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You are conscious about what you eat and do your best to eat well, but you still don’t feel your best. You feel gassy and bloated, you’re getting acne, your skin isn’t glowing anymore, you may be ready for a nap after a meal and you wish you can get rid of your brain fog.

These issues frustrating and sometimes embarrassing. They’re also very common. Many patients come to see us with healthy lifestyles, but are still experiencing ongoing fatigue, digestive symptoms and skin issues. If this sounds familiar, it may be time to take a good look at your diet. Even a “healthy” food can make you sick if your body is sensitive to it. For many, the food mystery becomes both frustrating and overwhelming when trying to understand what foods are nourishing you and not making you feel terrible.

The good news is that you may not have to look very far to make changes that relieve your symptoms. With a bit of detective work, and a bit of help, you can map out a dietary plan that helps you feel your best.

Food Sensitivity symptoms

Food sensitivity can be tricky to diagnose. One reason is that there’s no one-size-fits-all description of the way our bodies react. Symptoms vary from person to person and can even be different depending on what else is happening in your body. For example, you might respond differently at different stages of your menstrual cycle.

Food sensitivities can cause:

  • Gas and bloating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation and/or Diarrhea
  • Asthma
  • Ear infections and sinus infections
  • Eczema and psoriasis
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Headaches & migraines
  • Dark circles under your eyes
  • Brain fog – that annoying forgetfulness and lack of clarity
  • Sore joints
  • Chronic illness
  • And many other conditions!

Another reason why a food sensitivity is often a missed diagnosis is that these symptoms can be delayed 24-72 hours after a meal, so many people don’t make the connection between what they ate and how they feel.

Similarly, it’s difficult to measure how many people suffer from food sensitivities because a lot of us don’t seek medical help, figuring that it’s “normal” or it’s “just part of aging” to feel tired and bloated all of the time. In fact, conventional medical practitioners can be skeptical about food sensitivity symptoms, which can lead to frustration for patients. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

 

Causes of Food Sensitivities

 Understanding the difference between food allergies, food intolerances, and food sensitivities is important:

  • Food allergies are immune reactions. After eating a certain food, your body’s immune system launches an attack by making its own protein, called immunoglobulin E (IgE). The next time you consume that food, your body is ready to attack again. The IgE causes your body to release a chemical called histamine, which triggers the physical symptoms of an allergic reaction. This is the type of allergy reaction one has to pollens and dander. With food, it can cause frightening anaphylaxis reactions.
  • A food intolerance occurs when the body loses the ability to produce a certain digestive enzyme. Lactose intolerance occurs when the body cannot produce the lactase enzyme, and fructose intolerance occurs when a body cannot produce the fructase enzyme. Eating foods with lactose or fructose will then cause gas/bloating and diarrhea to occur.
  • A food sensitivity reaction occurs when you eat a food and it forms an antigen/antibody reaction. That is, a different part of your immune system binds to the food, the IgG reaction. Those immune complexes can cause intestinal and systemic problems in the body and mind. There are specialty labs that can detect this reaction. Dr. Morstein uses Alletess Labs and one blood draw can uncover up to 184 food sensitivity reactions.

If we continue to eat that food sensitivity, the lining of the gut can become inflamed and damaged. Eventually, it can become permeable, so the undigested material “leaks” into the bloodstream. Not surprisingly, this is called “leaky gut” syndrome.

What is the root cause of food sensitivities?

There are many medical reasons contributing to why they are becoming increasingly common:

  1. Eating the same food over and over: the gut is healthiest when a variety of foods are eaten regularly. Simply eating cheese, wheat and eggs all the time increases the risk that you might develop a sensitivity to one of them.
  2. Poor diet: A diet high in processed foods, sugar, chemicals, GMO’s (genetically modified organisms), excess alcohol or coffee—all these things can over time increase the inflammation of the gut lining and the risk of developing a food sensitivity.
  3. Lack of protective nutrients: Ingesting foods high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory chemicals help protect all cells in your body, including your intestinal lining.
  4. Long term use of antibiotics and other drugs that harm the gut: many medications can harm the gut, the ability to digest, and the beneficial bacteria (probiotics) in our intestines. Proton Pump Inhibitors and common anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen and naproxen can be damaging to the gut when used for long periods of time.
  5. Eating too fast, eating too much: Poor eating habits can stress the gastrointestinal tract.
  6. Dysbiosis: When you have low beneficial bacteria or an overgrowth of problematic fungal or bacteria species, this can cause leaky gut and food sensitivities.

