Dr. James Hankinson is a Chiropractor practicing in Kirkwood, MO. Dr. Hankinson specializes in preventing, diagnosing, and treating conditions associated with the neuromusculoskeletal system, while improving each patients functionality and quality of life. Conditions treated include sciatica, neck pain, and arthritis... more
In my clinic, we have a saying: We don’t guess. We test! The proof is in the report!
Before we dive too deep, there is an important thing you must understand! You must understand the difference between food allergy and food sensitivity.
Food allergy: A food allergy is an immune response triggered by eggs, peanuts, milk or some other specific food.
Food sensitivity/intolerance: Food intolerance or non-allergic food hypersensitivity is a term used widely for varied physiological responses associated with a particular food, or compound found in a range of foods.
It’s important to recognize the difference. We test for the delayed sensitivity response, not the immediate response. With the immediate allergic response, these patients generally carry an EpiPen. This is not what we’re testing. We’re testing the 8 to 24 hour immune response that patients cannot figure out on their own!
What is a Food Sensitivity?
A food sensitivity, or a food intolerance, is caused by an inability to digest a food and occurs in the digestive tract and not the bloodstream, like a food allergy. Symptoms are “delayed onset”, where symptoms may not appear for hours or even days. Food sensitivities are not, and can come and go during the course of one’s life.
Strangely, people often crave foods to which they are sensitive to. Some researchers suggest that our bodies can become addicted to the chemical messengers, such as histamine or cortisol, which are secreted by immune cells in response to allergens in the body. The body may experience a soothing response from the presence of the chemical messengers, increasing the desire to eat more of that food.
Note that food sensitivities and allergies can change every year. Just because you’re diagnosed with a food sensitivity or allergy one year does not mean it will hold true for the rest of your life. This is why we encourage our patients to get tested at least once a year.
Common Food Sensitivities
These are the top foods to which people are sensitive. Note, the list for top food allergens is different!
- GMO, genetically modified foods
- Gluten (in wheat, rye, barley and some oats)
- Tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, and chestnuts)
- Nightshades, a family of vegetables that include potatoes (except sweet potatoes and yams), tomatoes, peppers (green, red, yellow, orange, jalapeno, chili, and pimentos), eggplant, tobacco, spices (from peppers like cayenne, chili, red pepper, curry mixes, paprika)
- Yeast (baker’s brewer’s and fermented products like vinegar)
Causes of Food Sensitivities
People suffer from food sensitivities for the following reasons:
- Too much of one food: You can become sensitive to any food you eat too often. Many people eat a relatively small number of foods, several times a day. For example, wheat, a common food sensitivity, is found in breakfast cereals, the bread to make a sandwich at lunchtime, and the spaghetti at dinnertime.
- Leaky gut syndrome: The digestive tract plays a vital role in preventing illness and disease by providing an impenetrable barrier. When the lining of the gut is inflamed from a food sensitivity, small openings develop between the tightly woven cells making up the gut walls. This is called “leaky gut syndrome”. With leaky gut syndrome, partially digested dietary protein can cross the intestinal barrier into the bloodstream. These large protein molecules can cause an allergic response, producing symptoms directly in the intestines or throughout the body. Additionally, hundreds of yeast and bacteria are released from the gut into the bloodstream where they set up infection anywhere, including muscles, joints, bones, teeth roots, coronary arteries, or even the brain. The early introduction of solid foods to infants before six months of age contributes to leaky gut syndrome and subsequent food allergies and sensitivities.
- Deficiency of probiotics: One of the causes of leaky gut is an absence of probiotics or “friendly” bacteria in the intestines. The friendly bacteria help maintain the health of the intestines by producing fuel for intestinal cells and killing bad bacteria. Parasitic infections, treatment with antibiotics and other toxic pharmaceuticals, stress, poor diet (sugar and flour), smoking, alcohol, excessive hygiene, candida overgrowth, and bottle-feeding your baby can disrupt the proper balance of friendly bacteria to bad bacteria.
- Over-worked immune system. Constant stress, exposure to air and water pollution, and pesticides and chemicals in our food puts a strain on our immune system, making it less able to respond appropriately to the antigens in food.
- Genetics. Food allergies and intolerances seem to be hereditary. Research indicates that if both parents have allergies, their children have a sixty-seven percent chance of developing food allergies. When only one parent is allergic, the child has a 33% chance of developing food allergies. Specifically, a person may inherit a deficiency of an enzyme like lactase, the enzyme that digests dairy. With nightshade sensitivities, there are ten genetic variants for susceptibility. Not all individuals are affected equally or at all. A similar case can be made for other food sensitivities. Genetic variations predict the severity of your sensitivity.
Symptoms of Food Sensitivities
- Weight Loss Resistance
- Thyroid Dysfunction
- Chronic Pain/ Inflammation
- Stomach ache
- Acid Reflux/GERD
- Blood in the stool
- Chronic pain/Arthritis
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Sinus Problems
How Food Sensitivities Can Damage Your Body
Inflammation is one of the biggest drivers of weight gain and disease in America. Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, high cholesterol are all inflammatory based conditions. Food sensitivities cause systemic inflammation throughout the body, beginning in the gut. For example, in people with gluten sensitivity, the immune system attacks the intestinal cells to which gluten attaches, inflaming the gut. And, when the lining of the gut is inflamed, the body is prone to even more food sensitivities and reactions, and the problem spirals out of control.
The other important thing to remember is your small intestine is where you absorb your nutrients. So if you’re sensitive to gluten, this destroys your small intestine leading to nutrient deficiencies. It’s the nutrient deficiencies that can lead to a whole host of symptoms and conditions. This is one other reason why we test for deficiencies if you are indeed intolerant to gluten.
The other problem is that most people eat foods they have become sensitive to several times a day. Every time that food enters the body, immune system whips itself into a frenzy. But because symptoms are delayed up to 72 hours after eating, a food sensitivity can be hard to spot. Without diagnosis or awareness, the damage is repeated over and over, meal after meal. Eventually, inflammation seeps throughout the body, establishing an environment ripe for weight gain and chronic disease.
What’s My Next Step?
If you think you may be sensitive to certain foods, the best thing to do is simply test. It’s a simple finger prick done in under 3 minutes. Remember, we’re testing the delayed immune response/reaction and this makes any sort of elimination diet next to impossible. Call our clinic today to set up a consultation with Dr. Hankinson and to see if food sensitivity testing may be right for you.
We hope this article finds you doing well. Remember, at Back to Wellness Chiropractic in Kirkwood, MO we specialize in functional medicine, weight loss, and food sensitivity testing. Call today for a free consultation to discuss your concerns with Dr. Hankinson. 314-394-2093. Please remember, you don’t need to be close to our clinic. We work remotely with patients all across the United States.