Medicine to Move You

Medicine to Move You

The Link Between Allergies, IBS and Anxiety

Why is it so hard to believe that a specific food could be the cause of so many of your health problems?  This is the question I pose to patients day in and day out.  As a patient of an integrative or functional medicine doctor, you would be asked to fill out a comprehensive health history including many factors related to the foods you eat, the way you exercise and the stresses that affect your daily life (this in addition to all the basic medical information that is requested including diseases, prescription drugs, etc.)  The questions seem basic to most that are new to this type of care but people soon discover the vital clues found in the details of a lifestyle history. 

Take Ashley for example.  She is a 15 year old girl referred to our office by her psychiatrist because she had been suffering from abdominal pains off and on for months.  She had already seen the gastroenterologist and received the ‘Cadillac work-up’ including x-rays, endoscopies, and a laundry list of medication trials.  Sadly, nothing seemed to uncover the cause of Ashley’s ails.  The family was distraught and shifted their attention to another issue that was equally affecting her day to day teenage bliss potential.  She found her way to one of my colleagues specializing in integrative child psychiatry.  (How stellar it is to have him available for those families who desire non-pharmaceutical options when caring for their children with mental health concerns, by the way!)  With a comprehensive evaluation, he noted that she had gastrointestinal issues, as well as allergies.  Having exposure to some of our success stories, he referred her to our office for an integrative medicine approach to her case.


I started by analyzing her medical symptom timeline and created her functional medicine story, trying to uncover the triggers, modifiers and systems that seemed to be out of balance, thereby feeding her symptom complex.  It was quite apparent that she had a tendency towards ‘allergies’ with stuffy nose, sneezing and the like.  In conventional medicine, there is no link made between ‘allergies’ of the respiratory tract and ‘allergies’ of the digestive system, and certainly no connection between ‘allergies’ and anxiousness.  In functional and naturopathic medicine, it is one of the ‘textbook’ symptom patterns we see (and I mean every day, at least twice or thrice a day).


Long story short, the digestive based immune system is the link between these three issues.  Some people tend to be allergic, sensitive or intolerant to the foods they eat every day.  In the case of my young patient, soy was her immunological antagonist.  After just a few days of removing this common digestive irritant, her abdominal pain was subsiding.  The constipation she used to secretly suffer from was regularizing at the same rate.  Within two weeks, it was crystal clear to her and her mother that a handful of foods were the cause of her chronic digestive issues.  How did she and her mother prove it?  A simple elimination and provocation challenge was all it took.  She felt ‘healed’ after eliminating her foods and her symptoms returned swiftly when she ‘challenged’ the food during the reintroduction phase.  The mystery of her case was exposed in just over 2 weeks… no medications, no procedures, no radiation!


When I asked if she was OK with this being the cause of her issues, she just smiled.  It was understood that it was going to be a transition removing this food from her diet for a few months, but she was happy that she, at the least, knew the cause.  Not so surprising to us, her anxiousness is doing much better and she is off of her benzodiazepine (that’s right, she was off her Ativan!)  I don’t have to tell you that her mother, on the other hand, sang an outpouring of thanks.  As a mother myself, I know how much it hurts to see your child not feeling well, let alone being in pain for months on end.  The elimination of this food was hard work for mother, just as much as it was for daughter.  “But, who wouldn’t try this for 2 weeks?”  she said to me.


Why this story?  Because these types of stories deserve the biggest headlines on the front page, just as much as any new fan dangled drug or surgical procedure.   If a simple therapy that involves removing a potential food trigger (or set of foods) followed by a ‘challenge’ can elucidate the cause to someone’s symptoms or disease, why do we not know more about it?  Well, sadly, it might be because there is no pot of gold at the end of this treatment plan.
So, for you in the know, be sure that you are paying attention to your food choices.  I leave you with the list of the top 8 culprits that you can try eliminating on your own.  Give them up for 14 days and decide for yourself if they make a difference in your health.


Top 8 Food Sensitivities/Allergies:
•    Citrus Fruits – including Grapefruit, Oranges, Tangerines, Lemons, Limes
•    Dairy – including milk, cheese, yogurt, etc
•    Gluten – including flour, sauces/gravies, crackers, bread from wheat, rye, barley, spelt, &  kamut
•    Soy – including edamame (soy beans), tofu, tempeh, miso, soy sauce, ‘veggie’ burgers, etc
•    Egg – often included in packaged foods, baked goods, sauces, etc
•    Peanuts – including peanut and peanut butter
•    Shellfish – including shrimp, crab, lobster, clams, oysters, mussels, scallops, etc
•    Corn – including such names as maltodextrin, dextrose, corn syrup, modified food starch

If you want to know learn even more about food and its impact on your health, as well as the integrative perspective on countless medical/nutritional topics, visit us at Living Wellness University:

Comments read comments(9)
post a comment

posted March 10, 2011 at 8:40 pm

I have two questions:
1. What happens when we eat once in a while these kind of food.
2. Are organic, antibiotic, hormone free eggs better and can be eaten, and if the answer is yes, how often?..the same question for cheese.

