Published on July 31st, 2022 | by Natural Awakenings Publishing Corp.0
Is Your Diet “Healthy”: Food as Medicine, Part II
In addition to personal body weight, what other factors go into determining a “healthy diet”?
One major factor is known as “food sensitivities”. It is obvious to anyone when they are allergic to a food. They will develop hives, or even anaphylaxis, with swelling of the tongue and shutting down of the airway. But, there is another level of immunological peril related to food, more subtle and so, harder to determine: “food sensitivity”. Although the symptoms associated with food sensitivities are not as acute and typically not as grave as common food allergies, food sensitivities can wreak havoc on nearly every organ system in your body. Surely, they can cause gastrointestinal problems. But they can also manifest in ways that you might not expect, including headache, memory/focus issues, sleep problems rashes, fatigue, arthritis, ear/nose/ and throat issues, anxiety, depression, and cancer.
One very challenging aspect of these sensitivities is that they are not readily detectable, as are common food allergies, for several reasons. The manifestations of food sensitivities are not immediate, taking 72 hours or more to become apparent. This lack of a clear-cut “cause and effect” connection is compounded by the physiology of the immune system. If we are sensitive to a given food, eating it routinely tends to “dampen down” the symptoms the food may cause, making it more tolerable on the one end, but also much harder to clearly pinpoint as a culprit in feeling “not good”.
Hence, specific detection techniques are employed to unearth the list of foods to which one is sensitive. One approach is blood tests, a number of which are commercially available. These test for a class of antibodies known as IgG, which correlate well with food sensitivities. They are NOT the same as those offered by traditional reference labs (LabCorp, Quest, etc.), which test rather for the antibody group known as IgE antibodies. IgE antibody tests are supposed to detect outright food allergies, but typical food allergies are actually easily and best detected via experience, (i.e., eating the food and getting an immediate and severe reaction). So, IgE antibody tests for foods are not especially useful.
IgG food tests are an excellent starting point in learning one’s food sensitivities. Importantly, not all test labs are equal; a good lab is key, and your professional can direct to a lab that produces reliable, repeatable data. Using your list to best advantage requires strictly following a regimented medically directed protocol. This entails elimination of the sensitivities list for a period of time, “rotation” of non-sensitive foods so the same foods are not eaten daily, re-“challenging” of the eliminated foods observing their effects, and finally, attempting to rotate back in foods that are not well tolerated on an occasional basis.
Done correctly, with or without lab tests, identifying and eliminating “sensitive foods” can make quite a significant contribution to understanding and creating a diet that is uniquely perfect and healthy for you. If you are ready and willing to follow instructions carefully, a qualified and knowledgeable healthcare professional can guide you through this process and help you to achieve results that are nothing short of remarkable.
Robin Ellen Leder, M.D., was mentored by Robert Atkins, M.D., author of The Atkins Diet, and has been practicing integrative/alternative medicine for more than 30 years at A Better Alternative Medical Center, in Hackensack. See ad, page xx.