I know what you are thinking. You think I’m going to write to you about fiber and probiotics and drinking lots of water. Nope. That isn’t the problem. There is absolutely no reason why your body needs five tons of flax-seed to function properly. And no, you don’t just have a “sensitive” intestine tract or a misfiring colon. There are many reasons for your digestive ailments and here is where to start. This is part one if my digestive blog series focusing specifically on chronic cases. We will eventually work our way down to the every day ailments.
Let’s cut to the chase. If you have any of the following chronic or persistent challenges, you could have a food allergy:
- Digestive Disorders: Abdominal pain, constipation, Diarrhea, Gas, Heartburn, Acid Reflux, IBS, nausea, indigestion
- Emotional Imbalances: Anxiety, Depression
- Respiratory Conditions: Allergies, Asthma, Congestion, Sinusitis
- Behavioral Disorders: ADD/ADHD, Autism, Mental Fogginess
- Skin Disorders: Eczema, Psoriasis, Canker Sores
- Physical Ailments: Arthritis, Autoimmune disorders, Ear infections, Headaches & Migraines, Joint Pain
- Other: Anemia, Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, Insomnia, other
Pretty comprehensive list right? That is straight from the doc that finally unraveled my gluten, dairy, and egg allergies and I just couldn’t believe it when I read it. I never realized I had food allergies until last year despite having migraines, ear infections, indigestion, and anxiety throughout my childhood (My first indicator was that I was colicky as an infant). It wasn’t until I started having intense abdominal pain that I decided to get to the bottom of it. Even then I waited until the pain was to the severity that I thought I had appendicitis.
Some people might take a look at the list and say, “Nope, not me!” but here is why food allergies are so sneaky: You may not have symptoms of food allergies until 1-3 days after eating it! AND it only requires a tiny bit. You may think that because you only drink a smidge of milk in your coffee from time to time it wouldn’t be enough to cause a problem. It is. If I had a drip of milk once, I would be in pain for 7-9 days starting 2 days after drinking the milk! Totally intense. And it’s not like milk causes one kind of reaction and wheat causes another. Milk could give you a bout of anxiety one day and major fatigue the next. This is because allergies are an immune response. Your body is trying to fight something off and is getting tired from doing it.
Why Do We Have Food Allergies?
I believe it is because of our melting pot culture. Up until 100-200 years ago, we lived in the same region that our ancestors lived in for thousands of years. Since transportation was slow and unruly, we didn’t get very far. People that grew up in Norway and Sweden ate fish and veggies. Europeans ate oils, meat, cream, and pasta. Asian countries ate raw fish, spices, rice. If every one of your ancestors ate the same way passed down through the generations, how can we expect to eat Mexican for lunch and sushi for dinner and be fine? We might not have evolved to be able to do that.
Another contributing factor I believe is overexposure. Wheat and milk are in EVERYTHING. Oh, and they just so happen to be the two post popular allergens. Imagine that. Prepackaged or processed foods mean you are getting a heavy dose of one kind of food over and over again. Take a look. I bet you anything that you eat wheat, dairy, eggs, peanuts, or soy every single day, if not every meal. Your body is going to hate you if you only give it one thing over and over again – that’s how an allergy develops! We didn’t used to eat this way. 100-200 years ago we ate what was fresh in the market and cooked everything from scratch. Variety was the spice of life and we rarely cooked the same thing twice. When I spent a semester in Paris my host mom made a different meal every night for four months. I don’t just mean a different meal, I mean sometimes there were organ meats, hoofs, or what looked like an entire parrot sitting on the table. A bit extreme, but you get my point.
Get Results, Get Tested
If one of the ailments I mentioned above is already plaguing you to the extreme, get tested. I went to the IBS Treatment Center in Seattle and got squared away. It was totally worth it. One piece of advice: If you aren’t willing to change your lifestyle for the sake of your health, there is no point in spending the money (or reading this blog), you will just have to live with your ailments for the rest of your life.
DIY: Elimination Diet
If you have some time to try to figure it out, try an elimination diet. Be warned: It took me 6 months of not eating my allergens before I started feeling great and it definitely got way worse before getting better. So if you decide to go with the elimination diet, the only way it will work is if you be hardcore about it and commit. Some of you may feel better immediately, and some won’t for months, the only way to really truly know without spending the big bucks is to buckle down.
Alright, here is the drill: You need to cut out ALL of the following for two months:
- Gluten (wheat, barley, rye). Yes this includes beer.
- Dairy (Milk, butter, cream, yogurt, etc)
To be successful at this, your best bet is to cook from scratch, not go out to eat, and maybe know someone else who will do it with you. If anything says “natural flavor” avoid it. Beware of things like chapstick and licking envelopes. This is way hard and if you ever cheat because you are on vacation or something looks yummy, you will never know and might as well just get tested. You might cry at Whole Foods. Its ok. If you need help with recipes- look at my recipe collection on Pinterest.
If your symptoms have left the building after two months- YAY!! You know you have a food allergy. Now start finding out which one it is: Eat gluten one day and wait a week to see if your symptoms come back. If they do, you know what one of your allergens is, continue to avoid it. If they don’t, add it back into your diet if you would like to. Repeat for dairy, eggs, and so on. Just remember to try them one at a time since you may be suffering from multiple.
If you don’t get better you might have some obscure allergies (hint, it is usually the thing you eat the most of!). I am also allergic to cranberries, cashews, and beans which I never would have discovered on an elimination diet. At this point you have two options:You can go full on Paleo (which eliminates most of the other allergens) or you can get tested.
Regardless of which path you choose, you are making a step towards recovery and that is an important accomplishment. There are many people in this world who would rather keel over on the sidewalk rather than avoid cheese. Health is up to you and you should be stoked that you are on your way! Let me know how your journeys are going!
Talk to you soon!