As a dietitian practicing functional and integrated nutrition, I work with my clients helping them create whole body wellness. Health Body. Healthy Mind. Healthy Life. In order to reach this triad of health, there are certain tools that I use to start to peel back the layers of unwanted symptoms and ultimately get to the root of the problem, remove the top layer of the Band-Aid per say. The first tool I use is a food sensitivity test called the LEAP-MRT test. Numerous questions arise about food sensitivities when I start this journey with my clients, so I want to bring you a little insight to how food sensitivities can affect anyone at anytime in their life. I am often asked, “what causes food sensitivities, how did I end up with them? I eat super healthy, why did this happen?”
Food Sensitivities can lead to many different conditions…
There are a number of reasons why someone can develop food sensitivities. It can happen at ANY point in your lifetime, sometimes multiple times. I will list and explain 3 reasons that may be causing you to have food sensitivities.
First, let’s talk about what food sensitivity is. Food and food-chemical sensitivities are highly complex non-allergic (non-IgE), non-celiac inflammatory reactions to certain groups of foods or food chemicals, they can be either natural chemicals or artificial chemicals added to foods during food processing. These foods follow multiple inflammatory pathways and may be governed by either innate or adaptive immune mechanisms (the 2 types of immune responses). They’re one of the most important sources of inflammation and symptoms across a wide range of chronic inflammatory conditions. They are also one of the most clinically challenging. They are challenging because the reactions from these food and /or food chemicals do not happen right away, many of them present a delayed response up to 5 days AFTER you have eaten this food. Sometimes they are what I call dose related. If you overdose on a certain food and eat it every day for 5 days, you may have a reaction, however if you eat a certain food for only 2-3 days and give your body a break in between, you may not see a reaction.
Just a few examples of what reactions food can cause: fatigue, lethargy, needing to sleep after you have eaten; mood swings, depression, restlessness, headaches, migraines, joint pain, gas, bloating, and indigestion, just to name a few!
So how the heck does someone all of a sudden become sensitive to “healthy” foods you ask…. Read on.
1. The Food Industry
The production, distribution and sale of food today is a trillion dollar business. That being said, food is not grown, processed and distributed the way that it was 10, 15 years ago. Heck even 5 years ago for that matter. Foods are often grown in one place picked before they are ready to be picked, shipped to another location, sometimes across the country where they are then either partially or fully processed, then put in the store for you to eat. So… really do you think you are getting the healthiest food even from the grocery stores?? When you buy them in the store, they appear to the eye that they are ripe, but the chemistry that makes that food so nutritious (when let to become fully ripened) is lacking. Our bodies are not used to processing the chemical change within an apple for example. Our body does not recognize this as an apple, it may recognize part of it, but the other it says “I don’t like this”.
Just as a side note… the chemicals that are not legal here in the US to use when growing food are being used in other parts of the country to grow the foods that are being shipped over here, processed and sold for our consumption. As a result, we are eating foods loaded with chemicals that we know are not good for our health.
2. Food Additives and Preservatives
There are a number of food chemicals and additives that are added to food to extend their shelf life, increase color and taste. These are often added because fruits and vegetables especially are picked too early in the growing process and therefore ARE nutritionally deficient, but the food industry doesn’t want you to think they are. We eat with our eyes.
Does the term GRAS ring a bell? If not, then it will in the future because I am going to tell you what it means. Generally Recognized As Safe. According to the FDA’s definition which states: Under sections 201(s) and 409 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act), any substance that is intentionally added to food is a food additive, that is subject to premarket review and approval by FDA, unless the substance is generally recognized, among qualified experts, as having been adequately shown to be safe under the conditions of its intended use, or unless the use of the substance is otherwise excluded from the definition of a food additive.
So that pretty much states that the government thinks its safe for human consumption… keep in mind that there usually have not been enough or even a single study on these additives showing if they are actually safe for long term consumption. For me…. That’s a huge problem. Basically they are saying, well it doesn’t seem to cause harm so we’ll add it to your food and see what happens.
I will say that since working in private practice one of top things that bother people and cause all kinds of issues in the body- additives that are GRAS. Just sayin’. It’s something to think about.
The term Food Additive is defined by WHO (World Health Organization) states: Food additives are substances that are added to food or animal feed during processing or storage. They include antioxidants, preservatives, coloring and flavoring agents, and anti-infective agents. Most food additives have little or no nutritional value.
So remember how I said earlier that we eat with our eyes?? Yes- your food may present itself as looking so good you can eat it (Ha!) but it’s probably not the best thing for you. Check your food labels for additives. My rule of thumb, if you cannot pronounce the ingredient(s) in a product you want to buy, put it back on the shelf, please!
