Food Allergies Threaten Your Health – What You Can Do About It
By L. Markham McHenry, D.O.
If you get recurrent migraines, muscle aches and pains, digestive problems or battle bouts of depression or anxiety, you probably chalk it up to stress, lack of sleep, or the take-out you had for dinner last night.
Maybe you’ve even seen specialists about it but multiple tests turn up nothing. And those pills he prescribed? They made you feel worse.
As a functional medicine doctor, I see this every day in my practice. My patients complain of vague, persistent symptoms that may have started as something small, but now are seriously affecting their quality of life.
So what gives?
Well, about 99 percent of the time, it’s inflammation caused by food allergies, sensitivities, or intolerance, which in turn leads to more inflammation.
Let’s take a look at how this vicious cycle can wreak havoc on your health.
It starts in digestion.
Your digestive system is the primary way your body gets what it needs to run efficiently and the primary barrier against intruders like bad bacteria, infections, and toxins.
Before your food gets to the small intestine and colon to be absorbed, it must be processed. So you chew your food, your salvia releases enzymes to break it down, and then it moves through the esophagus and gets broken down again until it’s presented to the layer of your gut known as the probiotics biofilm.
Once it gets the okay to move through, it’s then processed again by the gatekeepers – known as enterocytes – and gets the green light to move into the immune cells where it’s absorbed by your body.
These immune cells are constantly circulating throughout your body, and they’re sending messages that everything is either status quo or amiss. Even if something bypasses the immune cells, the liver acts like a back up and gets rid of it.
This is how digestion works under normal circumstances, but when you eat a food that is offensive to the immune cells, you can have an IgE and IgG reaction.
Known as a food allergy, the reaction is seen within minutes of eating an offensive food. Anaslphlaxis, asthma, eczema, swelling of the face or lips, hay fever, hives, upset stomach, and sinus problems are common. IgE remembers the food you ate so every time you eat it, you’ll have a reaction.
Known as a food sensitivity, the reaction can happen hours or even days after you ate the food. Muscle aches and pains, headaches and migraines, behavioral issues, and depression and anxiety are common. IgG forgets if you stop eating the food for 3 to 6 months or more.
Another problem is called leaky gut syndrome (LGS), which can be caused by antibiotics, medications, infections, allergens, fake food, or even otherwise good food that poses a problem, like wheat, dairy, or soy. Over time, chronic inflammation causes LGS, which leads to more inflammation because your immune system is vulnerable.
And so the cycle continues.
But gut inflammation can also make you feel anxious or depressed. About 70 to 90 percent of serotonin – the “feel good” hormone – is made in the gut, but when you have inflammation, you stop making serotonin which can then lead to Irritable Bowel Syndrome. So if you think your stomach is in knots because you’re stressed out, it’s really your gut that’s making you feel stressed.
The good news, is that the food-inflammation cycle can be cured with what is called 4R Digestive Rehabilitation:
- Remove the trigger foods and dietary “garbage,” i.e. fake, processed, refined foods. An elimination diet where you abstain from one food for two weeks to see if you feel better might help. Wheat, dairy, eggs and soy are the most notorious offenders.
- Replace hydrochloric acid and digestive enzymes that you may lack.
- Reincoluate with probiotics, prebiotics or both.
- Repair your intestinal wall cells (enterocytes) with vitamins, minerals, herbs and amino acids.