Do you ever feel terrible after you eat certain foods?
Maybe some food makes you feel tired, or bloated (that’s a common one), or just give you an upset stomach.
It also might be possible you notice things not at all connected to your digestive system when you eat certain foods. Things like itchy skin, or brain fog, or joint pain.
The list is endless, but foods can affect us in very powerful ways.
There are a few reasons some foods make us feel not-so-great, and I wanted to share them with you today.
Because if you’re just feeling “off”, it’s possible that specific foods may be to blame.
Today I want to talk about food sensitivities. These are actually incredibly common, most of us have at least a few of them, and they can be very hard to pin down.
Before I dive into food sensitivities, let’s clarify how they are different from a couple of things.
Lactose intolerance is not a food sensitivity. In lactose intolerance, people are missing the lactase enzyme that breaks down lactose, which is found in dairy products. This means that if you have lactose intolerance and you eat dairy, you will generally suffer from some digestive upsets (nausea, diarrhea, bloating, gas, etc.).
I’m sure you know someone with a food allergy. Maybe to peanut or shellfish?
Food allergies are caused by an immune reaction in the body that is connected to Immunoglobulin E (IgE).
IgE can cause a significant inflammatory reaction pretty quickly. Not all IgE reactions are anaphylactic, but think of your stereotypical anaphylactic reaction. Your lips and throat may swell, your skin might develop hives which are swollen and red and itchy. The swelling in and around the airway in an anaphylactic reaction is what is most concerning, and this is why people carry EpiPens.
What exactly are food sensitivities?
Food sensitivities are also an immune reaction in the body to certain foods, but it’s an Immunoglobulin G (IgG) reaction compared to the IgE reaction seen in food allergies (or other allergies).
IgG also causes inflammation, but it can happen anywhere in the body, and it doesn’t necessarily happen immediately.
Let me tell you a couple of stories.
I have a few food sensitivities. I don’t feel great when I eat too much wheat. I used to have bad eczema on my hands, and I figured out that one of the triggers for it was actually almonds. Almonds are a perfectly healthy food, but my hands get really itchy when I eat too many almonds.
I have seen a LOT of food sensitivities in people, particularly when I was practicing as an ND. One woman I worked with came in suffering from debilitating nausea and occasional vomiting, and none of her doctors could figure out what was going on. We identified that she had a food sensitivity to potatoes and avoiding those completely cured her nausea and vomiting.
What Are The Most Common Food Sensitivities?
In theory, any food can trigger a food sensitivity, but the most common ones tend to be:
- Wheat and/or gluten
What Symptoms Do Food Sensitivities Cause?
This list is very long. Essentially any symptom you can think of could be triggered by food. Some of the most common symptoms are:
- Congestion or sinus infections
- Digestive complaints of all sorts – bloating, constipation, loose stools, indigestion, heartburn, IBS, IBD
- Asthma and allergies
- Skin conditions – eczema, psoriasis, acne, rosacea
- Mood changes, including depression and anxiety
- And more!
What Causes Food Sensitivities?
We don’t really know, but there are a few different theories.
- The food we eat today looks looks very different than the food our great grandparents ate, and our bodies don’t recognize them. Because they don’t recognize them, they think they’re a foreign object, and mount an immune response against them.
- There is a possibility that they are triggered by dysbiosis (the wrong bacteria growing in the wrong place in the body). There are a lot of things we rely on the bacteria in our gut for, and properly digesting food is one of them.
- Leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut is caused when there is inflammation in the digestive tract, and it causes some of these proteins to get into the blood stream where they shouldn’t. From there, the body recognizes those as foreign, and again creates an immune response. Inflammation in the digestive tract can come from chronic inflammation, from stress, or even from dysbiosis.
How Do You Figure Out What Your Food Sensitivities Are?
The first step is awareness. If you have some uncomfortable symptoms you’re experiencing, keep a journal or a diary about them for a couple of weeks. Make sure to track what you’re experiencing, when you’re experiencing it, and how long the symptoms last.
At the same time, track what you’re eating. You might find that on days when you eat more bread than normal, your heartburn might be worse. Once you start tracking and observing, you can start to notice patterns.
The next step is an elimination diet. If you think you don’t do well when you eat dairy, cut all dairy out of your diet for at least a week or two, and see how you feel. Then you’ll want to reintroduce dairy and see how you feel. If you are sensitive to a food, cutting it out will make you feel better, and bringing it back in will typically aggravate your symptoms, and they usually are worse than before.
Do Food Sensitivities Impact Sleep?
food sensitivities can cause almost any symptom you can imagine. Which means that they absolutely can impact your sleep.
Sometimes that’s directly, due to the fact that you’re experiencing heartburn, or your skin might be itchy. But if the foods are aggravating symptoms of anxiety or depression, those can make insomnia and sleep challenges worse.
If you are experiencing sleep issues, food sensitivities could be something to consider. But before you jump to figuring those out, book a sleep assessment call here. I can help you figure out if food sensitivities is where you should be putting your effort, or if you should be starting somewhere else to figure out your sleep challenges.