The digestive system is one of the most important organ systems in our bodies, as it literally feeds all the other organ systems. If your digestive system is not functioning well, the other systems will suffer as a consequence. Approximately 80% of our immune system is located in our digestive tract, thus, our choice of food has a direct impact not only on our immune system function, but also on the entire body, as a result of the immune system’s reaction to the food we ingest by creating antibodies (IgE, IgG). The terms food sensitivities, food allergies and food intolerances are commonly used interchangeably, although, their underlying mechanisms are quite different.
What is the difference between food Allergies, Sensitivities and Intolerances?
Food allergies trigger IgE-mediated immune reactions, with immediate onset of symptoms such as; rash, sneezing, hives, swelling or difficulty breathing and anaphylactic shock. A food allergy can be determined by your primary healthcare provider with a skin prick allergy test.
Food sensitivities are typically IgG-mediated immune reactions, with delayed onset of symptoms, which can occur anywhere between several hours to several weeks after food ingestion. Therefore, it can be tricky to identify the trigger, since the symptoms don’t appear right away. Most food reactions are caused by a food sensitivity, but are commonly confused as a food allergy. Food sensitivities are detected via blood test called IgG Food sensitivity testing.
Food intolerances may have similar symptoms to a food allergy, but a food intolerance does not trigger an immune reaction – no antibodies are produced. Intolerances occur when a food irritates the digestive tract (i.e. celiac disease) or when our body is unable to metabolize a food (i.e. lactose intolerance). Symptoms of intolerance are primarily gastrointestinal, such as gas, bloating, stomach pain, heartburn, vomiting and diarrhea.
Food Sensitivity Symptoms:
– Gas, bloating, stomach pain, heartburn, constipation or diarrhea
– Headaches / Migraines
– Weight gain
– Joint aches
– Eczema, psoriasis, acne, rashes
– Brain fog
– Anxiety, Depression
– Autism, ADHD
Many wouldn’t think that these symptoms could be due to a food sensitivity because it takes at least a few days for the symptoms to manifest. However, eating inflammatory foods on a regular basis will progressively deteriorate your digestive health, increase intestinal permeability and systemic inflammation and cause more and more symptoms. This cycle of increased permeability, immune system dysfunction, digestive and systemic inflammation is referred to as the Leaky Gut Syndrome. Our intestinal wall has small gaps, called tight junctions, which allow water and nutrients to pass through, while blocking harmful substances. When these tight junctions loosen up, increasing intestinal permeability, more and more toxins, bacteria and larger food particles pass into the bloodstream and cause systemic inflammation. An indicator of leaky gut on a food sensitivity test is a high number of food reactions to food eaten regularly.
How to Heal a Leaky Gut?
Healing your digestive system is a process and identifying foods that cause inflammation is an important component. IgG Food Sensitivity test can help you identify whether you have sensitivities to at least 220 items. The next step is to avoid reactive foods for at least 6 months, so that your digestive system can heal. You can also support the healing process by following these additional guidelines:
- Take a good quality multistrain probiotic – ensures that you are getting the right strains at an appropriate dose (minimum 10 Billion per day) for healing to occur.
- Eat fermented food (i.e. sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir) – contains probiotics.
- Consume a bone broth – nourishes intestinal lining and reduces inflammation.
- Minimize use of NSAID’s (i.e. ibuprofen) – long term use can cause further damage to the digestive tract.
- Avoid toxins, processed foods, chemicals, colouring agents, GMO, etc.
- Minimize stress
If you are suspecting food sensitivities, and suffer from the above symptoms, it might be time to see a Naturopathic doctor, who can screen you for food sensitivities and guide you along your own unique journey in healing the gut. Dr. Tatiana, ND also offers customized meal plans to her patients, which are designed to avoid reactive foods and show you that you can still eat healthy and tasty meals, while abstaining from reactive foods.