embracing nutrition and functional medicine

Can the Bugs in Your Gut Reduce Food Sensitivities?

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Food sensitivity and intolerances

Did you know the bugs living in your gut play a key role in how easily your body can digest food? If you’ve ever suspected you may be sensitive to certain foods, it’s worth knowing nurturing your gut bacteria could help to ease your symptoms. 

Read on to find out more.

What is a Food Sensitivity?

You often hear the words food allergy, sensitivity and intolerance used interchangeably, but strictly speaking, they’re different.

Food allergies and sensitivities involve your immune system reacting inappropriately to certain types of food, wrongly believing they’re a threat to you. Your immune system produces antibodies – molecular memories – of those foods it thinks are a problem.

Food Allergies

In the case of classical food allergies, the type of antibody produced means you’ll usually react every time you eat the food, and within a short period of consuming it. These types of food allergies often produce skin reactions, respiratory problems or digestive issues. Classical allergies frequently occur with foods like peanuts, strawberries, shellfish, soya and eggs. In severe cases, the reactions can cause anaphylaxis so they should be taken seriously. Anaphylaxis can be fatal within a short time unless treated and can occur after eating the tiniest trace of the food. You’ll probably need to avoid these foods for life.

Food Sensitivities

An immune reaction involving different types of antibodies can cause delayed adverse reactions to foods. These are usually called food sensitivities. They typically don’t occur immediately after the food is eaten. Instead, they may take hours or days to develop and only occur when a certain quantity of the food is eaten or if it’s eaten in combination with something else. All this makes food sensitivities tricky to identify. Symptoms can be widespread and vague, including bloating, IBS, runny nose, headaches, tiredness, skin rashes and joint aches.

It’s possible to be sensitive to absolutely any food, including fruits and vegetables. Some people react to chemicals within foods like additives, or to substances used in food processing.

Food Intolerances

Food intolerances don’t involve the immune system or antibodies. They usually occur because the body struggles to produce an enzyme needed to break down the food. One example is a lack of lactase needed to digest the lactose in milk.

Your Microbiome and Food Sensitivities

food sensitivity and gut microbiome

The incidence of food allergies and intolerances has exploded in recent years. This is likely to be connected with the health of the population of bacteria and other bugs naturally living in your gut, otherwise known as your microbiome. This makes sense because your gut bacteria have the job of educating and shaping your immune system, teaching it what’s dangerous and what isn’t.

The bacteria in your microbiome also nourish your gut lining, and this is extremely important because your gut lining determines what is absorbed into your bloodstream. If unhealthy strains of bacteria or fungi take hold, your digestive lining can become irritated, inflamed and more permeable than it should be. This can mean particles of food not yet completely digested are allowed to pass through your gut lining. Your immune system is then put on high alert because the food is unfamiliar to your immune system in that form.

Scientists researching the microbiome discovered specific, unhealthy types of bacteria were more common in children with food sensitivities 1. So a healthy microbiome can mean fewer food sensitivities. Simply avoiding the problem food, although crucial for classical food allergies, isn’t a long-term solution for food sensitivities. Unless a healthy microbiome is restored, the cause of your food sensitivities won’t be addressed. If your microbiome remains unhealthy, you’ll be more likely to develop further food sensitivities over time.

Your microbiome is unique to you. It’s shaped by your diet, lifestyle and the medications you take. Research has found the bacteria in your microbiome can change rapidly, depending on what you eat. This is exciting because it means by looking after your microbiome you can potentially reduce your food sensitivities.

Help is at Hand for Food Sensitivities

Because the symptoms of food sensitivities are so varied and easily mistaken for other conditions, they are often hard to identify. This is where functional tests can be really useful, detecting in your blood the antibodies produced to problem foods. Other tests can examine your microbiome to discover the types of bacteria present and how they may be affecting your health.

Once problem foods are identified, your practitioner will recommend dietary, supplement and lifestyle interventions to restore a healthy microbiome, heal your digestive lining and allow you to eat a more varied diet once more. Contact me to start your journey to better digestive health.

Did you know you can request a FREE 15 minute Discovery Call

Are you concerned about food sensitivities? Why not book a free 15-minute discovery call to see if Functional Medicine is for you.

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