The food industry has continued to increase the types and quantity of food additives used in the manufacture of food today. Chemicals are poisonous to our bodies; affect the chemical systems in our bodies which in turn create food sensitivities.
3. Parasitic Infections, Candida, and Leaky Gut
Many people today are carrying around friends in their bellies. I use the term parasite to include worms, viruses, and infectious bacteria which can come in the form the food we eat, the water we drink, the environment that we are touching constantly and then touching our food, face, etc. Let’s just say you can get them from anywhere. These little guys can cause so much dysfunction in the body you would not believe. They will first start in your gut and cause malabsorption, they will either eat everything you are eating and not pass any on to you or they will just make you poop it all out. These guys can be very dangerous. Understand that they can also hide in your intestinal walls and sleep for a number of years before they decide they want to make their presence known. These parasites affect the functioning of the immune system since it tries so hard to eliminate these infections. As a result the immune system weakens and weakens. Then to add more fuel to the fire, you take antibiotics which strips your gut of everything- good and bad bacteria and the majority of the time, they are unable to complete kill these bugs leaving the spores to hide out in the walls of your belly. Sounds fun right? This leads to the vicious cycle of them going dormant (falling asleep) and then waking up again, this can go on your entire life believe it or not.
These infections cause damage to your intestines which is where your immune system starts- so it needs to be clean and free of all bugs. When you have bugs, you have an extremely weak immune system and food sensitivities.
Then we have Candida, which starts when you are on too many antibiotics, too often. This is why I preach to my patients that they NEED to be on a probitoic EVERYDAY. Candida is an overgrowth of yeast that starts in your gut. As I mentioned before antibiotics are unable to keep the good bacteria and shed the bad, so you end up with no protection. Taking probitoics can really help you especially during the time you are taking antibiotics.
Candida overgrowth creates chemical imbalances in your entire body starting in the gut. It leaves you vulnerable to catch many of the infectious bacteria and viruses and you end up with many colds, the flu and then begin to suffer certain type’s ailments nobody seems able to diagnose, often feeling so fatigued and listless, with swollen and painful joints and muscles. Candida is no joke my friend.
Both Parasites and Candida lead to leaky gut. Literally your gut leaks particles of foods into your body cavity causing joint pain, swollen joints, headaches, backache, and the list goes on…
These 3 things are not the only thing that can cause a person to become sensitive to foods, but these are the ones that I see most often causing problems with food. If you suspect that you may have something going on in your belly or you are finding that certain foods bother you, you may want to have it checked out.
That being said- GI doctors and other wonderful Physicians ( and yes they are wonderful we need them FOR SURE!) they are not going to look for these types of problems connected with food because they did not learn about that in medical school, plain and simple. Some of them will tell you that and refer you to a dietitian who practices functional nutrition like myself but others will just do general testing (most of the time this doesn’t catch the root of the problem) and then say your find and send you on your way. That leaves you feeling crazy and helpless…. Trust me, I’ve been there, I have had 2 parasites, leaky gut, I have celiac and food sensitivities, that is why I do what I do for a living today. I believe that educating people about this is SO very important, my natural doctor saved my life and now I am dedicated to helping others feel better!
If you would like to get tested and see what’s bugging you, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me, I have a virtual practice so distance is not an issue. I would LOVE to help you on your journey to wellness!
Cheers to Food Sensitive people!
Colleen M. McCarthy RD, LD, CLT is a registered and licensed dietitian. Colleen holds a Bachelor of Arts in dance, a Bachelor of Science in dietetics and is a Certified LEAP Therapist. She specializes in clinical nutrition food sensitivities and sports/ wellness nutrition. Colleen is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Georgia Chapter of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Gluten Intolerance Group, Celiac Disease Foundation ,Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine, Dietitians in Nutrition Support,& International Association for Dance Medicine and Science. Food sensitivity detection and nutrition lifestyle coaching are Colleen’s specialties, as well as working with athletes with food sensitivities.
She is living with celiac disease herself, so she knows the frustrations of doctors’ appointment after doctors appointments, getting nowhere and just wanting to feel better. She is also a current freelance professional dancer and knows the value of proper nutrition to increase endurance and performance. In her free time, Colleen loves listening to music, going to see live music, dancing, Pilates, Yoga, shopping, spending time with her new nephew and being with friends and family. To learn more about Colleen, nutrition, and dietetics, reach out to her at Colleen@onpointenutrition.com or visit www.onpointenutrition.com