Food sensitivity 

 Functional and Chinese Medicine point of view – Part 1


You have most likely heard more and more people say they feel they are becoming sensitive to foods they were not sensitive to before.

I want to discuss why this is so in this article. Part 2 will be the Chinese viewpoint and Part 3 will focus on how we treat this.

The first big one to look at is gluten.  Many have become sensitive to gluten. The big reason for this is the organo-phosphates (read between the lines, toxins i.e. pesticides). If your body is taking strain detoxifying in general it now has to work so much harder getting rid of this extra toxin as well. This in turn will impact the gut.

The other big factor is wheat has been sooooo genetically modified that it is not the same as that which our great grandfathers consumed. When I imagine wheat, I see this beautiful golden yellow stalk with seeds blowing in the wind. Well, what happened is the scientists discovered most of the yield comes from the top part of the plant. So they hybridized and engineered this part bigger to look like a berry, that it contains more of the yield of the plant.

Then the scientists discovered that the plant’s thin stalk could not carry the weight of the berries. So the next obvious step would be to make the stalk thicker. But alas the plant was using too much energy supporting this big stalk. So  “Voila”  we ended up with a plant that is about 30cm high and doesn’t even look like wheat anymore.

The other, oh yes there is another factor, is that the wheat is now genetically modified. And you know of course what that means?  They insert a genetic structure of a herbicide into the plant. So, when the insect eats the plant its stomach pops and the insect dies – and that’s what the farmers want, of course. Fair enough, we are not insects and we are 1000 times bigger; however, eating these foods can have the effect of creating inflammation in the digestive system.

So many patients come to me and tell me they have done the tests for food allergies and they are not allergic to any foods so that can’t be the cause of their problems. The first thing you need to understand that there is a huge difference between an allergy and food sensitivity.

If you eat peanut butter and your throat closes down and you start to have an anaphylactic reaction, then you have an allergy. However, sensitivities are much more subtle. In fact, you can eat something and only have a reaction 2 days later, making it much more difficult to track down the cause of this reaction that appears to come “out of the blue.

Symptoms of food sensitivities

  1. Bloating
  2. Migraine
  3. Headaches
  4. Cough
  5. Runny nose
  6. Feeling under the weather
  7. Stomach ache
  8. Irritable bowel
  9. Hives
  10. Chronic sinusitis
  11. Diarrhea
  12. Moodiness
  13. Brain fog
  14. Food cravings
  15. Fatigue
  16. Joint pain
  17. Acne
  18. Dark circles under eyes
  19. Depression
  20. Fibromyalgia
  21. Metabolic syndrome
  22. Otitis media
  23. ADD  / ADHD
  24. Polycystic ovary syndrome
  25. The battle to lose weight
  26. Food cravings

Cravings for certain foods can be a sign that you have developed a sensitivity to that food.

Here’s how it works: When you eat a food you’re sensitive to and it doesn’t digest well, it causes inflammation. When the lining of the gut is inflamed, small fissures open between the tightly woven cells making up the gut walls. Known as ‘leaky gut syndrome’, these chinks in the gut’s armor allow bacteria and partially digested food molecules to slip out into the bloodstream where they are considered foreign invaders.

When the undigested fragments permeate your gut and enter your circulation, where they don’t belong, antibodies rush to the scene, surrounding the offending particle creating an immune response and inflammation ensues. Sadly, it doesn’t just create enough antibodies for that one time. It anticipates another ‘attack.’ And when it has all these antibodies with nothing to break down, they crave it, and in turn, so do you.

This chronic inflammatory reaction is to be distinguished from an acute inflammation like throat infection or a splinter in your finger. That is the body’s appropriate response to a true invader, and once the infection is controlled, the inflammation stops. These food sensitivities are more like a hidden, smoldering fire created by the immune system as it tries to fend off a daily onslaught of allergy-causing fake-foods that are no longer truly foods that the body was designed to digest and benefit from.

Healthy Villi in the GUT

Leaky Gut – the gut is permeable

What suddenly causes food sensitivities?
Anything that compromises the beneficial bacteria and affects the gut lining can make you susceptible to food sensitivities.
This can include stress, antibiotic use, birth control pill, steroids, anti-inflammatory drugs, and hormones.
The absence of an enzyme is a more chronic problem. 
Enzymes are needed to digest foods fully. For example, people who are lactose intolerant do not have enough lactase, an enzyme that breaks down milk sugar (lactose) into smaller molecules. Ideally, you would want to avoid lactose. However sometimes when you eat out and are not sure what is in your food, the solution is to take a digestive enzyme that contains lactase with meals to digest lactose.
Another example is where the body can not break down histamine. DAO(diamine oxidase) is the main enzyme responsible for breaking down ingested histamine.  Histamine foods are in so many different foods. Some foods are matured cheeses, alcohol, pickled or canned foods, smoked meat products, shellfish, beans, and nuts. This is usually genetic and requires a supplement that helps break down the histamine. The best is to perform a test to see if this is the reason you have certain food sensitivities.
It is always a good idea if you have had to take antibiotics, to take steps to heal the gut effectively to prevent leaky gut from causing any long-term problems. Also, remember 80% of your immune system is affected by the health of your gut.

There are tests available to establish whether you have food sensitivities, leaky gut, or lack the enzyme to breakdown histamine containing foods, to name a few.
Explore more on different investigations:
Intestinal permeability assessment
Nordic food panel
Celiac and gluten sensitivity
Histdao test

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