Food Intolerances and Sensitivities
As a holistic nutritionist, we are trained to help people put their bodies back into homeostasis, or balance. Most of us walk around not knowing that we are in fact not in balance. We think that if we’re walking, talking and living then we must be healthy, right? Wrong, if we’re walking, talking and living, but there always seems to be something there, i.e. tiredness, brain fog, fatigue, pain, congestion, acne, etc, then we’re not balanced. Some of us have had these symptoms but brush them off as allergies, a sign of puberty or getting older, or inclement of weather. While all of these symptoms could be attributed to the aforementioned situations, they also could be symptoms of food intolerances/sensitivities. Chances are if you have a food allergy you are well aware of it and are educated on how to avert having a reaction and if you do have a reaction you have the necessary means to alleviate it. Food intolerances and sensitivities are different though. The symptoms for which are commonly mistaken for other ailments or incidents.
For decades, I’ve walked around with arthritis, post nasal drip, constipation, bloating, and fatigue. All of which were easily explained away by various means. I treated the symptoms according to what I mistook them for. Post nasal drip, OTC allergy medicine. Constipation and bloating, more fiber or if necessary, laxatives. Arthritis, Ibuprofen. Fatigue, a 30 minute nap after work, no caffeine after 12 pm, and 30 minutes before bed, an OTC sleep aid. Since I was 12 I began this regimen, and yes, my symptoms would clear up temporarily. I accepted it as a way of life. Never thinking that anything else could be explained or that any other course of action could be taken to alleviate these symptoms. Now at almost 40, I’ve come to realize that these symptoms were more than likely the reaction to food intolerances and sensitivities I was unaware that I had. I did have some idea of some sensitivities and intolerances but not to the extent that I now know.
About 7 years ago, I started working at a health food store, where as a part of my training I was required to learn about supplements, common ailments and food allergies. During this time I picked up on food intolerances and sensitivities to foods that contain gluten, wheat, and dairy. I made the decision to start an elimination diet of these three items. I started to notice that I wasn’t as bloated or constipated as I had been. I also noticed that I was losing weight. I felt a little bit better than I had before. So, I made the decision to cut out those three foods. I substituted with popular replacements, almond milk for my 2% and gluten-free products for my bread, pasta and any other gluten containing products. While I did begin to feel better, I didn’t feel the way I thought I should, I thought that I should feel more energy and less pain. I attributed both to my ongoing bouts of insomnia and with weather related arthritis. Two years after that, I decided to go vegetarian, giving up meat, but not eggs. I noticed that felt a little bit better than before, but again, not where I thought I should be. Ten months after being vegetarian, I decided to go vegan, giving up the eggs. At first I did feel better, but then new symptoms started to show up, bruising easily, my hair falling out and then cessation of hair growth, and my mental health started to decline, I felt more anxious and depressed. Rather than go off of my vegan diet, I started a heavy supplement regimen. Vegan Iron for my bruising, vegan B12 for my hair, and vegan vitamin D and a variety of other supplements to help with depression and anxiety. Some symptoms eased a little bit, but not fully. It was also at this time that I began my journey into becoming a holistic nutritionist.
My first certification that I attained was whole nutrition. This course taught how the body needs a balance of both macro and micronutrients. Having this balance would help with putting the body back into homeostasis. As I read and learned I began to see where I had made good decisions and where I had made decisions based on popularity and not my own personal needs. One of the most striking statements made by the author/professor was, “why take out something that is a part of nature, only to substitute it with a man made supplement”. That left quite the impression on me as I analyzed my own diet and the supplements I was taking in place of what I had removed. It was after this course that I decided to stop my vegan diet and integrate back in animal based products like meat and eggs. Shortly after doing so, my bruising, hair loss and cessation and mental health began to improve. I still had symptoms though of fatigue and occasional arthritic pain.
After completing my whole nutrition I began my nutritional assessment and counseling certification. This would end up being my least favorite and to date, most arduous certification I would have. It took 2 and half years to complete and came with frustration, brain numbing biochemistry, and an eye opening practicum of the reality of nutritional counseling. It was through this course that I decided to end my gluten free consumption and begin to incorporate sprouted grain products.Through this course I had learned the benefits of sprouted grain and the difference between having refined grains versus whole sprouted grains. The other bonus point was that people who had gluten sensitivities were able to consume sprouted grain products without any discomfort. I was excited, I hadn’t had gluten in over 4 years. I was also very apprehensive to do so. I feared having gastrointestinal discomfort, pain, bloating and weight gain. At first, I didn’t notice anything, so I began making the switch for all my products from gluten free to sprouted grain where available. Then, slowly I began to notice an increase in my fatigue and now brain fog. I was having regular bowel movements, and my bloating and discomfort were minor and only on occasion, whenever I would splurge and have a donut or a beer. I brushed it off again, just attributing it something else, not food related.