 

Which Foods Can Cause Food Sensitivities?

Uncovering food sensitivities is a fantastic reason why seeing a Naturopathic Doctor is a good idea if you suspect your food may be making you sick. In addition, medical supervision can ensure your approach to food remains healthy and balanced. Research suggests that food sensitivities can be a trigger for disordered eating in some people. After all, if food is causing you pain, but you’re not sure which foods are to blame, it’s easy to associate your diet with negative experiences.

Treating Food Sensitivities

Food sensitivities are easily identified and treated by the doctors at our centre using these methods:

  1. Test through a reputable laboratory to uncover food sensitivity reactions
  2. Remove all positive foods and tidy up your diet in a healthier way
  3. Heal the gut lining using supplements specific to what your body needs
  4. Our patients will return after one month to check in with their Naturopathic Doctor — they usually have to avoid all the foods on the list for only 1-2 months.       Once symptoms/signs of the chief complaint(s) are gone, then foods will be methodically added back in one by one to uncover which one(s) really cause the problem, and must continue to be avoided, and all the others are good to be eaten regularly again

 

Uncovering food sensitivities is a truly valuable medical journey for many patients.

If you feel like you’re having trouble pinpointing the issue, please do not hesitate to contact us at (519) 954-7950 or info@HealthSourceIMC.com and we will work to identify your food sensitivities together.

The Team at HealthSource Integrative Medical Centre

 

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28936357

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5603184/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0277953608002773

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7460264

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41575-018-0064-z

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306453018303950

https://journals.lww.com/co-gastroenterology/Abstract/2016/03000/A_gut__microbiome__feeling_about_the_brain.7.aspx

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/10009-food-problems-is-it-an-allergy-or-sensitivity

 

Genetic Testing and Individualized Medicine

Changing your lifestyle isn’t always easy, but it’s usually easier when you can see results. What if I told you I could make lifestyle recommendations that were custom tailored to what is ideal for your body, meaning the changes would have a high impact and would be guaranteed to benefit you? This is the future of individualized medicine: using genomics to determine the best plan of action. Genetics is changing the field of medicine. We now know why some people experience bad side effects from certain drugs, and why some people do not. It comes down to the enzymes made in the liver, which are written in your genetic code. So instead of prescriptions by trial and error, prescriptions could be the right fit for you with fewer side effects on your end. The same goes for natural remedies: we can now pinpoint what will work for you, whether it is a lifestyle factor or a supplement. Whether or not marathon training is beneficial or detrimental for you can now be answered. Because each body is unique, medicine should be unique for each body as well. At HealthSource Integrative Medical Centre, our naturopathic doctors recognize this and work with each person to achieve personalized healthcare- and now we have a powerful new tool with which to do so.

Sample of conditions that benefit from genetic testing: Depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, cancer prevention, auto-immune disease, fibromyalgia, autism, addictions, miscarriage, all have answers among the genes.

Genetic testing allows us to look at the function of a person on the most fundamental level. I’ll go through several examples that highlight the power of genetic testing. Neurotransmitters are one area that our doctors will usually test or evaluate. These are the hormone messengers in the brain and the body that determine things like addiction, appetite, calm, anxiety, depression, focus, and so on.

Some Neurotransmitters and Their Functions
Neurotransmitter Function Problems Caused by Imbalances
Serotonin Affects mood, hunger, sleep, arousal Undersupply linked to depression
Dopamine Influences movement, learning, attention, and emotion Oversupply linked to schizophrenia, undersupply linked to tremors and decreased mobility in Parkinson’s disease
Norepinepherine Helps control alertness and arousal Undersupply can depress mood and cause ADHD-like attention problems
GABA A major inhibitory neurotransmitter Undersupply linked to seizures, tremors, and insomnia
Glutamate A major excitatory neurotransmitter, involved in memory Oversupply can overstimulate the brain, producing migraines or seizures; this is why some people avoid MSG in food
Acetylcholine Enables muscle attention, learning, and memory Undersupply leads to deteriorating muscle function

