I THINK I HAVE A FOOD SENSITIVITY
You’re bloated, feeling like you aren’t digesting your food properly. You may have a skin rash that comes and goes, and pin-pointing it to a causative factor is next to impossible.
It can feel like a guessing game at times – ‘Could the cheese on my pizza I had Friday, be the reason for my acne on the following Wednesday?’ or ‘I love eggs for breakfast, I have them every day. I want to see if my migraines are better without eggs.. but I don’t know if I could give those up just to see’
For starters, I often ask patients to keep notes of what they’re experiencing, such as the frequency and specifics about migraines, bloating, eczema, as this can give us insightful clues. After all, who knows your body, better than you? No one.
The big issue with food sensitivities, is that our immune system is reacting to foods, when it shouldn’t be. As if mistaking food proteins for foreign invaders like bacteria or a virus. We want to those reactions to viruses and bacteria to be happening, as this is what has evolutionarily saves our lives. It becomes problematic, however, when we’re seeing this hyper-reactivity response chronically over time.
Why is inflammation so bad?
It’s only ‘bad’ when it’s occurring continuously long term. The short 3-7 days of inflammation for a sore throat is what we want to be seeing, as a way of our body to natural rid the infection. Months to years of inflammation is what we’re concerned with, resulting in tissue damage and scarring, putting you at risk for long-term concerns like heart disease, stroke risk, diabetes, lung concerns or arthritis and degenerative joints. We tend to see this more so with autoimmune conditions, low-grade exposure to infections that go untreated, however if the food sensitivity is severe enough and you’re continually exposing your immune cells towards it, there can be concerns with that as well. The big concern for most patients regarding food sensitivities, is usually is how they’re feeling – the presence of skin rashes that keep coming up, migraines, or bloating, to name a few.
‘Food sensitivity’ is such a big buzz term right now, and there can be a lot of confusion.
Let’s keep in mind allergies and sensitivities are describing two separate immune reactions. A full-blown anaphylactic reaction is the typical presentation of the young child with the EpiPen for peanuts. If you have this type of allergy, you’ll know it because you likely already have an EpiPen. This is an emergent, life-threatening allergy, where in comparison to a food sensitivity, considered to be a delayed type of reaction, more commonly related to eczema, migraines, IBS and bloating. Regarding food sensitivities, the top offenders typically are gluten-based foods, dairy, eggs and some types of nuts, when we run an IgG Food Sensitivity Report. Interestingly, I find there is usually one or more foods that come as a ‘surprise’ ranking high for some, like a certain fruit, but or vegetable. To figure out if you have a food sensitivity, there are two main approaches – either following an elimination diet where we’re removing the top food offenders for usually 4-6 weeks, followed by a re-introduction phase. The other option is to skip the ‘work’, and run an objective food sensitivity test, which involves a blood draw to be sent to a lab. Depending on your patience and ability to tune into your body, I find either option to be appropriate.
Eczema is a common immune reaction where we usually see it also present with asthma and allergic rhinitis as well. In such a case, food sensitivity reports and elimination diets can be an extremely useful investigation tools.
Oral allergy syndrome is another interesting reaction, where we see patients react to certain raw fruits, tree nuts and vegetables, usually presenting with an itchy or scratchy mouth sensation, tingling tongue or swelling of the lips, mouth and throat. This occurs because of a cross-reaction, where the proteins in pollen look very similar to those in certain fruits, veggies and nuts, that they’re mistaken for pollen. I find this reaction confuses many people, as they are able to have the same cooked versions of the raw fruits and vegetables that they react towards.
Other non-immune sources that may look similar to an immune reaction are;
- Lactose intolerance, being the lack of enzyme production responsible for breaking down sugars
- FODMAP intolerance, we typically see with IBS or SIBO, where the concern is over the simple sugar breakdown
- Low stomach acid or digestive enzymes, commonly seen in patients undergoing chronic stress or as we age, resulting in a bloating sensation with the feeling of not being able to fully digest.
Food sensitivities and intolerances are not something we should feel we need to ‘endure’, rather there is much improvement and healing to be done, to improve quality of life. Food trigger identification and avoidance are the first steps, followed by immune support and healing of the digestive gut lining.
Trying to figure out your food sensitivity? Ask us about the next steps.
Dr. Alison Gottschalk, ND