


In my last article, I described the role of digestion in the causation of chronic disease. This article identifies chronic inflammation as the main mechanism of dysfunction, disease and aging.

Inflammation is a process that occurs when a triggering agent such as pollen or bacteria etc., interact with our immune system. It results in redness, heat, pain, swelling, secretions, and disturbed function. With the advent of microscopy, we became aware that our immune cells were being recruited to the site of inflammation. In the 20th century the molecules of inflammation became better understood and names such as histamines, cox-2’s, and other cytokines became household words.

The immune system’s response to a trigger can be complex and broadly classified into the more primitive innate immune response. This response is our body’s first line of defense against invaders that recognizes ancient bacterial, viral and fungal patterns and the Acquired Immune System. The process of acquired immunity consists chiefly of lymphocytes that must be trained through constant stimulation from the external environment. For example, an infant’s lymphocytes develop and acquire memory by stimulation from bacteria, growth factors and food material provided to it through breast milk. As the infant grows and becomes curious of its environment, the infant samples everything through touch, smell and taste, further helping the growth of the acquired immune system. This is why the first two years of life are critical to the acquisition of a healthy immune system.

A child that is breast fed, receiving minimal man made foods and chemicals while being exposed to a ‘healthy’ dose of parasites and bacteria makes itself strong and ready to adapt to the environment around it. As the child grows into adulthood, ongoing nutritional influences, digestive and mucosal influences, psycho-emotional influences, endocrine influences, environmental influences all help to condition the immune response. A healthy person responds to a threat with an acute contained immune response that is short lived.

I recently saw a young lady with abdominal cramps, periodic diarrhea, eczema of her hand and asthma. She transitioned to formula milk at the end of 6 weeks of age, was exposed to frequent day care infections and as a result received several courses of antibiotics for the first five years of life. In high school, she reported exercise induced asthma, but later progressed in college to seasonal asthma. By her mid 20’s she exhibited chronic sinusitis, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, eczema, headaches, weight gain, muscle pains and fatigue. I ordered labs, which showed her to be deficient in Vitamin D, had antibodies to Gluten and Thyroid, and absence of adequate good stool bacteria while exhibiting an abundance of yeast and pathogenic bacteria. I started her on an elimination diet, and included vitamin D, appropriate pro-biotics, treatment of yeast with herbal formulations, and replacement of low thyroid hormones. Following this treatment, 2 months later, she had a new lease on life.

I suspect that this spring she will have fewer allergies and asthma even though these were not treated. This is because the underlying cause of inflammation was a weakened immune system that was further insulted through poor nutrition, impaired digestion and endocrine (thyroid and adrenal) dysfunction. When these were treated, her immune system received the signals to repair and condition itself.

Today inflammation is at the heart of a host of common diseases such as obesity, diabetes, asthma, eczema, coronary artery disease, auto – immune diseases, ADD and ADHD and even cancer. Sooner or later, we are all faced with the opportunity to work hard at recognizing and repairing immunity insufficiencies with sustaining healthy digestion and nutrition rather than jumping on the road to pill taking, procedures and/or surgeries while simply treating the symptom.

Happy discovery and health to you this spring.

Dr. Varsha Rathod is a board certified Rheumatologist and Internist at Preventive Medicine in the Westport Plaza Area of St. Louis, MO. The practice has focused on a combination of traditional and holistic medicine since 1967. For more articles and information about integrative solutions please visit www.preventivemedicinestl.com or call Preventive Medicine at 314-997-5403.