What if bothersome joint pains, mental fog, low energy, stubborn skin problems, unexplained irritability or chronic digestive symptoms all had the same, straightforward solution? Could these and other seemingly unrelated health problems have a common root? Scientists and health seekers alike are discovering that this may well be the case.
We now understand that specific food sensitivities can trigger and aggravate a large number of chronic health symptoms. Food sensitivities can mean different things to different people, however, so let me first explain the difference between a true food allergy and food sensitivity. True food allergies cause an immediate and sometimes life-threatening reaction. Peanut, fish and shellfish reactions are often such true allergies. By the time they reach adulthood, most people know if they have these kinds of allergies and whether they will likely have to avoid their specific “trigger foods” for life.
With food sensitivities, however, reactions develop over time and are not considered life-threatening. They cause an inflammatory response that starts in the small intestine and can become more systemic throughout the body, causing symptoms in the joints, skin, brain, etc. Some of the common symptoms associated with food sensitivities are skin rashes, gas, bloating, diarrhea or constipation, muscle and joint aches and stiffness, racing pulse, exhaustion, asthma, sinusitis, migraine headaches, and mental and emotional symptoms such as foggy thinking, a “spaced-out” feeling, depression and irritability.
In addition to sensitivity to foods, studies have shown that removing artificial colors and flavorings from the diets of children with hyperactivity problems significantly improved behavior and resolved sleep and bed-wetting problems.
Food Sensitivities And Leaky Gut Syndrome
If you were able to witness what happens on the cellular level during a food sensitivity reaction, you would see immune cells that line your small intestine spring to action as if they were under attack. That’s because your body is reacting to particular food proteins as if they were harmful, like an invading bacteria or virus. The cells of your small intestine become inflamed, and the tiny pores between cells get larger, just like a fish net that allows particular-sized food particles to pass through. As a result, undigested proteins slip through the digestive lining and enter the circulatory system, where they activate your immune system to produce antibodies to the “foreign invader” (the undigested food protein). In a normal, healthy digestive environment, these large proteins usually get broken down by your digestive enzymes into amino acids. They are then absorbed and accepted as “normal” by your immune system. But with the case of food sensitivities, it is this long-term exposure to “trigger foods” and substances that over time can develop into “leaky gut syndrome.”
What Causes Food Sensitivities?
Why some people have sensitivities and others don’t is not completely known. There is a genetic component, but there is also evidence that multiple factors in infancy and even before birth can influence the development of sensitivities. Children often grow out of particular sensitivities as their immune systems mature; but in other cases, symptoms can persist into adulthood and often go undiagnosed, leading to a collection of vague, chronic symptoms. Vitamin D deficiency has been implicated in the development of food sensitivities, and some studies have shown that probiotics can help reduce sensitivity by helping to improve digestive function.
Common Trigger Foods
The proteins that people react to tend to be large, complex molecules. For example, cow’s milk is a very complex substance that contains more than 25 different proteins, eight of which are known to cause sensitivity.
There are six food categories that most commonly provoke these kinds of “delayed hypersensitivity” reactions:
- Dairy (especially cow).
- Gluten-containing grains such as wheat, rye and barley.
There are many other possible trigger foods that may cause sensitivities, though less commonly. These foods, such as beef and chicken, are included in formal food-sensitivity testing panels, which can be ordered through a healthcare provider.
Testing For Food Sensitivities
There are a number of different tests available to determine food sensitivities, and more are being developed in an attempt to improve the accuracy. These include blood, saliva, stool and skin tests. If you are undergoing a comprehensive testing process, doing more than one type of test will give you more accurate results. But before lab tests for food sensitivities were developed, an “elimination-challenge diet” was recommended. This type of dietary approach is still an excellent way to identify a large portion of your food sensitivities. The idea of an elimination diet is to remove the most common offending foods, give your system some time to clear and then reintroduce each item one at a time while carefully noting your symptoms. Click here for instructions on how to do an elimination diet.
It takes a bit of determination, but it is well worth the effort. While on the elimination diet, you might also want to consider doing a gentle cleanse and detoxification program, which will support the process of removing inflammatory toxins, food particles and more. In fact, a recent study suggested that food allergies and sensitivities may be triggered in part by toxins from tap water, among other sources. A gentle cleanse can also improve digestive function.
With this very simple, do-it-yourself approach, many chronic problems can clear up with amazing speed; and you can experience a heightened sense of energy and aliveness. That’s not a bad trade-off for a bit of effort.
For more health and wellness information, visit www.dreliaz.org