FOOD AS MEDICINE
Chances are, you are having some kind of allergic response to the foods you are eating. For some people this manifests as weight gain, puffiness or bloating. For others its drippy nose, itchy mouth and red eyes. Another manifests their allergic response as constipation, or creaky joints or ADD. How can one set of reactions have so many manifestations? We are all different types of people with different genetic and systemic vulnerabilities, resulting in a myriad of systemic presentations! Our immune systems are each unique, and we respond individually to antigenic factors.
It has been estimated that 70% of our immune system is in our guts. It is our digestive immune systems job to separate out food from bacteria and parasites and viruses and other “non-self” things that we ingest. However, with age, over-medication, stress, and “life” our digestive immune system can start to identify foods, spices, and food chemicals as “enemies.” Then, every time that is eaten, we mount an immune attack against it! This creates inflammation, swelling, mucus production – a whole mini-battle scene in your gut. When this happens daily, it creates local inflammatory damage, which impairs intestinal integrity. Then, immune system chemicals leak into the bloodstream and negatively affect distant and local sites. This creates the “personalized” food sensitivity effects of bladder, respiratory, joint, brain or other system dysfunction.
Most common allergenic foods:
- Dairy, wheat, soy, corn, eggs, chocolate, oranges (citrus), seafood (especially shellfish), additives/preservatives, tomatoes, potatoes, strawberries, peanuts, soy, corn, almonds.
- Hereditary factors do set up susceptibility, as allergies appear to run in families. For example, if both parents have an allergy/intolerance, then there is a 67% chance that the offspring will be allergic.
Common physical and symptomatic signs of food allergy:
- Dark circles under the eyes, puffiness under the eyes
- Fatigue, exhaustion
- Chronic swollen glands, runny nose/nasal drip, frequent colds and flues
- Canker sores, chronic diarrhea, constipation, gas, heart burn/acid reflux, IBS, gallstones
- Chronic infections, frequent ear infections
- Bed-wetting, chronic bladder infections, kidney disorders
- Asthma, chronic bronchitis, wheezing, itchy nose or throat, sinusitis, “allergies”
- Acne, eczema, hives, itching, skin rash, red (burning) ears
- Bursitis, joint pain, low back pain, arthritis and arthritic disorders
- Headache, migraines
- Hyperactivity, anxiety, depression, inability to concentrate, insomnia, irritability, mental confusion, seizures
Identifying the foods your system is reacting to is important. It can be so varied – wheat for one person, salmon and sesame seeds for another! By identifying the problematic foods, you can also “know your devil.” Even if you still choose to eat the food occasionally, at least you can predict the response and manage it as needed. Knowing the problem often makes the symptoms more bearable!
There are many ways to identify food sensitivities. As a Naturopathic Doctor, I use blood work for people with multiple system involvement or complicated medical histories. The tests range from $250-600 for 95- 250 foods. Insurance occasionally covers these IgG or IgA blood tests. The hypoallergenic dietary method is another method. This is a great method of self-diagnosis for people who have one or two symptoms that may be related to food sensitivities. It is also a fantastic weight loss and detoxification diet, and I often use it for that reason alone!
- Bloodwork: IgG testing using bloodspot analysis
- Hypoallergenic Diet: Food elimination and subsequent reintroduction
- Applied kinesiology (AK): Muscle testing for strength/weakness in the presence of the food being tested
- Vega / Intero Food Test: A biofeedback-like software program based on AK that tests your body’s electrical responses to foods.
- I personally am not trained in AK food testing, and have not found a local practitioner who does the Vega style testing.
To minimize immune reactivity & enhance your immune system:
- Identify and eliminate the foods that you are reacting to.
- Increase the variety in your diet and rotate foods – do not get stuck eating the same ingredients or foods every day.
- Eat organic foods! Especially those fruits and vegetables that can’t be peeled and animal products – milk, yogurt, eggs and meat.
- Minimize tuna, swordfish, farmed salmon and other large fish known to have heavy metal contamination.
- Once or twice a year take a course of probiotics (especially if you have just completed a course of antibiotics) – these are the good bacteria that your intestines and your immune system need to function optimally. You need a probiotic that provides both Lactobacillus and Bifidus bacteria.
- Don’t suppress stomach acid production with heart burn-relief aids – instead, identify the triggers and eliminate them. You need that acid to act as a barrier against bacteria, viruses and fungi in our environment.
Recognizing that you probably have food sensitivities, and diagnosing them appropriately is the first step towards feeling (and looking) better. Depending on your age, and how long you have had your symptoms, you may also need to do some digestive system repair. This is a four-staged series of treatments that clean up your sites of inflammation, heal your gut lining, and recalibrate your immune systems reactivity. You will be amazed at how fantastic everything starts to feel once all the little chronic health problems disappear!