Food sensitivities are something that I ignored for years. Besides me having to gluten-free because of the celiac disease and then noticing when I started reacting to dairy and then later grains, I didn’t give food sensitivities much thought.
I thought if I found the right diet and the perfect way of eating, food sensitivities didn’t really matter. But I was completely wrong.
Hidden food triggers can act like toxins in the body – they will make you sick, they will keep you stuck, and you’ll be trying everything under the sun to get better and never getting anywhere.
Chronic inflammation, tiredness, moodiness, and impossible to lose weight are the biggest signs that there are hidden food sensitivities sabotaging your efforts to heal.
I recently discovered another food sensitivity that was so subtle I hardly knew there was one there. Every time I ate it, I’d feel a little crappy and my weight would go up over a kilogram (2-3 lbs) the next day. Until I got rid of that food, I wasn’t going to get any further with my health. Now that I have, my body is responding so quickly!
What are food sensitivities?
Food sensitivities are different from what we think of as the classic food allergy response. You’re not going to go into anaphylactic shock. But they are making you subtly sick and keeping you stuck that way.
The digestive system is actually the largest part of our immune system. It has the highest concentration of immune cells. This makes sense, if you think about it, because the gut is the place where we’re bringing foreign matter directly into our body. We need some defences in place, just in case we bring in a pathogen or toxin.
But what’s happening today is our immune systems are going haywire and our gut is being damaged. Chemicals, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, vaccines, GMO’s and junk food all interrupt the natural processes of the immune system and damage the gut.
When the gut is damaged, you end up with leaky gut. Leaky gut is when the wall of the intestine that acts as a barrier breaks down and becomes permeable, letting things that shouldn’t be able to pass through the gut barrier to get through.
Things like undigested food particles, gluten, bad bacteria, environmental toxins and toxins from food can now get into your blood stream. These foreign substances aren’t supposed to make their way into your bloodstream and so you’re body starts freaking out and trying to fight them.
You’re immune system is now reacting to normal, everyday foods which it used to have no problem with. This is where food sensitivities start, and you now have this constant immune reaction happening in your body – not just to those foods, but also to the toxins, chemicals, pathogens and everything else that’s now being given a free pass to your bloodstream. And now, you have chronic inflammation.
Another cause of food sensitivities is not having the proper enzymes to digest the food.
If you are still struggling to figure out the root cause of why you feel crappy, it’s likely that you have a hidden food sensitivity you haven’t figured out yet.
SYMPTOMS OF FOOD SENSITIVITIES
When your body is sensitive to a food, it will send out inflammatory proteins and cortisol which create chronic, low-level inflammation in the body. Chronic inflammation has a cascade effect on the rest of the body, creating problems with digestion, brain fog, headaches, joint pain and of course, weight gain (inflammation causes you to become insulin and leptin resistant).
- Weight gain or weight loss
- Brain fog (lack of concentration, memory problems, foggy thinking)
- Behavioural problems – aggression, ADD
- Digestive issues – gas, diarrhoea, constipation, IBS, bloating, cramping
- Autoimmune conditions
- Runny nose
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Edema or swelling
- Anxiety, depression, moodiness
- Joint pain
- Rashes, skin problems
FIGURE OUT YOUR FOOD TRIGGERS
You have to figure out what your food sensitivities are in order to stop the constant and chronic immune system response and inflammation, so you can heal the body.
It can be tricky to figure out food sensitivities because:
- If you have a leaky gut, most of your food is likely to be partially digested and get past the gut wall
- They can cause an immediate or a delayed reaction – sometimes instant, hours, several days or even weeks later
- Testing is notoriously unreliable
All the methods for testing have their drawbacks; none of them are completely accurate. It takes a bit of detective work.
IgG or immunoglobulin G are a specific part of your body’s immune system. Immunoglobulins, also known as antibodies, are produced by white blood cells. The role of IgG is to identify and neutralise any foreign invaders in your body, such as harmful bacteria and viruses. When food particles enter the blood stream without being properly digested the immune system sees these food molecules as foreign invaders. You can get an IgE or IgG blood test to see what antibodies are in the blood, and therefore what foods your immune system is responding to.
The downside is that the test is not 100% accurate. But it can be a helpful starting point if you’re feeling really lost.
The elimination diet removes the common allergens and sensitivities. You start with a super simple diet, removing all those foods and then start reintroducing foods slowly to see if you have a reaction. Reactions are usually upset stomach, headache, puffiness, runny nose or overnight weight gain.
You can also do this with individual foods you suspect, although that can be a bit of a guessing game.
