If you’re dealing with gut symptoms it’s likely that you’re also struggling with healing any food sensitivities that may have popped up.
You’re not alone in this. Food sensitivities are an extremely common complaint whenever there is any sort of gut infection or imbalance going on.
But don’t worry, you don’t have to be stuck avoiding your favorite foods and surviving on a restricted diet forever! There are some simple steps you can take to heal your food sensitivities now and keep them away in the future.
In this blog post, we’re going to dive into all things food sensitivities. This is so you can understand what they are, why they happen, and how you can take actionable steps to correct them.
So if you’re ready to learn how to heal your food sensitivities and start eating more foods, let’s get to it!
Difference Between Food Sensitivities and Food Allergies
Before we dive into all the details about food sensitivities, let’s clear up a common misconception that arises whenever I talk about food sensitivities.
Food sensitivities and food allergies are two completely different things. Your body views them differently, and how you react to and work on addressing them is different too.
Both reactions to food ARE brought about by your body’s immune system. Your immune system’s job is to attack foreign invaders and eliminate them from your body to keep you healthy. And when your body attacks food proteins, it’s really just trying to do its job, it just gets a little confused.
The difference between a sensitivity and an allergy, though, stems from the type of antibody that gets released when your body senses a food it’s not too happy with.
When these antibodies find the food they’re programmed to not agree with, they build up and attack it. This creates a negative response in your body and you experience the symptoms of your allergy or sensitivity.
In the case of a food allergy, that response is likely going to be immediate and severe – think anaphylaxis or hives.
But with a food sensitivity, you may have a delayed reaction – something like a stomach ache a few hours after eating, or a headache the next day. Or you may have no response at all to that food you’re sensitive to, which is where things get tricky.
Either way, avoidance of the offending food will eliminate your immune response to it, and reduce your symptoms along with the overall inflammatory burden in your body.
Why We Want to Start Healing Food Sensitivities
Not being able to tolerate a certain food isn’t something we want to just live with. Even if you can deal with the consequences of eating a food you’re sensitive to, the underlying effects of continue to subject your body to that food just isn’t worth it.
Food sensitivities create underlying, systemic inflammation and can really put a damper on any healing that you’re trying to accomplish. Basically, having food sensitivities makes it more difficult for your gut to heal and for you to feel better long-term.
If we looked at the small intestine of someone without food sensitivities, we’d see lots of finger-like projections called villi. These villi serve the ever-important purpose of increasing the surface area of your small intestine so that you can absorb and reap the benefits of all the food that passes through.
In the absence of food sensitivities, your gut has no issues digesting food, there’s no inflammation present, and your gut is able to mount a strong immune response to any pathogens it comes across because it isn’t busy fighting something else (food).
But, if we took a peek at the small intestine of someone with food sensitivities, we’d find a lot of healing opportunities.
The villi in a gut impacted by food sensitivities will be blunted and have reduced surface area compared to a healthy gut. This results in poor digestion, and often nutrient deficiencies in the person it’s affecting.
Food sensitivities also create a perfect environment for leaky gut to pop up, and they make your gut so much more susceptible to infection (because your immune system is already busy fighting off the food it thinks doesn’t belong).
Basically, if you’re dealing with food sensitivities, you’re left with a gut that:
- doesn’t absorb nutrients from the food you’re eating, making you feel tired, worn down, and undernourished
- is leaky and not functioning well, leading to systemic inflammation, more food sensitivities, and brain fog
- is more susceptible to infection, making it harder to completely heal from any current overgrowths.
The moral of the story is: food sensitivities are something we want to address and heal ASAP.
They’re either a cause of your health problems or a result of them.
And either way, removing any offending foods gives your body a lot more breathing room and helps clear the path for true healing.
4 Steps to Healing Your Food Sensitivities
Ok, now onto the good stuff – the four steps to healing your food sensitivities.
Let me just preface this by saying that these steps look simple, but there is so much behind-the-scenes work that needs to take place to make moving through these steps possible.
But if you’re committed and ready to make big changes in your health and finally start feeling better, these steps are for you!
