*A Naturopathic Guide *
*to Identifying your *
*Food Sensitivities *
Part One: What is a food sensitivity?
By Dr. Kimberley O’Brien
This eBook is part of a two-part series that teaches you how to transform your health and reclaim your energy by identifying your food sensitivities. You can download the second eBook, “A Naturopathic Guide to Identifying your Food Sensitivities – Part Two: Identify your Food Triggers and Transform your Health!” for free at healthyliferedesign.com/free-guide-elimination-diet.
*A Naturopathic Guide to *
Identifying your Food Sensitivities
Part One: What is a food sensitivity?
Do you suffer from gas and bloating, digestive upset or stubborn weight gain? Maybe you experience migraines or headaches, achy joints, brain fog and feel like a zombie trying to make it through your day. Or perhaps you are always phlegmy, sneeze throughout the entire morning and get sick every time a cold or flu is going around the office. Do any of these situations sound familiar?
In my naturopathic medical practice I find that many people have learned to accept the symptoms above as “normal.” These patients often come to me saying that they have had several blood tests and other assessments
performed, only to be told that they are healthy and that nothing is wrong. Although they feel unwell, people begin to believe that what they are experiencing must be normal since a medical cause for their symptoms can’t seem to be uncovered. They say to me “I guess I’m just getting old” or “Maybe I’m too stressed.”
Many people assume that these are symptoms they need to learn to live with…that there is nothing that can be done to help them other than popping antihistamines or taking Ibuprofen.
*I am here to tell you that this [*isn’t *]*the case, and that it is entirely possible for you to dramatically transform your *[*health!][* *]
Hundreds of patients in my naturopathic practice have experienced a resolution of their symptoms without the use of pharmaceutical medications. Dietary changes are instead almost always what leads the way in that transformation.
So…you’re likely wondering what types of dietary changes can lead to these dramatic changes in health! While of course adding more green veggies to your diet is a great place to start, doing that alone isn’t likely to lead to the health transformations that I have in mind for you. When I work with my patients, I’m focused specifically on uncovering the foods that are directly leading to their health concerns. Specifically, I am looking to identify inflammation that they may be experiencing in response to foods that are eaten as a part of their everyday diet (in other words, I am looking to identify their “food sensitivities”).
One of the most amazing health transformations that I have yet to witness in my practice was that of a man who came to see me for the treatment of his extreme anxiety,
excruciation joint pain and debilitating fatigue. He felt completely incapacitated by his panic attacks and his joints hurt so badly that he couldn’t even lift his small child. Through the process that I will teach you in Part Two of this guide, we identified that he experienced food sensitivities to wheat and nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, peppers and eggplant). These were foods that he was eating regularly (often several times per day) without associating that they were contributing to his symptoms! Within a few weeks of these foods being eliminated from his diet, his life and health were dramatically transformed. He came to see me at his next visit almost in tears, feeling so happy that he was finally able to pick up his youngest child without pain and that he now had the energy to play sports with his son. He was able to sleep through the night without the debilitating anxiety attacks that had been keeping him awake, and he finally felt calm and rested during the day.
You might be thinking, “How on Earth would my joints be hurting because of something I’m eating?” or “Why would my skin be itchy and my nose get stuffed up…those symptoms have nothing to do with my digestion!” In fact, these symptoms (as well as many others) are often caused by an immune reaction to foods that are often a part of your typical “healthy” diet. These immune reactions lead to inflammation, which can lead to all of the various symptoms you have been experiencing.
Your immune system is complex and its intention is to keep the invaders out (think viruses and bacteria) and to keep you healthy. Our immune system is our most important protector, and we couldn’t survive without it! However, your immune system can also become over-reactive and cause you to experience unpleasant symptoms, fatigue and illness. In a world where our bodies are exposed to chemicals and processed foods that didn’t exist a hundred years ago, the immune system can often be functioning on overdrive and it can be easy for it to become overwhelmed. This overwhelming of your immune system can instigate it to become overly vigilant and to start reacting against harmless substances (ex: food) that it mistakenly perceives as a foreign invader.
