The wake-up call comes in many different forms. An out-of-breath feeling after five minutes of playing catch with your son. An earthquake of a heartbeat after climbing just one flight of stairs. A wedding dress, or suit, that seems impossible to squeeze into. Whatever the reason, a decision was made: “I need to lose this weight. For my health, for my family, for my future.”
The first steps are obvious: no more McDonalds, drink lots of water, eat your veggies, exercise regularly. When progress is illusive, frustration sets in. Why isn’t this working? Why do I still feel so tired and sluggish? Doubling down on the effort, more veggies, grains and healthy foods are consumed. Still, no progress.
Dr. Mehr Torkaman - a Naturopath at CIMED Integrative Medical Center - says that one potential reason for this frustrating lack of progress despite a consistent effort is a surprising one: healthy foods - as common as corn, lettuce, tomatoes or apples - may be wreaking havoc inside your body.
According to Cambridge Nutritional Sciences Ltd, food allergy, food intolerance and food sensitivity are terms that are often used interchangeably, but refer to irregular reactions to certain foods. There are three kinds of reactions:
Food Allergy - Triggers an immediate reaction like hives, swelling or anaphylactic shock. Think peanuts, or shellfish. With these triggers, the body produces IgE antibodies and releases histamine and other chemical mediators. Allergic reactions are obvious, and fairly rare. In the US, less than 5% of the population have a true food allergy.
Food Sensitivity - The production of IgG antibodies and the gradual formation of antigen-antibody complexes which deposit in tissues and release inflammatory chemicals. This results in a delayed-onset of symptoms, sometimes days after the foods are consumed, making it extremely difficult to pinpoint the cause. The specific foods that cause harm are different for everyone, and are a result of environment, genetics, lifestyle and diet.
Food Intolerance - A lack or deficiency of the enzyme that is supposed to break down the food chemical in question. Lactose Intolerance, for example, occurs because of a deficiency in lactase - the enzyme that breaks down the complex sugar known as lactose.
In the bluntly titled book Your Hidden Food Allergies Are Making You Fat, Rudy Rivera, M.D., and Roger Davis Deutsch explain that food sensitivities and intolerances are far more common than allergies - although significantly under diagnosed - and that they can be hard to notice, slowly developing until they cause symptoms, or disease. According to the book, anyone with a hidden food intolerance or sensitivity will find no hope in medical therapies or diets to improve health and lose weight if they continue to ingest their own personal poison.
When a person eats the food that they are unknowingly sensitive to, antigen-antibody complexes are created. These complexes are typically swept away by cells of the immune system, but when an excess of complexes is present (like when the person continues to eat the foods to which they are sensitive), the antigen-antibody complexes are deposited into tissues like joints, or filtration organs like the kidneys or liver. This results in localized inflammation, creating a multitude of health symptoms and complications.
Destroying the Gut
The problems compound over time as the reactions continue to go unnoticed, and the culprit foods continue to be consumed. The inflammatory effects on the tissues end up causing symptoms like migraines, eczema and arthritis, and can destroy the health of the gut, which is all important for health and weight management.
A healthy gut is a balanced gut. Trillions of microbial organisms and bacteria live in the small and large intestines, keeping our immune system in check, creating vitamins and other compounds, and aiding in the absorption of nutrients. This complex population of microorganisms is referred to as the gut microbiome. When the microbiome is in a state of balance the body functions well, with high energy and a good mood. When it is unbalanced, the body is susceptible to a long list of issues, including brain fog, fatigue, emotional imbalance and weight gain.
The inflammation inflicted on the gut as a result of food sensitivity can throw it wildly out of balance, all but eliminating the bodies ability to absorb nutrients. The lack of absorption of the needed nutrients, vitamins, minerals and proteins means that the person is essentially starving, even if they are eating three times a day. This lack of nutrition has a cascading effect on the body, impacting any or all of it’s ten integral systems.
According to Chris Kresser - a globally recognized leader in integrative medicine (M.S., L.Ac) - changes in the gut microbiome even influence brain chemistry. As the food sensitivities continue to ravage the gut, becoming increasingly out of balance and inflamed, it can directly suppress activity in the frontal cortex of the brain, causing the symptoms of depression and anxiety. The influence of the gut is so powerful that when bad bacteria begins to overtake the microbiome, it will influence eating decisions, sparking cravings for simple sugars and carbohydrates that feed the bad bacteria.
