Is Your Food Hurting You?
Ever feel uncomfortable or just not yourself after a meal? This could be an inflammatory response or sensitivity to a certain food. Some people have food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities, some can have all three like myself. We will look at the differences and what you can do to make sure the food you eat is nourishing and helping not hurting you.
A food allergy is when a person’s immune system causes a sudden and profound response to a food such as a shellfish, milk or peanuts. An allergy to latex can also cause reactions to many different foods that may be high in latex such as mango, avocado, jack fruit, and bananas or foods that mimic the protein structure of latex like raw tuna. Allergic responses to food can be severe and even life threatening.
The most common food allergy signs and symptoms include:
- Tingling or itching in the mouth.
- Hives, itching or eczema.
- Swelling of the lips, face, tongue and throat or other parts of the body.
- Wheezing, nasal congestion or trouble breathing.
- Abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting.
- Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting.
Food intolerances: Many people do not have the digestive enzymes to break down certain proteins, one example would be lactose intolerant and cannot digest milk. If you have celiac disease a reaction happens when you eat gluten causing damage to small intestines. Many people who are intolerant to gluten will say they are “allergic” to it even though it doesn’t cause a sudden and life threatening reaction, it causes changes in the body over the long term. Like the damage gluten causes to the small intestine making it impossible for the body to absorb necessary nutrients for every day functioning and healing.
A food sensitivity is a low-grade inflammatory reaction to a food. Unlike a food allergy, sensitivities are mild and occur over time, especially with repeated exposure. Usually the longer and more often you eat the food, the more noticeable the symptoms become. If you are experiencing symptoms on a regular basis you may want to take steps to remove the offending foods. Giving your body a chance to strengthen and to become resilient to sensitivities. The best thing about sensitivities is, after a period of avoiding a particular food, you may be able to enjoy them again – in moderation, of course – without symptoms.
COMMON SYMPTOMS OF FOOD SENSITIVITIES
- Brain Fog
- Food Cravings
- Joint Pain
- Acne or Eczema
You may be asking, What can I do if I suspect a particular food is causing discomfort? Or what if I don’t know what food it is? Now what? I happen to have allergies, intolerances and sensitivities, I did not have them as a child and I wasn’t always fearing what may be in Grandmas Thanksgiving dinner. As I experienced more symptoms I explored why and the ways to narrow down the foods that were causing them. It wasn't easy or quick but want to share some of the suggestions made over the years to me. What worked, and what was a royal pain to attempt.
Some common food sensitivities include:
- Wheat(and most other grains)
- Soy (and most other beans/legumes)
- Eggs & Dairy
- Fish (especially shellfish)
- Conventionally Raised Meats
Writing a food diary: write the foods eaten every day as well as any symptoms that occurred. This is helpful if you have mood swings and brain fog associated with a food sensitivities. This is also great for parents tracking the children having some symptoms. I found it marginally helpful. I also found it a little time consuming and often forgot to write something in. Processed foods have many ingredients to consider. School lunches many have many unknowns. Also note that allergies commonly show up immediately, but sensitivities show symptoms in hours to days. This is where the diary gave me the most value.
Elimination diet: this is very restrictive diet at first, adding one food at a time to note symptoms. This was by far the best for me with certain foods. I had relief of the symptoms within a few days and knew right away which foods to avoid once reintroduced. Keep in mind that some things must be tested separately, like the carrot root and top, green banana vs ripe banana, egg white and yolk, beef vs grass fed beef or even things cooked vs raw. It is very restrictive at first and you have to plan for family holidays and pot lucks around those foods you are currently consuming and know you are not reactive to. Packed my own lunch many times. It was the only thing that was bad, well only a little bad, I knew what I packed was yummy and that I wouldn’t be miserable afterward. (I tried explaining this to Aunt Ruth without hurting feelings… stating all her food is safe for one day. Or that it has only a little wheat in it didn’t help.) Another thing that happened, when I eliminated one thing and substituted something I normally didn’t eat that was not good either. Example: I quit all milk and used almond milk and soon became sensitive to almonds. Luckily, I can now have almonds. Learn from my mistake. The idea behind elimination diets is to give the system a break from inflammation and a chance to heal. Removing many items at first only to add them back one at a time. I may have removed one thing I was sensitive to but I threw something harsh at an already inflamed gut and it did not like it.
Allergy testing: This can mean simple blood test or series of pin pricks on skin. This was my first go around when allergic reactions were hitting me. These test are designed to read the immune response in the body, particularly IgE or IgA responses. I have since learned that there are many false readings and sometimes things that are cross reactive or foods in same family (peanuts are a legume) can show up as same allergy. This was my least helpful tool. I have a positive reaction to latex BUT I still had symptoms to foods that did not have an immune response on these test! Another thing that is a big CON, these test cost so much! Comprehensive test, those testing hundreds of foods are expensive.
I know personally how daunting the task can be of finding what is causing symptoms. Just shoot me an email or call if you have other questions.
Dr. Shauna Lover DC – Mobile chiropractor to Big Island