This is a theory. Not a theory like in science. A wild-ass-intuition-imagination from a layman who just had an idea that found justification for its own existence (funny how beautifully facts do that for all of us no matter what we think :-)). I will call it PJ's Crazy Theory since you probably will too.
Food intolerances can cause all kinds of things -- psychological, as well as physical, and then more psychological in reaction to the physical, and then your outer world reacts to your physical and psychological reactions, and it becomes a whole snowball perpetuating itself. All because your body didn't like some molecule in your bagel. Go figure.
I am coming to suspect that severe obesity is probably almost inextricably entwined with food intolerances. It may be that, just like poor eating which affects people differently depending on genetics, maybe it is really the same as issues some others have, differently handled.
When you think about it, society as a whole would show what amounts to a "spectrum" based on how severely or multi/complex-ly all the people in that society reacted to the common foods. Ranging from people seeming totally ok, through the spectrum to people with rashes, or the horror of cystic acne, to so-called eating disorders, psychological issues, and at the far side of the spectrum, people developing various serious disease. It would actually make sense that the spectrum of people with any given 'condition' are probably on the far side of the spectrum for something else; the condition itself is secondary.
Imagine this model in your head where at point A is bad food, and point B is the body and genetics and history and so on, and then point C actually splits into many different paths, one being cancer, one schizophrenia, one diabetes, one obesity, etc. etc. That is how I have thought of obesity until now, mostly after reading Taubes. Basically, like obesity was a disease like cancer, so was schizophrenia. I've sort of changed my mind. I don't think of it like this anymore. Not quite, anyway.
I know this theory is nuts. There is no science to back this. It's just some fat woman in the midwest rambling. But WHAT IF...
Point A is toxic food intake.
Point B is the human body (genetics), its history (environment, plus cumulative stuff).
Point C is the immune system.
Point D has 3 segments and it is "reactions of the neuro-immune system."
(I say neuro because I read a bunch about neuro techs as I'm into brainwave feedback and such, and I am always sort of struck by how it seems to me that in some way the brain is actually having a fight/freeze/flight response. There is no science that I know of that would put it that way. So I guess tonight is just a wild rambling journey through my deviant mind, sorry.)
So I'm saying that I think how the brain reacts determines how the immune system reacts. But maybe that is a no-brainer (no pun intended) anyway -- maybe the brain controls everything. Who knows. Let's move on.
So we have the immune system which breaks into three branches of point D:
Fight, flight or freeze.
* the 'fight' point splits off into all these body-attacking syndromes like chronic fatigue, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac, things that seem to attack the body in some way.
* the 'freeze' point (like in/under-active) splits off into all these immune breakdown (or disease overcomes immunity) areas like cancer or susceptibility to viral disease for example.
* the 'flight' point splits off into like, rashes which is 'venting' through the skin, and obesity which is venting into fat cells, 'partitioning' the toxins 'away' from the body.*
(* This may be the body's way of 'running away' so to speak. Much like plants don't have claws and teeth so antinutrients are what they 'do', maybe the body's 'running away' manifests as 'closing things off from it/sending them away' one way or another.)
Now, seeing a 'spectrum' of response in the population would seem reasonable -- the degree of genetic response, the degree of environmental issues, the degree of cumulative problems, and the degree of "immune system reaction" perhaps, resulting in a rainbow of 'degree' which would be measured by condition, severity of condition, and timing of condition's full bloom.
* People at the 'far side of the spectrum' for fight-response may end up with severe RA when they're 7 years old, or CF when they're 17, whereas people farther back on the spectrum may just gradually get more and more symptoms until by the time they're 40 they're starting to have some bad arthritis.
* People at the far side of spectrum for immune 'freeze' response may get disease when very young -- *so young they may literally be born type I diabetic or get it in super-early childhood* -- or they might start finally getting schizo symptoms when they're about 20, stretching out down the milder spectrum all the way to people who seem perfectly fine until they are 86 years old and suddenly get Alzheimers/dementia. At the farthest part of that mild spectrum, people may die prior to manifesting disease--even if they would have, had they lived longer--so it 'seemed' like they were always healthy, despite eating the same foods, but really their place on the spectrum simply put their manifestation-point after their lifespan.
