When Food is Foe 😈

It certainly is a frustration and a struggle when you suspect that the food you’ve been eating is somehow contributing to the trouble you’re having with your gut, brain, muscles and joints, or skin.

A short list of common symptoms related to food-induced inflammation can range from heartburn and stomach pain to bloating and diarrhea. It could manifest as headaches or migraines, loss of focus, anxiety and/or depression. The symptoms could show in your achy points or in your skin as rashes or breakouts.

Your Personalized Diet

Everyone needs to eat according to their own needs, preferences, and lifestyle. A diet that works for a celebrity, your best friend, and even your cousin may not be what creates health for YOU.

Truly personalized nutrition doesn’t just take into account your height and weight, age, ancestry, activity level, or food preferences and lifestyle, it also means finding out which foods are causing an inflammatory response in your body.

Gut Permeability aka “Leaky Gut”

Having a “leaky gut” was a condition once unbelieved but is now well-documented in scientific literature. When there’s a compromise or breach of the cells lining the gut, there is a potential for all sorts of maladies, including poor nutrient absorption, food sensitivities, and many symptoms throughout the body.

Inflammation: the Good AND Bad

Just like stress, inflammation isn’t all bad. When you get a cut, the area of the trauma will start to swell and redden as the immune and circulatory system rush to the scene to stop the bleeding, prevent infection, and start laying new skin structures. The problem is when stress, or in this case, inflammation becomes chronic. This situation can ignite a host of disorders including arthritis, asthma, atherosclerosis, cancer, diabetes and, quite possibly, autism and mental issues.

How do you heal the painful symptoms associated with stepping on a nail? Sure, you could try covering it up, wrapping the area with pillowy gauze and taking aspirin, but you haven’t removed the root cause. So the first step to true, actual healing is to have the nail removed.

How might diet-induced inflammation show up for you? We’re all different so while soybean might cause one person a headache or migraine, for another it could cause joint pain or heartburn. Same with gluten, blueberries, or even green peppers.

Just because a food or diet is labeled as anti-inflammatory doesn’t mean it’s acting that way for you. In fact, surprisingly enough, we’ve had two clients in the past year for whom tumeric, a known anti-inflammatory, was actually INFLAMING them. One of the clients had been taking it everyday (!) in attempts to quell her joint pain.

The Multiple Problems with Elimination Diets

One of the keys in reducing diet-induced inflammation in the body is first identifying the foods that are causing the ‘fire’ in the body. Why not start with an elimination diet to try to improve migraines, autoimmune conditions or gut health? Why not try eliminating the most common allergens (e.g. wheat, gluten, soy, eggs, dairy, corn, and soy) or trying FODMAPs? While a particular food may relate to certain symptoms, it’s not necessarily the best course of action to subject clients to an elimination diet because they are difficult to sustain , are often inconclusive (do you have a mirgraine or heartburn because of the gluten or because you’ve been under stress or because of barometric pressure change in the weather?) and they don’t usually give the full relief clients need and desire.

1. They could miss a genetic component important for you to know and to share with your family. A good example of this would be a person who eliminates gluten from their diet and feels better. Unless they were tested for celiac disease, they wouldn’t know how stringently they might need to follow the gluten-free diet. Their relatives might also be unaware of how their expression of ‘silent celiac’ disease could be infertility, skin rashes, mouth sores, osteoporosis, and even lymphoma. 

2. Extra stress is another problem of elimination diets. They are frustrating and mentally demanding (trying to figure out a symptom’s cause might feel like a scene from A Beautiful Mind or this It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia meme), time-consuming and perhaps most importantly – they are not as successful as testing. The reason for this is that as you eliminate or add in foods, you may not do so slowly or completely enough AND since the immune system is in a heightened state of alert still responding to the foods you haven’t eliminated, you’re likely not going to feel 100% or even 80% better. Instead of spending 6 or more months removing foods from your diet – not feeling sure that you’re even getting better, or not getting a 100% resolution- you may want to consider another process. With our protocol, we guide clients through step-by-step, starting with 10 days of their ‘safe’ foods and then systematically expanding their diet in a way that allows us to determine other food reactions and intolerances.

3. Elimination diets don’t necessarily ‘put out the fire.’ Because our genetics and environment can play a role and impact our abilities to deal with inflammation, you can’t just avoid foods that cause you problems. Our body’s response to stress plays a role too. The great part of knowing your food – and food chemical – sensitivities is that they give a wider, more accurate picture …when it comes to discovering that molds, yeast,  FD&C Blue #2, or benzoic acid are also causing issues, perhaps in your household environment or products. Once we remove the ‘known offenders’ in your diet (including supplements and hygiene products), the immune system starts to calm down and then we can safely start food reintroduction and see more clearly what causes your problematic symptoms. Otherwise, with elimination diets, you’re mainly just guessing about the foods, supplements, and hygiene/household products you’re using and whether or not they are ‘safe’ for you.

