Food allergies and sensitivities are rising exponentially across populations of people including children. Many of us have now become familiar with rising incidences of hives, seasonal allergies, asthma and other chronic conditions like digestive issues, eczema and other skin conditions, asthma, headaches, chronic diarrhea or constipation. Children are being increasingly diagnosed with lactose and even gluten intolerance and are increasingly prone to allergies, asthma and eczema. in India, while I was growing up, there were a only a handful of my people in my circle of family and friends who had any kind of allergies and food intolerances. Now, babies and children are being increasingly diagnosed with allergies to various foods as well as asthma and eczema. Even adults are increasingly being diagnosed and suffering from allergies, digestive issues like bloating, constipation or diarrhea.
In my personal experience, my daughter was a lactose intolerant baby who went on to develop severe eczema. It was a long and hard road for us as her eczema became very severe and her health deteriorated even under the influence of severe medications. It was through dietary and lifestyle interventions with the help of Functional Medicine treatment that we treated the root cause and healed her. You can read about our journey here.
For most of us dealing with symptoms related to eating certain foods like nuts, shellfish etc we can quickly and usually easily connect the dots as far as food allergies are concerned. This is because the response is immediate and in most cases quite acute and obvious in the form of hives, sneezing, wheezing and may even need immediate hospitalisation in some cases. The type of antibodies involved in food allergies is called IgE or Immunoglobulin E and the regular allergy tests usually measure this type of antibodies. This rising incidence of food allergies are being explained by science due to rising levels of air pollution, increasing exposure to toxic chemicals, along with poor diet, lack of exercise and increased stress.
Food sensitivities and intolerances
Food sensitivities on the other hand are more difficult to detect and diagnose because it triggers a delayed reaction in the body which can be anywhere from 12 to 72 hours after an exposure to the allergic food or substance. This makes it more difficult to diagnose and the problem is that you most likely eat a wide range of foods in the time it takes for the symptoms to appear, making it difficult to spot the connection between the foods that you are eating and your symptoms. This ongoing exposure to various foods can cause inflammation in the gut, activate the immune system and eventually cause chronic inflammation. Hidden food sensitivities can be behind many symptoms like
● Joint pain
● Headaches and migraines
● Eczema and rashes
● Stomach aches and pains
● Constipation or diarrhea
● Acid reflux
● Constipation or diarrhea
● Sugar cravings
● Behavioural learning problems especially in children
Food intolerances usually occur when the body is unable to digest certain foods (such as dairy, artificial food dyes, artificial sweeteners, MSG) or when your digestive system becomes irritated by them. Enzyme deficiencies are usually the cause in many cases of food intolerances.
“Disease begins in the gut” (and so does good health)
Research is now showing that what Hippocrates had said nearly 2500 years ago is completely true “All disease begins in the gut”.
There are trillions of commensal bacteria in our gut (large intestine) and whose health is crucial for optimal gut health. These bacteria along with other microorganisms are collectively called our “microbiome” and is directly responsible for our weight, health and disease. Also, it is now known that your gut wall houses 70% of the cells that make up your immune system. Thus, many diseases which are seemingly unrelated can be actually caused by gut problems.
An emerging body of research shows that any alterations in this microbiome plays an important role in the development of food allergies and sensitivities. Once there is an imbalance in the number of beneficial bacteria, it can impair immune tolerance in allergic sensitisation or food sensitivities. Hence, improving your gut health is paramount for your overall health.
What imbalances our gut health?
There are many reasons why our gut health can become compromised but the most common triggers usually are
● Poor diet- this leads to proliferation of the non beneficial bacteria and yeast leading to a compromised gut
● Infections and imbalances- these include SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth), parasites and yeast infections
● Inadequate digestive enzymes- many medications, stress and deficiencies can lead to deficiency of digestive enzymes leading to digestive issues and poor gut health
● Antibiotics and other medications like NSAID- these medications have been shown to alter the gut health in adverse ways
● Chronic stress- this can alter the bacterial composition, contribute to deficiency in digestive enzymes and lead to poor gut health
Food remains the most important piece in the puzzle and the first step towards improving our gut health. By eliminating certain trigger foods which are causing your symptoms and then adding foods like fibre rich vegetables, low sugar fruits and non processed and whole grains, you can begin working on healing your gut. The top inflammatory trigger foods for most people are gluten (wheat, rye, barley, suji, couscous) and dairy (milk, cheese, paneer, dahi) and others like eggs, corn, yeast, soy etc. The best way to discover your food sensitivities is to complete an elimination diet where you take out the most common inflammatory foods like for a while and then add them back to your diet one a time to see if you have a reaction.
