Some New is Hard to Stomach

By: Debra K

HIppocrates Institute

Me making good food choices at Hippocrates Health Institute

Before starting any wellness journey it is recommended to start with knowledge of your current state of being.  It’s hard to know what to focus on if you aren’t really aware of what realities you face.  A couple years ago I willingly went in to have all my nether parts poked and prodded all in an effort to gain a clear perspective.  We’re talking, mammogram, Pap smear, uterine scan for fibroids, food sensitivity testing, blood work, hormones, dermatologist and eye exam.  Whew, it set me back a pretty penny, but preventing illness is a lot cheaper than surgery, medication or an early death.  The results came in and offered insight into what needed to be addressed for me to stay healthy and out of disease mode.  I didn’t fail my tests, but if there were a teacher assigning a grade she would have probably given me a C-.  As a proud member of the 1985 National Honor Society team that just wasn’t acceptable.  It was time to make some changes.  All of that is a lot to tackle, so I decided to start with my food sensitivities.

To help me I’ve reached out to Lena Edwards, MD, FAARM an integrative medical doctor.  She was the lucky one who informed me I was testing sensitive to 6 food items; eggs, dairy, soy, gluten, corn and peanuts.  And, that I most likely had a leaky gut.  Because my mind is twisted, I thought to myself, “ewwww, a leaky gut might lead to a leaky butt, I better get this fixed before there’s a horrible wardrobe snafu.”  

Food intolerance or sensitivity can be defined as an uncomfortable reaction to food that does not involve the immune system response or the release of histamine.  A food allergy is a bit more serious and can cause instantaneous reactions by your immune system.

DK:  Dr. Edwards, to help others determine if they might suffer from food sensitivities, please describe the symptoms.  

Dr. Edwards:  There are basically two types of reactions the body can mount to food allergens.  The ‘acute’ hypersensitivity’ reactions are caused by histamine release, and typically a person will notice symptoms within one to two hours of ingesting the food.  The symptoms can include rash, itching, coughing, nasal congestion/runny nose, diarrhea, stomach upset (i.e. irritable bowel type symptoms).  

The other type of reaction is known as ‘delayed hypersensitivity’.  This type of reaction is mediated by a different arm of the immune system, and ingestion of the food and the consequent symptom may be separated by up to 7 days.  This scenario is a bit more challenging when trying to associated foods with specific reactions and the symptoms of these types of reactions are a bit more subtle….headaches, insomnia, joint pain, foggy thinking, mood disturbances, difficulty focusing/concentrating, fluctuations in weight and various gastrointestinal symptoms.  

DK:    What can the average person do to determine which foods they are sensitive to?  

Dr. Edwards:  It is easier to self-diagnose acute hypersensitivity reactions because the symptoms typically occur shortly after food allergen ingestion.  These types of food sensitivities are typically diagnosed by skin testing.  Delayed sensitivity reactions are more difficult to self-diagnose because of the time lag that can occur between food ingestion and appearance of symptoms.  Diagnosing these types of food sensitivities are more easily determined by doing serum testing of ‘IgG antibodies’ to specific foods.  Although there is some controversy in the conventional medical literature regarding the accuracy of this type of testing, it is universally accepted and extremely useful in the realm of integrative and functional medicine.  I have found it to be invaluable and sometimes even more clinically pertinent than skin testing. 

One thing a person can do is to do a ‘food allergy elimination diet’.  The most common food allergens are to peanuts, dairy, soy, corn, eggs, and gluten.  A four week period of elimination of these food items with weekly reintroduction of one food item at a time thereafter can help clue a person in to a possible food sensitivity.

DK:  Do you have a patient story that demonstrates the value of addressing food sensitivity issues?  

Dr. Edwards:  I had a patient whose primary complaints were inability to lose weight, daily weight fluctuations, and sleep disturbances.  She also noticed fluctuations in her mood that she could not attribute to anything in particular.  We assessed and physiologically dosed appropriate hormone and vitamin replacement.  However, she did not seem to respond appropriately to treatment.  Because appropriate intestinal health is essentially for optimal hormone metabolism and appropriate nutrient absorption, we backtracked and focused on her gut health.  I tested her for food sensitivities, and she had numerous food sensitivities to the foods she was eating the most often.  I recommended a food elimination diet, specific nutrients to improve intestinal health, and high potency probiotics.  Within two weeks, she was feeling considerably better in every respect.

I diagnose food sensitivities in every patient I see.  The problem is quite common and often overlooked….. 

If the saying “you are what you eat is true”…then there’s a good chance I’m a beer and nachos and that while they are great in the moment, I have been paying the consequences of making poor food choices for a long time.  Many of the symptoms described I have experienced, but I didn’t think that food intolerance could be the issue.  Equipped with the knowledge Dr. E provided me, I have made many changes.  After embarking on a 5 week sensitivity detox I still try to eliminate most irritating foods, exercise 5 days each week and take my supplements religiously.  I feel better today than I have in ten years.  

Healthy Regards…. Debra K

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