This is a guest post from Lily Nichols, The Pilates Nutritionist
You’re not one to run to the doctor for every little thing. But this thing is not little. You’ve been struggling with digestive troubles for a while now and you’ve left no stone unturned.
You’ve cut out gluten, then grains, then dairy and while your digestion might be a bit better without those foods, it’s not back to normal.
The trial and error process of eliminating and then reintroducing foods is complicated and cumbersome, especially when you’re going it alone.
So before you get lost down that frustrating path, there are some things you should know about food sensitivities.
Let me save you some time and review 5 things you didn’t know about food sensitivities.
1. Food sensitivities are different than food allergies.
The term “food allergy” is thrown around so often that most of us will describe a food that doesn’t agree with us as something we’re allergic to. But it turns out true food allergies are quite rare, affecting less than 5% of the US population. By contrast, food sensitivities are estimated to impact up to 60% of the US population. So while it’s important to rule out food allergies with your doctor, chances are your uncomfortable symptoms after consuming a food aren’t true allergic reactions.
2. Food sensitivities can be delayed
One of the key factors that distinguishes food sensitivities from food allergies is that with food sensitivities, the reaction to a food is often delayed. Sometimes this delay will be a few hours, but in others, adverse reactions to a food can occur up to 4 days after consuming a food. That means what you had for dinner on Sunday night could be triggering symptoms as late as Wednesday evening! That’s quite a long time and makes tracking down the offending foods much harder.
3. You can have a food sensitivity to healthy foods
We commonly point the finger at the top 8 allergens, namely milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish, however you can have a food sensitivity to just about anything. I’ve had clients test reactive to things like celery, broccoli, almonds, apples, blueberries, salmon, spinach, etc. And once the person works with me to plan a customized elimination diet and offending foods are omitted, symptoms can go away in as little as a few days. So just because everyone else seems to think a food is healthy doesn’t mean that’s the case for you.
4. Eating the same foods everyday predisposes you to food sensitivities
We are all creatures of habit to some extent, so when we find a food we like, we often consume it frequently. For example, many people have eggs and coffee at breakfast, an apple as a snack, and wheat in the form of breads, crackers, cereal, and baked goods throughout the day. The problem is that our immune system can become, for lack of a better term, “annoyed” at seeing the same foods day in and day out. At a certain point, the immune system may start negatively reacting to a food, essentially labeling it as a toxic substance that needs to be removed. Unfortunately, when this happens, there is a release of inflammatory mediators to try to protect the body from an offending food and it’s those meditators that can trigger all manner of symptoms we collectively think of as food sensitivities. We’re talking bloating, gas, diarrhea, intestinal cramping, heartburn; skin conditions like eczema, acne, and rashes; and even seemingly unrelated symptoms like joint pain, stuffy nose, and headaches. So when it comes to preventing food sensitivities, variety is key.
5. Food sensitivities can be dose dependent
As opposed to a food allergy, where a food needs to be strictly omitted to prevent symptoms (think peanuts on an airplane), some food sensitivities are dose-dependent. That means if you test reactive to something like tomatoes, you might be able to handle a few cherry tomatoes just fine, but having a big bowl of tomato soup could trigger symptoms.
Uncovering your hidden food sensitivities on your own is not always an easy process. For those who want to explore that route, I offer a complimentary ebook that walks you through a month-long program to get to the root of your digestive issues called “30 Days to a Happy Tummy”, which you can download for free here: http://pilatesnutritionist.com/freebies/
If you don’t want to go it alone or you’ve been there and done that already, you might consider getting tested for food sensitivities. Whichever path you choose, know that your answers are out there! You just have to do a little digging to figure out what foods your body thrives on and which ones you’re better off avoiding.
Now I’d like to hear from you.
From my list of the 5 things you didn’t know about food sensitivities, which one was most surprising?
Tell me about it in the comments below!
About the author: Lily Nichols, RDN, CDE, CLT, is a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist, Certified Diabetes Educator, Certified LEAP Therapist (food sensitivities) and Certified Pilates Instructor. She incorporates her integrative and functional approach to nutrition to help folks heal their digestion by uncovering hidden food sensitivities. She also works extensively with pregnant women, including helping expecting moms manage gestational diabetes naturally. Lily believes in balancing real food & real life, not choosing one or the other. She blogs weekly at www.PilatesNutritionist.com