If, while I was getting my dietetics degree, you would have told me that I’d be coaching person about food sensitivities, I honestly would have thought you were joking.
When I was in college (and during my medical internship), gluten-free was a thing we only talked about when someone had diagnosed celiac disease. Peanut allergies were definitely on the rise (as were peanut and nut-free schools), and I was under the impression that every American should be consume three servings of milk (cow dairy) per day.
Flash forward to today, and food sensitivities (and not just food allergies) are definitely a thing. There are hundreds of books that take users through elimination diets, foods that are heavily marketed as gluten-free, and nut-based milk alternatives that are now one of the hottest growing category in the grocery store.
Also, person are getting tested for food sensitivities more than ever before. They’re finding out whether there are certain foods their bodies are reacting to so they can feel better, lose weight and reduce joint pain. It’s actually the number one lab test that we offer at Life Time.
But why are food sensitivities on the rise now?
Here’s the thing; there are a lot of opinions on this topic. What I get most excited about is the continued and emerging research on gut health, and the changes happening to our immune systems.
One thing to note, and what I always tell clients, is that food has changed. The running joke in this industry is that our grandparents (and the generations before) didn’t have to buy organic because everything was organic.
But today, our food is more processed, and much more likely to be contaminated by pesticides and herbicides, and include xenoestrogens, genetically modified ingredients, hormones, antibiotics, etc., which all can impact something we call gut integrity.
Visualize all of the foreign and artificial gunk being digested (and absorbed) by your body. All of that stress can create a more permeable gut lining, which makes us more vulnerable to the different proteins in foods we are trying to digest and absorb.
Even worse, chronic stress, personal products (lotions, makeup, etc.) and our toxic environment (pollution, plastics, etc.) can all create additional havoc for that same gut lining.
M Y S T O R Y
I started dealing with food sensitivities while I was in college, and I didn’t even know it. Diagnosed with IBS (I even wrote an article about it after my positive experience, which you can read here), I felt limited in my options to find relief. My doctor gave me a prescription for Miralax and told me to watch my stress, and I just did my best to deal with the pain and constipation.
When I started working at Life Time in 2008, I was introduced to a naturopathic physician who recommended that I go gluten-free and take specific supplements to help support my gut lining. It changed my life.
I went from daily stomachaches (sometimes debilitating) and irregularity to feeling amazing within a few short weeks. The acne on my face cleared up, and my bowel movements became regular (and non-strenuous). Coming from a family with several females dealing with the same stomach issues as me, I became a huge fan of gluten-free, recommending it to everyone I knew that struggled with IBS. And it changed their lives, too.
I suppose when you start seeing relief from something so non-traditional, you start digging in and researching more. I found myself reading more information on different signs and symptoms of varying food sensitivities, specifically cow dairy. I learned from other holistic practitioners that when they took dairy away, clients dealing with acne and sinus infections (two things I often dealt with) started to find relief.
When having these conversations with clients, I often hear recollections of a childhood free of food sensitivities and not knowing of even one person with a full-blown peanut allergy. So I understand that sometimes this information is hard to hear or understand. But the prevalence of person feeling better after removing certain foods is too hard to ignore.
It’s been over 7 years since I fully eliminated gluten (and mostly eliminated cow dairy). When these things sneak into my diet, I always feel it — most often in my joints. But it’s something I’ve committed to because I feel so much better without gluten and dairy. It’s also why I’m super passionate about our D.TOXSM program. It’s founded on an elimination diet that takes out the most common food sensitivities. And person feel so amazing after the program that they continue eating that way.
One other thing I have to continue to check in on is my stress. I’m an “internalizer,” so I have to periodically assess stress and whether it’s impacting my gut/immune health. Recently I did our full lab test panel and found out I was starting to react to new food proteins, predominately egg yolks and yeast. I’m currently eliminating those foods (not eating eggs is hard for me) and adding in some additional gut-support supplements and, of course, monitoring and managing my stress better.
W H A T I R E C O M M E N D
If you are thinking that food sensitivities might be an issue for you, there are three options I would suggest as starting points.
1. CONSIDER AN ELIMINATION DIET.
It’s something I was putting clients on before Life Time began offering an actual test. I like it because it’s a low barrier and something you can try for a shorter period of time. As I stated above, the D.TOX program eliminates the most common foods that create inflammation and cause sensitivities: wheat/gluten, cow dairy, corn, soy, peanuts and eggs. And we’ve had hundreds of thousands of person go through the program and find success.
2. IF YOU’RE READY TO FIND ANSWERS — TEST.
Although elimination diets rule out the big sensitivities, everyone is different. You could be reacting to a protein in food that isn’t one of the 5 most common sensitivities. Or maybe you’ve tried an elimination diet and it was hard to confirm which food or foods were problematic. Or maybe you need to see it on paper before you will change or fully commit. We all know ourselves and what will work best or motivate us.
Now there are a number of food sensitivity tests out there; some are nice, some not so nice. I’ve gone through just about all of them, and I can say they all have their limitations. The one we offer, and that I point person to, comes with an additional blood assessment panel (to gain more insight to overall digestive health) and, even more importantly, a full review from one of our corporate registered dietitians. Our dietitians will tell you what the results mean (and what they don’t), and give you the next steps to take with your eating, training and supplements. Think of it as a nice starting point, knowing that the guidance and one on one time with the dietitian will be the key to understand what to do next. These steps will be unique to your results and lead you down the right path to get to your goal. Our test isn’t offered in all states, but if you are a member and are above 18, you can click here to learn more or even purchase.
3. TRY GUT-SUPPORTING SUPPLEMENTS.
Eliminating problem foods is always step one, but if you’re not ready for that, in the meantime you can still take nutrients to help support your gut lining. My suggestions are:
- Probiotics (to help populate good flora in your intestinal tract),
- Glutamine (to help your body recover and nourish your gut lining), and
- Digestive enzymes (to help break down food and make it easier to absorb).
I hope this helps and, of course, if you want to connect with one of our coaches on the next best step for you, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In health, Anika Christ – Director – Digital Programming & Events – Life Time Weight Loss
This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.