In the midst of the current pandemic, many of us are reviewing our diet and lifestyle habits and seeking out immune boosting foods and ingredients to help strengthen their inner ecology. The importance to nourish our bodies has never been so vitally important!
But, there’s one piece of the immunity puzzle that is unfortunately overlooked.
A secret epidemic of hidden food sensitivities that create lowered immunity has left many people feeling miserable and wondering why they have mysterious problems with no obvious cause. These individuals may experience headaches, abdominal pain, fatigue, dermatitis, low blood cholesterol and low blood levels of vitamins D and K, zinc, and other nutrients.
Understanding the food sensitivity connection
Food sensitivities are difficult to discern for several reasons: You may be sensitive to a wide variety of foods, so you just can’t eliminate one food and expect your problems to vanish. Many individuals don’t have problems that show up right away. And, delayed food responses can manifest up to two days after the “toxic” food was ingested, so many would never suspect their symptoms were tied to food.
Ninety percent of food allergies and sensitivities stem from the most common reaction-producing foods: wheat, milk, corn, unfermented soy, and peanuts.
In some cases, like with peanuts for example, a true allergy can lead to anaphylactic shock, a deadly allergic response in which the body releases histamines, causing tissues to swell, inhibiting breathing and interfering with blood flow and sometimes leading to heart failure. Each year, about 200,000 people receive life saving treatment in emergency rooms after suffering severe allergic reactions to food.
While these statistics are troubling, our adverse reactions to specific foods are as dangerous as the prevalence of acute food allergies. Delayed food responses are more subtle and take longer to show up than generally recognized allergies. These can lead to complications like food cravings, food addictions, bingeing, increased appetite, and a decreased metabolism that are not obviously the result of just an allergy.
While digestive challenges like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as well as heartburn/GERD, constipation, and diarrhea have all been linked with food sensitivities, there is a whole array of baffling symptoms that can spread far beyond just the digestive tract:
- Unexplained mood swings and mental problems, such as panic attacks, attention deficit disorder, depression, irritability, and nervousness
- Persistent pain such as headaches, joint pain, muscle aches, arthritis
- Mucus problems, such as congested nose and sinuses, runny nose, persistent phlegm, constant sneezing
- Puffy eyes, dark bags, and swelling beneath the eyes
- Weight that yo-yos up and down every day by as much as five pounds (edema)
- Chronic fatigue and extreme tiredness after eating
- Meniere’s disease, an inner ear problem causing tinnitus and vertigo
Let’s take a look at some of the most common underlying factors that promote food sensitivity issues:
The overuse of antibiotics and their attack on our gastrointestinal probiotic bacteria, add to a challenging “full-blown” allergy. Since probiotics in the gut moderate our immune responses, it makes sense that they do the same for allergic reactions, restraining the overreacting inflammations of the immune system. In a study of thirty thousand children in England, scientists found that those who were given antibiotics before age one were most likely to have hay fever, eczema, and asthma.
The more medicine they were given, the more likely they were to have these allergy-related problems, another keen example that shows us why antibiotics should be avoided, if possible. If, however, you have to take antibiotics, it is critical for you to consider supporting your microbiome and boosting your immune response with a probiotic like UNI KEY’s Flora-Key. Flora-Key is an easily absorbed, lower potency probiotic powder that does not trigger an autoimmune response like some high potency probiotics often do.
Lactose, casein, and various chemical intolerances
Lactose or milk sugar intolerance is the most common food intolerance and one of the most frequently bemoaned sources of gastrointestinal issues. This condition affects one in ten Americans whose bodies can’t make lactase, the enzyme that breaks down the lactose in milk. Another prevalent food intolerance is linked to the protein casein, which is found in milk and all cheese products.
Food additives can irritate digestion and cause symptoms. Monosodium glutamate, which is used to make flavors more intense, can cause severe headaches and joint pain in people who are sensitive to it. Salicylates, chemicals related to aspirin that are in some fruits and vegetables as well as coffee, beer, and wine, have been linked to hyperactivity in children. Sulfites, which occur naturally, as in red wines, or may be added to foods to prevent the growth of mold, can also cause severe headaches.
Sensitivity to gluten
Many of my clients over the years have shown delayed food responses to grains. The chief villain is wheat, which seems to go hand in hand with fatigue, bloating, and abdominal cramping, among may other symptoms. The reason wheat causes so many gut issues and other problems is gluten, a sticky class of proteins also contained in barley, rye, kamut, spelt, and triticale. Gluten sensitivity leads to nutrient malabsorption as well as leaky gut syndrome. The intestinal villi are harmed as atrophy, the process of taking in crucial nutrients goes haywire. In addition, larger molecules like protein fragments breach the damaged GI walls, enter the bloodstream, and cause wide-spread allergic reactions. As those proteins circulate in the body, they activate the immune system, causing inflammation and triggering certain devastating autoimmune diseases. All this destruction is created by a condition that can be avoided by simply choosing different foods. But awareness is the biggest hurdle.
Practice an elimination diet
For most of us, sensitivities seem to cluster around a few ordinary foods, mostly wheat, corn, and milk. Interestingly, there may also be herbs and spices that you have a reaction to and are simply not aware of. For example, black pepper is a frequent culprit.
When you think you are gluten-intolerant or sensitive to a food, try an elimination diet to help identify the problem:
- Choose a food that you routinely eat and eliminate it.
- Continue to avoid the suspected food for two to three weeks.
- If symptoms disappear, briefly reintroduce the food and see if they return.
- If they do, you know you need to permanently drop that food from your diet.
You can test for food sensitivities to Gluten, Egg, Soy, and Milk by taking the Expanded GI Panel, available through my partnership with Uni Key Health. Test results include my personalized recommendations and a consultation with my testing coordinator.
If you find you do have food sensitivities, taking a digestive enzyme like Digesta-Key will help mitigate the symptoms of these sensitivities. Digesta-Key provides a diverse combination of pancreatic and anti-inflammatory enzymes with antioxidants and metabolic cofactors including pancreatin, papain, rutin, bromelain, trypsin, chymotrypsin, and serrapeptase. These digestive enzymes aid the small intestine’s role in digesting proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Their actions help maintain intestinal health and minimize food intolerances.