For this reason, elimination diet remains a cornerstone in my practice of guiding my clients towards better health. I find that doing this in a close group works really well. Following this diet as a part of a group provides a sense of community which gives a sense of accountability and the support required to sustain this diet.
In this post I focus on foods that one needs to look out for as well as the foods which are instrumental in healing the gut. In my practice I focus on all the other aspects of healing like social connections, toxin exposure, deficiency in enzymes, dealing with chronic stress etc.
If you would like to know more about the elimination diet and/or enroll for the next batch in August/September please mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org; alternatively you can visit my website aninditarungta.com to know more and connect with me.
The top anti inflammatory foods that help with the healing process are
● All nuts (except peanuts) and seeds- Almonds, walnuts, pistachio, cashews etc and seeds like sunflower, pumpkin are rich in protein, calcium, magnesium, and good quality fats. Almonds and walnuts also lower cholesterol and keep our energy steady. Sunflower and pumpkin seeds are rich in healthy oils, protein, zinc, and numerous other minerals as well.
● Meat and fish: fresh mutton, fish, chicken provide good quality protein when cooked in a healthy manner; vegetarians can get their share of proteins from legumes, nuts and seeds
● Vegetables- all are acceptable on this diet (except nightshades); dark leafy greens (spinach, methi, kale) and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, bok choy) should be a regular part of the vegetables one consumes
● Whole grains: gluten free grains like rice, millet (jowar, nachni, bajra and others), quinoa provide us with many nutrients like B vitamins as well as fibre for healthy elimination.
● Healthy Fats/oils: extra virgin olive oil, organic and cold pressed coconut oil, sesame oil or ghee provide us with healthy fuel to produce energy. For eg. Olive oil keeps the cholesterol and blood pressure healthy
● Legumes: all lentils (daals), kabuli chana, rajma are very nutritious and contain both proteins and carbohydrates
● Fruits: all fruits (except citrus for some) are allowed especially berries (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries) which are highly nutritious; but this list will need to be customised if you have problems with chronic yeast or fungal infections, or diabetes/metabolic syndrome
● Spices: all spices, including Indian spices like cinnamon, cardamom, turmeric are excellent to include since many improve digestion and metabolism
Food can be both problematic or healing depending on how you handle it. When you learn to identify the foods that are good for you and crowd out the ones which are a problem, you are on your way towards creating health.
As you learn to love and have foods which are good for you, you start seeing the results- losing excess weight, eliminating aches and pains and increase in energy levels.
Workshop “Healing starts in the gut”
Would you like to know more about
● How to reduce and avoid bloating
● Allergies and food sensitivities and how they affect your health
● Anti inflammatory foods and their role in the healing process
Then come and join us for an exclusive 2 hour workshop on healthy eating “Healing starts in the gut” in July/August by clicking here.
Book a free 30 minutes “discovery session” today!
If you would like to get started on your healing journey and
● Feel more energetic and motivated
● Get rid of your digestive issues like bloating, constipation, diarrhea
● Fall asleep easily and wake up refreshed
● End the confusion about which “diet” to follow and learn to eat foods which are good for YOU
Please sign up for a free 30 minutes phone consultation for a “discovery session” by clicking on the link here.
About the author
Anindita is India’s first certified Functional Medicine Health Coach from the US-based Functional Medicine Coaching Academy (FMCA). She is also a first-time author and has written a book called “I have eczema…so what?” for families and children dealing with eczema. She writes a blog called “eczema-anindianperspective.com” where she shares information and also provides a form of support to others suffering from eczema. She currently has her own coaching practice and is also a Health Coach at Dr Amrita Talwar’s clinic in Mumbai, who is her co-author and her daughter’s dermatologist. You can reach her at email@example.com and get to know more about the work she does at aninditarungta.com”