Could You Have a Food Intolerance?

June 2, 2014
Categories: Digestion

Although it might just seem like a passing trend, there are many real and serious health conditions associated with food intolerances – ranging from migraines and fatigue to digestive disorders and even autoimmune disease. And for every person that has identified that they have a food intolerance, there are likely many more people living with undiagnosed ones.  If you have a long and growing list of chronic health complaints, you could have a food intolerance…and it may not just be gluten and dairy that are causing your chronic migraines, aching joints, fatigue, and digestion issues.

Although food allergies are relatively rare (estimated to affect only about 4% of the population), food intolerances are very prevalent and could even be affecting the majority of the population.  But it is very common for someone to suffer with chronic symptoms for years before a food intolerance is even considered – many will never link foods to their symptoms. People might go to dozens of doctors and be on several prescriptions trying to deal with their symptoms.  I used to buy Advil in bulk to deal with my chronic aches and pains before I discovered that I had a sensitivity to gluten a few years ago.  Food intolerances can get someone labeled as a “hypochrondriac” because they seem to always have something wrong with them, or have a long and growing list of health complaints. They probably have no idea that they are caused by some common foods they are eating every day.

Food Intolerance vs. Food Allergy

With a food allergy, the immune system views a normal food such as dairy, eggs, or peanuts as harmful and produces antibodies to fight it, causing an immune response called an IgE reaction. Someone with a food allergy, typically knows right away if they have eaten an offending food, because the reaction occurs quickly. Even tiny amounts of the food can lead to a reaction, which can affect the digestive system (vomiting, diarrhea), respiratory system (coughing, runny nose, asthma), and/or skin (itchiness, hives, rash). Food allergies can even lead to life-threatening symptoms like swelling of the airway, anaphalaxis, and low blood pressure. But with food intolerances, the reaction can be delayed, vague, or even silent/hidden; and the reactions can affect many organs in the body – including muscles, joints, digestive system, the brain, heart, and thyroid. This can make it next to impossible to connect the reaction to the particular food that caused it.  Quite often, food intolerances develop from eating foods that we are eating all the time, so we just get “used to” feeling fatigued, or achy, or moody all the time – which can make it even more complicated to link the food to the reaction. How to know if you have a Food Intolerance

Some people will benefit from a food elimination diet – where the most common offenders like gluten, dairy, soy, and eggs are removed – and then reintroduced individually after a few weeks to see if there is a connection to symptoms. But almost any food can cause problems – even benign foods like bananas, rice, chicken, beef, potatoes and peaches.  Even things like coffee, vanilla and cinnamon can cause intolerances!  And because those are not commonly thought of as foods we react to, unless you run a food panel, you would likely never know which foods are causing the problems.

A food intolerance panel is generally a blood test that is used to identify food intolerances. The ALCAT Test, can test up to 200 foods, herbs and spices for intolerances, as well as food additives, colorings, molds, functional foods and herbs, and environmental chemicals.  The ALCAT test is nice because they break it down into different categories of reactions ranging from severe to mild.

The way it works – is you need to avoid the severe and moderately sensitive foods for a period of time (3-8 months), and avoid the mild ones for 3 months, or use a rotation diet.  And ideally, in the meantime, you will want to heal the gut.  Sometimes after avoiding the food for a period of time, and allowing the gut to heal – the body is able to tolerate that food again.  Some foods however will need to be avoided forever.  But even if you can tolerate a food again, it is important to not eat it too often, because you could end right back where you started.  ALCAT recommends a rotation diet for any foods that were issues – where you eat the food no more than once every 4 days.

So what are some of the symptoms of food intolerances?

The list of possible symptoms that food intolerances can cause is extremely long – and can include migraines, chronic aches and pains, skin rashes, acne, brain fog, digestive issues, infertility, hormone issues, thyroid disease, fatigue, mood issues, hormone and thyroid issues, and many more.  In kids there can be stunted growth, speech disorders, bed wetting, behavior issues, autism and ADHD. But because the symptoms are often chronic, vague, and can be delayed, people often do not connect them to what they are eating.

Weight gain is another symptom

When we are eating something that our body is reacting to, it creates chronic inflammation in the body – inflammation leads to all kinds of health issues ranging from weight loss, to weight gain, arthritis, and even increased risk of many diseases including heart disease and Alzheimers.  Identifying food intolerances is really important to our overall health.  Anyone that is experiencing multiple health complaints should really consider being tested.

So why all of a sudden do so many people have trouble with foods?

It is probably a combination of a number of things – but with food intolerances it most likely comes down to our gut health. Many different things can negatively impact our digestive health – including  antibiotics, GMOs, stress, NSAIDs, and more.  If we have what is called a leaky gut – then food proteins. chemicals, toxins and other things that are supposed to stay in the gut can leak out and cause problems. That is why healing the gut is so important.  For more information, read: ADHD – Could Leaky Gut Be To Blame?

Food intolerance testing might not be for everyone – because it requires planning and dedication to implement.  Foods that are eliciting reactions need to be eliminated for 3 – 8 months.  But if done properly – the payoff can be huge – improved energy, sleep, health, and more. And often, if the gut is properly healed – certain foods can be tolerated again in a rotation diet (not every day).

If you are interested in having a food panel run, contact

Sara Vance Article written by Nutritionist Sara Vance, author of the book
The Perfect Metabolism Plan A regular guest on Fox 5 San Diego, you can see many of Sara’s segments on her media page. She also offers corporate nutrition, school programs, consultations, and affordable online eCourses. Download her free 40+ page Metabolism Jumpstart eBook here.

*This article is for educational purposes only. The content contained in this article is not to be construed as providing medical advice. All information provided is general and not specific to individuals. Persons with questions about the above content as how it relates to them, should contact their medical professional. Persons already taking prescription medications should consult a doctor before making any changes to their supplements or medications.

©2015, all rights reserved. Sara Vance.

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