There are biochemical pathways that both produce and remove these neurotransmitters from the system. Think of it as water from a tap, and a tub with a drain at the bottom. Ideally we want balance between the amount of water coming from the tap and the size of the drain, so that the body can keep a level amount for its use. Now consider someone who produces more of a certain messenger than they remove from the system, and say that messenger is adrenaline. Even a simple startle will cause some adrenaline release, and if it is hanging around longer, ie the drain is clogged, that adrenaline is acting longer. That person may experience higher states of anxiety. In the case of cardiovascular disease, research has now shown that people who carry certain genetic types could be advised not to consume high doses of fish oil in order to prevent it. Others benefit from added fish oil. Whether or not you should be building that supplement into your routine is a question for your genes. A significant link that needs to be considered is how your metabolic pathways, predetermined by our genetics, can affect your risk for certain cancers. Research shows that a direct link exists between colon cancer and a polymorphism that affects folate metabolism (known as an MTHFR defect). This same gene is also implicated in autism, tongue-tie, and chronic fatigue. The culprit, however, is never as simple as one gene causing a certain outcome. The web is complex and interrelated, and requires special training to understand and address it. It is perfectly normal to have certain genetic strong spots and certain weak spots. So what do we do about them? The best part is that knowing this genetic picture allows us to support the full functioning of the body’s systems through targeted natural supplements or treatment methods, to either boost or bypass the genetic polymorphisms. We can regain balance in the body through understanding how the various pathways interrelate. Note that these pathways are complex and should always be addressed in a holistic context, by a person specifically trained to understand how to do so – such as one of our doctors. It is important to consider that there are always multiple factors of health and disease. There is no magic bullet approach to health. But by understanding the most fundamental makeup of what makes a person unique, we can build a customized program to lay the right foundation for your health goals.

“Why do so many people who feel chronically fatigued or burnt out are told there is nothing wrong with them?”

Hormones are chemical messengers that travel through the blood, enter tissues and regulate cell function. There are dozens of hormones in the body and many of these hormones work interdependently. The adrenal gland sits just above the kidney and it releases the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol as well as the androgen precursor DHEA-s. DHEA-s is eventually converted into either estrogen or testosterone. If the hormones from the adrenal glands are not produced or are not working efficiently, there can be a downstream negative impact on many systems in the body. Stress is becoming more and more of a factor in many peoples lives. Careers, family, finances are some of the most common stressors. However, diet or poor eating habits can also be stressors on the body. When we feel stressed, our body naturally adapts by increasing certain stress hormones so we can maintain our level of functioning on a mental and physical level. However, ask yourself what happens when we are faced with low grade chronic stress over a long period of time. Your body typically begins to develop a number of symptoms:

  • cravings for sugar and salt
  • feeling stressed and irritable
  • exhausted/fatigue or feel tired but wired
  • frequent infections (catching cold easily)
  • putting on weight around the mid section
  • foggy thinking
  • difficulty concentrating
  • dark circles under the eyes
  • hypoglycemia
  • low blood pressure
  • need to start the day with caffeine
  • non-restorative sleep
  • sleep problems – difficulty staying asleep or falling asleep
  • water retention
  • decreased libido or excessive libido
  • changes in menstrual cycle

This tells me that the adrenal gland hormones are being produced in an insufficient amount or in an excessive amount. This has been termed adrenal fatigue. In more serious cases, where a person is completely burnt out, adrenal fatigue can lead to adrenal exhaustion. Right now the concept of adrenal fatigue or exhaustion is not recognized in conventional medicine. With the thyroid gland, conventional medicine says it can be working within a normal range, overworking or underworking, or not working at all. With the adrenal gland, conventional medicine says it either works or it does not work. When it does not work, it is termed Addison’s disease. Yet I see many clients commonly with low DHEA-s levels, low or high cortisol levels in my practice. Dr. Thammasouk and I can often tell if someone is having adrenal issues just by doing a thorough intake during the first visit. However, we also like to confirm our suspicions by running blood hormone tests or saliva hormone tests. It is amazing to see how quickly clients respond to treatment when they are properly assessed and are determined to get adrenal support. Treating the adrenals usually includes a multi-factorial approach with specific herbal support based on the symptom picture (low DHEA-s, high cortisol or low cortisol), and vitamin, mineral and dietary support. If we do not get an appropriate response we may add low dose bioidentical hormone replacement for a short period of time which allows adrenal glands a rest to help them restore their proper functioning. If you feel you may be suffering from adrenal issues, please contact myself, Dr. Reid, or Dr. Thammasouk for further information on assessments and treatments for this common disorder.