The Pain of Food Sensitivities
Recently I looked back at some journals I had from previous years. One entry from mid-2008, almost nine years ago, struck me. In it I asked God to help me figure out my health problems and I wrote that I did not want to be on medications for the rest of my life. At that time I had been living for a year with daily constant headaches and intestinal pains. I was working full-time in a stressful job, as well as being a wife and mother of two children (one in college and one in elementary school). If any of you has had a struggle with a difficult health situation while keeping up with all of the regular activities of life, I am sure you can relate to my frustration.
I had gone to the doctor several different times over the course of a year and had not gotten any full answers. Then my GP asked me if I had ever tried an elimination diet of gluten and dairy. I said, “no, what’s gluten?” She explained that it is a protein that is found in the grains wheat, barley and rye. I had nothing to lose at that point so I eliminated them both. At that point I did not notice that dairy was a problem for me, although since then I have figured out that it is. Within a week of eliminating gluten, however, my symptoms were 75% gone! I did not have a food allergy to wheat or gluten, but I did have a food sensitivity to it, as well as to certain other foods, including dairy.
Allergies vs. Sensitivities
As you may recall from last week’s article, a food allergy can be shown by an IgE immune system reaction to a food. A food sensitivity is defined as a reaction in the IgA or IgG (or both) immune system to a food. Celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disease causing damage to the intestinal tract, is caused by IgA (or IgG) reactions to the gluten protein alpha-gliaden. Several other autoimmune diseases, while not caused by gluten as in celiac disease, have been shown to be made worse by immune reactions to foods, notably gluten, dairy, soy, egg and corn.
Food sensitivities are delayed reactions to foods that occur from 2 hours to a day after eating a food. There are numerous symptoms that can be caused by food sensitivities including the gastrointestinal ones of heartburn, bloating, gas, intestinal pains, diarrhea or constipation. Other symptoms such as headaches, foggy mind, acne, eczema, or joint pain can also be caused by a food sensitivity. These are common symptoms that many people, including physicians, might not tie to food. I had severe acne as a teenager and also began having regular migraine headaches and periodic intestinal problems from that time on. None of the doctors that I saw over the years ever suggested that food might be a cause of these issues.
How to Dermine if you Have Food Sensitivities
If you have any autoimmune disease or if you have any symptoms that recur on a regular basis, I suggest that you investigate whether you may have one or more food sensitivities. There are blood tests that can be done to check for IgG immune reactions. I have successfully used these tests with a number of nutrition clients to identify and then eliminate their potentially reactive foods.
Elimination diets have also been successfully used to identify food sensitivities. This was what I used to initially identify gluten as my major food sensitivity. An elimination diet is a key part of my detoxification program, From Fatigued to Fantastic. If you live in the Aiken area, I encourage you to join the next session of this program.
If you live outside the Aiken area or if you would like one-on-one help figuring out whether you have food sensitivities, please contact me for a complimentary 20-minute telephone consultation.