I sat in the doctor’s office not anticipating but dreading the upcoming results to a full-panel blood work up. When the moment of disclosure arrived, there were a few things that weren’t surprising, but what totally caught me off guard was the amount of inflammation that existed in my system that was likely being exacerbated by a host of food sensitivities. For every food we tested; gluten, dairy, soy, nuts, corn, and egg, I was showing signs of reaction. I was shocked when the doctor said, “I diagnose food sensitivities in every patient I see. The problem is quite common and often overlooked.”
Her advice; go on a 4-5 week detox and eliminate all of these food items. Easy for her to say!
Food sensitivities and allergies are on the rise. According to a study released in 2013 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies among children increased approximately 50 percent between 1997 and 2011. But there doesn’t seem to be a clear answer as to why. Many believe that as our food continues to be mass produced, processed, genetically modified, and loaded with toxins, that we move further and further away from how we are to eat for our best health. As a result of this “fake food” diet, our bodies are in a constant state of inflammation and reaction.
Before I go much further, it’s important to point out that there is a difference between food allergy and food sensitivity.
- Food intolerance or sensitivity can be defined as an uncomfortable reaction to food that does not involve the immune system response or the release of histamine.
- A food allergy is a bit more serious and can cause instantaneous reactions by your immune system.
- Symptoms of intolerance can be varied and include the obvious signs such as bloating, gas, cramps, and diarrhea.
- But when battling food sensitivities over long periods of time, you can experience less identifiable symptoms such as brain fog, achy joints, the inability to lose weight, sleep disturbances, and low energy.
Imagine your body unwittingly being exposed to an inflammatory toxin at every meal. Until you educate yourself on which foods your body is sensitive, it will never heal if continuously exposed to irritants.
With that said, diagnosis can be challenging. There are a variety of “official” tests available including those for the blood, stool, and skin. However, these tests often give false negatives and positives. I suggest that you check with an integrative, holistic doctor or nutritionist about your options. It’s most likely that to fully diagnosis food sensitivities, you will need to undergo an elimination diet to determine which foods might be wreaking the most havoc on your system.
It might be overwhelming to consider how to address probable digestion issues, but there are some steps you can begin taking now to eliminate the biggest culprits. As you get better at identifying what feels good to eat and what is a problem, one day you might be ready for a full elimination detox, which will allow your gut to heal and begin assimilating food properly again. In the meantime:
Avoid these foods: There are common foods that have the potential to upset your internal digestive system. These foods are Gluten (primarily Wheat, Barley, Rye), Dairy, Soy, Nuts, Corn, and Egg. We are often not even aware these foods are creating chaos in our system. The unfortunate truth is that even if you eliminate half of what you normally eat, even trace amounts will cause negative reactions in your body. But, you have to start somewhere, so begin to minimize and make better choices. Some quick suggestions: forgo bread at dinner, choose rice instead of pasta, try a non-dairy/non-soy milk and use sunflower seed butter.
Become an expert at label reading: You will be surprised at how many of these food items are in processed foods. They come in a variety of forms such as syrups, starches and, oils. Gluten can be hidden as modified food starch, in seasonings, and used as thickeners for things such as barbeque sauce, soups, and dressings. Corn is added in as syrups and starch and soy finds its way into many of our foods as oil and a protein additive. Start by going to your pantry and refrigerator and begin reading labels on what you already have. Take a permanent marker and write on the label which offenders certain products contain. When shopping, begin to buy items that are free from the most common allergens.
Fill your environment with better choices: The great news, you do not have to feel deprived when beginning a food elimination plan! When you are making better choices you can eat as much as you like and still experience the benefits of the food. Here are some great choices to begin your tummy-healing journey;
- Roasted vegetables – When you plan a meal, think about having two vegetables and a lean protein. Many vegetables taste great when roasted with some light seasoning. I regularly roast brussel sprouts, asparagus, sweet potatoes, and squash. Simply marinade lightly in olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning that is free of irritants.
- Lean meats prepared simply – While you detox, consider only eating poultry and fish. Choose meats that are lean and do not have additives. Most grocery stores carry meat that is free of antibiotics and growth hormones. You can create some great rubs or marinades with items from your pantry. One of my favorites is a combination of chipotle, smoked paprika, garlic, salt, and pepper.
- Fresh fruits – There’s almost always something in season that you can buy to make a quick dessert.. Try fresh peaches with a drizzle of honey. Bake a bowl of blueberries for about 10 minutes at 350, then drizzle a bit of agave syrup and top with non-dairy coconut ice cream. Raw foods – There are many great recipes for salads, side dishes and desserts that use uncooked fruits and vegetables. Get creative and find tasty ways to add in more produce.
- Healthy snacks – It is easy to succumb to temptation when surrounded by corn chips, peanuts, pretzels and granola bars, so keep yourself on track by having better options on hand. Some great choices are – turkey jerky, apples, sunflower butter, dairy-free chocolate bars, hummus, rice crackers, coconut milk yogurt and dried fruit.
If you believe you might be suffering from inflammation in your system, there is a good chance you are battling food sensitivity issues. Education is a great first step to feeling better, so read as much as you can on this topic. Find health partners to work with and let them guide you to identifying and addressing digestion issues. Many of our society’s ailments are a result of unhealthy digestive tracts, so investing in this part of your health will reap long-time rewards.
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