Food is meant to be nourishing, give us energy and allow us to perform optimally. But how often do you feel tired, bloated and gassy or have brain fog after a meal? Or you may be having difficulty losing weight or experiencing vague symptoms but your labs are “normal”? You may have undiscovered food sensitivities.
The incidence of food sensitivities is rising, possibly because of hidden ingredients in food, genetic manipulation of plants, less diversity in our diets, and the reduction of home cooking. Our genes evolved to handle raw foods we hunted and gathered, which lead to seasonal eating and frequent rotation of the diet. Nowadays we have a fridge stocked with produce and meat from around the globe, no matter what the season, which may contribute to this rise in sensitivity.
There are two types of negative reactions to foods. One is the instant (IgE-mediated) reaction such as rash, itching, or anaphylaxis. Common offenders are shellfish or peanut allergy. The other type of reaction is more subtle. It is a smoldering and chronic (IgG mediated) reaction with vague symptoms, which you may have lived with your whole life unknowingly. These low-grade reactions can occur at any, or all meals, which makes pinpointing the exact food culprit difficult. It’s this second type of reaction that is often a hidden factor in someone’s inability to lose weight, lower blood pressure, or treat any number of other ailments.
The Inflammation Cascade!
When you eat a food you are sensitive to, the single cell layer of the gut wall becomes inflamed. Think of your throat being inflamed…swollen, red, and full of mucus. When the intestinal cells swell, small openings form between the tightly woven cells creating “leaky gut syndrome”. This allows partially undigested food and bacteria to enter your body, triggering your immune system to attack. The body will then form antibodies to that foreign invader and increase production of inflammatory signaling. This creates a “vicious” cycle, which can lead to things like weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, and more food sensitivities.
Signs and Symptoms of possible food sensitivity:
Vomiting, Diarrhea, Bloating or flatulence, Abdominal pain and colic, Loss of appetite, Constipation, Malabsorption, Gastritis or ulcer, Ulcerative colitis, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Celiac Disease, Weight gain
Joint pain, Low back pain, Bursitis, Rheumatoid arthritis
ADD/ADHD, Headache, Fatigue, Insomnia, Irritability, Excessive restlessness, Depression, Anxiety, Personality changes, Seizures, Migraines
Coughing and wheezing, Chronic runny nose, Asthma, Recurrent bronchitis, Recurrent croup, Recurrent ear infections
Chronic or recurrent infections, Chronic acne, Canker sores, Eczema, Itchy rash, Hives, Tissue swelling
Bed-wetting, Bladder infections
Fainting, Hypoglycemia, Anemia, Sinusitis, Irregular heartbeat
Discovery of Hidden Food Sensitivities
We can determine these hidden food sensitivities through two main ways: Elimination diet and Blood testing.
Elimination diet: This is a simple and cost effective way to determine food sensitivities. First remove the most common offending foods from the diet: Gluten, Dairy, Soy, Eggs, Corn and nightshade vegetables (Tomatoes, Potatoes and Peppers). Ideally sugar and caffeine will be eliminated as well to reduce interfering symptoms. Once these foods are removed for 14 or 30 days reintroduce one food group at a time and monitor symptoms. Example: Dairy – Bring dairy in by consuming it in its simplest form – glass of milk. Day 1: Have a glass of milk and monitor how you feel. Day 2: go back to avoiding dairy while continuing to monitor symptoms. Day 3 have a dairy party! Eat cheese, yogurt and milk during the day and see how you tolerate. If no symptoms arise then bring dairy back into your diet. If you notice any symptoms like gas, sinus congestion, headache, joint pain etc. then discontinue dairy and reintroduce the next food.
Blood Testing: Specialized laboratories offer blood testing which evaluate a broad spectrum of foods, spices and environmental triggers for both immediate IgE and delayed IgG reactions. Skin testing or blood testing from a conventional lab only looks at the immediate IgE reactions and is not helpful in determining the more subtle, hidden IgG food sensitivities.
Because the successful diagnosis and treatment of subtle food sensitivities is challenging, we recommend consulting with a functional medicine or naturopathic doctor. Working together, you and your doctor will identify the offending foods, develop a nutritional plan for avoiding the sensitivities, and create a gut-healing program that will reduce total body inflammation. Then you can look forward to feeling refreshed, thinner and revitalized!
For more information on how to live healthy naturally contact Dr. Bridget Anderson, Naturopathic Medical Doctor at HEAL Natural Medicine. 949-476-3278 or Bridget.Anderson.ND@gmail.com