When we talk about sensitivities not many people understand the true nature of the immune system and how it reacts, especially when the body is unfamiliar with particular foods. Food allergies, including specific food intolerance, has caught the eye of many integrative practitioners today. The main reason for this is that many of our foods are not created equal.
Knowledge is always the key to understanding your body. One way to help fight inflammation in the body is by reading current information about such matters. Food intolerances have been around for a very long time. However, the immune system and how we treat the body in conventional medicine is part of the problem in too many of these issues.
Foods and the Immune Response
1. A food sensitivity: is often not diagnosed correctly by physicians. Reason being that many symptoms are usually very subtle. The immune system often has a delayed response to the problematic foods, which in turn takes quite a long time for the body to react and then for symptoms to actually appear.
2. A food allergy however is a triggered immune response: The IgE-mediated immune response can actually be life-threatening. Foods such as peanuts, milk, fish, eggs, soy, tree nuts and wheat are common culprits.
Many of the life threatening symptoms are anaphylactic reactions which include:
Increase heart rate
Increase blood pressure
Other common mild symptoms of food allergies that are not necessarily life-threatening includes:
3. A delayed response in your symptoms: are usually due to consumption of particular foods, which are usually consumed with multiple other foods as part of a meal. This is why it’s very difficult for many people who have food allergies to pinpoint exactly which foods are affecting them.
Some common food sensitivities signs include:
- Joint pain
- Bloating and gas
- Constipation and diarrhea
- Headaches or migraines
- Acid reflux
- Skin problems
- Weight gain weight loss
4. Emotional health and food allergies: It is not uncommon for food allergies to be related to emotional health. Managing your stress is essential when it comes to your overall health. It is amazing how the body works and functions when our emotions are optimal.
Likewise, when we’re eating the wrong foods, the body works to attack what it perceives as a foreign invader, igniting the immune response. Symptoms of such a response include foggy memory, depression, lack of energy, mood swings, weight gain or loss, nervous system disorders, and intense food cravings.
The vagus in the digestive tract, is the center of the “gut-brain axis” and is part of the parasympathetic nervous system which controls important functions of the body including the immune system, digestion, heart rate, and, to some degree, emotional health. With chronic inflammation caused by food sensitivities and/or allergies, the vagus nerve can respond negatively, which can then negatively affect some or all of those functions over time.
Research has shown that the vagus nerve is linked between the central nervous system (CNS) and the Enteric nervous system (ENS). Both the vagus nerve and the endocrine (hormonal) system work in conjunction with one another. This allows the brain to control activities in the intestinal lining including: neuronal cells, smooth muscle cells, intestinal cells, epithelial cells, and enteric neurons.
Basically, the gut microbiome is controlled and is connected to the brain! Studies have shown that microbiota influences stressed behavior in animals.
5. Food sensitivities are related to inflammation which lead to autoimmune/ chronic conditions: Food sensitivities and intolerances are very common today. When foods trigger the immune response, an intolerance occurs in the digestive system, causing inflammation.
The digestive system comprises about 80 percent of our immune system. When it is compromised, many of the toxins leak into the bloodstream stream causing inflammation of many important organs of the body.
The main causes of food intolerance include:
1. External influences ( stress, drugs, alcohol, complexions, injury, environmental chemicals including chili)
2. Intestinal house conditions that can lead to food intolerance:
(intestinal flora compromised, parasites, mold)
3. Organ dysfunction: Weakened function of the liver
4. Internal dysfunction: Poor nutrition, emotional disturbances, genetics, hormonal imbalance and inflammation.
As we look at the body through functional and integrative perspectives, we begin to realize how important the gut-brain axis is, with respect to food allergies, emotional health, inflammation and chronic disease. Therefore, avoiding food intolerances and gaining the proper nutrition will help establish a strong digestive tract, build the immune system, and decrease the likelihood of contracting chronic health conditions.
Camille McClellan, MD, DNM, MBS
McClellan Natural Health, Wellness & Nutrition
Free Naturopathic/Homeopathic Consults Available