Food Choices and Your Gut
Food sensitivities come in varying degrees, and they can affect your body in a negative way.
Food allergy: A food allergy is an immune system response when the body mistakes a particular food as a harmful substance (Silverman). An example of this is Celiac disease.
Food intolerance: often called a nonallergic food hypersensitivity, doesn’t involve the immune system and is more common than the diagnosis of a food allergy (Silverman). An example is lactose intolerance.
Both types of food sensitivities can cause gastrointestinal distress. Food allergies can be life threatening and should be taken seriously. If you are having a response to certain foods, such as restricted breathing or hives, consult your physician immediately.
Food intolerance are not as serious as allergies, but they have the potential to cause major discomfort. Two of the most common intolerances for Americans are lactose and wheat/gluten.
Lactose intolerance: About 25 percent of Americans have trouble digesting lactose – the sugar found in milk, ice cream, and soft cheese (think pizza, queso cheese dip, and Alfredo sauce). Lactose intolerance causes gas and bloating and often gets worse as we age. If you want to take a self-assessment, try eliminating all dairy from your diet for one to three weeks, and see if your symptoms improve. This is not always easy to do without an expert’s help, because dairy or whey products are often hiding in foods that we would never consider “milk products.”
Gluten/wheat intolerance and allergy: Some people have discovered that their stomach distress is related to a gluten intolerance. Studies show about 20% of Americans are affected, with celiac disease often the diagnosis. Celiac disease and gluten intolerance create an autoimmune reaction; the body produces antibodies that attack the protective “villi” found in the small intestine. Villi are what help you absorb nutrients, so when they are compromised, you get cramping, bloating and nutrient-deficiency. If your parents or siblings suffer from celiac or gluten-intolerance, there’s a greater chance you might too, as there is a strong genetic link. You can get a blood test to determine if you have celiac disease, but there is no current test to conclude if you are gluten-intolerant. Becoming gluten-free helps millions of sufferers eliminate symptoms, but eliminating gluten can be tricky and is best done with the help of a health coach who can help you learn more about the foods you can and cannot eat. Foods you’d never think would contain gluten often do – such as soy sauce and ketchup! Plus, to truly reap the benefits, gluten-free is an all-or-nothing diet – simply “reducing” your gluten intake often will not eliminate your symptoms.
These days, gluten-free diets are in fashion for weight loss. Do note that eliminating gluten is simply a method for reducing the effects of an intolerance. There will be no weight loss effects seen as a direct result of eliminating gluten. Further, those who do not have a gluten intolerance will see no benefit from eliminating gluten from their diet.
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