Are Food Allergies and Sensitivities Making You Miserable?
False Fat, Real Suffering
How many times have you gone to your doctor feeling tired, achy, congested, bloated, and just...unwell...and been told, "There's nothing wrong," or worse, "It's all in your head." How many times have you been handed a prescription for a pill, the side of effects of which are worse than your original symptoms? I've certainly been there. A little less than a decade ago, I went to a local endocrinologist because I was gaining weight without eating more, regular hour-long workouts weren't taking off the weight, I was growing thick facial hair, and I was lactating without ever having been pregnant. After a few cursory tests, the doctor and his sanctimonius nurse told me it was "probably depression."
Last time I checked, depression doesn't cause facial hair growth in women, or bilateral lactation.
Long story short, it took me years to find a good doctor who ran the proper tests and discovered long-standing hormonal imbalance and a benign pituitary microadenoma. Depression, my foot.
You can read about the correction of my hormonal problems in some of my other hubs. However, this one focuses on one thing that can exacerbate hormonal imbalance, and most allopaths give it no lip service at all...food allergies and sensitivities.
What's Eating You?
In his book The False Fat Diet, Dr. Elson Haas talks about the implications of food allergies on our overall health and well being. Egregious food allergies, like peanut allergies, can cause anaphylactic shock and death if not treated swiftly. However, there are lesser allergies (and I use the word 'lesser' for lack of a better term, because they do cause systemic problems) which, although they pose no immediate health threat, can do damage to your body, little by little over time. Your body reacts to offending foods like alien invaders and sends out antibodies and fluid to protect you from what it perceives as a harmful substance.
The Sensitive Seven
Because they are so pervasive in our North American diet, there are seven foods which normally cause allergic reactions or sensitivies: dairy, wheat, corn, sugar, eggs, soy, and peanuts. The first two are difficult to sidestep because they seem to be found in everything we eat. The more one eats a particular food, the more one is likely to develop a sensitivity or allergy to it. We may not even realize we are eating wheat or dairy, because they are sometimes hidden in lists of food ingredients or masked by different names. Gluten is a term we are hearing more and more of nowadays, because more and more people are being diagnosed with celiac disease. Is this because doctors are more savvy at diagnosing this or because more and more people are becoming intolerant of it since it's so pervasive in our modern diet? Do we need wheat in soy sauce or bologna? Of course not, but it's a cheap filler. Dairy content may be masked as whey protein or casein. Goat's milk and raw milk don't seem to cause the same quality of problems as pasteurized cow's milk, but one can still have sensitivities. Since soy can also be a common allergen (as it is in so many food products), rice has become a popular alternative in both milk and cheese. Rice is also a tasty and viable alternative to wheat.
How Do I Know What I'm Allergic to If My Doctor Won't Test Me?
If you're met with less than cooperation from your physician and don't have a naturopathic doctor in your area, you can test yourself with a reasonable degree of reliability to see what food(s) you may be sensitive to. The first way is called an elimination diet in which you do not eat the aforementioned Sensitive Seven for a week and then gradually reintroduce them into your diet, one at a time per week to see if your symptoms return. Why only 1 per week? Believe it or not, your body can have a delayed reaction to an offending food of several hours or several days, and if you don't wait a week in between, you wouldn't be able to tell for certain which food is causing your congestion, or bloating, or headaches, etc.
Another way to test for food allergies is the pulse test. After fasting for 12 hours (overnight), and drinking nothing but water, check your pulse rate and write it down. Eat one of the offending foods. Check your pulse again 30 minutes later. Write it down. Check again at 60 minutes and at 90 minutes. If your pulse rate has increased as time passes, your body is churning out adrenaline to counteract the effects of what you've eaten, indicating your system sees it as an invader and is trying to combat it. This is not as effective as the elimination diet simply because there may be a delayed reaction to the offending food and there is insufficient wait time in between ingestion of the Sensitive Seven.
If you DO have a naturopath or allergist who can test you, an ELISA test can check for hundreds of food allergies. The test may or may not be covered by insurance. Check with your provider. The site www.foodallergytest.org can also give you a solid step in the right direction in diagnosing your sensitivities.
I'm Sensitive to Several Foods...What Can I Eat??
It's frustrating, and trust me, I know how you feel. Discovering you're sensitive to a food or foods is depressing and we seem to be most sensitive/allergic to the foods we love most. Allergy causing foods create a "high" a few minutes after we eat them--that aforementioned adrenaline rush. But then as our immune system kicks into gear, we feel awful---we crash--and want more of that "high," so we eat more and more and get sicker and sicker. This is especially true of sugar which has numerous other systemic implications (check back for my hub on blood sugar and insulin). Kicking the habit of eating foods to which we're sensitive is just as hard as kicking any other harmful habit, but also well worth it. And being sensitive to a food does not necessarily mean you can never eat it again. You may be able to ingest small quantities of an offending food once a week or once a month with little or no harmful effects. Then again, you might not. It depends upon the individual and how your body reacts to the offending food.
The best diet to restore health and eliminate most food sensitivities is the Paleo diet. Cavemen ate meat and vegetation with the occasional fruit. Granted, their food wasn't pumped up with hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides, but we make do with what our modern world has to offer. There was no dairy in Paleolithic man's diet, no coffee, no sugar. Paleolithic man's body was lean and he kept all his own teeth. If you can afford it, organic vegetables and grass-fed beef, free-range poultry, and wild (as opposed to farm-raised) fish are best. Even if you're on a budget, though, protein and vegetables of the non-organic variety are still better than eating foods that cause sensitivies/allergies.
Eliminating food sensitivities will allow your body to function as it was meant to. Your cells won't need to retain fluid to protect you from cellular damage, so you'll lose at least 5 pounds, if not much more. Your insulin levels will start to normalize, your pulse rate and blood pressure will diminish, and your mood will start to stabilize. Your clogged sinuses will start to clear, and that annoying heartburn, gas, or stomach ache will vanish over time. Your child may have fewer ear infections or colds after his/her food sensitivies are addressed and corrected. You'll have more energy, vitality, and peace.
I wish you good luck and good health.