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Why I Don’t do Food Sensitivity/Intolerance Testing

It would be so simple if you could have a food intolerance test done, avoid all foods you are "intolerant" to and all issues (digestive, hormonal, skin, inflammatory, etc) would vanish. Unfortunately it is not that easy and we eliminate whole, real foods that are vital parts of a healthy diet. No one is ever told you are intolerant to canola or soybean oil, so avoid all foods with those oils. That would actually be a lot more beneficial than being told to eliminate dairy. But intolerance testing does not test for food additives, processed foods and fake foods.

There are a few reasons why food sensitivity and intolerance testing is putting illegitimate restrictions on a person's dietary intake. This is especially not ideal for certain groups of people, such as children, those with history of distorted eating, or orthorexia (obsession with eating healthy foods).

Different items in single food groups are also digested very differently. For example, genuine sourdough bread from organic flour is digested and absorbed much differently than a standard loaf of bread from the bakery (even if it is organic and fresh). Same goes for dairy. Conventional milk from the grocery store is processed much differently in our body than raw milk or cultured dairy (kefir, yoghurt, creme fraiche), and it has nothing to do with the amount of lactose. This is why I am a huge proponent of quality. We shouldn't be removing whole food groups that are an important part of a nutrient dense diet, unless you are currently on a temporary diet protocol to heal digestive, hormonal, skin issues, etc. The focus should be on quality and proper preparation. That is organic, whole, preferably raw milk, cultured dairy products, genuine sourdough, soaked and sprouted grains.

Food intolerance testing produces a lot of food fear and anxiety, which is very hindering to type A personalities, perfectionists, and those with disordered eating (by disordered eating I do not mean anorexia or binge eating, I mean unhealthy views or obsessions about food at any scale).  These tests put even more restrictions on an already over restricted society, and often for not a very good reason, as there is not much research to back up the validity of sensitivity and intolerance testing (as opposed to a food allergy which causes an immune system reaction and can be fatal).

A well-functioning digestive system should be able to digest any real food. Our bodies are not designed to be intolerant to good, whole and real foods. This doesn't mean you may not have a sensitivity to a certain food, but a blood test is not going to be able to tell you that since sensitivities and intolerances are not as straight forward as allergies and have a cumulative and delayed effect. Something you ate Tuesday may not bother you until Saturday. Or one tablespoon of something is fine, but 3 tablespoons causes some sort of inflammation in the body. If dealing with weak digestion and underlying causes it may be beneficial to know what foods you are sensitive to, but the only true test for that is an elimination diet (which ultimately, you should be focusing on healing the gut, not on finding out what you are sensitive to).

Food sensitivities and intolerances are not the root cause of digestive, hormonal, endocrine, skin, and other problems. Simply eliminating that food for good will not heal you. You know what I am talking about if you have removed the foods you are "intolerant" to but still have digestive problems and feel crummy. The root cause will almost always be a case of gut dysbiosis (an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gut), leaky gut (a permeability in the small intestine when it should be impermeable to only allow through what it should) or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (an overgrowth of bacteria causing a host of digestive issues and must be tested to confirm). These are the issues that need to be addressed. We need to improve digestion by healing the gut so that you are not getting symptoms from certain real foods. Yes, this may mean you must undergo a healing protocol with the elimination of certain foods for a short amount of time, dependent on the severity. But, the ultimate goal is gut healing and proper balance of flora throughout the entire digestive system, not food restriction.

To uncover the root cause and have a plan in place, it is important to work with a nutritional therapist because everyone is unique and each plan will be different, solely dependent on you and your story.

I will leave you with some tips on how to improve digestion and hopefully alleviate some of the distress you may be experiencing, whether that is with digestion or elsewhere throughout your body.

-take 3 deep breathes before you begin to eat (sitting down without multitasking), eat slowly and chew thoroughly. You must be in the "rest and digest" state.

-add in fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kvass to supply the body with enzymes and minerals for digestion. If you do not do well with fermented foods (i.e. gas, bloating, diarrhea) it is a sure sign we need to look into a bacterial or yeast overgrowth further.

-Avoid or greatly reduce cold, raw, foods as these take a lot of digestive fire to digest. Warming foods are your friend.

-use spices such as ginger, tumeric, fennel, cumin, peppermint to aid in digestion (and make your meal taste wonderful)

-avoid drinking coffee after meals (or even altogether) to avoid gastric dumping

-avoid drinking too much water with meals. This dilutes your digestive juices and enzymes. If you need water to help your food go down you have not chewed well enough.

-stop worrying about what food may do to you. The stress and anxiety is hindering your digestion greatly. We cannot digest food if not in a parasympathetic, relaxed state. And chronic stress around food causes even more problems.

-Eat larger meals rather than more smaller meals (unless you have a blood sugar regulation issue, pregnant or breastfeeding, trying to gain weight, or recovering from an eating disorder like anorexia). Eating until satiated and full, then letting the digestive system rest for 3-6 hours allows for proper hormone release and regulation, blood sugar stabilization and allows the Migrating Motor Complex to do its housekeeping, brushing function to keep the intestines clean.

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