Food Allergies or Could it be Leaky Gut?

Are you experiencing symptoms like bloating, digestive discomfort, belching, skin troubles, or even brain fog? Maybe you’ve even been diagnosed with certain food allergies like gluten, corn, or dairy. In this week’s episode, Dr. Nicole and Brooke discuss how food allergies develop and how you might be able to change your diet to improve your symptoms and even eliminate your sensitivities.
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You are listening to IWG radio, the place to be for all of your wellness needs. My name is Brooke and I am the clinical nutritionist at Integrative Wellness Group. I'm sitting here with Dr. Nicole today. We are going to discuss food allergies and food sensitivities to with you. I'm going to introduce Dr. Nicole, have her give you a brief introduction on what functional medicine is, and her program here at Integrative Wellness Group.

Hey there. We are both practitioners that are doing functional medicine here at Integrative Wellness Group. What functional medicine is is really just looking at the whole person in order to figure out the exact root cause for the symptoms that they are currently dealing with. Through that, it's definitely utilizing a lot more elaborate testing and then obviously taking a very in depth consultation and taking into consideration everything from birth into childhood, teenager, and as an adult, and taking any type of traumas, hospitalizations, medication use, and all those things into consideration to really understand someone as a whole to get them the best results and really get them well and keep them well.

Today we wanted to discuss food allergies and food sensitivities. We wanted to bring this up because it's definitely something that's been gaining in popularity over the last 5, 10, even 15 years or so. The rates are continuing to rise. A lot of people think that food allergies start when you are a child. That's not necessarily true. We're seeing a lot of adults these days that are coming in with these delayed onset or latent allergies that they're not necessarily having this anaphylactic, what we know as a throat closing response, but they're having more of a type of sensitivity that maybe they're having digestive problems or they're experiencing skin problems. Why don't you go ahead and explain to us the difference between a true food allergy and a food sensitivity?

Yes, definitely. There's two different categories. One of the biggest things that we'll get more into is the fact that when you have a food allergy or a food sensitivity, it's not solely just a gut issue or a digestive issue. It is also an immune system issue. There's a lot of different parameters in the immune system and there's a lot of different responses that can happen in the immune system. Like you mentioned, Brooke, there is that delayed onset response and there's also that immediate onset response which is something that, if somebody eats the peanut, their throat closes up and you have, usually, have to use some type of medical intervention to obviously decrease that response and not have that person be at harm.

There's a lot of other subtle changes that will happen in the event that somebody is having a food sensitivity and not a full blown allergic reaction. Those different types of reactions that can happen look like maybe bloating or congestion or a little bit a phlegm, maybe, after having ice cream, or post nasal drip, or gas, or burping, or indigestion, heartburn. I know that these things were thought to, or we're trained to think, "Oh, they happen to everybody. I ate the wrong thing. It's not a big deal." In reality, that's your body's warning signals to say, "This food is not working well for your system."

Again, it's not always necessarily that you're having a food allergy or a food sensitivity. Sometimes it's just because what you're eating is so poor quality that the body almost perceives it as being a foreign antigen, not necessarily thinking that it's actually food just because there's so many preservatives in our food. Regardless, over time, keep eating those foods that are high in preservatives, high in chemicals, our body will start to develop an immune reaction. That immune reaction, being delayed onset, might be within three hours. It might be within three days. You might be a little bit constipated or you might get some burping or you might get some bloating. It's different for everybody, but those are those warning signs saying that you body is having a reaction to that type of food.

I think it's interesting that you bring up that some of these symptoms are really common things like bloating and gas and belching. Like you said, those are almost perceived in our society to be somewhat normal. The fact is that there could be something underlying and there could be something else going on. It could, over the long term, essentially reek more havoc if you don't find these foods, isolate these foods.

I think that that's an important point to make because we have a lot of people that call in and they ask, "Do you do food allergy testing?" Yes, we do, but it's not always my first line of testing that I utilize because if you are the person that is dealing with stomach aches after eating certain things or you're dealing with the burping, the bloating, the constipation, you're dealing with any of those delayed onset types of reactions, or even the immediate onset reactions that you ate something and had an immediate response, if it was inflammation, if you puffed up, or your throat closed, or your throat got really itchy, regardless of the type of reaction, there's a reason why it's happening. Typically that comes back to your gut health, because your gut health has a huge effect on your immune system as well.

You have to take into consideration, let's look to see where this root cause might be coming from. If we can rule out that there is nothing happening in the immune system and there is nothing happening in the gut, then we can actually do the food allergy testing. Honestly, that's never the case. You have the food allergies because of something called leaky gut which is something we'll go into explaining. The leaky gut stems from the over abundance of pathogens or yeast or bacteria or things that should not be in the gut but they are present. They're reeking havoc and causing damage.