The severity of an immune reaction to food can vary, and there are different types of immune reactions that can occur within the body. While most people know someone who suffers from food allergies (think throat swelling, eyes bulging… emergency situation!) these reactions are not what I am talking about when I discuss food sensitivities. These symptoms of food allergies (and others like hives and wheezing) result from a serious and immediate reaction to certain foods, most commonly items like peanuts and shellfish. Due to the severity and immediate nature of the immune response, people tend to know if they suffer from food allergies and are typically aware of exactly which food(s) trigger them. You may have a friend or possibly even a family member who suffers from food allergies, and you’re likely aware of the potential severity of these symptoms.
However, did you know that other symptoms like joint pain, nasal congestion, bloating, headaches, asthma and skin rashes can be the result of a slower and more chronic type of immune reaction? It’s this reaction that I am referring to when talking about food sensitivities.
To understand the difference between food allergies and food sensitivities, I’ll need to give you a brief overview of how the immune system works. When the immune system perceives the body to be under attack, it responds by releasing antibodies to target and destroy the “invader.” There are several different kinds of antibodies that can be produced as part of the immune response, and the antibody that is triggered will dictate the speed of onset and the severity of the immune response. The food allergies that were described above are caused by “IgE Antibodies.” These antibodies are produced immediately upon ingestion of a food allergen and result in a very fast and often severe reaction that may include wheezing,
swelling and hives. Food sensitivities are caused by an immune reaction that is mediated by a different subtype of antibodies called “IgG antibodies.” This immune reaction can take hours to days to peak after the ingestion of a particular food due to the slower production of antibodies and associated inflammatory chemicals within your body. This reaction is what leads to your aches and pains, chronic gas and bloating, skin concerns, fatigue and low immune system. Due to the delayed nature of the immune reaction, many people do not realize that food is the underlying culprit or aggravating factor for these symptoms! The majority of patients in my practice are eating these foods daily, which leads to a cumulative immune reaction and people feeling chronically unwell.
*food you eat can be either **the safest and most powerful **form of medicine or the slowest **form of *[*poison.” *]~ Ann Wigmore
The following table provides a summary of the variety of reactions that can occur in response to food and the associated symptoms that are most commonly experienced:
Immediate Hypersensitivity (Commonly referred to as a Food Allergy)
(Commonly referred to as a Food Sensitivity)
Peanuts, Shellfish, Nuts, Eggs, Pollen
Dairy, Eggs, Gluten, Wheat, Soy
Sulfites, MSG, Food Dyes, Histamine
IgE antibodies cause an immediate immune reaction to the food that is consumed.
IgG antibodies cause a delayed immune reaction with a more gradual response than IgE antibodies (see above)
Digestive enzyme deficiency
This is a reaction to the chemicals that are naturally present or added to foods, causing direct irritation to the body.
Swelling, itching, redness, anaphylaxis, hives, sneezing, hay fever
Highly variable, but can include headaches, joint pain, skin rashes, acne, bloating, fatigue, low immune function, chronic ear infections, asthma, eczema, nasal congestion, heartburn, constipation, diarrhea and other symptoms
Abdominal pain, urgency for bowel movement, diarrhea, flatulence/gas
Hives, headaches, hyperactivity and anxiety, diarrhea, skin rashes
Type of Reaction
Mechanism of Reaction
In addition to food allergies and sensitivities there are other types of reactions that can occur in response to food. The first is a food intolerance, of which the most common example is lactose intolerance. What occurs in this situation is that your digestive system does not produce enough enzymes to adequately break a food down for absorption. Milk and some other dairy products contain a sugar called lactose that needs to be broken down into smaller sugars (glucose and galactose) for absorption. As we age, many people lose the ability to produce adequate amounts of the lactase enzyme. Sugars end up accumulating in the gut without being able to be absorbed, which leads to bloating, gas and diarrhea. While lactose intolerance doesn’t tend to lead to symptoms beyond the gut, I find that many people with lactose intolerance also tend to experience immune reactions to dairy (a “dairy sensitivity”), meaning that consuming lactose-free dairy products can still cause them inflammation and chronic symptoms beyond the digestive tract.
In addition to allergies, sensitivities and intolerances, people can also experience chemical sensitivities to the foods in their diet. Chemical sensitivities lead to direct irritation and inflammation within the body. These concerns can result both from chemicals naturally found in food (like histamine and salicylates) as well as from pesticides and other chemicals that are used in food processing (MSG, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, etc…). