Good food translates to good health. This is common wisdom. However, sometimes even good whole foods can make a person sick. When fresh strawberries cause hives, a glass of milk causes stomach cramps and diarrhea, or daily bread products cause fatigue and bloating; then it is time to talk to your health care provider to determine whether an ordinary food may be causing your health problems.
In my clinical practice I spend a lot of time with each and every one of my patients reviewing their diet, encouraging balanced diets rich in whole foods, and when needed testing for food sensitivities and allergies. This article will outline the difference between food sensitivities, intolerances and allergies, common symptoms related with these food reactions, and what to expect with food sensitivity and allergy testing.
What’s the difference between food allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities?
Food allergies are IgE mediated immune reactions that cause immediate and sometimes life threatening reactions in the body. Breathing difficulties, anaphylaxis, skin eruptions such as hives, and digestive problems are common IgE reactions.
Food sensitivities and intolerances are not life threatening and are delayed reactions that contribute to chronic health concerns. These reactions are typically divided further into digestive and immune concerns.
Food intolerances are digestive in origin and typically refer to the inability of the body to break down the offending foods. Digestive intolerance symptoms often include cramping, bloating, and diarrhea. The most common digestive intolerance is lactose intolerance, where digesting diary becomes a problem. Most people with digestive intolerances can correlate symptoms to the ingestion of the offending foods, and testing is not necessary. Some people will benefit from taking digestive enzymes with every meal. However, if this doesn’t help, I would recommend seeing a naturopathic doctor for additional support.
Food sensitivities are delayed IgG mediated immune reactions. Symptoms take hours or days to develop, making it difficult to determine the food cause without testing. With food sensitivities, symptoms are incredibly individual, and each person will manifest them differently. However, common food sensitivity symptoms include fatigue, digestive disturbances, chronic skin rashes, weight gain, headaches, joint pain, mood and memory disturbances, and behavioral problems.
Can you develop food intolerances and sensitivities later on in life? Food intolerances and sensitivities can develop at any point in life. A person who has never had any problems with food, may develop food reaction symptoms later on in life. Food intolerances and sensitivities can be triggered by many different factors. These factors include overconsumption of a particular food, genetic predisposition, poor digestion, environmental factors, and stress.
How can I get tested for food allergies and sensitivities? An allergist typically tests for food allergies, however here in BC naturopathic doctors are also licensed to test for these immediate immune reactions. To get an appointment with an allergist you will need a referral from your family doctor. An allergist will test for food allergies through a scratch test or blood test, which is covered through MSP. A naturopathic doctor on the other hand, uses blood testing only for food allergies, which may be covered through your extended health insurance.
Naturopathic physicians are the go-to health care providers for food sensitivity testing. The test involves a finger prick or blood draw. Once the blood sample is taken, the sample is sent to the lab for testing, and your naturopathic doctor (ND) will receive your results within 10-14 days. At this time you will be called to book a follow-up visit with your ND to discuss your results. The accredited medical laboratory company that I use for food sensitivity testing is Rocky Mountain Analytical www.rmalab.com.
What happens after I get my food sensitivity results? If you test positive for any food, taking those reactive foods out of your diet for 3-6 months is recommended. In my practice I give detailed handouts on alternatives to your food sensitivities to ensure that proper nutrition is maintained. I also recommend starting a probiotic to help heel the gut from damage created from years of eating those food culprits.
Overtime it is common that the foods that a person was once sensitive to become less reactive. At the 3-6 month mark, re-introduction of these foods will determine whether or not you will need to continue avoiding them, or are able to eat these foods in small amounts. This is different from a food allergy, where the offending food will have to be avoided long term (sometimes indefinitely).
What about celiac disease? Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine caused by eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, spelt, and kamut. Overtime, this immune reaction produces inflammation and damages the small intestinal cells which causes malabsorption of nutrients. The intestinal damage can cause weight loss, bloating and sometimes diarrhea. Anemia, loss of bone density, headaches and fatigue, joint pain, numbness and tingling, acid reflux and an itchy blistery skin rash (dermatitis herpetiformis) are other common symptoms. In children, malabsorption can affect growth and development. The intestinal irritation can cause stomach pain, especially after eating.
Your naturopathic physician or family doctor can test you for celiac disease. The blood test ordered is called tissue transglutaminase (ttg). If you have a positive ttg test, your doctor may refer you for a small intestinal biopsy to confirm the disease. The management of celiac disease involves strict life-long avoidance of gluten, and nutritional supplementation to heal the damaged intestinal lining.
What are the costs associated with food sensitivity testing through Dr. Stobbs? - Initial 1 hour naturopathic consultation - $165.00 ($140.00 for children) - 95 IgG Food Sensitivity Panel - $250.00 - 30 minute naturopathic follow-up to discuss results - $95.00 ($85.00 for children) - Additional follow-up visits may be recommended depending on patient case.
