Center for Health & Wellness

Food Sensitivities & Your Immune System

digestive-disorderFACT: Our GI tract is an organ that covers more surface area than a football field and is responsible for consuming and digesting foodstuffs, absorbing nutrients, and expelling waste, which means that when constant inflammation is affecting this area, a variety of problems can occur, including autoimmune diseases!

If you or your child has a food allergy, you are likely aware of it due to the severity of reactions related to one or many specific foods. Because food allergies elicit an immediate immune response, that can cause anything from hives to difficulty breathing (called IgE reaction), they are typically easier to diagnose. Food sensitivities however, are more complicated to determine because of the wide range of symptoms, which can often be vague and take up to 72 hours to present themselves (called IgG reaction).  In general, food sensitivities are the result of toxic responses to food and are divided into two categories: allergic responses; and food intolerances.

The most common sensitivities that exist today are: wheat (and gluten), corn, dairy (lactose), soy, eggs and food dyes, preservatives and additives.common-food-allergy-triggers-s4-photo-of-different-food-groups The majority of toxic responses to food is a result of food intolerance rather than food allergy. A food intolerance response is defined as any reproducible, toxic response to food that does not involve an IgE mediated response. There are both genetic tendencies that make individuals more sensitive to certain foods and also (probably most likely in today’s world), a sensitivity caused by repeated and excessive exposure to the same foods and imbalances in gut microbiome.

*Some of the chief complaints of an individual suffering from sensitivities include: unexplained weight loss or gain; headaches or migraines; stomach aches; constipation and diarrhea; behavioral issues; ADD/ADHD or other problems related to concentration; skin irritation and rashes; fatigue, muscle and joint pain; Autism Spectrum Disorder; frequent bed wetting; and frequent infections, especially of the throat and ears.

Regardless of the origin of the sensitivity, the outcome is the same…a food containing a molecule that your body has difficulty breaking down or digesting, is allowed to continue down the intestinal tract, which can lead to inflammation. This chronic inflammation can, in turn, lead to a “leaky gut” and other chronic conditions, including autoimmune diseases. With leaky gut syndrome, partially digested dietary protein can cross the intestinal barrier and be absorbed into the bloodstream. The effect of these large molecules “leaking” is that they can cause an allergic response, producing symptoms directly in the intestines or throughout the body.

Leaky-Gut-Graph-dr-josh-axe2The immune system has a very sophisticated method for keeping you safe that leads it to identify all of the foreign substances that enter your body or that you come into contact with (through our food, in the environment, through skin contact, etc). If your immune system determines any danger/threat, it will produce antibodies to ward off the harmful intruders.

Over 60% of our immune function happens in our gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Therefore, if we continue to consume foods that our body has an intolerance to, over time, the outcome is decreased immune function. Although there are numerous types of autoimmune diseases and they can affect many different organs, at their core they are all alike in that they are an immune response triggered by systemic inflammation that leads your body to attack itself.

Autoimmune diseases are born when your body is working hard to defend itself against something potentially dangerous, such as an infection, a toxin, an allergen, or even a food, and it fails to distinguish between parts of your own body and the intruder. Mistaking certain types of tissues for harmful substances, your body turns these antibodies against itself, wreaking havoc on your organs.

How do you know if you have a food intolerance?

common-food-allergy-triggers-s1-photo-of-woman-checking-food-labelIf you suffer from any of the above-mentioned symptoms*, then you could be one of the millions of Americans who has an undiagnosed food sensitivity. Because food intolerances are very common, ask yourself how often you eat the main offenders such as wheat and dairy?  Recall your typical day…if you had cereal or toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, a few crackers mid-afternoon and pasta for dinner, some of the major culprits are included in each of your daily meals, making you highly susceptible to food intolerances.

Keep in mind that the top food sensitivities go by many names and so you must also read ingredients and be a savvy consumer in order to educate yourself on where these might be hiding in your diet (For Example: WHEAT has many alternative names such as, bulgur, farina, flour, enriched flour, bleached or unbleached flour, durum flour, pasta, seitan, semolina, hard wheat, red wheat, cracked wheat, wheat germ, wheat berries)!

If you think you may have a food intolerance, there are several avenues that you can take to confirm your suspicions:

You can try an Elimination Diet or a Rotation Diet, in which the typical offending foods would be removed from your diet for a period of 2 weeks or longer, depending on the situation. Then you would slowly re-introduce each food removed, paying careful attention to the body’s reaction (which remember can take up to a couple of days). If symptoms dissipated with the elimination diet and then returned when reintroducing, these foods would be obvious offenders. You can also do a simple blood test or bio-energetic stress tests to determine sensitivities.

At Cooper Chiropractic Center For Health & Wellness, we can offer you a blood test (a DIY kit to take home), in which your finger is pricked and a drop of blood is collected and sent to a lab for analysis. There are several options for tests that can be run, but one option we often recommend is the “95 Common Foods Panel”, which will generate sensitivity results for 95 commonly eaten foods.

There are many natural things you CAN do to heal your body from food sensitivities. If you are interested in learning more about food sensitivities and natural treatment options, please email me, I’m here to help!