It’s easy to know if you’re allergic to a food – you eat the food and almost immediately you’re itchy all over, your lips and tongue become swollen, your eyes water, you might even have difficulty breathing.
Signs of a food sensitivity or intolerance are not so overt and can often go unnoticed, unaddressed, silently developing into chronic illnesses such as atherosclerosis1, rheumatoid arthritis1, Lupus1, among others, that can be prevented. To complicate matters further, symptoms of food sensitivities often do not appear until days after consuming the offending food. Identifying a potential food intolerance requires an understanding of how food intolerances develop and how they lead to an unexpected myriad of different symptoms.
Various aspects of the gastrointestinal system contribute to the development of a food sensitivity. A disrupted immune system, abnormal normal flora, low levels of stomach acid and pancreatic enzyme deficiency are all key players.1 When food particles are insufficiently digested, large particles are left behind, for bacteria, yeast and parasites to take advantage of. As these foreign pathogens accumulate and thrive, they produce toxins that irritate the gastrointestinal lining. Just like your skin, your gastrointestinal lining becomes inflamed, irritated and fragile. The gastrointestinal barrier loses its structural integrity as cell junctions, immune cells and absorptive cells are destroyed. Undigested food molecules that are not supposed to cross the gastrointestinal barrier enter into the blood stream as antigens. This is by definition “leaky gut”.1
Once in the bloodstream, the body’s immune system detects these foreign antigens and produces IgG antibodies to bind to the antigens, forming antigen-antibody complexes.1 These antigen-antibody complexes circulate throughout the body via the bloodstream, eventually reaching the liver. The liver should filter blood and destroy foreign substances but when the liver is under-functioning, these complexes continue circulating around the body. Complexes eventually deposit in various tissues in the body1, causing inflammation and unpredictable constellation of symptoms. Inflammatory bowel diseases (ex. Crohn’s disease), alcohol, use of NSAIDs and abnormal flora can also contribute to the development of leaky gut.1
Top 10 signs that you might have a food sensitivity
- Chronic Headaches2
- Skin conditions2 such as eczema, itchy skin, rashes
- Autoimmune conditions2 – systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis
- Digestive Issues2 – bloating after meals, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Joint Pain and Stiffness2
- Seasonal Allergies – nasal drainage and congestion2
- Decrease in Energy after Meals1
- Weight gain2
- Foggy Mind, Inability to concentrate, Anxiety2
- Frequent colds and flus
I suspect that I have a food sensitivity – what should I do?
If you have several of the symptoms mentioned above, speak to a naturopath. Upon evaluating your individual constellation of symptoms, and the extent of gastrointestinal damage, your Naturopathic Doctor will recommend an individualized action plan. Your health plan may include one or more of the following:
- Elimination diet3 – considered the gold standard to many, the most common food allergens are removed for a period of time and reintroduced back into the diet at specific intervals and changes in symptoms are tracked
- Gut Healing Supplements – a must to heal the gut to prevent further damage and to restore the gastrointestinal lining’s structural integrity.
- Liver Support – to support the liver’s filtration of foreign antigens and substances
- Food Sensitivity Testing2 – most commonly measuring IgG antibody levels in response to various foods. IgA and IgE antibody level testing also available. There are many different ways to test food sensitivities, including energetic methods such as Vega Testing and Carroll Intolerance Testing.2
Simply removing foods that trigger increases in antibody levels may not resolve symptoms. Considering the individual’s whole picture, treating the underlying cause and proper interpretation of test results is vital.
The development of a food sensitivity never happens overnight and for many of us, our everyday food choices may be causing internal damage that we are unknowing to. Be proactive and improve your health today. Ask your Naturopathic Doctor how to eat right for your gut.
Dr. Olisa Mak is a licensed ND with a general family practice in downtown Vancouver. She has a special interest in bringing awareness to the mind-body connection using homeopathy, botanicals and lifestyle counselling.
She is driven to educate, inspire and empower those around her. Everyone has the potential to achieve their dreams and goals but are often unable to because of their fears, perceptions and circumstances. Dr. Mak strives to work with her patients to remove barriers, empowering patients to seize opportunities and to make the life they want a reality.
- Bralley, J. Alexander, and Richard S Lord. Laboratory Evaluations In Molecular Medicine.
- Norcross, GA: Institute for Advances in Molecular Medicine, 2001. Print.
- Pizzorno, Joseph E, and Michael T Murray. Textbook Of Natural Medicine. Print.
- Sicherer SH. Manifestations of food allergy: evaluation and management. Am Fam Phys. 1999;59:415-424, 429-430.