You’ve 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. You 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 (chemicals from your immune system 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).
The difference between food intolerance and allergies
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, your 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 you have 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. You can also have a food intolerance that doesn’t give you clear symptoms unless you have a lot of it or eat it a few days in a row. This is why it can be so challenging to figure out!
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 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. Oxford 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 through licensed nutritionists such as myself with special certification in Functional Diagnostic Nutrition™ and Metabolic Typing™
To heal your body, you’ll need to get a good plan for replacing your trigger foods with gut healing, anti-inflammatory foods. Getting those stressful foods out of your diet for awhile may allow you to eat them later without it causing inflammation and all those other symptoms we talked about.
Your body is designed to be healthy. Sometimes it needs a bit of extra help so you can look and feel your best. As you now know, food intolerance is a major obstacle that may be getting in your way and causing you symptoms. You don’t need to keep wasting your time and energy struggling and guessing. Let’s figure it out together and help you feel like your best self again!