You often hear ‘you are what you eat’ and, while there is some truth in that, we need to go a step further: “You are what your nutrients (food and supplements) help you digest, absorb and assimilate.” To that end, this monthly series of BLOGS for 2013 addresses a number of ways to do that.
FOOD ALLERGIES VS. FOOD INTOLERANCE
Many people confuse food allergy with food intolerance. There is a difference…food allergies cause immediate reactions whereas intolerances take a longer time to realize. Research from a variety of sources estimates that as many as 90 percent of the general population suffers from food intolerance. (This is as opposed to the 5% thought to suffer food allergies.)Learning what your intolerances are is important. An important test (ALCAT) can determine that. But more about that in a future blog here…
As most of us know, a food allergy such as to peanuts can create an emergent situation…it could be something as simple as breaking out in a rash or, in extreme cases, anaphylactic shock (which can be a fatal response). A food intolerance could be considered the ‘hidden’ food allergy. A food intolerance could be just as poisonous to your body chemistry but, because it could take a long time to show up, there are not a lot of us, nor many in the medical world, who recognize it as the culprit for any number of chronic conditions, yes even debilitating diseases.
Symptoms of food intolerance range from relatively mild acne or a stuffy nose to bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. Food intolerance, after time, is thought to be the cause of chronic diseases such as diabetes and asthma. It also may play a significant role in the greatest health epidemic faced by our nation (and the medical community) today – obesity. Obesity is thought not always to be caused by lack of will power, but caused instead perhaps often by biochemical abnormalities from a food intolerance. One of these abnormalities caused by food intolerance happens when a food that is ‘poison’ to our particular biochemistry is consumed on a somewhat regular basis, our insulin metabolism goes awry and, simply put, that triggers levels of fats in the blood to also go awry and you then crave simple sugars. Too much sugar and carbohydrates trigger insulin production designed to bring them into the normal range. When insulin is not needed it pushes sugar out of the bloodstream and deposits it as fat that gets stored, resulting in obesity.
Clearly then, bombarding your body with what could be considered your own ‘personal poison’ could eventually have an adverse effect on your body chemistry. Different foods translate into poisons depending on your own personal biochemistry. These poisons can often be considered good, healthful foods for some but, because of an adverse reaction to your particular biosystem, react badly. Here’s what happens: often your body isn’t able to produce enough of a particular chemical or enzyme needed for digestion. Both natural and artificial ingredients may cause adverse reactions in sensitive people if consumed in sufficient amount, the degree of sensitivity varying between individuals. Underlying digestive problems (e.g. low stomach acidity, gut bacterial overgrowth, a "leaky" or damaged gut lining, yeast infection or poor digestive enzyme production) are common "causes" of food intolerance and must be addressed before avoiding foods unnecessarily. Gallbladder disease, gallstones, and pancreatitis may also be underlying causes of reactions to foods, but these will produce other symptoms too.
Chewing your food thoroughly could help avoid certain food intolerances. It is usually large food particles that cause allergic reactions, so proper breakdown of food (especially protein) via cooking and chewing is vitally important. Digestive enzymes or probiotics can often help too to ensure complete digestion, and once digestion is corrected, things can improve quite dramatically. However, another cause could be attributed to stress! Food-intolerant people often have low levels of secretory IgA, a class of protective antibodies found in the gut. IgA antibodies protect the body against the entry of foreign substances. Stress leads to a decrease in secretory IgA. A bit of vicious cycle really, but it certainly explains the relationship between stress and food intolerance!
Ironically, Hippocrates himself (orientation of the medical profession’s Hippocratic Oath) said 2,500 years ago: “It appears to me necessary to every physician to be skilled in nature, and to strive to know, if he would wish to perform his duties, what man is in relation to the articles of food and drink, and to his occupations, and what are the effects of each of them to every one.” And, yet, only recently are medical schools offering courses in nutrition, and these more than likely don’t touch on the debilitating effect of food intolerances.
Next month our blog will delve more deeply into the obesity and food intolerance connection. Check it out! NES