Food allergies are all the rage these days and I’m not just talking about the anaphylactic, you-might-die kind. Sure those guys are pretty prevalent, but there is a sneaky kind of food allergy that even YOU might have. About 60-70% of the population is estimated to have an undiagnosed food intolerance and it could be just what’s causing all that anguish you’re toting around. Let’s take a look and see what your culprit is.
What are Food Intolerances?
Food intolerances are an immune response to something your body perceives as a threat. You eat a slice of bread and your body says “Hey! You’ve had enough of that stuff! I can’t keep fighting it off!” Not that it has anything to fight off to begin with. Wheat isn’t inherently bad. It’s just that moderation thing getting to us again. So you know how if you eat too much sugar you get diabetes and cancer and all sorts of not-so-fun things going on? Once in a while your body can definitely tolerate it. But over and over your body starts to hate it.
Well the same goes for just about everything you eat. Eat it once in a while and your body will just hum along nicely. Eat it every day and your body starts to not be able to handle the load. It attacks. And that attack could look very different between different people and different times of your life. For example, when I was a baby, I was colicky, a sign I now know was related to a dairy intolerance. As a child I developed lots of ear infections, in my teens I got strep throat a lot. As an adult, I dealt with constipation, then eventually intense “am I going to die?” type stomach pain. The same intolerance, different symptoms. There is no rhyme or reason to it. There is no “If you get strep throat you have a dairy intolerance.” It’s not like that. It’s more of a, what are you eating every day that could be causing your symptoms?
What Causes Food Intolerances?
You see food intolerances are caused by eating too much of something. They accumulate overtime and progressively get worse. We didn’t used to have this problem for two reasons. First, we ate a varied diet and never had to worry about getting too much of a particular thing. Second, GMOs are kind of against us. They make that dose of whatever you are eating even stronger so it takes a shorter amount of time to exacerbate in your system.
Thankfully, you can easily do an elimination diet to find your culprit. In fact, just take a look at what you eat every single day and notice if they have anything in common. Eat cereal for breakfast every day? Jot dairy and wheat down. Just to make things simple, if you live in America, it’s most likely one or multiple of the following: dairy, eggs, corn, soy, almonds, peanuts, wheat, and seafood.
How Can I Tell if I Have Food Intolerances?
Next step: Avoid all of the above triggers for seven days. That’s only a week! You are totally capable of that. How do you feel? Better? If so, it’s likely you have a food intolerance. We just have to find out which one. On the eighth day add one of the culprits back. Then remove it again. On the ninth day, add a different culprit in, then remove it. And so on. So say, for example, you get major tired after lunch every day. You go on an elimination diet for seven days and suddenly you feel great, you’re onto something. They say on the eighth day you have a sandwich for lunch only to zonk out again all afternoon- wheat could be your deal.
Will I have Food Intolerances for Life?
Now don’t stress out too much. A lot of people don’t even want to know they have a food intolerance because they don’t want to give it up (I’m talking to you cheese lovers). But for most people they find that their intolerances are shallow, not deep. Meaning that after avoiding their trigger for 6-12 months, they can add it back in on the occasion and their body tolerates it nicely. Maybe once a week or once every three days works without symptom. But the second you get back on the everyday train your body starts to build up that immune response once more which means you’ll be back to some crazy (and maybe different) symptoms.
Should I Get a Blood Test?
If you do your elimination test only to find it inconclusive, that’s when you’ll need a blood test. What’s going on here is that you either have a combination of intolerances, which can be really tricky to figure out, or you have such a strong reaction that it will likely take a whole lot longer than a week to heal. I went the blood test route to discover I was allergic to wheat, dairy, eggs, and beans, a combination I would never have figured out on my own. On top of that, it took six months off my triggers before I started to feel better. And as is the case with most food intolerances, you’ll often feel worse before you feel better (your body goes through withdrawal-like symptoms!). So it can be extremely difficult to self-diagnose in that situation.
Go the elimination route first. If that doesn’t work get some blood work done up. I recommend a basic 96 food panel that measures both IgE and IgG antibodies. Either way it’s worth it. You’ll feel AHHHMMAAAZING! Like I do now! See how that works?!
Everyone is all geared up for the some New Year detoxing and I just couldn’t help but get in on the action. After all, disease starts in your digestive system (long before it seeps into other areas of your body) so giving the good guys a clean sweep once in awhile can mean the difference between health and… well a health breakdown. Here are some poses to help get your gut all hunky dory, and your bowel movements super regular. Follow the instructions here or listen to my guided podcast to up the anti on your experience. The podcast recording is available here (see below) as well as on iTunes!
