Food Intolerances or Allergies?
What do we mean by food intolerance?
When nuts, dairy, soy, wheat, yeast and gluten are making you bloated, giving you gut pain, diarrhoea, wind, heart burn or you generally don’t feel well and are fatigued you may well have an intolerance to these foods. Unfortunately, we are finding more and more that these foods are common troublemakers but is it the foods themselves or the state of your gut?
True allergies are when your immune system is reacting or actually over-reacting to something – technically known as an antigen. These antigens can be in the form of foods or airborne particles such as dust, grass pollens, mould and animal dander. With an allergy the immune system produces antibodies known as immunoglobulin E (IgE), which can be tested quite easily. This overreaction causes symptoms such as rashes, hayfever, swelling and itchiness to name a few.
So strictly speaking a food intolerance does not involve an IgE immune reaction but it can still make life a bit miserable.
What is the likely root cause of food intolerances?
The biggest trouble seems to be a lack of knowledge on why the intolerance started in the first place. Many assume that food intolerances are causing problems in the digestive tract.
But so many times it is the other way around!
Often the digestive tract is in bad shape which then creates an intolerance to certain foods, foods that were well tolerated before, no longer are. The longer the gut isn’t functioning well, the greater the likelihood of food issues continuing to become more and more of a problem.
Food intolerance is like a broken leg
Imagine that your digestive tract is a broken leg.
Now imagine that the troublesome food is you running on the broken leg. Painful, isn’t it?
Under normal circumstances – when the leg is fine – running wouldn’t be a problem. But right now it’s probably a good idea to stop running and give your leg a rest.
Once the leg repairs, you will probably be able to run again. The good news is, chances are, just because your body doesn’t like the food today doesn’t mean that you will have to avoid it for the rest of your life.
The key is in repairing the way the gut is functioning.
How did the digestive tract get in such bad shape?
Some of the reasons why the gut may be compromised include:
- Nutritional deficiency – compromising stomach acid and digestive enzyme production
- Emotional stress – effecting immune protection, gut cell lining function
- Parasites or SIBO – disrupting gut function, including permeability of the gut known as leaky gut!
- Junk or excessive starchy, sugary foods – altering bacterial microbiome composition
- Alcohol abuse – directly damaging the gut and causing nutrient deficiencies
- Lack of exercise – affects the motility of the gut
Digestive tract issues can also be passed down from the previous generation.
How to deal with the food intolerance
While the food is not necessarily the cause of the real problem, nonetheless it is helpful to look at what food is exacerbating the problem right now, in the present, so the digestive tract can be left to repair in peace.
Support with foods and supplements that soothe and heal the gut are also valuable additions such as:
- Bone broth – the superfood for gut healing
- Fermented foods – kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, apple cider vinegar with the ‘mother’, natural yoghurt (although sometimes these can initially be an issue).
- Fresh whole nutrient-dense foods
- Optimal protein & collagen
- Vitamin D, A & Zinc – helps the intestinal lining heal and return to normal
- Cod liver & Essential fish oils – improve the condition of the intestinal mucosal lining by reducing inflammation
- Probiotics & Prebiotics – prevent and even kill bad bacteria from taking over your gut and produce nutrients that help heal
- Digestive enzymes and betaine hydrochloride – to support complete food breakdown and nutrient absorption
- Turmeric – reduces inflammation that might be preventing complete repair of the gut
Tests for Food Intolerances
Some methods of identifying the food you might be intolerance to include:
- Skin prick tests
- Patch tests
- IgG, IgE & IgA Anti-body testing
- Breath testing for lactose, sucrose, fructose intolerances to name a few
Unfortunately, these tests can deliver false-positive results, which tend to muddy the waters. But if used correctly these tests can be valuable.
Are elimination diets the answer?
Elimination Diets can be very effective because by taking out the most common problem foods your body gets a break and in many instances, symptoms greatly reduce or even disappear.
You begin with a very simple diet (individualised for you) for three to six weeks (eliminated foods vary from one person to another), once you have completed the time period and are relatively symptom-free, then every three days you bring one of the eliminated foods back in to look to see if you have a reaction, a symptom to the newly introduced food.
Dealing with the emotional attachment to food
For some, an Elimination Diet can be a perfectly smooth process. However, where emotional attachment to food is strong, it can be more challenging. The process is therefore individualised to suit each person’s specific needs.
How long will a digestive repair take?
Repairing the gut depends on many factors, the initial condition, your commitment, any other chronic conditions, blocks such as parasites, emotional stressors all play a role in the time required. Whatever the situation the digestive tract fuels the rest of your body. It holds the key as one of the most important aspects to your health – not only for the alleviation of acute digestive symptoms but toward the prevention of chronic illnesses.
Want to know more, read about allergy, intolerances and histamine excess.
For help solving your digestive problems please contact here.
If you need to talk with one of our practitioners before you decide we offer free 15 min consultations that go through how we work and what we can help you.