It's almost like a vicious cycle, that we have this bacteria overgrowth. It's allowing some leaky gut to happen. From there we're just creating more bacteria and yeast and worsening the problem. Why don't you explain, since we're talking about leaky gut, the difference between developing food allergies as a child versus as an adult.

I think this is important because a lot of times we think it's genetic, especially if our parents or mother or father, that they're dealing with food allergies as well or they have a bad stomach, etc. We might think, "Okay, I'm doomed. I'm going to have issues with these foods." What happens, and this is really important, is through the birth of the child, mom will pass her gut microbiome, meaning the probiotics, all the good stuff in the gut, but mom will also pass whatever is bad that's in her gut currently. If that is bacterial overgrowth or yeast overgrowth, that is passed from mom to baby. The reason being is because your immune system is cased in, or housed, in your gut. In order to start this child off with having some type of immune defenses, to protect them into the world, then mom will pass her gut microbiome to the baby.

If there was bad stuff that was present in the gut, then that means that that child is going to be born with an altered immune system, an altered gut microbiome, which is going to lead them to have sensitivities. Then that can turn into full blown food allergies. Again, it's not necessarily genetic, but it is going to be something that is passed and it just can lead to a cascade of digestive issues, but also immune system issues later on. That is something that is important to understand about children.

For adults, you might have been fine your whole life and then you started to develop these gastrointestinal issues or started to develop these food sensitivities or even full blown food allergies. There's a couple of reasons for this. First of all, our food industry has changed pretty dramatically. With all of the different preservatives and chemicals that are in the food, that is going to be something that starts this process of what we call the leaky gut. It's primarily because these foods are foreign to our body and they are damaging the gut lining.

When you eat food, food goes into you, the mouth, then goes into the stomach, and then starts to move its way through the gastrointestinal system. As this food moves through, normally what will happen is that from the gut your nutrients, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, all the good stuff, will pass from your intestinal system out into the blood. It gets carried wherever it needs to go. That's normal.

To an extent, our gut is supposed to be a little bit leaky, but it's what we call permeable. It allows the good stuff to pass through. If you start to have a lot of chemicals in your diet, preservatives in your diet, herbicides, pesticides, all the things that we get exposed to, then your gut lining becomes damaged. Now it goes from being a little bit permeable to being full on leaky. This allows for things that normally would never get out of the gut, it allows it to now get into your bloodstream.

If you are, say, eating gluten, bread, past, whatever, you eat those foods, it goes through your system, and now these little gluten particles can pass from your gut into your bloodstream. Normally it should never get into your bloodstream, so your immune system goes, "Hey, who is that? That guy's not supposed to be here. Attack him." Normally what your immune system does is it creates a memory and says, "If you see that guy again, he's bad. Make sure to get rid of him." Over time you keep eating the gluten because maybe you're not necessarily having any symptoms. You're like, "Yeah, I'm fine." It keeps getting into your bloodstream. Your immune system keeps attacking and then that starts to turn into a full blown food allergy or, I'm sorry, food sensitivity which can then turn into a full blown food allergy.

It's really the fact that your immune system is doing what it's supposed to do. It's creating the memory of these different food particles because they're foreign and they're not supposed to be in the bloodstream, but this will start to create that cascade of issues with either the food sensitivities or the food allergies.

I like that you brought up gluten, because that is one, especially in practicing, we see tons of people with food allergies and tons of people who have a sensitivity to gluten. Gluten is a really common allergy, dairy. There's a couple of other really common allergies. Can you give us a little bit of an explanation as to why some of those things pose such a risk as opposed to, say, vegetables or fruits?

Like I mentioned before, the food industry has changed pretty dramatically over the past 20 years. One of the things that has been found is that wheat in general, which is gluten, the wheat is now what you call hybridized. They've taken various strains of wheat and they've combined them and genetically altered them to making this very specific strain of wheat. In reality, this type of wheat is not native to nature. It's not something that has been found in nature. It's been chemically engineered in a lab and then planted to grow.

Regardless, if you have the gluten issue or not, the gluten sensitivity, the gluten allergy, most people will have an inflammatory response by eating it because, again, it's not something from nature. It's from a lab. Our bodies don't really know what to do with it. It doesn't really look at it as being food and being nourishment.

Going into the dairy, the dairy has just ... It's just so different than what it was between the pasteurization, the homogenization. It's just overly processed. It's overly heated. The dairy is chock full of all of these different hormones and pesticides and all these things that these animals are getting exposed to. In reality, we can't really tolerate the proteins that are in cow milk in the first place because they're not made for us. They're made for a baby cow. That's one part of it. Then there's the other part of it. We're degrading all of the beneficial nutrients by the homogenization and the pasteurization of the milk. Any benefit that we might have received from the milk, the calcium and the vitamin D and all that, that's pretty much stripped away. When you look at the milk and it says chock full of calcium and chock full of vitamin D, that's not because it's naturally occurring. That's because it was added in a synthetic form an in reality your body can't really absorb that very well.