Forward Folds for Tummy Prep
Scoot onto your buns, take a deep breath while stretching your arms to the sky, then float your hands forward to your toes. If you can’t reach your toes, no big deal, just bend your knees a bit! This pose gives attention to all my faves: Your liver, kidneys, ovaries, and uterus. And its no wonder! Putting a little crease in your belly means your giving your insides a nice gentle massage. Perfect for getting things moving again. Let’s keep the party rolling.
Shoulder Stand for Gunk Removal
Gently roll down your spine while pulling your legs up to the sky. Prop your back on your hands and stretch upwards as much as you can. It’s rare that gravity pulls you in the opposite direction which means your long windy intestines often accumulate some unwanted settlement. Inversion poses (anything that pulls you upside down) give gunk the chance to pick up and move on.
Bridge Pose for a Gurgley Belly
Once again we’re doing some abdominal stimulation by intertwining your hands together underneath you and pushing your pelvis up the sky. Keep your chin tucked and your legs hip width and parallel. Your belly might start talking to you right about now. It just loves all this action it’s getting.
Twists to Get your Bowels Moving
You can’t have a yoga sequence without some solid twisting love. Your tummy is oh so tired and twisting sets it free! Start by lying flat on your back, tucking your heels to your hands, and rocking your knees side to side (windshield wiper style. I like to inhale on the way up and exhale on the way to the ground. Slows it down a bit. Play around with this a little so you can really feel your tummy coming alive. Then, take it to the next level by stretching your legs flat to the ground, tucking your right knee into your chest, and then gently pushing it to the left using your left arm to gently push it to the floor. Fall deep into the twist here and let your belly do its thing. Repeat on the left side.
Child’s Pose with Tummy Massage to Keep the Colon Going
Finally, lets end with a nice gentle child’s pose: bonus edition. Sitting on your knees fold your fists into the space just below your belly button and fold forward into child’s post. Your fists may end up on their sides and that is totally cool. By putting a little pressure on your digestive system, you’re doing the final work necessary to prod all those unhinged food bits in the direction of the door. Need your fists a little bit then massage your stomach in a clockwise direction. So good.
Say a little gratitude for all the hard work your intestines take on every day and say a cheers to good health! Namaste!
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. Well actually, you do need more water, but apart from that 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 problems and here is where to start.
- You Drink Coffee: I know that you think coffee makes an awesome laxative, but stop using it for that! This only makes you build up an intolerance to coffee that requires you to drink more and more over time. In fact, this is pretty darn similar to a laxative addiction. Do you want that type of problem? Look, I realize that if you stop cold turkey there might be a few uncomfortable days. That is ok. You can deal with that.
- Your Diet is SLOW: You are eating too much meat and not enough greens. This is truth.
- You Don’t Drink Water: You need to be drinking this stuff the second you wake up and the minute you go to bed. Oh, and all day too. This sounds fluffy I know, but if you could just legitimately get eight 8-oz glasses this would make a huge difference. You need to add an extra 16-oz for every glass of caffeine or alcohol you consume that day. Have coffee in the am and wine to wind down? You better be chugging! Ok just kidding, don’t chug. Drink sloooowly allllll dayyy….
- Not Enough Movement: You don’t need to run a marathon to keep things moving but you really should get out for a walk at least 15-30 minutes per day.
- You Have Food Allergies: Often brought on by a traumatic event or emotional disturbance, food allergies or intolerances are an immune reaction triggered by overuse of particular food proteins. More often than not your body is struggling with something that you are eating all the time. This didn’t use to be a problem thanks to a varied diet, but these days folks are pretty much just eating the same old thing every day. Mostly wheat, milk, and eggs to name a few. (Other culprits include nuts, shellfish, fish, soy, or corn). Eating any of these often? Probably. You might want to try cutting those babies out for a bit.
What to do about it? Well apart from some of the tips above, here’s what to do in a Pinch:
- Magnesium: You can take this regularly without a problem and most women are deficient in it anyway. Grab a supplement and take nightly. Your morning will thank you.
- Stewed Prunes: Oh how I love stewed prunes. These are an excellent dessert provided you are drinking beaucoup d’eau (that’s LOTS OF WATER).
- Herbal Laxative: Mostly ok but have a few blunders here and there? It’s ok to take an herbal laxative such as Swiss Kriss as often as once per month without running the risk of addiction.
