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Diagnosing and Treating Food Sensitivities

It seems common now to hear the phrase “I can’t eat that. I’m allergic,” when out with friends and family. Although people have always had food allergies and sensitivities, the prevalence of negative food reactions has increased significantly over the past ten years. The major causes of negative food reactions are food quality, digestive health, stress, and individual nutritional status. As the food supply has changed and stress levels have increased, so have physical responses to food.

What are Food Sensitivities?

Food sensitivities are reactions to foods that are not life threatening, such as anaphylaxis, or as severe as hives and vomiting. Typically food sensitivities manifest as a headache, body pain, congestion, cough, abdominal bloating, change in bowels, change in mood, fatigue, or sleep disturbance. It is often very hard to correlate these symptoms with one particular food because, food sensitivities can appear anywhere from 1-72 hours after the aggravating food is consumed.

How Do You ‘Find’ Your Food Sensitivities?

Food sensitivities can be diagnosed through an elimination diet or by a specific blood test. I recommend a food sensitivity blood test because it is comprehensive and accurate. It is much easier to evaluate 100 different foods through a test versus food elimination. Food sensitivities can vary in severity and the test accounts for this by giving a range or degree of sensitivity to each food.

Why Are We So Sensitive to Food Now?

Our food supply has changed drastically over the past few decades with the introduction of new plant hybrids, genetically modified foods, food heavily laden with pesticides, and animals fed hormones and antibiotics. These changes in the basic plant structure and alterations with genetic modifications have affected the way we digest and process these foods. With regular and systemic use of pesticides, herbicides, hormones, and antibiotics, we now are also dealing with heavy toxin burden in our food, which affects our body’s reaction to those elements. To put it very simply, when we alter the natural structure of foods, we alter our own body systems through continuous ingestion. One of the most common results of these changes are food sensitivities and negative food reactions.

Can You Cure Food Sensitivities?

There are certain foods that one will always be inherently sensitive or allergic to. However, many food sensitivities are manifestations of poor digestive health, low quality food choices, nutritional status, high stress, and poor sleep. To rid the body of food sensitivities, one must improve digestion with the use of probiotics, digestion specific anti-inflammatories, agents that rebuild healthy digestive tissue, and digestive enzymes. Improving stress management skills and sleep quality will also decrease general inflammation in the body and improve digestion. Food quality plays a role in the increase of food sensitivities. Food choices that include genetically modified foods, bleached wheat, non-organic food, and prepared foods, will increase sensitivities. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and clean proteins will decrease negative food reactions.

Food sensitivities can be evaluated through a simple blood test and addressed with diet, lifestyle, and supplement modifications. Treating food sensitivities can take some time, however, the end result is a healthier body and better relationship with food.

Dr. Shannon Sinsheimer is a licensed naturopathic doctor at Optimal Health Center in Palm Desert and can be reached at (760) 568-2598.

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