It’s time to talk about food sensitivities. Many people experience sensitivities to varying foods that have caused physical, mental or even emotional symptoms. This is an incredibly hot topic right now since testing has become mainstream for many different areas of medicine; naturopaths, dietitians, chiropractors, and doctors alike are all authorized to approve and interpret these tests. The most popular tests include Cell-Based Tests, Mediator Release Tests, Antigen Leukocyte Cellular Antibody Tests, Elimination Diets & Challenge Tests, and many more. Perhaps you’ve even looked at this list and thought, “Yes! I have done at least one (maybe 3) of these!” When interpreting the results of these tests, it’s important to understand their limitations and the brain’s & body’s role in food sensitivities.
Each test offered has limitations, and there have been no studies published comparing their efficacy (which can make things even more frustrating when dealing with a food sensitivity). In Antibody-based food sensitivity tests, IgE panels test for immune responses in the blood in correlation to the introduction of certain foods. IgE levels are elevated when there is an increase of antibodies in the immune system. If you are already dealing with a bacteria, virus, or allergen (as most people with chronic illness are), IgE levels can remain elevated regardless of the food introduced, which can be a limiting factor in determining the sensitivity. In these tests, many times IgG levels are also found to be elevated. IgG antibodies are the most abundant antibody in the body and can remain elevated when encountering a virus or bacteria. It is also common that IgG levels can be elevated in response to foods you eat frequently. Therefore, sometimes the foods you eat most tend to test positive for sensitivities on antibody tests. It is also worth noting that these tests are a snapshot in time- relevant only to today’s bodily response. Most tests are recommended to take (at least) annually since sensitivities change due to reasons listed above.
OK- so there are many limiting variants when it comes to sensitivity testing, but these tests can also be extremely helpful when determining the cause of inflammation. Food sensitivity testing can be great for people trying to change their lifestyle in order to decrease that inflammation and increase energy. Naturally, organic & whole foods are the best solution to cultivate a nourished and healthy gut environment. But what happens when the body starts to respond to everything in a hyper-inflammatory way? What if all a sudden you start to break out every time you take a sip of milk? What if your belly doubles in size when you eat a slice of toast? What if sugar causes a yeast infection even in a small amount?
There is a difference between the limbic system’s hyper-inflammatory response (the chronic stress response) and a sensitivity, and allergy to food. When dealing with the chronic stress response, the brain is telling the rest of your body that this food is dangerous. And, the body reacts in a hyper-inflammatory way- causing those physical, mental, and emotional symptoms.
One way to identify the limbic system’s hyper-inflammatory response is by assessing the foods you eat.
Are you only sensitive to gluten? Or, are you sensitive to sugar, dairy, nightshades, red meats, pineapple, avocados, cherries, and lecithin?
If you answered ALL to the latter question, this may be a result of the chronic stress response turned on all the time due to physical trauma like a bacteria, toxin, or virus OR due to a mental or emotional trauma you experienced in the past. Participating in an elimination diet may relieve temporary symptoms, but it does not get to the root of the problem- the brain’s chronic stress response.
In retrospect, we can’t eliminate & avoid all foods for the rest of our lives. We should be able to get to the place where we’re eating a healthy diet consisting of food that nourishes our bodies- food that makes us feel good. And wouldn’t it be wonderful to eat anything in moderation, unless diagnosed with a specific allergy? This means, being able to eat a slice of pizza at a work function, eating a cupcake at your child’s birthday party, or having a bite of banana after your morning walk without experiencing extreme symptoms.
We know that there are multiple factors that could be reasons why you’re testing sensitive to certain foods. And the most important distinction to make is whether you’re dealing with the chronic stress response or a true food allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity. Once this distinction is made, the fear is taken away from the food and the act of eating. You CAN change the brain’s chronic stress response so your brain no longer responds like certain foods are dangerous predators. You can calm the chronic stress response to live the life that works for you- the life that makes you feel like your best self.
Happy Healing to you,
*Please note that I am referring to sensitivities which differ from allergies. To view more on this subject, please contact your primary care practitioner or you can check out Mayo Clinic’s definition: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/food-allergy/expert-answers/food-allergy/faq-20058538