I really like this method because I find it really helpful for honing observation skills and developing a connection to your body – you really get to know what your body likes and what it doesn’t.
I generally start my clients off on the elimination diet, and they are blown away by how much better they feel within a matter of weeks! I usually keep them on a fairly simple diet while healing too.
The downside is that some people find it hard to follow.
Kinesiology works on the response of our body’s energy system to the vibrations of certain substances. It’s an inexpensive method that can be used to determine what foods, vitamins and supplements we should and should not take in to our bodies.
With a skilled kinesiology practitioner, it can be pretty accurate.
SIGNS FROM YOUR BODY
Overnight weight gain of several pounds
The symptoms mentioned before: problems with digestion, brain fog, headaches, joint pain and of course, weight gain
Elevated heart rate
One subtle sign of a food sensitivity is an elevated heart rate for about 1 1/2 hours after you eat that food.
You can use a heart rate monitor and this app to track if you are sensitive to anything you eat. You measure your pulse first thing in the morning to get a baseline heart rate, then before and after a meal you measure your heart rate to see if you reacted to the food.
If you know how to take your own pulse, you can do the Coco Pulse test yourself. Take your pulse, eat the food, wait 10 minutes and then take your pulse again. If the pulse increases more than about 10 beats per minute it indicates a reaction to the food. The downsides are this isn’t an exact method and it doesn’t account for delayed reactions.
Good old pen and paper is sometimes the best way to figure out food sensitivities! I get all clients and students in my courses to keep a food diary. Get into the habit of being AWARE of how the food you eat affects how you FEEL.
Write down everything you eat (EVERY ingredient), what time, and any supplements or health habits. When you’re tracking, you should start to notice and see patterns and common threads of when you feel sick vs. what you ate.
Obviously, the simpler your diet with the least variables possible, the easier it’s going to be to figure out what your reacting to. You’ll never be able to account for ALL variables, so don’t stress out trying.
THE MOST COMMON FOOD TRIGGERS
Although food sensitivities can be literally any food, there are some foods that are more common for people to be sensitive to. Some of these foods are the most healthy, nutritious foods on the planet for some (like eggs), but for others, they are kryptonite.
Some of these foods are better left off everybody’s plate, but that’s an article for another day.
MOST COMMON FOOD ALLERGIES – these are a good place to start
- eggs, cow’s milk, peanut, tree nuts, seafood, sesame, soy, fish and wheat
- CITRUS (including orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit etc) – most commonly sensitive for people with autoimmune and arthritis
- NIGHTSHADES (including potato, tomato, bell peppers/capsicum, peppers, tomatillos, eggplant, goji berries, hot sauce and some spices like paprika, cayenne pepper, taco/mexican seasoning, curry powder, chilli powder) – most commonly sensitive for people with autoimmune
- GRAINS (including buckwheat, oats, rye, rice, corn, quinoa)
- nuts & seeds
- YEAST (including nutritional yeast, baker’s yeast, brewer’s yeast, autolyzed yeast extract, vinegars except for apple cider vinegar and coconut vinegar)
- DAIRY (including milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, ghee, whey, cream etc)
- EGGS (chicken, duck)
- SOY (including soy milk, soy oil, tofu, tempeh, tamari, soy sauce, soy lecithin, vitamin E, soy protein isolate, textured vegetable protein)
- CORN (including fresh corn, tortillas, polenta, corn starch, baking powder, dextrose, sorbitol, maltodextrin, food starch, high fructose corn syrup, xanthan gum)
- SUGAR (cane sugar, maple syrup, fruit juice etc)
- raisins and dried fruit
- VEGETABLE OILS (soy, sunflower, canola, safflower, margarine)
What’s left, your wondering?
Veggies, veggies and more veggies, avocado, plus you can eat fats like coconut oil (unless you really suspect tree nuts) and olive oil, chicken, turkey, apple cider vinegar, fish (salmon and sardines are perfect), some fruit and a few spices. You’d be amazed what you can do with those!
I have a whole meal plan that I take clients through, so there are plenty of meals you can make with just these! In fact, I’ve been eating close to this for a couple of years now!
FIXING THE ROOT CAUSE
The root cause of these food sensitivities is the leaky and damaged gut lining. So while it’s important to figure out what food sensitivities you have and stop eating those foods, you also have to address the root cause, or you’ll just keep chasing your tail and getting new food sensitivities. You’ll be playing diet whack-a-mole. You have to heal the gut.
Taking a high quality digestive enzyme (I recommend pancreatin) and betaine HCI stomach acid supplement (I like acidoll) will help you break down and digest food properly, so it’s not entering the bloodstream as food particles.