40 years ago when I started my medical training, rarely did we see issues related to food allergies and food sensitivities.
Now, it seems that the problem is an epidemic.
Over the next weeks I will explore these issues, looking in detail at a variety of foods that I see causing issues every day. To begin, let’s take a broad view and look in general at the role of food, and the sensitivity to it, in our ordinary lives.
Are food sensitivities and food allergies different?
The simple answer is, “No.”
Immune responses in the body get classified into four types of hypersensitivity reactions:
- Type I Hypersensitivity is the immediate, dramatic and life-threatening reaction that is seen in someone with a severe allergy. We might see this for someone allergic to peanuts, for example.
- Type II Hypersensitivity might look like a severe case of hives when someone allergic to shellfish eats a dish with crab in it.
- Types III and IV Hypersensitivity reactions are delayed, and sometimes referred to as serum sickness-like reactions. The reaction may not be visible and dramatic, but it is corrosive none-the-less. The reactions people have to wheat, gluten, cow-dairy and eggs are usually Type III or Type IV Hypersensitivity reactions.
The take away? All of these reactions we can have to foods are immune-mediated responses – which basically means they are allergic reactions. The Type III and IV hypersensitivity responses are the trickiest, because not only can the reaction come hours or days after we eat a food but the reaction can be in some part of the body very distant from your gut and digestive tract.
A reaction to some foods can build up over time. At first the food does not cause an obvious issue as the body is able to manage the reaction to it. If it’s a food we really like, then the more we eat the more our body struggles to work with it. Since the initial reactions remain subtle, rather than closing your throat so you can’t breathe, you might end up ignoring the symptom or thinking it has more to do with long hours at work or more stress in your life. Over time your body becomes less able to mange things and at that point the body can start to crash.
It is a main reason why I explore this issue early when I work with people, since many times the cause of an illness stems from a sensitivity now out of control. The stresses in our life are additive. When you combine the stress of eating foods that our body is sensitive to, with the stress of dealing with increasing levels of toxicity on the Earth, with the stresses of life and emotional challenges, with the stresses from environmental things that we react to – then you have a rich stew of things that can eventually boil over.
Like a threshold – once you have enough stressors in your life, and the pot is boiling over, then you have symptoms. We do not want to imply that food sensitivities are the cause of all your problems. However food is a major component in all our lives. More importantly, you have complete control of what you put in your mouth. Learning what foods you might be sensitive to, and reducing your intake of those foods, can go a long way towards moving you back to health.
(Please see our questionnaire about your Health Score to see a list of symptoms that have been associated with food sensitivities.) (Click here to go to the Questionnaire)
Are there good laboratory tests for food allergies and sensitivities?
Again, the simple answer is, “No!”
You can spend hundreds of dollars on lab tests, and get back pages of results, much of which might be useless – or worse – wrong.
The good news is that there is one laboratory that serves as the “Gold Standard” for testing for food sensitivities.
Your own body.
Let me explain.
Maybe you wonder – “Am I sensitive to wheat?”
You’ve had friends who eliminated wheat from their diets and noticed significant improvements in their health and level of energy. To figure out if you’re sensitive, the very best thing to do is eliminate wheat entirely. No wheat – none – 100% out of your diet for 4 to 6 weeks and see what happens. Just try it. You can do without wheat for a little over a month to see if it brings you better health. Right?
Our next article in this series will discuss this issue of sensitivity to wheat in greater detail. For now we can see that the food we eat, and how that food is processed, will effect us in some manner. Maybe it does nothing to us, but we must be aware that food can have a great impact on our health.
As I write this, two best-selling books by physicians come to mind. Each describes their extensive and often surprising experiences with removing wheat from peoples diets and then seeing dramatic improvements in health.
One book is called Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path Back to Health by William Davis, MD. Buy Here
The second is called Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers by the neurologist David Perlmutter, MD. Buy Here
Both of these books have some critics, but the criticism says more about the short-comings of medical research than about these books. Both Dr. Davis and Dr. Perlmutter noticed significant improvements in their patients’ health when they eliminated wheat from their diets. But modern medicine denies the validity and the value of what are called ‘outcomes studies’.
We will be having more in-depth articles in the coming months about why the statistical methods used in medicine might be hazardous to your health. For now, please understand that ‘outcomes studies’ refer to studies where many variables are changed at once, and the outcome that is measured focuses on whether people are healthier or longer lived because of the intervention.
Purists complain that it is impossible to control a study with more than one variable. True, but all that you can study using these simplistic statistical methods are simple things – such as does this drug do better than a placebo. Studies with only one controlled variable fit this statistical framework that medical science embraces. So this approach leads to the approval of drugs that may not have real value, such as drugs that cause a tumor to shrink in size, but do not lead to any increase in survival for those treated. This is a big topic, and we will continue to address it in greater detail soon.
I feel outcomes are a valid measure for any medical intervention. If you try something, and it makes you feel better – AND improves your health – then pay attention to it. Do not let someone talk you out of your own experience because a study has yet to prove the validity of what you experienced.
As we like to say at Organic MD – Just try it. If it works for you, keep doing it.
Next time we will look at Wheat and the role it plays in this sensitivity issue we see played out on a regular basis.
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To Your Health