It seems like everyone, and their dog has a food sensitivity these days. Gluten, dairy, soy, corn, MSG, food coloring, nitrates, guar gum, and the list keeps going. It makes mealtime stressful and overwhelming if you have a strong reaction to any of these things, especially if they’re hidden ingredients.
But why all of a sudden are we all so sensitive to foods, most of which have been consumed for thousands of years? Are you destined to a restrictive diet for the rest of your life?
What Causes a Food Sensitivity?
Your body is incredibly smart. To protect itself from infection-causing pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi, white blood cells release Immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies.
These antibodies can differentiate between “self” and “non-self.” Your immune system is designed to identify intruders and attack. It’s really quite a marvelous system when it’s working correctly. You don’t have to lift a finger while your immune cells wage war on unwelcome guests.
Many people tend to blame the immune system for food reactions, when in fact, your IgG antibodies are just doing their job.
So who or what is responsible for these reactions to simple foods? Ultimately, it comes down to your gut health.
Why Your Immune System is Reacting to Food
The lining of your gut is made up of cells tightly linked together to protect your bloodstream from pathogens. There are tight junctions between the cells that allow nutrients to enter so you can absorb and use them for energy.
Unfortunately, factors such as stress, “junk” food, medications, and toxins result in a weakened intestinal lining and compromised junctions. When left untreated, pathogens and undigested food particles leak through the gut lining into the bloodstream, creating what is known as leaky gut.
Your body knows food particles and pathogens shouldn’t be in your bloodstream, so it immediately reacts. Your immune cells recognize these particles as invaders, and they attack.
But they don’t stop there.
In an effort to protect your body from future invaders, it creates antibodies to attack the same food particles the next time you eat them, resulting in a food sensitivity.
This isn’t just to your typical inflammatory foods – but even foods deemed healthy (think strawberries, spinach, etc.) – can become flagged as bad for you.
Eventually, as we continue eating these foods, our immune system gets completely out of whack and starts attacking all areas of our body, leading to annoying symptoms.
Common Signs of Food Sensitivities
You may not recognize your symptoms as a food sensitivity. You might imagine someone going into anaphylactic shock after eating food contaminated with peanuts or someone vomiting after eating dairy.
If you’re not experiencing those strong, even life-threatening symptoms, you might not recognize that you have a sensitivity to a specific food.
The truth is that food sensitivities can present themselves in many ways. And they can show up days after consuming a food that we’re sensitive to.
Annoying, even debilitating symptoms you’ve dealt with for years could be a direct result of immune responses to food particles leaky from your damaged gut into your bloodstream.
Food sensitivity symptoms include:
What Causes Leaky Gut?
Since a leaky gut is the main culprit behind food sensitivities, you might wonder how your digestive system got into such a weakened state in the first place.
Leaky gut doesn’t happen overnight. It’s usually a result of years of poor habits that stress and damage those tight junctions until they no longer have the resilience to keep intruders out of the bloodstream.
The biggest causes of leaky gut include:
- Bacterial imbalance. When the number of harmful bacteria outweighs the good in your gut (gut dysbiosis), it leads to inflammation in the digestive system, damaging the gut lining.
- Poor diet. Experimental, unbalanced diets that cut out healthy fats, animal protein, and healthy carbs put extreme stress on the body to reproduce cells, including those in your gut lining. Additionally, diets high in “vegetable” oils, processed foods, and alcohol are hard for the body to digesting lead to further inflammation and damage.
- Chronic stress. If you’re always on the run, getting only a few hours of sleep a night, eating a low-calorie diet, putting your job, family, friends, and everyone else first in your life, then your body is under a lot of stress. Stress weakens your immune system inhibiting its ability to fight off harmful bacteria and viruses that can destroy a healthy gut lining.
- Environmental toxins. Tap water, makeup, soaps, lotions, feminine hygiene products, air pollution, pesticides, and so much more carry harmful chemicals and toxins that eat away at our gut lining. They not only disrupt the bacterial balance in our guts, but they can even change our hormone levels which play a huge role in gut health.
- Medications. Antibiotics, over-the-counter pain killers, birth control pills, and other medications all play a role in killing off good bacteria, causing gut dysbiosis, and even causing perforation in your stomach and intestinal lining.
How to Test for Food Sensitivities
Many elimination diets require you to cut out the most common culprits for food sensitivities for a time before adding them in one at a time to observe if you have a reaction or not.
Unfortunately, these diets are difficult to stick to, and there is still the chance that you’re sensitive to something not on the elimination list. Additionally, you may not react to a food immediately, so it can be hard to pinpoint where the reaction is coming from or if your symptom is a reaction at all or if it’s caused by another factor in your life that day.
What about food sensitivity tests? The problem with at-home food sensitivity tests or ones your doctor might offer is that they almost always list gluten, dairy, eggs, caffeine, etc., so it’s hard to know how accurate they really are. I don’t recommend these.
The best food sensitivity test is a mediator release test or MRT. This blood test accurately tells you WHAT food you’re sensitive to and HOW sensitive to it you are. For example, you might have a strong reaction to yogurt from cow’s milk but might be okay with sheep or goat yogurt, so it would be unhelpful to cut out all dairy.
Because of its thoroughness and specificity, the mediator release test is the most accurate for food sensitivities.
Are Food Sensitivities for Life?
Juggling food sensitivities can be difficult and even disappointing if you’re now experiencing symptoms from eating a food you once loved. But can you eventually heal food sensitivities?
Since food sensitivities are caused by poor gut health, it’s reasonable to conclude that you can reintroduce these foods without symptoms returning once your gut is healed.
Your gut, however, will not heal overnight. It took years for it to reach this damaged state, so it will take time to repair itself. Thankfully, your body has the ability to heal and repair when you give it the right building blocks.
Start by identifying and eliminating the foods you are sensitive to, thus avoiding further irritation. You’ll also want to avoid environmental toxins to the best of your ability and stop taking unnecessary medications.
Next, adding in gut-healing foods like gelatin and collagen and replenishing missing nutrients will give your body the pieces it needs to rebuild.
Finally, making time for sleep and rest every day is crucial to healing your gut.
If you’re ready to eliminate symptoms caused by food sensitivities, heal your gut, and get back to eating what you love, then you’re ready for Transformed. This fully customized, one-on-one program includes an MRT food sensitivity test as well as other functional lab tests to get a clear understanding of your symptoms and solve them once and for all.