What is Food Reactivity? Food Reactivity is typically described as your body’s adverse reaction to food. Many of us could be eating foods regularly that are causing consistent inflammation. This type of inflammation left untreated can affect our whole body.
Our gut microbiome interacts with the microbiome of all of the organs in our body, including our brain. When our microbiomes are unhealthy, we become more susceptible to food sensitivities, autoimmune diseases, and neurological damage.
Increased intestinal permeability, also known as “leaky gut,” can contribute to food sensitivities. Undigested proteins can “leak” into the bloodstream alerting the immune system, often resulting in antibody attacks on the proteins. These antibody reactions can further disrupt the integrity of the intestinal barrier, potentially causing abnormal inflammation and immune activation in other parts of the body. The health of the gut has a direct influence on the health of the rest of the body. Among other things, it digests food, extracts nutrients, curates the microbiome, and supports our immune system.
Beyond the obvious connection between food and the gut, there are other conditions that food immune reactivity can initiate or exacerbate. In fact, untreated food reactivity can have serious and long-term effects. Here are a few of the most prevalent conditions:
Probably the most well-known autoimmune disease brought on by a dietary protein, celiac disease is triggered by the ingestion of gluten causing the immune system to attack and damage the small intestine. This leads to a deficiency in the absorption of nutrients, which can result in malnutrition.
According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, 2.5 million Americans are undiagnosed, making them at risk for long-term health conditions, including the onset of other autoimmune diseases, such as Type-1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis. But the list goes on as untreated patients can also be at risk for anemia, osteoporosis, and neurological conditions such as epilepsy and migraines.
Many hypothyroid and autoimmune thyroid patients experience reactions to specific foods. Additionally, food interactions may play a role in a subset of individuals who have difficulty finding a suitable thyroid hormone dosage. One study from the Journal of Thyroid Research was designed to investigate the potential role of dietary protein immune reactivity with thyroid hormones and thyroid axis target sites. Once an individual loses immune tolerance to a food or dietary protein, the antibodies reacting to that food can cross-react with organ tissues, such as components of the thyroid gland, potentially initiating autoimmunity.
Another study was conducted to investigate food triggers to migraines. The investigation looked at the effect of diet restriction, based on IgG antibodies against food antigens on the course of migraine attacks in this headache diary-based trial on 30 patients diagnosed with migraine without aura. Scientists concluded that diet restriction based on IgG antibodies is an effective strategy in reducing the frequency of migraine attacks.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Frequent abdominal cramps, diarrhea, and constipation can indicate a multitude of conditions. But when you experience all of these symptoms erratically and frequently, it could indicate that you are suffering from IBS. Specific food testing has been used in studies with IBS, showing that eliminating IgG-positive foods alleviated symptoms.
What to Do
Untreated food reactivity can exasperate or induce the onset of autoimmune disease. Therefore, testing for food sensitivities is paramount to the treatment and prevention of these chronic conditions. Along with food sensitivity testing, doctors also evaluate the health of the patient’s immune system by ordering total immunoglobulin levels. Immunoglobulins are antibodies or proteins, and there are three types: IgA, IgG, IgE and IgM. These proteins fight off infections and foreign invaders in our bodies. Too few immunoglobulin proteins make us more susceptible to infection, whereas too many can indicate an overactive immune system. Therefore, high levels can signal an elevated potential for autoimmune disease.
If you are suffering from inflammation, chronic fatigue, anxiety, depression or any of the symptoms mentioned above, please consult with your primary care physician and consider testing for your immunoglobulin levels and food sensitivities.
The gut holds the key to our health!
About the Author
Dr. Chad Larson, NMD, DC, CCN, CSCS, Advisor and Consultant on Clinical Consulting Team for Cyrex Laboratories. Dr. Larson holds a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Southern California University of Health Sciences. He is a Certified Clinical Nutritionist and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He particularly pursues advanced developments in the fields of endocrinology, orthopedics, sports medicine, and environmentally-induced chronic disease.