Food Intolerances: The 5-Step Survival Manual

 

Food Intolerances are here to stay, whether you like it or not.  There are many theories as to why so many more people are suffering from food intolerances than in the past.  Genetic modification of food (GMOs), overuse of antibiotics and improper development of the body’s defenses (immune system) are a few of the most common theories.  This article isn’t written to give credence to or condemn any of those ideas.  This is a survival manual written because you feel crummy and you want to do something about it.

 

Allergy vs Intolerance

Food intolerances are not “allergies”.  Unfortunately, the terms “intolerance” and “allergy” have mistakenly been used interchangeably.  True “allergies” to food are caused by IgE antibodies and are often very serious or even life threatening.  “Food intolerance” or “sensitivity” refers to all the other ways that food can make us (and those around us) uncomfortable.  This article is a guide to food intolerances.

 

1. Don’t eat problem foods

It sounds obvious, but in the beginning, strictly avoiding your food sensitivities is the single most important key to success.  Removing a source of chronic irritation allows your body time to relax and repair.  The ideal goal is to be able to eat this food in moderation once a week or once a month and tolerate it.  It can take months or years of food avoidance and treatment for some people to get to this point.  I’ve seen months of hard work undone when people overindulge in problem foods for the entire holiday season.  Also, much of the criticism around food intolerances stems from eliminating a food and replacing it with one of the many processed foods now available that are safe for certain food intolerances.  You’re presented with the opportunity to expand your food palette and improve your health.  Embrace it!

 

2. Food Hygiene

Food hygiene refers to your mealtime routine.  The following suggestions allow you to get the most nutrition and enjoyment from your food.

a. Chew your food thoroughly.  Your teeth physically break up food while saliva chemically breaks up food.  Chewing also signals all of the other necessary digestive juices that finish digestion. Putting large chunks of unchewed food in your stomach is stressful on your digestion and increases the likelihood of continuing the food intolerance cycle.  Many people have a “1-2-swallow” routine for eating, which is great for overstuffing yourself on a 15 minute break but not good for promoting health.

b. Avoid drinking large amounts of water and beverages during meals.   Using beverages to “wash” food down in place of chewing is a common pitfall.  The increased fluid may further decrease your ability to digest food by diluting your digestive juices.

c. Eat at least one meal a day with friends and family.  Meals are best eaten in a low stress environment which leads to the “rest and digest” response.  Food is a celebration.  Relax and enjoy the opportunity to catch up with your company.

 

3. Specific Enzymes for your food intolerance

Times arise when you decide to enjoy your food intolerance in moderation or you are surprised to find, for example, that all of the meat and vegetables in the dish were dredged in wheat flour to make them brown better.  Taking enzymes specific to your food intolerance can be helpful to aid the food break down.   Specific enzymes are available for the most common problematic foods such as gluten and lactose.  This is not a solution to food sensitivities, but a stopgap measure to help control symptoms.

 

4. Repair your gut

In conjunction with removing food intolerances and improving food hygiene, your body needs to repair the digestive system.  There are many supplements and herbs available that can assist this function. The following are common supplements and herbs:

HCl (or stomach acid) can help break down food better therefore decreasing food sensitivity reactions.  HCl should be used under the supervision of a healthcare professional as it can worsen some digestive complaints.

Probiotics can rebalance the bacteria that aid digestion in your gut.

L-glutamine, marshmallow root and licorice root all soothe and and rebuild the damaged gut wall.

Fish oil and omega-3 fatty acids decrease inflammation that worsens the food intolerance cycle and delays repair.

 

Simply taking everything that might be of benefit is what I refer to as “the kitchen sink” method.  This is not the best approach because its unfocused, difficult to maintain the routine of taking many supplements and can be unnecessarily expensive.

 

5. Change your Attitude

If you’re going to grunt and groan through every meal for the rest of your life then you’re in for a long road and you risk alienating the people around you.  Stop using the word “can’t”.  You always have a choice and by changing your frame of reference you positively alter your relationship with healthy food.  You “choose” to eat foods that are more nourishing for your body because you’re not willing to put up with foggy thinking, intractable pain, diarrhea, acne and joint pain.

 

Final Thoughts

Some reasons that you should contact your health professional for re-evaluation of food intolerances are:

-symptoms continue to get worse

-list of “can’t” foods keeps getting larger instead of smaller

-unintentional weight-loss and inability to maintain healthy weight

 

It’s normal to need help along the way.  The people that achieve optimal success have a combination of support from their family, friends and a health professional experienced in treating food intolerances.

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One response to this post.

  1. I came first time on this blog. Article about clarifying the difference between “Allergy” and “Intolerance” is very logical, i have seen even health workers who are unaware of the issue. Suggestions about food changes are logical and practical. Nice Work.

    Reply

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