Step 1: Determine What Foods You’re Sensitive To
In this step, you have two options to determine what foods you’re sensitive to: take a food sensitivity test like the MRT, or keep a food journal.
The MRT (Mediator Release Test) by Oxford Biomedical is an awesome way to concretely determine which foods are causing an immune response in your body.
How this test works is that the lab takes your blood and mixes in a bit of each of the 170 foods they test for. If your white blood cells release a mediator (like they do when they come in contact with foods they perceive as foreign invaders) the volume of the blood being tested will change ever so slightly. This slight change in volume is what the lab uses to quantify the degree to which your body is sensitive to each food.
The great thing about this test is that you don’t need to be actively eating the food for the test to be accurate. So, if you’re pretty sure you’re sensitive to wheat, you don’t need to start eating wheat again to still get an accurate result.
This test is also great because in some cases, you may not have any symptoms, or your symptoms might be severely delayed, even when you are sensitive to a food. This makes it extremely difficult to pick out your food sensitivities by observing and recording symptoms alone.
Working with a functional practitioner, like me, is the best way to run an MRT test and get some guidance on how to proceed once you have the results. To get started, just fill out this quick application and if it looks like you’re a good fit for my practice I’ll be in touch to schedule a free Discovery Call to get started.
But, if you have pretty strong reactions to foods and you think you can accurately determine your food sensitivities by keeping a food journal, by all means, go for it!
You’ll have to track what you eat and how you feel for a few days to weeks in order to get accurate results. And eating similar foods each day while only changing out one or two things can help make your experiment go a little faster.
Step 2: Eliminate Reactive Foods for at Least 90 Days
Now that you’ve figured out which foods your body isn’t fond of at the moment, it’s time to eliminate them from your diet for at least 90 days.
I know, I know, this seems like an eternity, especially if the foods you need to eliminate are some of your favorites.
But trust me on this one, if you go all in and strictly avoid these reactive foods, it’s possible that you’ll start seeing improvements in your symptoms in just a few weeks.
Eliminating foods for this length of time enables the inflammatory burden in your body to decrease, and you give your body a little breathing room and space to work on healing other things, not just fighting off what it sees as dangerous food particles.
The most important thing to keep in mind during this step of the process is that you NEED to be eating enough food. This can be difficult especially if you had a lot of foods show up on your reactive list.
Working with a practitioner who can help guide you through this process and make sure you’re getting enough quality nutrition and calories all while helping your body heal and regain some of its vitality.
Step 3: Work on Gut Healing
And don’t worry, those 90 days aren’t just spent avoiding a list of foods. During this time, we also need to do some serious work on identifying and treating any underlying gut infections that were either causing your food sensitivities or as a result of them.
Some surefire gut-healing supplements to add to this step of your food sensitivity healing journey are things like:
Starting with these key supplements, and then getting testing done with a practitioner to ID any gut infections or other deficiencies will be a winning combination to get to the root of your gut issues and make Step 4 super successful.
Step 4: Retest or Reintroduce Foods and Monitor for Reactions
This is the step you’ve been waiting for! After doing all the hard work in steps 1-3, this step is where you get to reap all the benefits.
By this time, you should be feeling SO MUCH better. Between eliminating the foods your body was reacting to and healing any gut infections and deficiencies, your gut symptoms should be at a minimum. So exciting!
And, knowing that elimination diets aren’t mean to be forever, this is the perfect time to finally reintroduce those restricted foods.
To start this process, you can either retest using the MRT again, or just start introducing foods one at a time, giving a few days in between new foods and monitoring for reactions.
Either method will be effective, it just depends on your goals, your budget, and how quickly you want to get back to eating a varied diet again.
Working with a practitioner can be helpful to guide you towards the reintroduction method that is right for you. To team up with me, just fill out this quick application and if it looks like you’re a good fit for my practice I’ll be in touch to schedule a free Discovery Call to get started!
But either way, you’ve done the hard work, and now you get to eat your favorite foods again, but this time without symptoms!