We’ve all heard that one man’s medicine is another man’s poison, but did you know that one person’s health food is another person’s junk food?
Millions of Americans suffer from at least one food intolerance/sensitivity. Anyone can be intolerant to any food: apples, lettuce, chicken, and even olive oil. Besides making it impossible to lose weight, food and food chemical intolerance has been found to play a role in many chronic health conditions including:
- Celiac Disease
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Headaches & migraines
- Weight imbalances
- Skin conditions such as eczema
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Joint and muscle pain
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Chronic diarrhea
Food intolerance is also considered a major stressor to the adrenal glands. Unhealthy adrenals can wreak havoc on gut health, immune system, detoxification capabilities, hormones, fertility and muscle and fat gain and loss.
What is food intolerance?
Food intolerance is a negative reaction to food that happens when your body is hypersensitive to a food and launches an attack with mediators such as eosinophils, basophils, neutrophils macrophages, T-cells and NK cells). Every time the trigger food is consumed, systemic disruption takes place and can cause chronic inflammation in the body resulting in a variety of symptoms (see above).
Food intolerance is different than food allergies in a couple of ways. One is the way that the body responds and the other is the speed in which the body responds.
With an allergy, the body’s immune system (mast cells) reacts to the offending food very soon after exposure. Food allergies occur in 2-4% of the population. The body releases histamine, prostaglandins and other proinflammatory mediators. If a person has a strong enough allergic reaction, exposure to the allergic food can result in life-threatening anaphylaxis. Because the reaction occurs so quickly after exposure to the allergic food, most people who have food allergies are well aware of what they are allergic to. Food intolerance or sensitivity can be much trickier since the reaction is delayed.
Food intolerance pathways
There are many, many ways that the body can react to an intolerance because there are multiple hypersensitivity pathways. The four main categories of hypersensitivity are: Type I, II, III and IV. Types III and IV are much more common in people than Type I reactions; 15-25% of population compared to 2-4%.
- Type I hypersensitivity categorizes true food allergies as given in the above example. It is also called an IgE reaction.
- Type II hypersensitivity has not been found to be linked to adverse reactions to food.
- Type III hypersensitivity includes IgG reactions (commonly tested for by most food intolerance tests). Type III reactions usually take place 3-8 hours after exposure.
- Type IV hypersensitivity is the most common pathway for adverse food reactions and yet many tests do not test for Type IV reactions. In Type IV reactions, the T-cells react with offensive foods and symptoms occur anywhere from 4-72 hours after exposure. Herein lies the challenge with identifying delayed food intolerances. How many people are going to make the connection between not feeling well with what they ate 72 hours earlier?
Finding out if you have a food intolerance
There are several methods for food intolerance testing.
- Finger prick IgG can be done easily at home and mailed to a lab if ordered by your doctor or nutritionist. Many doctors and nutritionists in the Bay Area can facilitate this method of testing.
- Serum IgG involves a blood draw and must be done at a medical clinic. This testing is more commonly done with naturopathic doctors, but if you do not have an ND, can be requested by any doctor.
- Serum IgG and Type IV tests offer the broadest spectrum of pinning down food intolerance trigger foods. Signet Labs offers a test called the MRT (Mediator Release Test), which is currently considered one of the best, most accurate food intolerance tests (also tests for food chemicals). This test is offered locally through nutritionists with special certification in Functional Diagnostic Nutrition™ and Metabolic Typing™ (such professionals are available in Santa Cruz, San Francisco, San Jose, Cupertino, Mountain View, Oakland, Redwood City, Saratoga and Sunnyvale. Click here for contact info). You can also check with nutritionists and allergy specialists at a Bay Area medical center closest to you.
Successful elimination of trigger foods is essential to any treatment plan. Once allowed to heal (minimum of 3 months without exposure to trigger foods), re-introduction of trigger foods will allow one to see if they are still reactive to those foods and need to continue avoidance.
However, just eliminating trigger foods is not the whole picture. Healing the gut is an essential component and that journey looks a little bit different for each person depending on their diet, lifestyle and what contributed to the imbalance in the first place.
If you’d like to explore how you can discover where your best health has been hiding, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until then, I’m wishing you unstoppable health!