Teasing out Food Sensitivities


Food sensitivities are different than food allergies. Food sensitivities are reactions to the body’s environment and can change over time, whereas food allergies are there to stay for life.

There are two kinds of inflammation: macro and silent. Macro inflammation happens when you sprain your ankle or wrench your back. It’s characterized by 4 adjectives: red, swollen, painful, and hot. These qualities are uncomfortable, but allow immune cells to get to the site of injury to fight infection and clean up debris. Your immune cells do this by squirting noxious substances like bleach, hydrogen peroxide and superoxide dismutase. This creates some collateral damage to nearby healthy tissue, but when you rest your ankle or back the inflammation calms, everything heals up and returns to normal.

…But, what if you go play basketball every day with your injury? The inflammation will never calm, and the sprain will never heal… in fact, it will get worse!

The other kind of inflammation, silent inflammation, is exactly the same, except it manifests on a cellular level. Instead of big swaths of cells in your back or ankle becoming inflamed, teensy smidges of cells get red, swollen, painful and hot… but since this is happening on such a small scale, you don’t feel the pain or heat… the inflammation is silent. Same deal: collateral damage occurs, but once the inflammation calms everything gets back to normal.

…But what if you continue to do whatever is causing the inflammation? The inflammation will “go chronic” and cause other problems in your body!

The root cause of silent inflammation can be many different things. It can be an environmental toxin, an infection or imbalance in your gut’s microflora, extreme and relentless emotion or a food sensitivity or allergy. It’s important to significantly decrease or eliminate exposure to the trigger, otherwise the body will not heal.

Eliminate/Challenge

If your inflammation is being triggered by a food sensitivity, sometimes you can guess what it is (or there may be more than one). Start with one or more of the biggies: wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, nuts/seeds, fish/seafood. Eliminate them one at a time or go for the gold and eliminate them all at once.

Eliminate your chosen foods for at least two weeks because that’s how long it takes to get them out of your system and allow your body to heal. The general suggestion is two weeks, but you really should stay off the foods until you have gone two to three days without symptoms.

Then comes the Challenge part: add one of the foods back in and wait. Eating your “challenge food” a couple times in one day, then stop eating it again for 2-3 days. This is timing is important because food reactions can come about anywhere from 30 minutes to 36 hours after exposure. (You don’t want to waste the time and effort of the Elimination phase.)

If this Challenge results in any symptoms (digestive symptoms, headaches, energy changes, you name it), it is suspect. Now, it’s up to you what you do, but I suggest continuing to eliminate it, while you investigate any other foods.

Don’t skip this crucial step!

In the meantime, it’s crucial that you maintain a Food Journal. Otherwise, you’ll never be able to keep track of all the variables you’re working with! Keep in mind, your symptoms and general disposition is affected by much more than what you chew and swallow. Sleep quality, weather, monthly cycles for women and the influence of the moods of those who are close to you– all these things make an impact.

What if you do all this, more and still don’t resolve your symptoms?

This is not uncommon. I’m not saying that to be pessimistic or defeatist, just to manage your expectations. Perhaps someone has a genetic predisposition to be more battered by toxins than someone else (such as MTHFR or certain HLA haplotypes). And/or, perhaps someone has a pretty serious imbalance in their gut flora. (One of the major purposes of our flora is to pre-digest our food and render toxins inert (by ‘swallowing’ them). We don’t give these little dudes enough credit.) In this case, a high-quality probiotic and even a fecal transplant may be in order.

 

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