Sick of feeling bloated, fatigued, down, or struggling to lose weight? It may just be that you’re suffering from food intolerances. We really are what we ‘digest’, not only what we eat. Here, Dr Nasim Ashraf, an internal and functional medicine specialist with over 35 years experience and head of the DNA Health Clinic in Dubai, tells you six signs to look out for that may show you you’re eating the wrong things, but first, what is food intolerance?
“FOOD insensitivities can often be asymptomatic or occult, meaning there are no signs to tell you you’re doing something wrong. The only way to really know what your body is reacting to, is blood testing. It’s very sophisticated and is not just testing for allergies but intolerance. It’s not always the extreme things like shrimp or peanuts where you break out immediately in a rash or worse, have anaphylactic shock. Insensitivities set in play a thing that we call inflammation in the body. In turn, hormones go out of balance, blood sugar climbs, fat begins to cling on, cholesterol becomes a time bomb. By itself it doesn’t do anything but it’s when it gets oxydised by inflammation and eating the wrong foods that it becomes a culprit. For children, food intolerance can be a major factor in symptoms such as hyperactivity disorders, autism, so if there is such symptoms, it’s really advisable to get them tested for food insensitivities. It can be to blame for many conditions, even eczema. The good thing is that you don’t have to cut it out forever, but you’d eliminate it from your food intake for six weeks and usually the gut can reset, unless you have a very bad reaction to things like dairy, which would then have to be eliminated for the long term. Many foods such as eggs and peanuts can often be reintroduced slowly. It’s about having a rotational food plan and eating seasonally, like our ancestors would have, unlike how we eat now, eating the same foods over and over, all year round. If you eat the same food every day, your body starts to produce antibodies to that food and you start getting the intolerance and sensitivity.
So what are the signs?
Bloating and gas
After you eat, you feel too full and uncomfortable with abdominal gas. What this reflects is that the good bacteria in your gut is disturbed and the numbers of those bacteria have dropped. The bad bacteria increases and start producing the toxins and anti-bodies. It can be a real nuisance and people can feel they don’t want to eat.
Brain fog after eating and fatigue
This happens from two things; eating a high carb meal, which can cause brain fog, because when you eat foods which are high glycemic index (GI) foods such as fries or ice cream versus low GI such as fruit, it causes a huge spike in blood sugar which triggers a lot of hormonal responses and the insulin spike. Your body over time develops a resistance to insulin which can cause inflammation and it’s the worst thing that can happen to anybody. It’s the platform that all diseases are thought to develop from. This all triggers fatigue and low energy because the gut bacteria isn’t balanced.
Depression / the blues
We used to think it was hormonal but people get mood swings and the bad swings tend to have more dominance over the life than the good times. It can definitely be a case of altered gut bacteria producing antibodies, which lower the levels of happy hormones, seratonin, oxytocin and dopamin. Many times depression and mood disorders are caused by food and often a high carb and high sugar diet.
Aches and pains
Antibodies affect muscles and nerves and with food intolerances it’s very common to see this. It’s not arthritis, which people often assume it is, or auto immune disease, though it can lead to that. You can reverse auto immune disease by rebalancing gut flora. In two to three months tests have started showing remission and symptoms improving. The whole immune system can be changed through food. Something has gone wrong in the chain for auto immune issues to start and we think the most common cause of this is food and environmental toxins. This can apply to the likes of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.
Struggling to lose weight
Lack of sleep, stress, inflammation are common pathways to weight loss issues. With food intolerances, because of that constant triggering, you set up inflammation. It tells the body we are under attack so the body responds by making a lot more of the hormones like cortisol which leads the body to hang on to fat as a defence mechanism. The key thing is to reduce the inflammation. You can go on a starvation diet and exercise all you want but if you have inflammation like this, you can’t lose weight. For weight management it’s not always calories in and out. Calories do matter but the key is the type of calories. It’s avoiding these foods that cause the inflammation and unless we address the gut and hormonal changes, the person will not lose weight. A little detox and getting rid of the foods you’re intolerant to can help reset the body to get rid of the fat.”
So if you want to maximise your health and fitness, so much starts with the food we eat. Healthy wishes, Melanie x