Episode 9: Food Sensitivities
written by Jasmine Bray-Mak (Naturopathic Doctor) on 11/10/19
“Let food be thy medicine” – Hippocrates, Father of Western Medicine.
This is one of my favourite quotes to live by, but what if the foods that you eat are contributing to your health problems? Have you ever wondered which foods are truly nourishing your body and why some foods can make you feel worse? Do you have symptoms that fluctuate day-to-day? It could have something to do with the foods you eat.
One of the reasons you may be feeling unwell could be related to a delayed immune response to foods that you commonly eat. Research has identified that approximately 12% of people experience a reaction to food, 90% of which fail to find answers in the commonly screened causes such as specific food allergies, celiac disease, or food intolerances.
What is the difference between a food ‘allergy’, a food ‘intolerance’ and food ‘sensitivity’?
- Food Allergy: An immediate immunological reaction in the body that occurs due to IgE activity, creating an anaphylactic state. Example – An IgE response in a severe peanut allergy can cause immediate swelling and closure of the airway, which can be life-threatening.
- Food Intolerance: Unpleasant reactions to particular foods that are related to enzyme deficiencies in our digestive system. Example – Lactase deficiency in the digestive tract reduces your body’s ability to process lactose, this is referred to as a lactose intolerance.
- Food Sensitivity: A delayed hypersensitivity immune reaction in the body that occurs in relation to elevated IgG molecules, which can contribute to systemic inflammatory symptoms. Example – Consuming large amounts of dairy has been associated with inflammatory skin conditions like acne and eczema, a few hours-days after consumption.
Food sensitivities have be associated with irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis and psychological problems such as clinical depression, ADHD and panic attacks. Food sensitivities can develop at any age and may be related to the strength of your immune system.
So how do food sensitivities come about? Think of your digestive tract like a very tight defence barrier that only accepts what it deems safe, working hard to keep toxins and pathogens out. When there is inflammation in our digestive tract, the permeability of this defence barrier can be compromised and reactions may occur to seemingly harmless stimuli. This hypersensitivity creates an immune response to the foods we consume regularly; allowing the inflammatory complexes to deposit throughout the body.
Food Sensitivity Testing is one of the tools I use in my practice to help patients identify which foods may be contributing to their health complaints. It provides an in-depth look at how our body is reacting to particular foods and provides an individualized plan for elimination and healing. We use the results to direct the elimination process for 30 to 60 days while working on gut healing and reducing inflammation. After the elimination phase, we slowly reintroduce foods to better understand how specific foods are affecting you. The good news is that just because you have sensitivities to a handful of your favourite foods does not mean you can never eat those foods again. After we’ve worked to reduce inflammation and heal the digestive tract, we develop a dietary strategy to help expand your food options, while giving you the freedom to enjoy food as it should be enjoyed.
If you’d like to challenge yourself and learn a little bit more about how your body is reacting to some of the most commonly known inflammatory foods – gluten, dairy, and sugar – try eliminating them for 30 days! Once the elimination trial is over you can slowly reintroduce one food type at a time over a period of several days to evaluate how your body reacts. I also recommend keeping a symptom journal throughout the elimination phase to help assess your progress.
If you are interested in learning more about food sensitivities and if testing is right for you, please contact Dr. Jasmine Bray-Mak, ND by email at email@example.com.