Trudy’s McCulloch’s digestive problems began at birth. As a baby, she suffered from bouts of diarrhea and gas, but managed to have a relatively healthy childhood. However, by the time she hit puberty, she started suffering symptoms that caused her eyes to seal shut with crust and her sinuses and head to throb with pain, but, as she says, “The worst part was the fatigue.” None of the doctors she consulted could understand why she was so tired. “I began to think it was in my head.” When she hit her 20’s chronic chest and stomach pain kicked in to the point where she thought she was “having a heart attack. My left arm was numb and I was short of breath.”
It wasn’t until 2004 when Trudy was in her 30’s that she and her family finally discovered the source of all of his. Trudy had multiple food intolerances which caused GERD ( gastroesphogeal reflux disease) and brought on the intolerable chest pain and sinus problems. Food intolerance is often misdiagnosed and can go untreated for several years, causing undue pain, misery, and frustration to the sufferer and his or her loved ones.
What does food intolerance look like?
Food intolerance can appear:
- On the skin, in the form of eczema, acne or skin rashes
- In the digestive tract as cramping, diarrhea, mouth ulcers, bloating, or constipation
- In the respiratory tract as sneezing, coughing nasal congestion, or asthma
- In cognitive ability and emotions, such as brain fog, headache, anxiety, insomnia or depression
- As an ear infection or as arthritis
How do you figure out which food is affecting you?
If you have a food intolerance, what is healthy for most Americans may not be healthy for you. Intolerance can be brought on by an immune response to a certain food, often caused by a protein or from deficient digestive enzymes.
The three macronutrients in the food we eat are protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Dairy products contain all three. Lactose is the sugar found in milk. If you are lactose intolerant, the enzyme you need to break down lactose is missing and your gut will not be a be able to absorb the sugar. The sugar molecule, not having been broken down by the proper enzymes, then moves through the gut allowing gut bacteria to feast upon it. This leads to gas, cramping, bloating, constipation and diarrhea. If you believe you are lactose intolerant, drink raw dairy to help with digestion, supplement with enzymes, and eat fermented dairy which contains almost no lactose, examples include yogurt and kefir.
Food intolerance can occur at a very early age. It can appear when babies do not develop an immune response against certain foods. This often happens if the baby is fed on formula and does not receive the good bacteria and immune signals found in breast milk. In these cases, the immune system will react to almost any food as an invader, or “antigen” and will react every time it is found in the body.
When the intolerance is related to an immune response cross -reactivity may occur. This is when the immune system comes across a protein that is similar to a different food and reacts to this food as if it were the original antigen. This often happens to those with a gluten sensitivity. People who are sensitive to the proteins in gluten will also respond adversely to coffee and milk protein. Unfortunately, if you are cross-reactive, the treatment of gluten sensitivity may not be effective, and you should seek appropriate testing.
The most important thing to be aware of is the need to understand why some food irritate us so we can know which foods to stay away from. If you are battling or have battled food intolerance, please let us know. Awareness can be a very powerful tool.