* People at the far side of the spectrum for immune "flight" response may not just get rashes as skin venting, as one pathway, but more serious syndrome stuff like cystic acne, or even -- by sheer coincidence yesterday I found this wiki page talking about a rare condition that sounds exactly like cystic acne except that the cysts are literally the size of softballs and anywhere in the body, no cure, no idea to cause, severe problems with them rupturing, etc. (Horrible!). Or if the body uses the fat-storage approach to venting/running/closing-off, the far-spectrum of people would not seem to stop getting fat (such as the body 'shifting' from the 'flight' response to the 'freeze' response and then adding disease), instead, they would just get huger until they were lumbering and eventually so huge they were immobilized. (Irony: you could almost think of it, eventually, as if *an entire human had been stored in a giant adipose cell and had become immobilized and inert*.) Even in some cases weighing 900# and yet they're NOT quite diabetic, or cancerous, or officially celiac -- just the far extreme of immune-flight via the adiposity-storage route.
I know this is a crazy theory, I have zero medical or science backing for it, and it probably just sounds like I came up with something to explain away my being crazy fat or something. But this is my theory for the moment: that maybe all conditions are actually a manifestation of "one of three types of neural/immune system" response to injury (rare) or poisoning (environmental or chronic food).
OK Taubes already suggested that nearly everything was a response to toxic food. I'm just saying sure, but what if the literal responses we can measure in the body, are actually responses to/from/via the *immune system* -- that this is actually the controlling point for literally everything.
OK let's get back to obesity and food intolerance. Just as an experiential comment, I think some of the compounding factors is that for many people and at least some foods, the "reaction" to a food which is essentially dangerous and damaging to their body, is like the reaction to some allergies: literally, craving.
As if this isn't bad enough, the type of foods that seem to most often cause this craving, may also result in literal addiction, by mucking about with neurochemistry and other body chemicals in various ways both direct (e.g. non-habituating neural stimulation) and indirect (e.g. positive association with feeling good from food X).
A nightmare cycle. The molecular-level damage is not obvious enough to 'see'. You see only the side effects that come from the toxins and the immune reaction to that. In the case of the immune-flight response via adipose-storage, so food doesn't give you hardly any of its energy for use (either because it's stored as a toxin or because it's suppressed due to its nature causing insulin highs), every iota of damage just results in more sense of need to eat more of the thing that's hurting you.
My buddy Sara was half-saying and implying *I think* the following, which I've fleshed out into my own words and added to: The psychology might develop all kinds of neurosis that are actually just the subconscious acting-out the model of the food being toxic. What if you got a flight fat-storage response combined with the subconscious reaction to the food as a toxin, would the anorexia (lack of appetite), combine with an obsession to NOT have bodyfat because the fat *itself* is slightly-toxic and the storage point/recognition of much of the 'thing' that is hurting the body? So Anorexia Nervosa might result (much like 'schizophrenia' does, an alleged psyche issue that is definitely physiologically based). Could the combination of craving-reaction to toxic-food, and the psychology reacting to the toxin like the previous, create the binge/purge bulemia cycle? Yes, of course we assign these to emotional issues, but as a hypnotist for many years I can tell you that you can have a person do anything on a posthypnotic command and they will rationalize why they did it when you ask them no matter how irrational they have to get to do it. So in my opinion, it's not that psychology causes certain behaviors but that physiology does and then the psychology 'grafts on' a rationalized explanation of 'why'.
I spent my entire life, literally, living almost entirely on gluten products and milk. And it looks like I have some pretty serious issues with gluten (at this point any of it gives me "severe asthma" -- which I never developed until age 35 and was medicated for until Lowcarb got me off gluten 'by accident' and made me realize gradually what was going on). And given the heroin-like more-more-more addictive response I had to milk for many years, probably that too. Eventually I refused to bring it into my house at all most the time, because the more I drank, the more I wanted, and this literally increased until I was waking up after every 3 hours sleep, in the kitchen at 3am, rushing for the milk, drinking from the carton, falling gasping in oh-thank-god-yes back against the fridge door as I got a fix. Serious junkies act like that. (I've known some... my brother died of a heroin overdose... milk is definitely my heroin.)
Now, it's hard to imagine how eating the very things you are intolerant to, most of 3 meals a day 7 days a week 12 months a year every year of life, first because they are *the primary cultural foods* and cheap and fast and common and yummy-tasting, and second because from very young you craved 'em -- how could all this NOT have some mind-bending effects. You'd think a person in that condition would be lucky to be alive at all frankly. Weighing over 500# at one point from, we assume, the combination of chronic over-intake and chronic over-storage and chronic refusal-to-release-from-storage (due to insulin) doesn't even seem all that surprising!
More theory... though it runs into and tackles some (hypotheses?) in Taubes's book I guess.
If your immune system reacts powerfully in a 'partitioning' (the "flight" reaction), say it takes all those free radicals and whatever and stuffs them into fat cells like crazy to make you safe, much the way we store toxic waste in containers in the ground. The more you ingest of the problem (toxic foods), the more stuff there is to store, even when you barely eat at all, let alone if you eat a lot, which you have to do more and more.
If you mostly eat Taco Bell as a humor example, the % and quantity of food you have to intake in order to get something that is (a) NOT toxic and not mixed in, in your stomach, with what's toxic, and (b) has protein-amino acids, which is mostly what your body wants, becomes utterly staggering, and I mean many thousands of calories a day kind of staggering. But nearly all of it's going to storage.
So the person has no none nada ZERO energy to move, for obvious reasons (their energy is locked in fat cells, not in the blood stream making them feel energetic) and this only hugely amplifies their desperation for carbs, which are "pure energy". <-- this last part, Taubes basically explained, and the foregoing that relates is sort of implied. Anyway back to my rambling theories:
But it turns out that the very toxic foods they crave (for reaction-reasons), and are addicted to (for intrinsic quality of the so-called food reasons, and indirect reasons of association) are the energy/carbs. So they are driven to eat more of those very things by their body's utter energy-less-ness. Plus, driven to eat more of them by the addictive-reaction. Which only makes for more toxins to store at all speed, and the person growing fatter, but each (maybe most) eating cycle(s) only makes for another round of almost no energy, so one is driven to find energy, and this cycle just keeps happening over and over.
Total trivia aside: for the last 20 years of my being huge, and the larger I got, one sort of odd thing is real noticeable: my BRAIN has energy (although it's "fogged" a bit with gluten present) when the rest of my body doesn't. I can sit as still as someone in a coma for 12 hours, until the need to pee makes me move (everything 'cracks' when I do!), it is almost surreal how little energy I can expend physically unless I am eating gluten-free low-carb and ENOUGH (80g++) protein. I barely BREATHE; my oxygen is incredibly low during those times; I don't just have sleep apnea, it's more like apnea, period -- I started getting that way as a young teen, my boyfriend used to comment when I was 16 on how my breathing got so shallow I eventually just wasn't breathing at all for awhile. I attributed it years later to emotional issues (not wanting to 'feel') but maybe it was instead -- or related to that -- the beginning of my version of metabolic syndrome and energy access slowing down/reducing. Anyway, but even when my body has absolutely no energy, my brain has always been extremely active. I don't know how to explain this so let's just leave it at that.
This leads however to a second thought: if my brain is used to taking nearly all the available energy--so it survives, while the body atrophies in some respects (low oxygen has SO many horrible effects on every cell of the body...) because it hasn't enough energy left over.
I am highly 'functional' so am not, haven't been, and likely never will be, classified as anything like bi-polar. However, I have what I call 'upcycles' and 'downcycles'. They are semi-cyclical but not totally predictable. I do not have 'un-functional' behaviors like people who tend to get medicated for this. In my downcycles I really just feel like reading or listening to music or sleeping (escape and low-energy) and I tend to sort of "trance out".
In my upcycles I am totally wired, I sleep maybe 3 hours a night and sometimes just skip sleep the first day, I invent stuff and create stuff and feel incredibly positive and optimistic and THINK so fast that ordinary conversation drives me nuts because people are so SLOW. However, in both cases, I'm behaving "within the spectrum of assumed normality" (my upcycles less so, probably) so mostly, in my life, the result is that what I don't get done during the downcycle, gets taken care of plus more in the upcycle, and in the end people just think I'm creative and accomplish a lot. They only see the "averaged end result" not the very variable-energy process.
I'm getting to the point I swear. This just seems like a niggling thing to pay attention to, it's bugging me like I should notice it. I have (without lots of protein and lowcarb) almost no energy, and I mean that in a rather profound, barely-breathing, coma-stillness kind of way that you'd probably need to be my size to grok. But my brain has energy (most of the time at least...) even then. But there are cycles when my brain -- *not my body so much, just my brain, with a little bit of spillover to my body like in insomnia* -- seems hyper-energetic, versus hypo-energetic.
