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Food sensitivities are a common cause of digestive discomfort and symptoms, and testing for these sensitivities can allow for healing to occur and improve not only gut symptoms, but overall health as well.
What are Food Sensitivities?
The majority of our immune system is found in our digestive tract. Often the extremely fine and intelligent filter in our gut’s lining will get bits of inflammation along it (caused by stress, infection, pesticides, unfiltered water, medications, etc.) which may result in microscopic leaks. Over time, as food travels down some molecules of various foods may get across - inappropriately - through these leaks and into your bloodstream. This causes the immune system to perceive the food molecule as a foreign invader, as a threat, and this initiates a chain reaction that results in the release of powerful chemical agents – such as histamines, cytokines, lymphokines, interferon and immunoglobulins (antibodies). These hormone-like substances can influence the function of our digestive tract, endocrine (hormone) system, immune system and mood. This is what occurs in a food sensitivity.
Over time, exposure to food sensitivities can further inflame and damage the lining of the digestive tract, leading to greater immune response, decreased nutrient absorption and worsening of symptoms.
Symptoms of Food Sensitivity
Food sensitivities can result in digestive symptoms, but also have an incredibly wide range of symptoms throughout the body due to the fact that you can also develop non-specific inflammatory issues including but not limited to:
- Indigestion, gas and bloating
- Diarrhea and/or constipation
- Acid reflux or heartburn
- Migraines and headaches
- Irritability, depression, anxiety
- Brain fog, difficulty concentrating
- Hyperactivity and ADHD
- Acne, psoriasis, eczema
- Joint pain
- Weight gain
- Chronic or recurrent infections
How Are Food Sensitivities Tested?
Each system in the body is important, performing essential functions for the health of the body. The digestive tract is certainly one of the most important, because it provides every other system with nutrients they require for optimal function. If the digestive tract isn’t functioning well, every other system in the body will suffer and illness will ensue.
There are choices when it comes to testing. Dr Smith will determine which is most suitable given your symptoms and overall concerns prior to testing and each of them has advantages and disadvantages.
Some options include:
The Elimination Diet
Most people attempt a food elimination diet as an initial way of self-diagnosing food sensitivities. A hypoallergenic, anti-inflammatory diet is consumed for a set period of time (usually 4 weeks). All the most common allergenic foods are eliminated and the patient self-monitors for improvements in symptoms. Foods are re-introduced one at a time after the initial period of restriction. If symptoms arise on reintroducing the food then a food sensitivity is suspected.
Advantages: Promotes a general sense of well-being, high level of patient involvement in their health and it’s free! Disadvantages: generally this is hard to do properly because compliance is extremely important and a slow re-introduction of foods is important to properly identify symptoms, also it is time consuming and requires patience.
IgG Food Sensitivity Testing
A blood test is analyzed by a specialized, federally approved laboratory to assess for IgG (immunoglobulin G – one of two antibodies that can be produced during an sensitivity response). IgG antibodies are produced for several hours or days after exposure to an allergen (which is one of the reasons why some symptoms of food sensitivity don’t occur immediately after eating a food).
Once food sensitivities are identified, successful treatment requires five essential components:
- Avoidance of identified sensitivities/ intolerances
- Supporting balanced immune function
- Re-establishment of proper intestinal flora
- Healing the damaged intestinal mucosa
- Correction of underlying cause (e.g. maldigestion, insufficient enzymes)
Nutritional and botanical supplements are used to support the body as it repairs damaged tissue. Supplemental enzymes may be used short term to support digestion as the body works towards correcting imbalances.