Actionable Steps To Help You Heal From Food Sensitivity
If you are dealing with certain gut issues, such as abdominal bloating and diarrhoea symptoms, you might be dealing with food sensitivity or intolerance. You are not alone in this. Food sensitivity and intolerance is, in fact, a common digestive issue. However, food sensitivities and intolerance should not be confused with food allergy.
Food allergies are an adverse reaction to foods due to Immunoglobulin (IgE)-mediated immune response to a particular food. Think of an entire army of your immune warriors launching their weapons at an incoming enemy. These reactions can range from a rash to anaphylaxis that can be life threatening and can happen in a matter of minutes. Once patients are known to be allergic to certain foods, it is essential that they avoid these foods for life. Challenging the body’s immune response with repeated doses only serves to ramp up the response even more and increases the risk of a life threatening reaction. Many restaurants go out of their way to ask patrons if they are allergic to specific foods such as nuts or shellfish for example.
Coeliac Disease and Gluten
Coeliac disease also known as gluten-sensitive enteropathy (which can be misleading) is another common immune-mediated chronic inflammatory disease of the small intestine caused by immune reaction to dietary gluten and other related proteins in genetically predisposed people. Coeliac disease causes damage to the lining of the gut which means that the body cannot properly absorb nutrients from food. However it is important to understand that coeliac disease is not a food allergy nor is it an intolerance, it is an autoimmune disease.
Sugar Malabsorption and Intolerance
In contrast, there are many other more commonly observed adverse food reactions perceived by people due to a variety of food intolerances, which are not immunologic reactions and are not potentially life threatening. Nonetheless they do impact one’s quality of life.
One type of food intolerance involves sugar malabsorption syndromes which include lactose, fructose, xylitol, sorbitol and many others. For instance, many individuals who have lactase deficiency essentially have a lactase gene that has switched off. This often happens as one gets older. In many Asians, the gene switches off by the age of 10 years old. This results in the small intestine not being able to absorb lactose. This results in abdominal bloating and diarrhea, sometimes even with small amounts consumed that one may not consider significant. Avoiding the food triggers will definitely reduce related symptoms.
There are a wide variety of non-allergic adverse food reactions or food sensitivities which include sensitivity to sulfites commonly found in alcoholic beverages and also alcohol itself due to aldehyde dehydrogenase deficiency. Deficiency of aldehyde dehydrogenase enzyme results in flushing after alcohol consumption.
What steps can you take?
Step 1: Identify any food allergies or sensitivities
Keep a food journal. If you have strong, frequent reactions to certain foods and you are able to identify the food sensitivities accurately, then keeping a food journal is a great way. Rather than a one-off record, you will have to keep track of what you consume and how you feel daily for a couple of weeks in order to identify your food sensitivity accurately. Additionally, consuming similar foods while switching out a couple of factors each day might also help to speed up the identification process.
GUTCARE provides hydrogen/methane breath testing for lactose and fructose malabsorption. Consider talking to us if you think you might be having symptoms from sugar malabsorption.
Get tested for coeliac disease especially if you have a family history.
Generalised food allergy testing through large panels of blood tests is not advised and may not be representative of true food allergy.
Step 2: Remove food triggers from your diet.
Once you have identified your food sensitivities through your food journal, you should know which foods you are sensitive to and it’s time to remove them from your diet completely.. It might seem like the end of the world, especially if any of the food triggers are your favourites but remember there is an entire world out there of new foods to explore. Why not make it a fun experience and explore new recipes that address specific dietary requirements.
Adopting a low FODMAP diet or a gluten free diet usually results in improvement in symptoms in a couple of weeks. Removing food triggers allows your body to recover and reduce its inflammatory burden. It is also crucial that you ensure that your body is still receiving enough nutrients through alternative sources of food, especially if you have to remove a lot of food triggers.
Step 3: Work on healing your gut
It is crucial that, together with your doctor, you also identify and treat any existing gut infections such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) or parasitic infections that could potentially have similar symptoms.
Food sensitivity is something you want to address as soon as possible. They are either a result of certain sugar malabsorption syndromes or can be due something more serious like coeliac disease. Either way, addressing them allows your body much-needed breathing space and helps open the path for healing. We at GUTCARE want to help you with your gastroenterology journey. Whether it may be a food sensitivity or food allergy, we want to help you manage and recover from it.