Food Sensitivities: A Hidden Epidemic
by Amanda Box, N.D.
Your body is trying to tell you something. It is screaming out in pain or discomfort, but you continue to misinterpret its cries for help. You blame your body as being dysfunctional and run-down. Perhaps you sought help and your doctor diagnosed you with one of these ailments:
Unfortunately, you and your doctor may be blind to the association between what you’re eating and what you are feeling. You may have the manifestations of your doctor’s diagnosis, but underneath these manifestations lies the real culprit: a food sensitivity that is wreaking havoc on your body and your health.
Food sensitivities are nothing short of a silent epidemic. Both their elusiveness in manifestations and the fact that mainstream medicine rarely acknowledges their existence, leave many people without a remedy. Food sensitivities differ from food allergies and, unfortunately, there is no foolproof diagnostic tool available.
Identifying a food sensitivity is based primarily on symptoms, with a bit of trial and error. The plus side is that unlike food allergies, treatment is much more effective and far less harmful than pharmaceutical drugs that are designed to suppress symptoms. Food sensitivities can be CURED! Yes, that is right! If you’re suffering from manifestations caused by hidden food sensitivity, you can get your life back!
Food Sensitivities vs. Food Allergies
Often the terms food sensitivity and food allergy get interchanged. It is important to know that these are two separate conditions and although they may share some similarities, they are not interchangeable. Distinguishing between a food sensitivity (also referred to as a food intolerance) and a food allergy is important in determining both the cause and treatment.
Food allergies are far less common than food sensitivities, but are typically much more serious. A food allergy can often be diagnosed via blood tests or a skin prick test. Diagnosis is important as many food allergies can be life threatening. If anaphylactic shock is triggered, then it can cause death in a matter of minutes without medical intervention.
In the case of food allergies, it often only takes a miniscule amount of the offending food in order to trigger the immune system. Symptoms are often immediate, although some less severe food allergies can have a delayed response. Severe diarrhea, vomiting, hives, swelling, and tingling inside the mouth are typical signs of a food allergy.
Food allergies are caused by a direct response by the immune system. Food sensitivities, on the other hand, can be either immune mediated or triggered by other means. For example, lactose intolerance is not a food allergy. It is an intolerance, or sensitivity, caused by a lack of the enzyme lactase in the body.
Food sensitivities are often not as volatile as food allergies. Sometimes a small amount of the offending food can be eaten without any manifestation of symptoms. However, most foods that cause food sensitivities are common foods that we eat daily, if not several times a day. Symptoms of food sensitivities are far more ambiguous than food allergies. This is because you cannot truly determine what part of your body is going to fall victim to a food sensitivity reaction.
Food Sensitivity Symptoms
The reason I call food sensitivities a hidden epidemic is because their manifestations can often look like other disorders. Food sensitivities, like food allergies, can cause severe digestive issues like bloating and diarrhea. However, food sensitivities have many other manifestations that you wouldn’t typically attribute to food consumption.
Some of the most common symptoms of food sensitivities include:
- Tachycardia and other heart irregularities
- Skin issues (such as eczema, psoriasis, acne, or rashes)
- Chronic fatigue
- Post nasal drip or excess mucus
- Chronic headaches
This list goes on and it would literally take several pages if I listed all the possible symptoms of food sensitivities. This being said, you should never rule out a food sensitivity as the underlying root cause of an ailment. Before enduring invasive treatments, tests, and pharmaceutical drugs, take a good long look at what you eat. The remedy to your ailment could be as simple as eliminating a food from your diet!
So, how does a food sensitivity cause symptoms outside the confines of the gut? The majority of people with food sensitivities have something called “Leaky Gut Syndrome.” Leaky gut syndrome can result from overuse of antibiotics, consumption of GMO foods, chronic stress, or inflammation.
When someone has leaky gut syndrome their intestinal wall has been damaged and become permeable, allowing food particles to pass through into the bloodstream. Therefore, with food sensitivities, the reaction you have isn’t necessarily manifested in the gut as it is in intestinal diseases like Celiac, Crohn’s, and ulcerative colitis. Leaky gut allows tiny food particles to float around in your body until they reach your brain or are detected by the immune system. Once your immune system is alerted, it causes an inflammatory response in your joints or elsewhere. Gliadin peptides from gluten are an example of how food outside the confines of the intestinal tract can affect our body. If gliadin peptides pass through the mucosal wall, then they can cause a variety of reactions throughout the body including:
- Depression and/or anxiety
Gliadin peptides can also stimulate opiate receptors in the brain stimulating an actual craving for more. Does this sound familiar? Most people with food sensitivities actually crave the food they are sensitive to and this is one of the reasons why!
At-Home Sensitivity Tests
Although there are companies that offer saliva or blood work for food sensitivity testing, these tests aren’t always very accurate. They can often show a negative result when a food sensitivity is in fact present. However, there is another method for testing sensitivity at home that is quite simple and will cost you absolutely nothing.[am4show guest_error=’noaccess’]
The Elimination Diet
Virtually any food can cause a sensitivity; however, there are several foods that are much more common food intolerances. It is best to begin by eliminating these foods all at once and introduce them back one at a time when testing for sensitivity.
- All grains (exception is rice)
- Corn products
- Legumes (soy, peanuts, all beans and lentils)
- Citrus fruits
- Fats (exception is olive oil)
- Sweeteners and sugars (exception is stevia)
- All processed foods (including processed meats like deli meat and bacon)
Your diet will primarily consist of vegetables, lean meats and fruit (no citrus). Planning ahead will be very important. However, following this diet is absolutely crucial in identifying possible food intolerances.