All these consequences have the ability to suck the victim into a downward spiral of sugar cravings, fatigue and lack of exercise, depression and anxiety, chronic pain resulting in lack of sleep and stress, continually compounding the problem. When they muster up the willpower to eat healthy and feel better, something as seemingly harmless as tangerines or tomatoes could be a trigger food, further damaging the gut and adding to the cycle that will eventually lead to weight gain, obesity, diabetes and a long list of other potential problems. The only way to stop the cycle is to identify the trigger foods, and heal the gut.
Breaking the Cycle
According to Dr. Torkaman, there are 5 steps to breaking out of the downward spiral, and healing the gut:
Step 1: Test
Food sensitivity reactions are delayed for hours, or days, and symptoms can take up to a month to manifest, making it difficult to identify the responsible foods without a test. If symptoms like bloating, indigestion, migraines or irritable bowel syndrome are present, an IgG food sensitivity test may be recommended. The standard test looks at 120 antigens in ten categories, displaying sensitivity scores for each antigen.
Step 2: Eliminate
The test results indicate the numerical level of sensitivity beside the antigen, and each level falls into one of three result status: Normal, Borderline, or Elevated.
When the results are in, the antigens with the red box are out. Dr. Torkaman recommends that patients eliminate the “Elevated” status antigens for four to six months, so that the immune system can clear out the excess of antigen-antibody complexes and the gut and immune system can recover.
Step 3: Rebalance
For many patients, the first stages of food sensitivity may have been years, even decades ago. Over all that time, the digestive system and immune system were in damage control, and the gut may be severely out of balance. Now that the foods have been identified and temporarily eliminated, there is an opportunity to heal the gut without constant disruption of the damaging antigens.
Obviously every patient is different, but probiotics, lots of water, and avoiding simple sugars and carbohydrates are a few extremely beneficial factors in healing the gut. Dr. Torkaman also commonly recommends amino acids, L-glutamine, and digestive enzymes to patients.
Step 4: Reintroduce
After four to six months, patients with severe food sensitivities will see a drastic change in the way they feel, experiencing more energy, a clear mind, and significant loss of excess weight. The inflammation-causing antigen-antibody complexes have been cleared out by a recover immune system, so the body will now be able to handle some of the sensitive foods, in small quantities.
After receiving their Doctor’s consent, a patient can attempt to reintroduce their sensitive foods, one at a time. Start with one food group or item, on one day, let’s say it’s a Tuesday. Go back to avoiding all sensitive foods for the following two days, observing your symptoms and paying careful attention to how you feel. If there is no change, you may reintroduce that food into your diet, while following Step 5.
On Friday, you can attempt another food group or item, repeating the process. Any foods that have a negative impact on the body should be avoided for the foreseeable future.
Step 5: Rotate
Food sensitivities occur when naturally occurring antigen-antibody complexes become too numerous for the macrophages of the immune system to clear them, which are then deposited in tissues and release inflammation chemicals. This sometimes occurs because of the excessive, repetitive consumption of a single food. To prevent food sensitivities, Dr. Torkaman recommends rotating foods throughout the week, so the body has time to clear the complexes before more are stuffed into the system.
After reintroducing the sensitive foods, the patient must be sure to rotate them in their diet to avoid reaching sensitivity levels again. “I recommend restricting the consumption of sensitive foods to once a week” says Torkaman, adding that everyone should avoid eating the same food every day.
The identification and elimination of sensitive foods has changed lives and rid thousands of patients of a long list of health problems, from arthritis, to migraines, to obesity. When excess weight becomes a problem, and seems impossible to solve, food sensitivity or intolerance are one potential roadblock to long term success that should be investigated. You just might end up fitter, healthier, and happier.
Dr. Torkaman's 8 Week Real Weight Loss program aims to solve the excess weight issue at the root of the problem, and utilizes Naturopathic therapies, mind-body therapies, and lifestyle coaching to get you on the right track and stay there. Check out realweightloss.cimed.ca for more information, a free information booklet, and to schedule a free 15 minute consultation.
Your Hidden Food Allergies Are Making You Fat
Rudy Rivera, M.D., and Roger Davis Deutsch
Rocky Mountain Analytical IgG Food Sensitivity Test