Are Food Sensitivities Sabotaging Your Health?
An estimated 75% of Americans are affected by food sensitivities that are needlessly wreaking havoc on their quality of life. Food sensitivities are not the same as food allergies.
When you eat a food that you are allergic to your immune system reacts immediately. For example, you might get hives, swelling, itching or a rash. In contrast, food sensitivities are much more difficult to diagnose because symptoms are oftentimes much more individualized and wide ranging, subtle and might even be delayed for a couple days after you eat a certain food. For most people, signs of a food sensitivity often go undetected as they don’t realize their symptoms are related to a food that they are eating on a daily basis.
So what exactly happens when you have a food sensitivity?
Every time you eat a food that you are sensitive it causes a delayed inflammatory response in your body. This means your immune system responds to the food as if it was an intruder in the body and mounts an attack. Unaware and undiagnosed, you continue to eat the offending food regularly and your immune system starts to goes haywire, wreaking havoc on your metabolism and setting the stage for body wide inflammation and chronic disease. Over years, a hidden food sensitivity takes it toll throughout your entire body resulting in a broad range of health challenges from weight gain to IBS to joint pain.
For example, take my client Eileen:
She struggled with debilitating IBS, fatigue, painful swelling in her hands and feet, weight gain and was recently diagnosed with insulin resistance. She had tried multiple diets and medications but never suspected that low-grade food allergies to gluten and dairy were the cause of her misery. Within a couple months of eliminating these triggers, Eileen dropped 30lbs, experienced 100% improvement in her digestion and energy level, her blood sugar improved and all swelling abated.
Eileen’s story is not unique. Inflammation is now recognized as one of the biggest drivers of obesity and chronic disease such as heart disease and diabetes. I can’t emphasize enough how identifying food sensitivities at the root cause of systemic inflammation can be a critical tool offering profound health benefits.
Here is a List of the Most Common Signs of a Food Sensitivity:
- Digestive Upset – Constipation, Diarrhea, Abdominal Pain, Bloating
- Fatigue or Sluggishness
- Obesity, Insulin Resistance, Weight Loss Resistance
- Chronic Sugar or Carbohydrate Cravings
- Brain Fog, Poor Memory
- Joint Pain
- Emotional / Mood Imbalance – Anxiety, Depression
- Skin Problems: Hives, Rash, Acne, Eczema
- Headaches, Nasal Congestion, Coughing
- Swelling of Hands or Feet, Bloated or Puffy Appearance
The Most Common Food Allergens
The most common food allergens are gluten, wheat, dairy, corn and soy. One of the major reasons that so many people are affected by wheat, corn and soy is that these foods are loaded with pesticides and fungicides. They are often highly processed and most of these foods have been genetically modified from their original forms. Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are organisms that have been created in a lab and do not exist in nature. Your body is not used to recognizing these foods, and therefore does not know how to process them. It is estimated that up to 30% of Americans are gluten sensitive. The most common dairy components that people have problems with are lactose and casein, the protein found in dairy products. Lactose sensitivity occurs when you lack the enzyme required to break down lactose and digest it. Approximately 60% of the population has some degree of lactose intolerance.
Sadly, most physicians, especially allergists, don’t see the value in diagnosing food sensitivities. This is despite the fact that there is an exploding body of medical and scientific study connecting the relationship between the health of the gut, food, and disease.
In the mean time, here are the two main ways to determine if food sensitivities are sabotaging your health:
- Get a Blood Test for Antibodies to Foods. This test, which is called an IgG test, can help identify potential trouble areas. The problem with this test is that it’s not 100 percent accurate but it can be a useful guide in helping identify what foods may be causing problems for you.
- Do an Elimination and Challenge Diet. This is where you eliminate the top food allergens, starting with gluten and dairy, taking these foods out for a period of time ideally 4-6 weeks. During this time, you’re taking note of changes you experience. Then, after the elimination phase you move into the “challenge” phase where you slowly reintroduce each food to see if there is a reaction, if anything changes. Depending on what changes you notice, you can start to avoid the other top offenders including corn and soy for another 4-6 weeks and repeat the challenge step to see if you notice a reaction.