Well there you have it. Short and sweet! Hope this helps keep ya moving along!Read More
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!Read More
So you ate too much. Or maybe you ate the same amount that you always do and just haven’t visited the powder room in a while. Struck a chord? Sorry about that, but it simply must be said if we are to take care of business (so to speak). You’ve thrown a big log on your fire and now its going to take awhile to burn. My question to you is this: why keep adding more wood? You’ll just smother your fire and wind up, well, pretty darn stopped up.
Fasting seems like it would be common sense, but I don’t really think it is. Not today. Sure fasting was the hot thing to do in the middle ages but it has gone completely out of vogue in modern times. Which is a shame really! It totally makes sense and has so many health benefits. The most important of which is helping your digestion, which some say is the cornerstone of our health.
How Digestion Works to Fuel your Health
In Ayurveda, digestion is a fire. It is a slowly kindling flame in the morning, a well stoked fire around noon, and dwindling to coals at night. Throw some small kindling on the fire and it will burn up quickly. Add a giant log to the fire and you may have killed it. A well stoked fire means a steady supply of wood to keep the fire going and the wood burning. Do you see the picture I am painting here? Don’t put out your fire. If you keep eating, no more bathroom breaks. Bottom line.
So you are totally thinking that fasting is some sort of old fashioned, religiously steeped ritual reserved for mountain top gurus and biblical prophets. Well you are wrong! No, just kidding, you are totally right. But there is more to it then that! Fasting in fact is the “superfood” of health (only without the food part). Any period of 8-24 hours of restricted caloric intake is generally considered fasting. Sometimes this means not eating at all or sometimes it means only drinking liquids. Benefits of fasting include reduced risk of the big three (cancers, heart disease, diabetes), slowed aging process, and increased life span. Pretty sweet deal.
Now you are starting to think that not-eating sounds like deprivation. Again, you are totally right, but hang in there. Of course one method is to abstain from all food and drink (dry fasting). Have at it. Other options include water fasting or juice fasting. Juice fasting is the easiest of the three and is typically where “beginners” start. But those aren’t the only ways. My favorite method is the re-calibration fast that Mireille Guilliano mentions in her book “French Women Don’t Get Fat.” You knew I was going to bring that book up again, and I did. In the book she recommends a “leek weekend” to refresh your system after a season of heavy eats (like winter). Simply make a soup with leeks, any fresh vegetables that you have on hand, water, and olive oil. Make one big batch and eat only that for a whole weekend. This is the perfect opportunity for a movie weekend or some cuddly reading. This soup will cleanse you from the inside out leaving you ready to start the week with a fresh perspective and a sparkly clean colon.
Half-fasting is something I made up but it basically means giving your system a refresher without feeling hungry. Essentially it is eating easily digested foods for a few days, or even just a meal, while your belly plays catch up. Think baby food. There is a reason babies eat the way they do: It’s easy on those tiny little digestive systems. Here are three common forms of half-fasting:
- Mireille’s Magical Breakfast Cream: Every morning for a week eat this for breakfast- Yogurt mixed with lemon juice, crushed flax seeds, and sesame oil. Top with granola or fruit. I obviously don’t do this one since I am dairy intolerant.
- Ayurvedic Breakfast Fruit: Every morning for a week eat this for breakfast- Fresh fruits with prunes or apricots stewed in simmering water until the water is murky and purple. Berries are great an awesome addition. Super delicious and works like a minor laxative to ease your tummy into the day. Once the fast is over- cook oatmeal in it. So good! I also make this for desserts during the week- love it! Add more prunes if you want more of a party.
- Kitchedi Week: Eat well cooked, soupy rice mixed with plenty of olive oil and Indian spices like turmeric, mustard seeds, cumin, coriander and cinnamon. You can also add currants, raisins and mung beans or any vegetables. Eat this for all meals 1-6 days. This is nice and easy on the digestion whenever you need a break.
Another kind of half-fasting I use quite often is caloric restriction depending on how I feel. For example, if I had a heavy dinner, not a good idea to have pancakes for breakfast. Instead I will have something small and nutritious that will keep my system moving and my belly from starving. Maybe a 6-oz juice or half a banana. Or I’ll add peanut butter to either so that I still feel full but not bloated. By lunch you will be feeling back to normal instead of feeling like a tub of lard.
Ongoing Digestive Health
After any kind of fast, its best to ease into regular food. Enjoy a small piece of fish and some steamed vegetables with olive oil on your first evening. Once you are back into the swing of things keep your food as colorful as you can and regularly incorporate good health habits to keep your fire burning strong. You know the drill: Eat three moderately sized meals with no snacking or five small meals throughout the day. Just make sure to choose one or the other so you don’t wind up eating all day.
Hope you all feel better and stay tuned for a more expansive article I’m working on about the bigger picture of digestion.Read More