If you think, "I need to have dairy and I need to have my milk because I need it for calcium," this is kind of an interesting tidbit is most dairy products create an inflammatory response in the body. What that means is your blood ... If you have a pool you can relate to pH. pH can be either alkaline or acidic. Typically your blood pH always wants to be right in the middle. It wants to be neutral. If you eat a lot of processed foods or you eat acidic, or foods that create an acidic environment, which dairy is one of those, then what happens is your body says, "How can I fix this," because if the blood is acidic, it's a breeding ground for getting sick and having a lot of pain and inflammation and swelling. Your body will naturally pull calcium from the bone and put it into bloodstream to create a buffering. That will then push your blood back to being neutral.

What that can create is osteopenia, then osteoporosis. This is over, obviously, a very long period of time, but also, if you have a lot of calcium free floating in your blood, it makes you more at risk of kidney stones. I think that's a really important thing for people to understand. They automatically think, I have kidney stones. I need to stay away from the calcium." Chances are you don't have enough calcium and all your body is doing is pulling it from your bones, putting it into your bloodstream, and then your kidneys are like, "Holy crap. I don't know what to do with all this calcium." Then you're getting calcium stones.

I think that's a really important point because I know even working with weight loss and people that are always trying to stay on top of their diet, trying to eat healthy, one of the biggest things, and we're branded by the society with these got milk commercials, is that we have to have milk. The government regulations are you have to have three glasses of milk a day. The fact of the matter is that, as Dr. Nicole mentioned, that milk could actually be potentially harming us more than helping us. A lot of people are not aware that calcium comes from many other sources. We can get calcium from leafy greens. There's calcium in certain beans. There's a lot of other sources of calcium, not just milk.

It's just the leafy greens are not always the easiest to get down for people. The leafy greens actually have an astronomical amount of calcium in relation to milk. That is really one of your best sources.

Going back to talking about the dairy allergy, I always thought it was interesting when I was in school. They told us a statistic that over 70% of people have a dairy allergy or an intolerance to dairy. We're talking if you're in a room with 4 people, 3 of you have a sensitivity to dairy. Then we have this society and the media pushing that we need to have more dairy. It's an interesting turn of events.

That's one of the things that I really consider when ... Like I mentioned, I don't always jump into just doing the food allergy testing right away, because I want to test somebody's gut to see if there is something that might be causing the food sensitivities in the first place. Another thing that I do recommend is cutting out those major foods that are known to be either hybridized or they have changed over time, or they are foods that are known to be inflammatory. Gluten and dairy do fall under that category. Most people, once they cut those out, and then they start to take the right supplements to resolve whatever their gut issues are, food sensitivities or those digestive issues they were dealing with with eating certain meals, they go away.

I would say in only maybe 15% of my clientele, I actually end up having to do the food allergy testing. The reason why I usually have to do it is because these are people that were maybe born with that unhealthy microbiome, and they've been dealing with this leaky gut for maybe 20, 30, 40 years. They have developed so many sensitivities because their immune system has been in overdrive for such a long period of time. That's when we just have to make sure. It's not that they have to cut these foods out forever. They have to cut the foods out for a period of time to allow their leaky gut to heal and also to keep their inflammation down, because inflammation is also something that limits your healing capabilities.

With food allergy testing, what type of test do you typically do?

With food allergy testing, like I mentioned before in the beginning of the podcast, is there is that immediate onset and then there's delayed onset. If some of you are listening and you are thinking, "Oh, I've had food allergy testing before and it cleared me and I was totally fine." The most traditional type of testing that will be covered by insurance is IGE. IGE is that immediate onset testing, though. Again, if you eat the peanut and your throat closes up, that is going to give you a positive result for the peanut on the IGE test. If you're the person who is like, "I don't know what's bothering me. There's no rhyme or reason to it," then that is most likely because you're dealing with the delayed onset.

The delayed onset is typically tested by what you call IGG. IGG, unfortunately, is typically not going to be covered for you insurance. You typically have to pay out of pocket for it through Labcorps Request. It gets pretty pricey because they do $37 per food. In reality, to test five foods, it doesn't really make a lot of sense. You really want to have quite an array. I choose to usually not go down that road because it is very pricey and the testing is not always very accurate as well.

