We have all heard of that person that carries around an Epi-Pen in case someone opens a bag of peanuts on their flight. While some people have life threatening reactions to certain foods, others have issues that are more subtle. Food sensitivities and intolerances occur in many individuals as a response to many different foods. Symptoms including bloating, constipation, diarrhea, stuffy nose, and a fast pulse or fatigue after eating are all possible indications of food sensitivities. Wheat and dairy are the most common culprits, but other foods may serve as offenders.
Sometimes, symptoms of food sensitivities may be delayed and not arise until a time after the food has been consumed. When this is the situation, it may be difficult to pinpoint which food is causing the problem. People rarely eat one food at each meal, so this furthers the complication.
The best way to identify problem foods is to go on an elimination diet which removes the most common problematic foods for at least 30 days. Foods like dairy, wheat, corn, soy, peanuts and eggs should be untouched for the entire time. At the conclusion of the elimination period, each food should be reintroduced slowly. A rate of one food every three days should provide good information about which foods are prompting the negative reaction.
The most common recommendation is to avoid those foods and therefore eliminate the chance of a reaction. This approach is highly effective; however, for many individuals it actually misses the root cause of the problem. Often, reactions to foods have less to do with the actual food, and more to do with the condition of the digestive system.
Dysbiosis and Leaky Gut
The primary organ of concern when food sensitivities are an issue is the small intestine. When food is eaten, it passes through the mouth, esophagus and stomach. Foods are broken down into digestible pieces in the stomach, but very little is absorbed until the particles reach the upper part of the small intestine. This is where nutrients begin to pass into the bloodstream.
In a healthy small intestine, the desirable nutrients are allowed through the gut into the rest of the body. The remainders continue to pass through the digestive tract for further digestion or to be eliminated. Unfortunately, many individuals have unhealthy small intestines. The gut typically has two main levels of protection – the microbiome and a lining of cells. When either of these lines of defense are damaged with antibiotics, high alcohol consumption, processed foods or refined sugars, particles that would usually be kept out of the bloodstream are granted passage. The result can be true immune-mediated allergies or the other symptoms of a sensitivity as mentioned above.
During the elimination diet period is a great time to take steps toward gut-healing. Eliminating sugars to starve out “bad” bacteria, increasing nutrient dense vegetables to feed and nourish “good” bacteria and consuming gut-soothing nutrients are all important steps to healing a disrupted gut. Particularly soothing to the gut are gelatin-rich bone broths, teas made from slippery elm and L-glutamine supplements.
Another potential problem area is the liver. The liver usually detoxifies the blood, but today’s livers are often too overburdened to do their jobs efficiently. With the extra work required to process high sugar diets and over-the-counter and prescription drugs, as well as environmental toxins, the liver is often depleted of the nutrients required for detoxification.
To help the liver out, reducing or eliminating processed foods and alcohol, keeping well hydrated and increasing green and crunchy vegetables are good ideas. Initiating a “liver detox” is not usually a good idea as a first step. This can cause a recirculation of toxins if detox pathways – such as the kidneys and skin – are not yet open. Additional liver support can be found by regularly taking a sauna and supplementing with milk thistle and plant-based molybdenum.
Low Stomach Acid
Inadequate hydrochloric acid production is a problem for most Americans. Surprisingly, heartburn is one sign of a stomach acid deficiency. Without good amounts of acid, the food particles in the stomach will break down slowly and incompletely. Eventually, these larger particles are introduced to the small intestine. If the small intestine is also compromised, the bloodstream is exposed to even more unfit particles.
Increasing stomach acid is often a state of mind. Acid begins to be produced by smelling food, seeing food and being in a relaxed state. Having intentional meals without distraction can go a long way toward adequate acid production and better digestion. Chewing well is also an incredible help.
By taking steps to improve digestive function, food sensitivities can improve greatly. Not only is healing required, but a new dietary lifestyle can ensure the continued health of the gut.
For severe food sensitivities and allergies, please work with your doctor. This information is for educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice.
Sara Kennedy is a certified Nutritional Therapy Consultant. She lives fitness, nutrition and wellness – and wants to help save lives and change the world’s view on health and nutrition. Learn more about Sara and her plans at thriveak.com To reach her, email [email protected]
Weatherby, D. (2004.) Signs and Symptoms Analysis from a Functional Perspective. Bear Mountain Publishing: Jacksonville.
Haas, E. (2006.) Staying Healthy with Nutrition. Celestial Arts: New York.
Opinions expressed by authors and their quoted sources are theirs alone and are not necessarily shared by the ECHO News.