report abuse

Dr. Shilpa P. Saxena

posted March 13, 2011 at 10:30 pm

Very common questions. During the elimination phase, it is best to be 100% free of all types of the food you are testing. If you find that you did suffer a symptom during the challenge part of the trial, then the answer can vary. If you have true food allergy, you are best to avoid the food 100%. Avoiding the food can help decrease your response to the food over time, but again if a true food allergy, your body doesn’t generally forget what it is allergic to. Sometimes, a person has a symptom during the challenge part and can reintroduce the food. It can take 3-6 months of elimination for the body to be able to handle the food for some. It is best to seek out a health care provider familiar with elimination diets to guide you with testing to help distinguish between the two. If you cannot find one, then your body will tell you the answer many times. If you continue to have the symptoms whenever you ‘cheat’ on your elimination, then it probably means you should avoid it.
In general, I do prefer organic, humanely raised antibiotic-free eggs but they are still ‘eggs’ during an elimination diet. So, try to challenge with them and see if your body tolerates them better. As for cheese, it counts as dairy/milk protein so it must still be eliminated during a trial. If you can’t tolerate milk, but can tolerate cheese, it could point to a lactose intolerance issue. You could try to challenge with a Lactaid milk product and see if you tolerate it differently than standard milk. If you do well with Lactaid but not regular milk, it could be lactose intolerance.
Hope this helps and good luck!

report abuse


posted March 17, 2011 at 10:54 am

I think that I may have just had an “aha” moment. Several years ago (about 20 now) during allergy testing I tested as mildly allergic to soy. Is reacting to it during a skin testing mean that it is a food that I should not eat? At the time I was told it was ok to be exposed to it if it didn’t bother me. That was before soy was in practically everything. I suffer from IBS, allergies, fibromyalgia as well as tremors that the neurologist is calling, “unknown movement disorder.” I am wondering if the soy could be contributing to my problems.

report abuse

    Dr. Shilpa P. Saxena

    posted May 5, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    It might just be the sign you might have been waiting for because soy has been connected with your very symptoms. Doing an elimination challenge can be difficult but it is surely worth it if you find the source of your medical woes. I advise patients to concentrate on eating whole foods and making things from scratch. Eat like you didn’t have an oven or microwave and focus on the things you can eat. Elimination diet recipes abound and many eliminate soy as it is one of the top 8 foods that people have issues with. Keep us posted on your progress. I am sure you will have something to share. Good Luck!

    report abuse

Beth Bradley

posted April 4, 2011 at 2:24 pm

I would just like to add that when trying to eliminate soy, remember to read ALL labels on everything. Soy lecithin is in chewing gum, all candy (chocolates, hard candy), green tea with lemon or other fruit flavors, rice milk ice cream, some brands of rice milk (Rice Dream is fine) and many other things. Soybean oil is also in practically everything — most salad dressings (except Kraft light balsamic vinegarette), even tuna packed in water has a small amount. Some people with a soy allergy can’t eat meat from an animal who has been fed soy. I laid off soy, gluten, dairy and nuts for a few months, but can now eat them after a series of acupuncture treatments.

report abuse


posted May 13, 2011 at 10:09 am

I have just started an elimination of gluten for both my husband and daughter who is 12. My husband and she both suffer horribly from allergies – especially in the spring and fall. They both seem to need to take some type of allergy med all year long to help with their congestion. My daughter also has horrible eczema on her scalp (it started this fall after treating her for lice and has not ever gone away)that is very itchy and sometimes leaves her with open sores on her head. My husband has horrible psorisis on his feet – he has tried EVERYTHING to get rid of it and can’t. So, after doing some research, I am thinking it all has to be allergy related! So, our first try is the gluten and adding a probiotic to eliminate the yeast from the inside. Am I on the right track?

report abuse

    Dr. Shilpa P. Saxena

    posted May 16, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    Sounds like a good hypothesis to me. Please feel free to share your progress either way (so we can all learn from it). Good luck!

    report abuse


posted June 8, 2014 at 8:30 pm

Very nice post, allergy surely has some connection with ibs because ibs is also is like an allergy of intestines.YOu post is very informative keep it up!

report abuse

adam ally

posted June 16, 2014 at 12:47 pm

Hi dears
I have allergy from few foods,alike milk yogurt,and other Manny,but have same time ibs from 20 years,and have anxity/depression,but still dont my cause off ibs is my mental health or alleges
This ibs problem cut off me from social life.



report abuse

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to and may be used by in accordance with the agreements.

Previous Posts

More Blogs To Enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Medicine To Move You. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here are some other blogs you may also enjoy: Sacred Medicine Inspiration Report Happy Reading!!! ...

posted 8:58:01am Jul. 06, 2012 | read full post »

Diabetes Linked to Alzheimer's Disease Risk
Alzheimer's…the word alone is enough to scare most people over 50.  Whether it be because we know someone or some family that has been effected by this condition or whether we fear it for ourselves, Alzheimer's disease (AD) has become a ...

posted 6:56:29am Sep. 26, 2011 | read full post »

A Bone-afied Plan for Managing Osteoporosis
Surprise, surprise.  In the news this last week, another class of pharmaceutical medications is undergoing scrutiny by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for safety concerns.  Known as  ‘bisphosphonates’, this class include drugs such ...

posted 4:29:52pm Sep. 19, 2011 | read full post »

Cell Phones Linked to Brain Tumors
Cell phones are here to stay and we knew it the moment we laid hands on our first mobile communication superstar back in the early 1990s.  Technology has come a long way from the remote control sized cell phone and getting in touch with someone ...

posted 8:15:46am Sep. 04, 2011 | read full post »

How to Rationalize Your Chocolate
Death by chocolate?  Well, maybe not so.  You may have heard that there is a saving grace in that luxurious, seemingly sinful, guilty pleasure called chocolate.  Well, here's the latest scoop but I've kept it kiddie size. Chocolate ...

posted 5:09:08pm Aug. 29, 2011 | read full post »


Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.