The food we eat makes up a large component of our energy source and nutrients for our body to thrive. However, food can also cause significant harm if the food does not agree with us. Food intolerances are quite common in relation to many health conditions such as: migraines, gastritis, mental health conditions, chronic fatigue syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, hayfever, fibromyalgia, IBS, weight gain, joint aches and pains, autoimmune disease and even hives.
Food intolerances are very different to food allergies. A food allergy is defined as an immune system mediated sensitivity due to immunoglobulins of class E (IgE) which triggers immediate reactions of the skin airways, intestinal tract and cardiovascular system. Food intolerances are triggered mainly by carbohydrate malabsorption or the inability for the carbohydrate to be digested. They cause still cause an immune reaction however this is the non-IgE immune meditated. Food intolerances can be difficult to pinpoint also as there is not necessarily an immediate reaction, sometimes it can take up to 3 days for a reaction to occur making it challenging to pinpoint the culprit.
How do food intolerances occur?
Food intolerances can occur due to our gut lining particularly of the intestines becoming more permeable, meaning that larger food particles and also bacteria are able to pass through the intestinal lining and into our blood stream to be deposited throughout the body. This is often described by naturopaths as Leaky Gut. Your gut is not necessarily leaky but it means your intestines are more permeable than they should be.
The immune system (non-IgE) attacks these foreign invaders but also stores a memory of the proteins contained within the bacteria or food and can go on to kill other proteins that look similar that are present throughout the body that may actually be our own tissue which can lead to autoimmune disease. Permeability of the intestinal lining can be caused by an infection to the digestive tract, inflammation or irritation or even a diet which is rich in sugar, salt and/or fat.
Common food intolerances:
The most common food intolerances include (and are not limited to): dairy products, including milk, cheese and yoghurt, Gluten, chocolate, eggs, flavour enhancers such as MSG, food additives, strawberries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, wine, garlic and onion.
The foods that can cause intolerances are not only 'unhealthy' or 'bad' foods, you can acquire an intolerance to foods such as avocado, spinach or even almonds which is why it is important to test for intolerances rather than removing offending foods from the diet avoiding nutritional deficiencies.
Testing for food intolerances
There are two different tests Natalie, our naturopath can run to look for food intolerances, either using blood pathology or a hair sample. Once the test results return, Natalie will discuss a gut healing program in addition to a temporary elimination of the foods that are causing a reaction. The gut healing is to reduce the permeability of the intestinal lining, ensure a strong microbiome, increase the body’s abilities to breakdown carbohydrates, proteins and fats and reduce inflammation from the digestive tract to strengthen and protect the digestive tract before reintroducing the eliminated foods gradually back into the diet.
Removing foods that are suspected of causing an intolerance without doing the gut healing work leads to further and further intolerances as you are not addressing the underlying cause, which in this case is malabsorption or the inability to digest efficiently.
Addressing food intolerances and healing the gut is key for reducing symptoms not only limited to the digestive tract and can strengthen and prevent other health concerns in the future!
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