Since 2003, countless studies have emerged observing the effect of food allergies, sensitivities and intolerance on overall health and healthy weight management. As the research has evolved, health professionals are rapidly catching on to a new set of recommendations when it comes to good nutrition.
The Department of Health and Human Services, The National Institute of Health and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have all recognized the prevalence of a variety of food sensitivities among the general public – many without any set diagnostic criteria because the body does not appear to produce any specific antibodies. It is a rapidly growing national health issue – early in February 2012, fifteen experts from seven countries submitted a proposal to the American Gastroenterological Association to establish diagnostic criteria for gluten sensitivity. “One percent of the U.S. population has celiac disease and for every one diagnosis of celiac disease, another 6 to 8 patients complain of the symptoms, but don’t test positive for the antibodies – diagnostic criteria would allow all physicians to help people who are suffering,” says Tim Morley, D.O. and Medical Director of BodyLogicMD of New York.
Recently, celebrity nutritionists, trainers and other well-known names in the health industry have zeroed in on this concept and have begun promoting not-so-fad “fad” diets. But unlike the usual crash diets that top the charts each January, this plan has some real value and may be the new best way to eat.
Various non-profit and research organizations have released statements and informative literature on the top food allergens and intolerance that affect many Americans. Seven foods top the charts and although you may not be one among those diagnosed with a specific allergy, you may still unknowingly exhibit signs of intolerance or sensitivity – often affecting your mental and physical health.
Below is a list of many of foods common in the traditional American diet and– intentional or otherwise – there is a high likelihood that you have consumed at least one of these food items in the last 24 hours. So, why would you eliminate healthy foods like the “incredible edible egg” or magnesium-rich peanuts?
- Peanuts.Peanuts are one on the most allergenic foods an individual can consume. In 1989, a study by the Department of Medicine and Food Research Institute determined that two major protein fractions are likely responsible for the sensitivities and allergies associated with the peanut. In 2012, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Immunology published a study that isolated the allergen in the peanut, Ara h 2 sIgE, in an effort to seamlessly diagnosis a peanut allergy. The efforts were successful in creating a new diagnostic tool for peanut allergy. Much like gluten, however, diagnostic criteria has not been established for peanuts – as you can see testing antibodies for peanut allergy is still a new frontier.
- Soy. The controversy over soy is a seemingly endless battle among researchers, doctors and dietitians. Soy does offer many benefits, but it can also be very harmful to your health. Soy contains phytoestrogens that are capable of mimicking estrogen inside the body. For men, too much soy can cause physical changes due to raised estrogen levels. In women, soy has been shown to minimize the symptoms of menopause, while simultaneously increasing the risk of breast cancer. Scientists continue to toil over the risks and benefits of soy and until they prove its safety, you may want to monitor your intake of soy.
- Dairy.Lactose intolerance is a growing problem and, much like soy, is a major source of debate. Many experts believe that dairy contributes to a multitude of adverse health conditions and the widespread obesity epidemic. Hypothesis supporting the reasons not to consume dairy include the hormones in cattle feed, excess fat consumption and enzymes that contribute to intolerance and sensitivities. On the other hand, dairy is a rich source of calcium and in a 2012 study, promotes brain health.
- Eggs. Eggs have been the misfit of the food pyramid for decades. Some experts include the incredible edible egg with dairy, while others consider it part of the protein group. Recent studies have shown eggs to be one of the most nutrient-rich foods you can consume – providing a vast array of vitamins and minerals, along with a healthy serving of protein, all for just 80 calories. When it comes to the speculative risks to your health, eggs are more closely linked to the dairy group. Some experts believe, much like the hormones cows are exposed to, chickens are getting a similar diet and passing those endocrine disruptors to your system with every sunny-side up serving.
- Sugar. Of course, sugar is on the list – excess sugar is common in the American diet and contributes to the accumulation of deadly fat in the body. Sugar is also a hindrance to healthy weight management, as it contributes to spikes in blood glucose levels and reduces satiety.
- Gluten. Gluten is among the most talked about food allergy today. The number of diagnosed celiac cases has quadrupled in the last 50 years, mostly because more is known about the disease and how to diagnose it, but also because of increased exposure to toxins, associated with many modern conveniences. Gluten is a wheat protein that stimulates a severe immune response in individuals diagnosed with celiac disease, inhibiting the digestion of vital nutrients and destroying the GI tract, if left untreated. For those with gluten sensitivity and gluten intolerance diagnosis becomes blurry. Gluten allergens have been blamed for many of life’s personal discomforts – mental and physical. In fact, some studies show it may contribute to mental illnesses, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and attention-deficit disorder.
- Artificial Sweetener/Ingredients. Artificial can be difficult to recognize on a food label. That is why all-natural, whole foods are your best choice, but in modern-day, this can be difficult to adhere to. The easiest way to avoid most artificial ingredients is to look for foods that have short ingredient lists. Artificial ingredients inhibit optimal digestion and promote the build-up if toxins in your system. Just because these ingredients are FDA-approved or have received GRAS status (Generally Recognized As Safe) does not mean they are healthy. Truthfully only time will tell – in the meantime, you can rest assured, natural is best.
The good news is that you do not necessarily have to give up all these foods for the rest of your life. The most ideal way to discover allergies is to participate in a comprehensive nutrition lab panel – testing your blood and saliva – to immediately gain awareness of foods that produce the antibody, immunoglobulin E (IgE.)
Identifying sensitivities is complex, since the only real indicator of dysfunction is your reaction to the food, which may be slight. Developing a healthy eating plan that eliminates all seven of these food items over the course of three to four weeks, should sufficiently rid your body of the harmful effects. After the completion of the 21 to 28 day period, you will begin to add back each food item one at a time, observing for discrepancies in your mental and physical state. Reactions may include, but are not limited to mental fogginess, fatigue, depression, abdominal cramping, upset stomach, bloating, diarrhea, constipation or acne. If not effects are observed after one week, the added food item is a safe part of your food intake and you should choose the next food on the list to add back to your diet. If effects are observed, discontinue consumption of that food item – you have recognized your sensitivity to that food.
At the completion of determining the foods you are most sensitive to, you can devise a balanced diet eliminating the foods that cause you distress. You will find that elimination of these foods improves your energy, mental clarity, gastrointestinal function and even sleep. Eating a “clean,” balanced diet as a part of your regular lifestyle will ensure your hormones stay balanced, you can easily manage your weight and you experience a longer, better quality of life.