Do you suffer from seemingly random gastrointestinal problems, skin outbreaks, headaches, or joint pain? Has your doctor looked for a cause, only to come up empty? Rest assured, these mysterious symptoms aren’t all in your head. Instead, you may be suffering from a food sensitivity.
It’s estimated that at least 30 percent of Americans experienced some kind of food sensitivity during their lifetime. The most common symptoms include gastrointestinal upset, skin problems, or respiratory issues. But food sensitivities may also cause seemingly random health problems, including fatigue, mood swings, nervousness, and migraines. Clinical research suggests that the sensitivity to certain foods can also increase the severity of symptoms often experienced by those with rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, and other diseases normally not considered food related.
Uncovering a Food Sensitivity
Often times these symptoms can manifest hours or days after the food was ingested. This can make it difficult to pinpoint the offending food. Symptoms can include diarrhea, bloating, acid reflux, nausea, abdominal pain, rashes, headaches, runny nose, and/or fatigue.
To verify a food sensitivity you can get a highly sensitive blood test that measures the reaction of the immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies in your blood to a variety of foods. You can also do a DIY 30 day elimination diet. Elimination diets remove foods most commonly associated with sensitivities. Foods are then reintroduced one at a time while monitoring for symptoms.
Eliminate to Identify
An elimination diet is divided into an elimination phase and a reintroduction phase. For 30 days, you’ll stop eating any foods you suspect you may be sensitive too, as well as foods known to trigger sensitivities such as gluten, dairy, nightshade vegetables, and processed foods.
After 30 days, it’s time to reintroduce these potentially problematic foods, one at a time over two to three days, documenting any symptoms. While not all foods will cause symptoms, if you do experience a negative reaction, you have successfully identified a trigger food that should be removed from your diet. But be aware that it’s not uncommon to be sensitive to multiple foods.
Searching out and eliminating the foods causing your symptoms is a good first step. But, according to Canadian researchers from McMaster University, food sensitivities can damage your gastrointestinal tract over time, causing inflammation, disrupting the bacterial balance in your gut, and compromising the integrity of your intestinal barrier. The following supplements can help heal this hidden damage when paired with an elimination diet.
Curcumin: This anti-inflammatory compound derived from the Indian spice turmeric concentrates in the gastrointestinal tract where it reduces damaging inflammation and helps to maintain the integrity of your intestinal barrier. The problem is, standard curcumin supplements are very poorly absorbed by the body. To ensure you’re getting all of the gut-friendly benefits from your curcumin supplement, look for one that combines curcumin with turmeric essential oil (which is also a source of anti-inflammatory ar-turmerone). Listed on labels under the name BCM-95 or Curcugreen, this specially blended curcumin is considerably more absorbable and bioavailable. This means it remains in the bloodstream for a longer period of time, effectively decreasing sensitivity-induced damage.
Probiotics: A lack of bacterial diversity in the gut has been linked to the development of food sensitivities. For example, certain species of bacteria assist in the breakdown of gluten—and a lack of these may predispose you to a gluten sensitivity. Research suggests that two strains of Lactobacillus bacteria—L. plantarum and L. rhamnosus—can help lessen the sensitivity to lactose. But if you are predisposed to food sensitivities, don’t just settle for one strain of probiotic bacteria. Studies also show that supplementing with a multi-strain probiotic can contribute to a robust and diverse microbiome.
Probiotics work in several additional ways to reduce the damage caused by food sensitivities. They reduce intestinal permeability and modulate the immune response to trigger foods. Bolstering your beneficial bacteria through supplementation may also reduce damage by crowding out pathogenic bacteria and reducing intestinal inflammation.