Why your doctor is wrong about your food sensitivity
By Dr. Sarika Arora, MD
I had a patient who went to her regular doctor complaining of gas, bloating, loose
stools and discomfort during a stressful time in her life.
Unfortunately, like most conventionally-trained doctors, he lacked knowledge about
digestion. He told her she was eating too fast, not properly chewing her food and
swallowing too much air. He prescribed her Gas-X and sent her home.
Too many women receive the same well-intentioned but ineffective advice from their
doctors. In fact, most women have
digestive problems, and many of them have a food sensitivity. Besides the
unpleasant symptoms, a food sensitivity left untreated is a serious health problem
over time. So here’s what you need to know before you fall into the “just take an
What foods can cause an allergy or a sensitivity?
Any food can cause an allergy or a sensitivity, especially if it is something you
eat a lot of. In fact, a common question I ask women with suspicious symptoms is:
What is your favorite food or the food you can’t live without? This usually
provides insight into possible causes for their symptoms.
There are several common food offenders, including:
- Peanuts or tree nuts
The next step in my diagnosis is to determine whether we’re dealing with an allergy
or a sensitivity. They have certain features in common, but the differences are
vital in treatment.
Is it a food allergy or food sensitivity?
Both allergies and sensitivities invoke an immune response in the body, but here’s
how they are different:
- An allergic response likely involves a more immediate
reaction (within minutes or hours). This reaction might include hives, eczema, itchiness
around the mouth or ears, nausea, diarrhea or stomach pain, a runny nose and/or
cough. More severe symptoms might involve swelling of the throat, tongue, or lips;
a drop in blood pressure; or shortness of breath. An allergic reaction is often
mediated by the antibody known as IgE and the compound histamine. All severe anaphylactic
reactions are allergies of this type.
- A food sensitivity happens when your body doesn’t
digest certain foods well and bits of the food compounds “leak” into your circulation.
These food complexes are seen as foreign objects in the body and also cause an immune
Yet, this response is typically mediated by antibodies known as IgG or IgA that
form complexes with the food or substance they are “fighting.” These immune complexes
can be deposited in the gut (or joints or blood vessels) and over time lead to more
intense symptoms and even cravings for more of the food that is making you sick.
Symptoms of a food sensitivity include:
- Joint pain
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Loose stools
- Brain fog
How can food sensitivities lead to bigger problems?
Depending on many factors — toxic load, your genes, your environment and more —
you may be more or less sensitive to some foods than others.
The trouble is that because the immune response associated with a food sensitivity
is often “quiet” compared to the severe swelling, redness, rash, etc. that we see
with a full-blown allergy, food sensitivities can go on for years before we recognize
there is a problem.
This means that your immune system is quietly simmering away without a real injury
or allergy to contend with. A long-term immune reaction is one of the basic forms
of chronic inflammation.
Long-term effects of inflammation
Persistent low-grade inflammation drains the body and produces a persistent flow
of inflammatory markers, which can cause damage to the body over time and contribute
Chronic inflammation has been proven to be a key factor in virtually every life-threatening
disease, including cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, heart disease and more.
How to take matters into your own hands
Many conventional doctors were not trained in nutrition or digestion, including
the diagnosis and treatment of food sensitivities. When medical school curriculums
do cover digestive problems, they focus primarily on food allergies.
You can begin to pay attention to your symptoms and which foods cause them by keeping
a food diary. Write down everything you eat for a week and any symptoms you may
be experiencing. Keep in mind that symptoms may not appear for 24 to 72 hours after
a meal — that’s why the diary is so important.
Pretty soon you’ll see some patterns. Eliminating the food or foods that cause symptoms,
healing the gut and slowly reintroducing foods can make a world of difference. This
“elimination diet” works both
diagnostically and therapeutically.