Almost everyone I talk to about food (and I talk about food CONSTANTLY) pipes up with the fact that they’re allergic or sensitive to something that should be perfectly edible. Whether it’s nuts, dairy, gluten, wheat, egg, shellfish, berries, or corn, my reaction is always the same: this is RIDICULOUS! 50 years ago, nut allergies were rare, and wheat sensitivities virtually unheard of.
I have not escaped this fate. I am definitely lactose intolerant, and I also have a tough time digesting products with wheat (but maybe it’s the yeast?) like bagels and pound cake. I also can’t process heavy meats, like beef. So I’m currently vegan (but ask me tomorrow– it changes constantly), and also abstain from a large variety of wheat products. This is NOT because I love animals, though I do. It’s because I physically cannot process those foods without alot of pain, bloating, and back ache.
Do I feel ripped off? YES!
I’m also full-on allergic to penicillin and sulfa drugs, something that could easily be attributed to the over-medicating of farm animals, and our subsequent, steady but growing resistance to antibiotics.
So, what’s up with the food allergies? I guess I should begin this rant (for that’s what it will be now) with supplying you with a distinction between a food allergy and a food sensitivity/intolerance. Here’s what the Mayo Clinic has to say:
Food allergy: A food allergy causes a reaction within the immune system that leads to damage to one or several organs of the body. Food allergies are therefore more serious. They can cause a huge range of symptoms (shortness of breath, hives, vomiting, stomach cramping, etc), and even a miniscule amount of the offending food can cause a reaction worthy of an EpiPen. For example, if I even get my kids’ penicillin on my fingers (or lick my finger after getting a tiny amount on it without thinking about what I’m doing), I get a red rash at the point of contact, and can become itchy. If I were to ingest it myself, I break out into full-body hives, and need an antihistimine, stat.
Food sensitivity/intolerance: These guys come on much more slowly (sometimes you don’t even notice your body protesting), and don’t involve a reaction from the immune system. Often, they are attributed to the bloating you get after eating ice cream, or a bag of potato chips. Some causes of food intolerances are:
1- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) *I was diagnosed with this in 2001.
2- Absence of an enzyme needed for processing certain foods. For example, if your body does not make lactase, you will be lactose (milk sugar) intolerant.
3- Recurring stress. There is a well-known brain-gut connection, and when you’re chronically stressed, so is your entire digestive system. If this might apply to you, try decreasing your stress levels by getting better quallity sleep, exercise, and eat better food. Try yoga!
4- Food poisoning. Disruption to our intestinal tracts via dangerous microbes, such as E.coli, can create sensitivity within our guts.
5- Sensitivity to processed food additives. This one is HUGE. Many people are very sensitive to artificial colours, stabilizers, and preservatives.
6- Genetically modified foods. (GMOs) People are becoming more and more sensitive to corn and soy products, due in large part to their mass genetic modification. The sad part? There is some component of corn and/or soy in almost ALL processed foods. Beware.
7- Chemicals. Pesticides and herbicides that coat our produce is wreaking havok on our digestive systems, making it difficult for many of us to properly process foods. When our bodies are constantly in a state of panic and repair, we cannot possibly absorb all of the nutrients that we intend to. Just because we eat it, doesn’t mean we use it.
So, what’s our current food system have to do with it? Everything.
Today is all about bigger, better, faster, cheaper. So, we eat the cheapest food we can buy, and also the fastest to prepare. Right? Is this way good? Not so much. The bulk of our western diet is made up of sugar, refined starches, and animal products. A very small amount is attributed to fruits and vegetables. We are inundating our bodies (mostly our digestive systems) with acidic, sugary, refined, processed, chemical-laden, genetically modified food. No wonder we have so many intolerances and allergies nowadays!
50 years ago, people ate a much better diet, that did not contain NEARLY the amount of toxins we eat today. Therefore, food sensitivities were few and far between. And we can get back there– we just need to eat mindfully. Fresh, local, organic, and grass-fed. Foods of the earth. That’s what can turn around this mess.
Rant over. Have a great weekend! Don’t forget to love your gut!