Food intolerances are absolutely off the charts with people now, almost everyone I speak to has developed some intolerance or sensitivity to common foods – the main two usually being dairy and gluten/grains. The way I look at it is that there has to be some deeper reason. The body doesn’t suddenly start developing intolerances or issues because it fancies it or has miraculously decided it doesn’t wan’t you to eat that food.
Now before I get into it, I am specifically talking about intolerances as the term used to refer to non life-threatening issues but DO significantly impact your quality of life and relationship with food.
So it is maybe best to start with what sort of food intolerance tests are available for use, and how they work:
- Blood tests: they work by measuring the levels of antibodies in the blood that are produced in response to specific foods. The theory behind the testing is that the elevated levels of a specific antibody indicates potential intolerance to a food.
- Skin prick tests: these work by introducing small amounts of the suspected food allergen into the skin and observing the reaction. It is usually performed on the forearm or back, and involves pricking the skin with a small lancet and then placing a drop of the food extract on the skin. A reaction will usually occur within about 15-20 minutes if the individual has an issue to that food.
- Hair analysis testing: used to measure levels of certain minerals and elements that may indicate a food intolerance. The process involves taking a small sample of hair from the individual and analysing it for levels of minerals and elements present and then interpreted.
- DNA tests: these tests analyse genetic variations that may be associated with food intolerances, but they do not directly test for the immune or physiological responses to specific foods, and do not take epigenetics into consideration.
None of the above methods of testing have been scientifically validated, and results are often inaccurate or unreliable. The tests tend to be criticised by experts as having little scientific basis and leading to unnecessary dietary restrictions, all the while ignoring the deeper underlying issues as to why these sensitivities have presented in the first place.
No one wants unnecessary dietary restrictions in their life, of course not, but that is what tends to happen when reliance is placed upon these tests without looking for the underlying root cause – as I mentioned earlier on, the body doesn’t just suddenly decide it doesn’t want you to eat dairy or grains! We can get to the bottom of it and understand more about what your body is trying to signal to you. After all, symptoms are signals, they are your bodies way of communicating with you and telling you something is up – the longer you ignore the signals the worse the problems get (thats why people begin to develop intolerances to multiple food types).
Food intolerances are complex and there are a variety of factors at play; genetics, gut health, and environmental factors – all of which can be influenced or changed to some degree. Testing for food intolerances does not capture all of these factors, leading to incomplete or inaccurate diagnoses and perhaps unnecessary avoidance of foods!
The most reliable method for ‘testing’ is said to be the elimination diet, which involves removing certain foods from the diet and then reintroducing them one at a time to identify problem foods but even so, this is still just TESTING, not getting to the bottom of it and potentially healing the issue.
So I want to talk a little about what we can do, and the more holistic approach to food intolerances that can be taken working with a health coach, nutritional therapist or naturopath like here at The Wellness Programme.
It always comes back to gut health; Hippocrates, the father of modern day medicine, said “all disease begins in the gut” and ‘disease’ is used as ‘dis-ease’, the term used to indicate that your body is lacking something it needs to be at optimum health, ‘dis’ means the opposite of, so your body is in a state of difficulty or aggravation – the opposite of being at ease.
There is a strong link between food intolerances and gut health. The gut, which is inclusive of the stomach, small intestine, and large intestine, is responsible for digesting food, absorbing nutrients, and eliminating waste. The lining of the gut is home to trillions of bacteria, known as the gut microbiota, which play a vital role in digestion, immune function, and overall health.
When the gut is healthy, it is able to break down and absorb nutrients from food without causing inflammation or damage to the gut lining. However, when the gut is compromised or damaged, it may become more permeable, allowing larger molecules to pass through the gut lining and into the bloodstream. This can trigger an immune response, leading to chronic, systemic inflammation and subsequently food intolerance symptoms such as bloating, gas, joint pain etc.
Research has shown that certain factors can contribute to gut damage and increase the risk of food intolerance, including:
- Dysbiosis: imbalances in the gut microbiota, such as an overgrowth of harmful bacteria or a decrease in the beneficial bacteria, can lead to gut damage and inflammation.
- Chronic stress: chronic stress and prolonged raised cortisol levels disrupt the balance of bacteria in the gut and weaken the gut lining, making it more susceptible to damage.
- Medications: certain medications, such as antibiotics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can disrupt the gut microbiota and damage the gut lining.
- Poor diet: a diet high in processed foods, sugar, and unhealthy fats can contribute to gut damage.
Therefore, maintaining a healthy gut microbioata is important for preventing and managing food intolerances. Strategies to promote gut health include eating a balanced diet rich in fibre and whole foods, reducing stress, avoiding unnecessary medications, and potentially (quite probably) following protocols to help with gut healing and repair – to live a life without grains or dairy (or whatever other intolerance you may have developed) would be a sad life indeed.
As you have probably guessed by now, I am very passionate about a root-cause approach to health, illnesses and disease and so it is no different in this instance. The root cause approach here is gut healing work, a no brainer. It isn’t far-fetched to suggest that majority of people now could massively benefit from this; our lifestyles, diets, and environments really do cause us problems, and although things are on a micro-level, they all build up.
I’d like to explain a bit more what I mean by that: we know that chemicals, toxins, pesticides, seed oils, stress, alcohol, and certain medications (to name but a few things) are damaging to our gut – right? And in isolation, these things will not destroy our gut lining but it is important to understand that the poison is in the dosage. When we are experiencing chronic stress from work, relationships, family, the way the world is, and being exposed to the negative 24 hour news cycle, COMBINED WITH consuming highly processed foods and alcohol containing all sorts of chemicals and contaminants, COMBINED WITH the lack of quality and nutritional content in food – what do we expect to happen? So it is never just ONE thing that is solely responsible, we have to look at the whole picture.
As I always say, this isn’t meant to be doom and gloom but it’s to try help raise more awareness to the level of influence we possess with our simple habits, choices and consumption – we hold so much power but are made to believe otherwise.
So back to the point. Some ways that focussing on gut healing can improve and manage food intolerances include (but are not limited to):
- Reducing inflammation: chronic inflammation in the gut can damage the lining of the digestive tract and disrupt the balance of gut bacteria. Reducing inflammation through dietary and lifestyle changes can help promote and support the conditions required for healing.
- Restoring gut bacteria balance: a healthy balance of gut bacteria is essential for proper digestion and food intolerances. Imbalances can lead to digestive issues due to the increased presence of bad bacteria, and lack of beneficial bacteria. Probiotics and probiotic rich foods can be included in the diet to help tackle this.
- Repairing the gut lining: damage to the gut lining can cause food particles to seep into the bloodstream, which causes the body to present symptoms and issues – so removing foods (on a temporary basis) that irritate the gut lining, whilst substituting in more healing foods will help with the restoration required.
- Your body is actually able to absorb and utilise the nutrients from the food you are eating, as this isn’t really possible when gut issues are present
The moral of the story is that by listening to our body when it tries to communicate with us, we can address issues before they cause too much of a problem. Food sensitivities are just another way of our body signalling that it needs some help, and we shouldn’t just accept it or what a test result says, but instead put in the work to address the root cause and do the healing work necessary, then we can actually continue to enjoy the foods we once loved without any issues.
If you are suffering with any unexplained symptoms, or food intolerances then the 6 week parasite cleanse is the perfect first step to healing your gut.
Full details here: 6 Week Cleanse | The Wellness Programme