The best test that I have found that I like to use is by Cyrex Labs. Cyrex Labs is a fantastic company because they are very geared towards helping people properly diagnose things like leaky gut. They also have different types of testing that really helps to give you the most comprehensive test for something like celiac disease. The other thing that they do in the food allergy world is they do a test that looks at not even just cooked food but cooked food, raw foods, and then food proteins. You might be someone that comes up positive for raw garlic, but cooked garlic is actually okay for you.

It's something that I feel like helps people a lot to have a lot of clarity around what they can and cannot have to eat in their healing process because, again, you can drive yourself a little crazy if you're just like, if it comes up like boom garlic, boom dairy, boom gluten, and you don't realize that there's actually ... The food composition and the molecules change based of of is it cooked, is it raw, and then also certain types of food proteins that you want to avoid in certain things as well. It gives you a little bit more clarity around what you can and cannot eat, again, through your healing process.

Based off your food allergy panel, it doesn't mean that you're never eating those foods again. It just means that you need to avoid them for a period of time as your body heals. Once your body has healed, your leaky gut has healed, any yeast or bacterial overgrowth is cleared out, then you should be able to resume a balanced diet, but again really trying to avoid those foods that are known to be inflammatory and known to be hybridized, which would be the gluten and the dairy. If you did it sporadically, probably not the biggest deal, but to think, "I went through this gut healing phase and this whole process and now I feel great, so let me go back to eating bagels every morning," you're going to reverse what you've done because, again, those foods are so damaging.

I like that you brought up garlic as an example because I think we talked a lot about a lot of common allergies like gluten and corn and dairy and those kinds of things, but I think a lot of people don't know a whole lot about different foods that can be causing a reaction. When we talk about the delayed IGG reaction, there are foods, and not necessarily just your gluten or you dairy or your corn or your soy, those big allergies, but people can have sensitivities to, like she said, garlic or onions or certain fruits or vegetables, again, cooked or uncooked. You might be sensitive to a row potato, white potato, but you might be able to eat a cooked white potato. I think in terms of getting a grip on foods that you can eat or foods that you can't eat if you're struggling in this process, it's really a good thing to look and be able to say, "I can't have," if it's ginger or if it's roasted peanuts or whatever it is, really being able to learn more about that.

I find that to be interesting that you mentioned even the ginger because there are certain foods that we read up on all the time that are constantly in different blogs or they're on social media. There's things like the super food turmeric and everybody needs to be on turmeric and everybody should be consuming ginger if you have gut issues, etc. I find it to be really interesting that some of these foods that are super healthy, people will come back with sensitivities to it and they're like, "Oh, my gosh, I've been chowing down on turmeric every day because I read up that it helps with digestive issues or it helps with inflammation."

If you're that person that you're stressed out being like, "I don't know what to eat. I don't know what not to eat," then it's really worth the investment to try to understand what is not working in my body right now, but more important, what is causing it. What is going on in your immune system? What is going on in your gut that is causing these issues in the first place. Again, you're not doomed to your genetics to constantly have food allergies. You just have to figure out what the root cause is.

I know we like to give our listeners some tips and trick to go home with. Why don't you explain maybe a little bit about how people can do some testing of different foods on their own at home, whether it's gluten or dairy or some of these more obscure foods like certain fruits of vegetables.

One of the things that we can attach to the podcast is our elimination list. There is a list of foods. Some of the things on there might be a little bit surprising because there is a group of vegetables that are considered nightshades but they have been known to be inflammatory in certain cases. Again this is not everyone. We can give you the full elimination list. You can take a look at it and really pick out the foods that you're like, "Oh my gosh, I'm eating a ton of that." What you would want to do is you would want to eliminate all of them and then you want to just consume, reintroduce one at a time. You have to give yourself two to three days to see if you have a reaction. The thing to understand about a reaction, again this does not mean that you're going to get a scratchy throat or your throat's going to close up or you're going to blow up like a blimp. It doesn't mean that.

If you say eliminate everything off the list and then you reintroduce the dairy, and then you feel bloated, you get constipated, or you just skip a bowel movement, or you may go the other way and you have some loose bowel movements, or you maybe get some burping, or you get some indigestion or heartburn, and again, this could be within a couple of hours, this could be within two days, three days. Three days is usually the max. You have to evaluate yourself, get really in tune with your body. Just see am I having an issue with this food. That will give you a little bit more clarity because again, I hear this all the time, it's like, "There's no rhyme or reason to what's bothering me. I ate a tomato today and I was fine. I ate a tomato three days ago and I wasn't fine. When I explain to people that they might be having a delayed onset to something completely different, like okay, that makes a lot of sense.

Go through the list and then really look at the foods that you're really consuming a lot of and try to do some experiments with them first. Eliminate all of it out. If you're a big tomato person, you're having tomatoes on your salad every single day, then allow that to be introduced by itself without all of the other foods on the list. Then just see how your body does with it over the course of two to three days.