When food reactivity ails us
Increasing numbers of people are experiencing adverse reactions to food, may be self-diagnosing or paying for different types of testing and then being confused or overwhelmed by test results. Some people may end up eating a very limited variety of foods for too long, leading to nutritional deficiencies, leading to worse health outcomes, without the right intervention to improve food quality and digestive function. Others are struggling to plan and prepare meals to meet different dietary needs, especially challenging when you're feeding different people with different needs or preferences!
Without getting into too much detail, understand there is a difference between food allergies, food sensitivities, food intolerances and food aversions. It is best to consult with a medical expert if you have a food allergy that causes anaphylaxis, but we nutritionists are well placed to help with food sensitivities and food intolerances.
With food reactivity testing, food sensitivities refer to foods associated with elevated IgG antibodies produced as a delayed immune system response to a protein antigen (fragment of the food) in the blood stream. Unlike the relatively immediate allergic response, the IgG mediated response can present as symptoms 3 hours to 3 days later. The IgG antibodies bind with the antigen forming an immune complex, which can deposit in body tissues and persist long after the food exposure. One or more of many different tissue types can be affected, and symptoms manifest in different ways and are often not consistent.
Image credit: RN Labs
It is white blood cells that are needed to digest these foreign immune complexes. So with immune system overwhelm (think someone fighting another infection) or with immune insufficiency (low white blood cell production), these immune complexes can persist and cause ongoing tissue damage. Hence the connection with autoimmune disease.
Foods that are provoking high levels of inflammation should be avoided for a few weeks (4 weeks is usually advised) at least to allow the inflammatory antibody complexes to be digested. Food choice may be quite restricted during this time, and this is where help is often needed to know how to stay nourished with food choices available, needing good meal planning, and how to support the body’s recuperation. Then one follows a systematic reintroduction of one eliminated food at a time, while assessing if it provokes an adverse symptom. Adapting one’s eating habits around a 4-day food rotation then becomes a better health supporting strategy to avoid eating too much of the same food and often limited variety of food, but instead eating a more diverse and nutritious diet.
Food intolerances are NOT immune mediated i.e. will not show up with antibodies. Adverse symptoms may be felt when the amount eaten exceeds the body's capacity to metabolise the food chemicals, typically glutamates, amines, salicylates, fermentable carbohydrates, bran fibre, sulphur or chemical additives. A treatment approach here may include planning a nutritionally balanced elimination and/or rotation diet and supplementing with nutrients, minerals especially, that can help normalise cell metabolic processes.
It’s become an inconvenient truth that many forms of readily available food are not health-promoting: highly processed and made with synthetic additives to be shelf stable; fresh food lacking nutrients our bodies need, minerals in particular, as a result of modern agricultural farming practices, contamination with toxic chemical residues, degraded soil quality, early harvesting, long storage etc. Our bodies also suffer from stress from many other sources, with real adverse physiological consequences.
It’s become harder to be nourished by food unless you understand what may be ailing you and why, are willing and able to make changes, and have access to better food sources.
Someone like me is here to assist, to help with a holistic integrated health assessment, education and empowerment, with empathy. I DO know how hard it can be. Been there done that!