- After 7-15 days on the elimination diet, eat a moderate amount of 1 of the foods on an empty stomach.
- Take your pulse before eating the food and begin monitoring your pulse a couple minutes after consuming the food. Monitor your pulse over the next hour noting any increases that are more than just a couple beats per minute.
A noticeable rise in pulse is a sign of either a food sensitivity or allergy to this food! If you get a reaction, then wait 2 full days before testing another food. If no reaction occurs, then you can proceed with another food the following day.
Also, take note of any:
- Digestive disturbances (gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, indigestion)
- Pain (joints, muscles, back, neck, etc.)
- Declines in energy or alertness
- Changes in sleep patterns
These can be manifestations from a food sensitivity, too.
Reversing Food Sensitivities
Once you have identified any food intolerances, eliminate them completely from your diet. Although it may be difficult, the change in well-being will make it a rewarding sacrifice!
There are special diets designed to help heal the gut and eliminate food sensitivities. Following these diets allows healing and a sort of resetting of your body so that you can eat these foods again in the future! The most popular and I believe most effective diet is the GAPS protocol.
The GAPS diet consists of 3 principles, which are designed to heal a leaky gut lining preventing health issues from food sensitivities. This sealing of the gut allows food to stay in the intestinal tract where it belongs, not circulating out in the blood causing inflammation, pain, and discomfort.
The GAPS diet principles include:
- Avoiding high sensitivity foods that can cause further damage to the gut and increase inflammatory responses throughout the body.
- Repopulating the gut with friendly beneficial bacteria, including probiotics and cultured foods that aid digestion and provide the proper balance for health and healing.
- Consuming gut healing foods and supplements like bone broth, gelatin, healthy fats, and probiotics which help put out the fires of inflammation and promote proper digestion.
People who adhere to the GAPS protocol can often resume eating foods that once caused problems within 6-18 months. This may seem like a long time to follow a restricted diet. However, it is important to remind yourself that you have much more life to live; living it free of pain and discomfort will be worth the months of hard work and diligence.
With a bit of internet searching, you will find a plethora of websites and blogs that are brimming with GAPS-friendly recipes and tips. I recommend beginning your GAPS journey by purchasing Dr. Natasha McBride’s book so that you have an understanding of the science behind what you are embarking on. Knowing the “why” behind the “what” always helps when beginning something new. It can help to give you the courage and willpower it takes to achieve true healing.
Supplements for Food Sensitivities
Although diet is the only way to heal the intestinal tract and eliminate food sensitivities, there are supplements that can encourage healing and aid in digestion. These supplements are encouraged during the GAPS diet, but can also be taken outside a special diet plan to help with digestion and minimize discomfort.
Those with food sensitivities often lack the enzymes needed to break down food in the gut. Supplementing with enzymes during meals helps to replace these essential components to digestion. Taking an enzyme that contains HCl (Hydrochloric Acid) can be beneficial for those who are suffer from low stomach acid.
Inadequate stomach acid also contributes to poor digestion. Twinlab Super Enzymes contain both digestive enzymes and HCl and are available here. Ox bile combined with digestive enzymes is very helpful for people who either have impaired liver function or gallbladder function. People who have had their gallbladder removed, in particular, can see great improvements in digestion with the addition of Ox bile. NOW’s Super Enzymes contain both digestive enzymes and Ox bile and can be purchased here.
The amino acid L-glutamine is important for soothing inflammation in the intestinal tract. It is also essential for rebuilding the mucosal lining that it typically damaged during leaky gut syndrome and other digestive disorders like Celiac disease.
The dosage of L-Glutamine is around 3 grams per day. It is most economical to buy glutamine powder and mix with water. Take on an empty stomach.
Probiotics, otherwise known as friendly bacteria, are necessary for digestion and combatting the overgrowth of damaging bacteria in the gut. Many times food sensitivities arise out of a lack of friendly bacteria. Antibiotics tend to be the cause behind imbalances of bacteria. This is because they kill off friendly bacteria in the gut, allowing the overgrowth of toxic microbes. Eating a cup of yogurt a day is far from adequate when treating food sensitivities and leaky gut. Only a powerful probiotic will be able to combat toxic bacteria and repopulate the digestive tract. I personally recommend the Essential Formula’s probiotic or Renew Life’s 50 billion probiotic.
You may have been misunderstanding your body’s signs and cry for help; but it is definitely not too late. By following a healing diet and supporting supplements, you can watch your symptoms dissolve before your eyes. The return is worth the effort. You’ll feel years younger with better digestion, concentration, reduction of pain, increased energy, and a more positive mood. Don’t let food intolerance hide any longer behind your health issues! Take the time to identify any potential food sensitivities, eliminate them from your diet and watch your entire life transform.
Amanda Box is a Traditional Naturopath and a graduate of Clayton College of Natural Health. She’s been in the health and wellness industry for over 12 years and currently practices naturopathic consulting in the Kansas City, Missouri area. Her passion is helping others achieve wellness of the whole person – mind, body, and spirit. If you don’t have a good local naturopathic practitioner to turn to for your personal needs, Amanda does phone consultations! She can help you with weight loss, detox/cleansing, acute and chronic illnesses, skin and body care, grocery shopping, pantry overhauls, and more! Visit her blog “My Life in a Healthnut Shell” at http://amandabox.blogspot.
com/ for contact info.