Has Gluten Got You?
As the old saying goes, one man’s medicine is another man’s poison. Nowhere is this truer than when it comes to our different and unique responses to food. When most people think of food allergies, they usually get an image of someone eating a peanut or a shrimp and ending up in the emergency room gasping for air. This situation is called an immediate allergy (also known as an IgE hypersensitivity) which turns on an aggressive histamine reaction. These reactions are very serious but also quite rare. But there is a different type of food reaction that is much less dramatic and deadly. It’s called a delayed allergy (or IgG delayed hypersensitivity). This reaction is much more common and creates suffering for millions of people, though it is mostly ignored by conventional medicine. Nonetheless, IgG reactions play a huge role in many chronic illnesses and weight problems.
Delayed allergic reactions can cause symptoms anywhere from a few hours to a few days after ingestion.They can cause a wide range of problems like weight gain, water retention, fatigue, brain fog, irritable bowel syndrome, mood problems, sleeping problems, headaches, sinus and nasal congestion, joint pains, acne, arthritis, eczema, and more. Specific symptoms vary widely, but they are all sources of inflammation. The body becomes inflamed because the immune system recognizes an otherwise healthy food as a foreign invader. To learn more about why our body reacts to food in this way, check out this excellent blog on the topic by Dr. Joseph Mercola, an accomplished functional medicine MD who is helping to build awareness of this epidemic among the medical community.
While everyone is different, there are some foods that irritate the immune system more commonly than others.These include gluten, dairy, soy, tree nuts, eggs, nightshade vegetables, and yeast. The most common one is gluten, a protein that naturally occurs in some grains including wheat, barley, rye, spelt, triticale, and kamut.
Why gluten? For starters most humans have not genetically adapted well to the grasses (mainly gluten-containing grains) added to our diets beginning in the Middle Ages. In fact, about 30% of people of European descent carry the gene for celiac disease, a full-blown body intolerance to wheat. It’s also true that more and more of us are becoming sensitive. We continue to genetically modify wheat in order to increase unnaturally the amount of gluten in the grain. This makes for chewier bagels and light-as-air pizza crust, but the result is a food that looks questionable to our immune system.Repeated immune system activation can cause our bodies to tag gluten as a foreign invader. Voila: you now have gluten sensitivity. Research has shown that those with gluten sensitivity not only suffer from inflammatory symptoms but are also more likely to die, particularly from heart disease and cancer. The New England Journal of Medicine has identified over 55 chronic illnesses that can be caused by eating gluten.
The good news is that it’s easy to find out if you’re sensitive to gluten!
We often crave or relish the very food that is causing problems in our body (think of how an alcoholic regards a glass of wine). While there are tests to help you identify IgG sensitivities, the gold-standard test (and the only way you will know for sure if a food is a problem for you) is to eliminate it fully (100%) from your diet for a short time and see how you feel (I recommend just one full month).
To be effective, eliminations must be cold-turkey. I help my clients to navigate successful eliminations. Gluten is hidden in many modern foods as fillers and flavoring agents, so be diligent. Avoid such ingredients as modified food starch, caramel color, and artificial flavors. After your elimination, reintroduce gluten at every meal for a day and see what happens. Pay careful attention to your entire body and feelings and thoughts.What changes? What can you learn about your unique sensitivities? Don’t let an otherwise healthy-appearing food wreak havoc on your health. Explore your sensitivities, so you can truly eat on purpose!