**Naturopathic consultations and testing fees may be covered under extended health care plans through your employer, please check with the details of your plan to see your level of coverage.**
About 2 years ago, I decided to check out the gluten free diet, to see what all the fuss was about. I don't have Celiac, I just wanted to experiment. The results surprised me (Read about it here) and I continued on the journey to healthy eating without gluten. Then June 22th this year, my husband and I flew to France for a 3 weeks well deserved holiday! My friends, my patients and my hubby kept asking me how I was going to survive being gluten free in the country of my ancestors. I mean, we're talking croissants, baguette, pastries, all gluten, all the time!
My decision was to enjoy everything, including the food, so I knew I would have to eventually experience lots of bloating, foggy head, headache, bowel issues, cystic acne and fatigue. I kept waiting for these symptoms to occur, but after 4 days, still nothing. After 2 weeks, no acne, no headache, no bloating, no fatigue. Our days consisted of croissants, fruits and coffee for breakfast, baguette and cheese with a salad for lunch, some hiking, walking, biking, kayaking or sitting by the water, and then afternoon pastries. We usually finished the day with a great dinner with bread, wine and more desserts!
What is going on here? Why is it that wheat in France didn't affect me as it does in Canada? I have talked to people about it and started researching the reason behind this mystery. Apparently Europe standards on GMOs and food additives are different than our North Americans. I found many articles like the one below, and finally shed a light on why so many people in north america have food sensitivities.
We need to demand better standards for ourselves and for our future generations. Eating organic and a wholesome diet may also help. Avoiding processed food at all cost, buying from local farmer's market, growing our own garden, and cooking our meals may, at least, keep us from some illnesses. If you have any comments, feel free to share.
I would venture to say that every human being on the planet knows what it is like to feel stressed. For some, it may be a few fleeting moments, triggered only perhaps by extreme circumstances. For the large majority of others, stress can be a lot more than just a passing feeling, and too often its left to get to the point where it can become incapacitating.
It’s pretty easy to say to someone “just relax”, or “don’t let yourself get stressed out about this”, and it would be hard to say something less helpful. Stress is a part of life. On a positive level, it allows us to identify when we may be in danger or threatened, and can help boost performance in response to a challenge. Of course the negative side is broad and multifaceted; in a constant state of stress our body defenses start to wear down, become less efficient in reacting to situations, and we just generally start to feel un-well.
It is extremely important to pay attention to your body and realize when stress could be causing you harm. Any physiological effect of stress (say a loss of appetite, nausea or diarrhea, disturbances in sleep, or feelings of tightness or flutters in the chest), is a pretty good indicator that stress is taking a toll and needs to be attended to. There are many many things you can do to combat stress and anxiety, what I generally tell my patients is to ensure they are taking time for themselves, pursuing the things they love to do, and seeking the therapies they find relax them and help them manage their stress.
One such therapy that is easy to take home with you is acupressure, and I’d like to point out three easy-to-locate pressure points that really help. These points can be used at your desk while taking a quick break from staring at your work, or leaning against a wall somewhere for a moment to yourself. The general method is to close your eyes, take a slow deep breath, and upon exhaling press the point. Repeat as necessary.
1st point – YINTANG – this is the sometimes called “3rd eye” point that is located on the forehead, dead centre between the inner edges of both eyebrows. There is usually a small bone depression at this point, and sometimes it can feel a bit sensitive. It is easy to know when you’re in the right spot, as the soothing effect is usually immediate. Wonderful for inducing a general calm state, it can also help relax a tired face and eyes, and may help quiet a stress headache.
2nd point – SHENMEN – also called “Heart 7”, this is the source point of the heart, which in Chinese Medicine is thought to govern the mind and spirit. Hold your hand in front of your face with your palm facing you. On your wrist, at the corner of your palm directly below the base of your little finger, you should be able to see or feel a ropey tendon. Place the thumb of your opposite hand on this tendon, and roll your thumb inwards on the wrist. As your thumb sinks into a soft spot, you’ve found the point. Because it goes to the heart, this point is very useful when stress is causing uncomfortable feelings or palpitations in the chest, and is highly effective in anxiety or panic attacks.
3rd point – NEIGUAN – also called “Pericardium 6”, this is a very versatile point that you may recognise from the travel bands people wear for motion sickness. This point is located about 3 finger breadths above the inner crease of the wrist, centred between two major tendons. Not nearly just for motion sickness, this point can be very useful when stress is causing any sort of digestive upset.
Our fantastic team of practitioners contribute to our blog articles. Together we aim to restore balance within the body, educate each patient and guide them on their journey to optimum health. Our clinic offers natural health for the entire family, from babies to older adults and everyone in between.
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