How to reboot your system with simple food swaps and diet tweaks.
A secret epidemic of hidden food allergies is raging. This complicated issue has tormented many of my clients over the years, people who can’t figure out why they have headaches, stomach aches, fatigue, low blood cholesterol, low blood levels of Vitamins D and K, and zinc, dermatitis, and various types of abdominal pain. All manner of gut grief mysteriously plagues their daily lives with no obvious cause.
Food sensitivities are difficult to discern for several reasons. First of all, you may be sensitive to a wide variety of foods. So you just can’t eliminate one food and expect your problems to vanish. Secondly, many individuals don’t have problems that show up right away. Delayed food responses can manifest up to two days after the “toxic” food was ingested, so many would never suspect their symptoms were tied to food. So we have to do some detective work to find the culprits.
And, food allergies can be scary. If you are allergic to peanuts, for example, eating a peanut or peanut butter will cause an immediate, obvious reaction—wheezing, hives or digestive upset—that points directly to the source. About 11 million Americans have these kinds of food allergies, including 6 percent of children less than 3 years old and 3 to 4 percent of adults. Each year about 30,000 people receive life-saving treatment in emergency rooms after suffering from severe allergic reactions to food.
While digestive challenges like Irritable Bowel Syndrome as well as heartburn/GERD, constipation, and diarrhea have all been linked with food sensitivities, there is a whole array of baffling symptoms that can spread far beyond just the digestive tract:
- Unexplained mood swings and mental problems such as panic attacks, attention deficit disorder, depression, irritability and nervousness
- Persistent pain, such as headaches, joint pain, muscle aches, arthritis
- Mucous problems, such as congested nose and sinuses, runny nose, persistent phlegm, constant sneezing
- Puffy eyes, dark bags and swelling beneath the eyes
- Weight that yo-yos up and down every day by as much as 5 pounds; edema
- Chronic fatigue and extreme tiredness after eating
- Meniere’s disease, an inner ear problem causing tinnitus and vertigo
Risk Factors for Food Sensitivities
Ninety percent of food allergies and sensitivities stem from the most common reaction-producing foods: wheat, milk, corn, unfermented soy and peanuts. In some cases, like peanuts for example, a true allergy can lead to anaphylactic shock, a deadly allergic response in which the body releases histamines, causing tissues to swell, inhibiting breathing and interfering with blood flow, and sometimes leading to heart failure. Make no mistake, allergies can be fatal.
Delayed “food sensitivities” are especially problematic because most health practitioners are not aware enough to recognize or want to look for them. So, let’s take a look at some of the most common underlying factors that promote food sensitivity issues:
Antibiotics. A double-edged sword, the overuse of antibiotics attacks our probiotic bacteria, which adds to an already challenging “full-blown” allergy situation. Since probiotics in the gut moderate our immune responses, it only makes sense that they also moderate allergic reactions, restraining the overreacting inflammations of the immune system.
Too much of a few foods. The more we eat of a potentially-reactive food, the more likely we are to become sensitive to that food because of constant reactions which eventually break down the immune system. That’s another reason that I find today’s typical diet so disturbing.
Lactose, casein, and various chemical intolerances. Lactose or milk sugar intolerance is the most common food intolerance and one of the most frequently bemoaned sources of gut grief. This condition affects one in ten Americans whose bodies can’t make lactase, the enzyme that breaks down the lactose in milk. Another prevalent food intolerance is linked to the protein casein which is found in milk and all cheese products.
The Gut Flush Food Sensitivity Protocol
For most of us, sensitivities seem to cluster around a few commonly-consumed foods, mostly wheat, corn, and milk. Interestingly, there may also be herbs and spices that you have a reaction to and are simply not aware of. For example, black pepper is a commonly found spice intolerance. If you suspect food sensitivities are derailing your health, try the following suggestions to help tip the balance in your favor.
Learn to speak the lingo. If you think you’re sensitive to ingredients like MSG, learn about its alternate names on labels. On packaging, MSG may be referred to as hydrolyzed soy protein, autolyzed plant protein, or hydrolyzed vegetable protein. Unfortunately, MSG may even be something as seemingly innocuous as “natural flavorings.”
Practice an elimination diet. When you think you are sensitive to a particular food, an elimination diet can help you identify the problem more precisely. Follow this process to systematically narrow down your list of suspects:
- Choose a food that you commonly eat and eliminate it first.
- Eliminate all dishes made with this food from your meals at home.
- When shopping, read labels to see if any undesirable ingredient is listed.
- In restaurants, always consult with your server about the preparation of your food. You can’t always tell from the menu exactly what’s in a dish. Explain your problem and the restaurant should accommodate your special needs.
- Continue to eliminate the suspected food for at least two to three weeks, keeping a simple log to help you notice if your symptoms ease.
- If they disappear, briefly reintroduce the food and see if symptoms return.
- If they do, you know you need to permanently eliminate that food from your diet.
Focus on “safe” foods. Enough of my clients have shown risk factors for gluten sensitivity that when I see the first blush of symptoms, I usually recommend they eliminate gluten from their diets. To be honest, aside from a bit of a learning curve, there is truly no nutritional downside. The upside is, even if you don’t have a bonafide gluten sensitivity, you’ll automatically be eating fewer corrosive carbohydrates, which can only help you fortify and flush your gut even faster.
Ease food sensitivities by easing stress. Studies have shown that exercise and other stress reducing strategies can help alleviate or moderate allergies. Try a few of these strategies to immediately help manage fallout from your food sensitivities:
- Walk daily. Thirty minutes of walking a day can reduce stress, tone your immune system and reduce your risk of allergies
- Have a massage once a week. The easy, rhythmic experience of a massage can help improve blood circulation and ease anxiety.
- Take a yoga class twice a week. Ask your instructor for particular yoga postures can boost circulation, tone muscles and ease health problems linked to excess stress
- Focus on your breathing. Research on meditation shows that easy, controlled breathing may help the body deal with allergies. First thing in the morning, don’t just pop out of bed– slowly breathe in and out, focusing on the movements of your diaphragm. Spend at least 3 to 5 minutes consciously relaxing and breathing.
Take fish oil and GLA on a daily basis. Fish oil and gamma linolenic acid (GLA) are natural anti-inflammatories and may modulate allergy-type symptoms. The essential fatty acids play a key role in cardiovascular, brain, joint, and immune system health.
Allow antioxidants to do their work. Antioxidants help the body cope with any aftereffects of allergic reactions and fight oxidative stress. I personally recommend Oxy-5000 from UNI KEY which contains catalase, superoxide dismutase, glutathione, N-acetyl cysteine, L-Cysteine, Vitamin B2, Vitamin E, and Thioproline.