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: www.livingwellnessuniversity.com