What if over the course of time, due to this toxic then immune then energy-partitioned-in-favor-of-brain model, maybe eventually the brain starts taking nearly all the available energy. Unlike the "normal" scenario of healthy life, it's not that there is a bunch of energy and it feeds the whole body varyingly as needed. Instead, there's a tiny bit of energy, and the brain has first dibs on 92% of it, the max quantity it can grab for whatever reason (maybe this varies).
Now say that due to a shift in eating or stomach microbes or whatever, you don't even notice you end up for a day or two lower in insulin and higher in protein or fats, or lower in calories (energy), or maybe this has a 1-3 day average or lag time. And so all the sudden, the brain is deprived of some of its needed, used-to-having quantity of energy. In a healthy person, there would be enough energy, and if there wasn't, the brain would just take from the body portion, no problem. But in this case there isn't enough body portion of energy for the brain to add to its own % and come up with 'enough'. So maybe at that point the brain is having an energy crash and you get people in my case trancing out, doing anything to "not have to think much" -- and in some people's more extreme cases, you get people so depressed they can only lay in the dark, or cry.
Conversely, say that due to a shift in eating you don't even notice, stomach microbes, whatever, you end up for a day or two much HIGHER in resultant-energy. Maybe due to the 'habit' or established reaction caused by the ongoing energy problems, the brain takes its normal 92% of that far greater pool (or the body "only takes 8%") -- even though that is actually *too much* stimulus-energy for the brain. So you get people having euphoria, insomnia, inspiration, really high creativity and intellectual work, operating far too fast, so they come off as "manic" etc.
That is a totally separate line of wild speculation. I'm done with that now...
Possibly, without any shift in immune response, it could sometimes just be that a response is flight-via-fat-storage, but the repeated, massive overdosing of insulin and free radicals and more, actually has damaged the organs severely enough that eventually the immune 'defense' system can't compete and disease happens.
Or (more theory) the immune response might shift. Maybe the body instead of stuffing yet more crap into adipose cells, simply reaches a point where it is no longer able to handle the "flight" reaction, because the growth of fat% has put the body so far out of the genetic map of how that creature (person) should grow and not-grow or what size they should or even 'can' be, that the body has to do something else. At which point 'flight' no longer works, like a breaker switch flips, and the immune system has to shift to 'freeze' and they get disease, or 'fight' and they get the kind of illness that is not so much a disease like cancer as a disease like a syndrome, like RA and CF and IBS etc.
But the 'flight' response might often come first for some genetic lines, and have varying degrees of potential before the genetic 'body map' kicks the breaker for the creature growing too large -- which might explain why obesity is so 'correlated' with disease. It is not ONLY that the same thing is at the first point of all of them (toxic food); but it's that obesity as an immune response may have a spectrum of genetically-set limit on it, so it wouldn't at all be uncommon to see that at varying levels -- from 30# to 500# of overweight -- a shift happens and the person ends up with disease or disorder (one of the other immune reactions instead of flight). (This part I did not think up; it is "implied" by the existing idea that fat might be "protective" in some way.)
So sure, it would totally be "more common" that if you were obese, you were "more likely" to get a disease, since the chance that you are in that tiny segment of the "far side of the spectrum population" -- whose genetic maps don't seem to have the limit on size/storage and so they can grow to 800# or something -- are very slim compared to the chance that at some point, if you don't stop the stuff that is hurting you (and hence making you fat(ter)), it's going to shift into something more socially acceptable but probably more terminal.
So in this theory/model/framework, maybe the real problem is that we are trying to classify symptoms as 1001 different things and figure out what causes each of them. Meanwhile on the other side there are some scientists/doctors who seem to suspect already that the same thing causes all of them (chronic food toxicity). But maybe the confusingly missing part in the middle is that every condition, disease and disorder, from skin rashes to chronic fatigue to cancer to anorexia nervosa to obesity, ALL of them are actually just one of the three "immune system reactions", acting at various points on the spectrum, acting in a path perhaps determined by genetics.
I know, this was boring, but I had to get it on paper. Then I can look back at this and laugh hahaha what was I thinking someday. But if I don't write it down, even when this thunderstorm ends I still might not be able to sleep. I feel better now. Thanks for suffering with me. :-)