Supplements aren’t the Answer

“Can’t I just take extra probiotics, collagen, turmeric, or fiber to help my gut?” You could play the guessing game and potentially waste time and money in trying to find the perfect supplement (or twenty). Here’s the problem: you’ll likely not see a great benefit from them if you’re still eating foods that irritate your gut’s lining and that cause inflammation in the body. As mentioned before, you could be reactive to turmeric and therefore adding that supplement could be your personal kryptonite.  

Want a faster, better way to help your gut AND body heal?

Consider comprehensive food sensitivity testing. Why comprehensive? Because, for example, just looking at IgG levels doesn’t mean that the food is the problem necessarily; IgG can be elevated for a number of reasons. It’s more important to look at multiple markers of inflammation being released by a cell in response to a food – including cytokines, prostaglandins, histamine, leukotrienes, interleukins and more.

If you’re tired of feeling “gross”, being so bloated you look 5 months pregnant, and have stomach pains that distract you from fully participating in the life you want to live, or have other ‘unexplained’ symptoms that could be related to the foods you eat regularly, consider a comprehensive program that includes your test results and implementing the proper protocol with expert guidance and support.

Food sensitivity testing is one of the most powerful tools we have to help clients finally improve life-long symptoms and get back to engaging in life more fully. Interested to see if the testing is a good option for you? Schedule your complimentary, 20-minute Discovery Call and let’s get your healthy journey started!

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Beware the Ides of Starch!

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Source: Pexels.com

In William Shakespeare’s play, Julius Caesar is warned by a soothsayer to “beware the Ides of March.” During the middle of this month, we’d also like to warn about the ides of starch.

In the past decade, gluten has become somewhat of a buzzword, inspiring inquisitions and concerns from the public such as, “Do I have gluten-sensitivity? Is a gluten-free diet right for me?”

Let’s start with the basics; what is gluten? It is a general term for the storage protein in certain grains such as wheat, rye, barley, spelt, and more. Gluten may be rather innocuous in the bodies of most of the population; however, if ingested by those with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, there will be a rather antagonistic bodily reaction with uncomfortable symptoms to follow.

There is a difference between celiac disease and gluten-sensitivity. The former is a genetic, auto-immune disorder in which the body attacks itself and damages the small intestine when gluten in consumed (or in the case of Hashimoto’s, the thyroid). When people with celiac disease ingest a product containing gluten, their small intestines rebel and, within an hour or two, they may suffer sharp abdominal pain, diarrhea or vomiting. Those who are sensitive to gluten report a variety of symptoms (stomachaches, reflux, even poor memory) which are typically similar, but less severe symptoms than people with celiac disease.

When it comes to symptoms of celiac disease, there are some classic signs: weight loss, abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloating, nutritional deficiencies, and short stature. The so called “silent” signs of celiac disease include constipation, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), weight gain, osteopenia, and anemia.

Although only about 1 in 5000 people are diagnosed with celiac disease , recent research indicates that as many as 1 in 133 people may actually have celiac disease. The average time period between experiencing symptoms and getting a diagnosis is 11 years. Most often, the determination of celiac disease is made from blood samples and a biopsy of the small intestine.

If you think you may have celiac disease, talk to your physician about getting the blood-work and endoscopy needed to confirm diagnosis. Alternatively, if you are seeking a less invasive way to determine how your body reacts to gluten, you could try an elimination diet and, upon re-introduction of the offending substance, document any undesired symptoms.

Treatment for celiac disease involves following the gluten-free diet for life. This may seem stringent, but the complications associated with non-compliance (i.e. infertility, osteoporosis/osteopenia, cancers of the bowel, lymphoma) are serious. Remember that following the treatment diet will also help reduce and possibly eliminate your symptoms.

People diagnosed with celiac must not eat products containing wheat, rye, barely, malt, bran (except corn bran), spelt, and kamut. Oats are problematic not because they inherently contain gluten (they do not) but because they may contain a small amount of other grains from milling sources.

Typical hidden sources of gluten include: medications or vitamin/mineral supplements, broth, cheese slices, beer, licorice candy, salad dressing, soy sauce, modified food starch, cake icing, lipstick, marinades, sauces, breakfast cereals, tortillas, chicken nuggets and hydrolyzed vegetable or plant protein. Because of gluten’s ubiquity, it is best to employ a trained professional when determining the risk for cross-contamination at home, assessing foods in the grocery store to ensure they are gluten-free, and minimizing the exposure to gluten from other unsuspected sources.

Since flour and grain products are often used in cooking, it is important to ask how foods have been prepared, especially when dining out. Cross-contamination with gluten is another concern, both in restaurants and at home.

Talk with a qualified healthcare professional regarding your risk for celiac and consult with a registered dietitian to learn how to follow a gluten-free diet safely and nutriously. Remember, if you are diagnosed with celiac disease, following a gluten-free diet is of utmost importance in preserving your health and preventing lymphomas, colon cancer, or other malignancies.

Side-note: gliadin is a protein found within wheat gluten and is thought to be the real culprit; but because gluten is the term most people are familiar with, we’ve used it in the article to avoid confusion.

Article originally featured in UWeekly March 2nd, 2011