I find that roughly 50% of my patient’s conditions stem from the foods they eat. Think about it. Other than an obvious injury or emotional stressor, there really is not much else other than food that will cause problems. Many people and doctors think genetic factors are the cause of their problem, but genetic limitations can almost always be overcome through lifestyle. Other causative factors in health conditions may stem from chemical exposure. However, if you are eating well, your body will be able to cope much better assuming the chemical is not present in large amounts over a long (or short) period of time. If you are interested in general dietary guidelines, click here. This article will focus on food allergies/sensitivities specifically. And I may use the terms interchangeably, though technically, there is a difference.
I don’t want to go too in-depth between the differences of an allergy and sensitivity. Essentially, the body’s response differs in that it involves different areas of the immune system being activated depending on if you are truly allergic as compared to sensitive (or intolerant). And it is not uncommon for blood tests to completely miss a sensitivity (as opposed to an outright allergy) that may be the cause for your major health concern. Additionally, the body can respond to a food via a lectin reaction. Please read more about lectins here, as they are beyond the scope of this article. Just know for now that they are in some foods (especially grains) that can potentially cause cell damage and conditions just as allergies and sensitivities do. By the way, those who experience this are the “classic” patients who come back with normal blood tests and no explanation for their symptoms.
There really is no limit to the symptoms or conditions that can be caused or exacerbated by foods. The most common symptoms that I see in patients are: fatigue, digestive complaints or abdominal pain, “foggy-headedness”, chronic pain/arthritis, skin rashes (including eczema and psoriasis), inability to lose weight, headaches or migraines, phlegm in the throat, itchy and watery eyes, sneezing “attacks”, yeast infections, irritable bowel syndrome, ADHD (often caused or exacerbated by food additives), fibromyalgia, sinus problems, sleeping difficulties, elevated cholesterol, mood changes, asthma, and hypertension (high blood pressure). [A quick aside to hypertension and foods. It is not uncommon to have normal blood pressure and then experience low blood pressure after removing an offending food. Presumably, the body was releasing too many stress hormones (i.e.: adrenaline/epinephrine) which raised the blood pressure to begin with.] One of the most common musculoskeletal conditions I see as a result of food sensitivities is knee pain. Patients have even showed me how arthritic their knees were on an x-ray; however, after they avoid the foods we discovered as being a problem, the pain often “disappears”. [Anything can cause anything, and an x-ray is only one measurement. A doctor should not simply make assumptions based on what appears “obvious”.]
OK, now for the major foods out there that result in allergic/sensitivity/lectin reactions. Wheat, corn, dairy, and soy are the most common by far. One of my mentors, Dr. Tim Francis claims that everyone is sensitive to these four, but in varying degrees. However, he still has ALL of his patients avoid them. The next most common in no particular order are eggs, citrus fruits, beef, peanuts, chocolate, fish and tree nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, etc.). Let’s not forget gluten, contained in the following foods: wheat (and foods and drinks made from it), barley, rye, spelt, kamut, oats (through cross-contamination only), triticale, and farro. Don’t forget beer, whiskey, and scotch usually. Gluten is one of the most common “problem-causing” food ingredients that gets missed time and time again on blood tests.
There are some more “advanced” lab tests rather than standard blood analysis. One great test is known as the ALCAT Test. One problem I have with some tests, even the advanced ones, is that a person often comes back sensitive to 50 or more foods. If that’s the case, you have other problems going on that need to be addressed (probably first and foremost). Restricting yourself of 50+ foods must sound a bit ridiculous to you as well. When I see that, I look to a gut problem (most often leaky gut syndrome) and/or a weakened immune system.
One way to determine if a specific food is causing you a problem is to simply avoid it. The time-frame may vary between individuals though. For example, the food may cause symptoms minutes after you eat it or even a week (more rarely) after you eat it; this is known as a delayed-onset reaction. Remember, even though food sensitivities may be a problem, you may not notice a change in symptoms if you only avoid one at a time if you actually have 2 or more sensitivities causing the same symptom.
One more thing. It’s very common to crave the foods you are sensitive to. Unfortunately, I could not find solid references to back this up. Some say it occurs because of withdrawl symptoms that may follow; similar to drug addiction. Frankly, I’ve never see withdrawl symptoms (caffeine is a different story and not usually an allergy). The second reason I’ve been told seems more likely. It’s that the body responds by increasing the output of stress hormones, which may give the person a “boost” of energy causing them to quickly feel better, thus continuing to reach for that food. Regardless, one of the most common things I here from patients after identifying an offending food is: “But I love…” or, “I eat that all the time”. This concept of allergy and craving is worth paying attention to.
Please keep this in mind also! Food allergies, sensitivities, and lectin reactions are by far one of the most common causes of chronic (often undetected) inflammation. And specific inflammatory markers in the blood may not pick this up.
I choose to use applied kinesiology muscle testing most of the time when I suspect foods may be causing a problem. I don’t diagnose food allergies, sensitivities, or lectin reactions; I simply see how your nervous system responds.
Come back soon to learn more about potential problems with some more specific foods we enjoy most, like avocado, banana….
Dr. Robert D’Aquila – NYC Chiropractor – Applied Kinesiology