Food, Part 2

Have you ever noticed that you don’t feel good after eating certain foods? So, what is going on in the body, and what is causing the uncomfortable reaction? Surprisingly, there are several possibilities, and the way we think or speak about them often becomes confusing, contradictory, or simply incorrect.

The four main reactions are labeled as Intolerance, Allergy, Sensitivity and Lectin Response. When you feel unwell after eating, one of these four things is likely happening. Sometimes we lay the blame on the wrong category--and thereby treat the issue incompletely or incorrectly.

Of the four types, three of them are an acquired type of response: allergy, sensitivity and lectin reactivity. That leaves intolerance as the only one that we are born with and receive genetically.

It should be clarified that there is some “grey area” when it comes to allergies. An anaphylaxis response (the reason to carry an EpiPen or go to the emergency room) is not to be taken lightly or challenged. These could be life threatening. Are they genetic, or actually acquired at a young age? I’m going to leave that one to the geneticists and immune experts.

In general, an allergy response is the immune system responding or reacting to either a chronic or acute exposure. Allergies can develop, and they can also go away. The tests that are used to measure the response are based on IgE or IgA (Immunoglobulin E or A) antibodies that are released from the immune system in reaction to the exposure. The exposure can be the well-known “seasonal allergies” (a.k.a. environmental allergies) or food allergies. The foods, even the pollen, should not cause a deep reaction in the body. They are not a threat, though the body perceives it as one. If we are able to lower the immune response, the body relaxes and the threat diminishes.

Food sensitivity is an IgG response. Just like IgE/A, the immune system releases antibodies in reaction to an exposure. However, it neither fits into the category of intolerance or allergy, so we call it sensitivity. But it also can be acquired; therefore it should be a bodily response that can be resolved as well.

Lectin reactivity, although considered to be an acquired response, also sits in that grey area. This has also become known as the “Blood Type Diet”, based on certain foods not reacting well with various blood types. This makes it somewhat genetically based.

Then there is food intolerance. It is an elemental form of reaction in the body: a constitutional and usually inherited inability to digest a certain food. An enzyme or enzymatic process is missing, or not working.

A more well-known but somewhat superficial intolerance is dairy, where an enzyme is missing in the digestive tract to break down lactose. I am, however, referring to a deeper process happening in a body. This intolerance affects the blood, and sometimes further, into organs or systems that seem to have no connection with the digestive tract. Intolerances build up inflammation in the blood, which collectively over time can introduce varied diseases.

To continue our example of lactose intolerance, some may experience digestive discomfort but not be completely dairy intolerant. No amount of digestive enzymes or lactose-free foods would help a person who is truly dairy intolerant. Neither can be “cured”; but a dairy intolerance is more than superficial symptoms--it affects the blood and the whole person. A person who is dairy intolerant can only solve this issue by completely removing dairy from his or her diet.

The complexity (and vagueness) of food labeling laws in the United States, make intolerances difficult to figure out. Unexpected ingredients are hidden within another ingredient, making food labels anything but transparent and creating a maze to navigate in discerning what the root cause of the issue could be. But please don’t despair! There are ways to identify the culprit and, once identified, ways of eating that will allow you to eliminate that ingredient. It can be done!  Yes, challenging at first, as you rework your diet, but your resulting vibrant health will be worth it.

Want to discuss these topics further, and find out how you can get the answers you need?  Contact my office for an appointment and I’ll be happy to help you navigate your way to renewed health and vigor.