When I was in the heyday of my Celiac and parasite diagnosis 10 years ago (a story you can read more about here), one of the surprising symptoms was that I used to get sick ALL THE TIME. Little did I know at the time, your gut health is hugely connected to your immune system. In fact, 70-80% of your immune system is located in your gut. Needless to say, after I resolved those issues by removing gluten and killing off the parasite, not only did my digestion and energy improve, but I suddenly wasn’t getting sick anymore.
Sound familiar? If you’re getting sick more than a few times a year, and seem to catch everything that goes through your office or school, or if you are constantly congested and stuffed up, read on.
Food sensitivities, which are different than food allergies and intolerances, involve an immune system reaction in your body. When you eat a food to which you’re sensitive, your immune system essentially mounts an attack against that food, leading to inflammation.
In the right amounts Inflammation is totally necessary, as it’s your body’s way of mobilizing your immune system to defend against foreign invaders (in this case, not-so-scary things like egg, gluten or dairy). The thing is, if you’re eating the food to which you’re sensitive on a regular basis, your immune system is constantly mounting a response, which leads to chronic inflammation.
While this can lead to inflammation in the gut, it can also lead to systemic inflammation and other symptoms which may not appear to be connected:
Chronic inflammation is a major burden on your immune system, so undiagnosed food sensitivities can also make you more prone to getting sick. Of course things like a poor diet, lack of sleep and stress are other big causes of low immunity, but if you feel like you have your bases covered there and you are constantly catching colds and flus or are chronically stuffed up, it’s worth investigating if food sensitivities are part of the problem.
If you suspect you have food sensitivities, there are two main ways you can approach it. The first one is to try an elimination diet. There are several variations of elimination diets but the one we typically you would remove all possible offending foods for a period of 30 days, then reintroduce those foods one at a time. Because symptoms of sensitivities can present up to three days later, it’s important to space out the reintroduction phase and only introduce one food at a time.
An elimination diet can be difficult to follow, as you do have to be really strict about the foods you eliminate, so working with a nutritionist to guide you through this process can help. We’ll provide you with the meal plans, a grocery list and walk you through the reintroduction phase to take the guesswork out of it. It’s also helpful to work with a nutritionist because it may not be initially clear to you which symptoms to look out for, especially if you don’t appear to have any digestive issues.
The other option is to do a Food Sensitivity Test. The test you can order through HEAL tests for 132 of the most common foods and food additives, along with candida, which is a type of yeast that is another cause of digestive issues and low immunity that we sometimes see. Not all food sensitivity tests are created equal and this is the most comprehensive test that we have found. It measures IgG and Complement, whereas other labs only test IgG antibodies. What this means is that it only picks up foods to which your immune system is actually mounting a response and which are causing inflammation, therefore reducing the likelihood of false readings. If, for example, you have had a food sensitivity test come back with 20+ foods show up, this could be the problem.
Intestinal permeability (also called leaky gut) and food sensitivities go hand in hand. You can develop sensitivities from leaky gut and food sensitivities create inflammation which can lead to leaky gut; in other words, you can’t resolve one without addressing the other. If food sensitivities are at play, it’s important to work with a nutritionist who can develop a personalized plan to help address the root causes of your symptoms.
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