My last certification was the holistic nutritionist. This course was much more pleasant and I enjoyed it much more than I had the previous certification. While I didn’t notice anything that I felt pertained to my own health, I did gain insight to how I could curtail my own program for my future clients regarding the option for an elimination diet. At the end of April 2020, I officially became certified in holistic nutrition and began to develop my business. Beginning in May, I started what would eventually become my business, Blue Temple Nutrition. Since then I have had clients that I have been able to help. Some with their weight, others with their gastrointestinal disorders, high blood pressure as well as other ailments. Hearing their testimonials gave me a boost in affirming that I was doing the right thing, that I was fulfilling my desire to help others through nutrition. However, hearing their successes and their excitement to feeling better, having more energy, and decreasing their pharmacological regimen, I couldn’t help but feel jealous. I was helping others, but for some reason, I couldn’t fully help myself.
After Thanksgiving, during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday timeframe, my husband saw a commercial for a food allergy test. He suggested that I order one. I was hesitant because I felt that it would be an admission of failure that I couldn’t help myself with the knowledge that I had learned. But, I sucked it up and ordered it anyway. The process was relatively quick and easy. Within a two week period, I had ordered my test, received it, taken it, sent it back and received my results. The test consisted of using lancets to prick my fingers and submitting a card smaller than 3” x 5” with my blood samples. When I received my results, I was both surprised and then again not surprised. As expected I tested positive for cow dairy, wheat, and gluten. Additionally I also tested positive for rye which wasn’t a shock. What was a shock was the fact that I tested positive for almonds, soy, garlic, bell pepper, eggplant, chicken, turkey, tuna, egg yolks and egg whites. When I saw my results, so many things flashed through my mind. For starters, I am an “A” blood type who loosely followed the blood type guidelines for my type. As someone who is in the holistic world, the blood type diet falls within two sides, those who believe its efficacy and those who say it holds no merit or at the very least requires more studies before picking a side. My results of my allergy test for me showed that what would normally benefit someone with an “A” blood type actually was not. My results also answered a few questions for me, like the fact that I haven’t had cow milk in over 7 years, but I still had symptoms. Turns out the almond milk I was using in recipes, my cereal, or as a creamer in my coffee was more than likely to blame. Also, my sprouted grain bread was wheat based, wheat flour, wheat berries, etc. Which could explain the brain fog. It also could explain why when I was vegetarian I felt a boost, but not quite where I thought I should be. I eliminated my meat, but substituted it with soy instead. It would appear that when I taking a step forward, I was actually taking two steps back. Now, I’m not advocating for people to quit consuming dairy, wheat, soy or any of the other foods I listed in my test. Those are all foods I’m intolerant/sensitive to. Everybody’s bio-chemistry is different.
As it stands now, I’m roughly about a month out from having received my results, and am currently going through a new elimination protocol. So far, aside from my personal dissatisfaction of not being able to have certain foods I would have never guessed I had a sensitivity to, I am feeling much better. I’m actually starting to feel like I have more energy, less brain fog, and less gastrointestinal discomfort, and it only took under three decades to figure this out. While I admittedly am a bit jaded by my results, I consider myself lucky to figure this out now. I am well aware that there are people who are in dire straits in comparison to me, those who have been living much longer with discomfort and ailments that they may not be aware could be the results of a food intolerance or sensitivity.
If my journey sounds familiar to you, my advice is this: try an elimination diet to see if you feel or see any differences. Elimination diets are more cost proficient as opposed to getting a food allergy test like I did. An elimination diet can take some time before seeing or feeling any changes. Additionally, you may never truly find out what it is that you removed that you could have a sensitivity to. After you have been on your elimination diet, you can begin to slowly incorporate back in the foods you removed to see if you have any reaction and if you do, remove the offending food from your diet. The benefit of having the food allergy diet test is that you find out before the elimination diet what exactly it is that you are intolerant/sensitive to. Then you can begin the elimination protocol. For me knowing exactly what I had intolerances/sensitivities to and then seeing and feeling a direct correlation to that change has been both eye opening and helpful. While I admit my pride was hurt, I now know what I can do to help myself and for that I have no regrets.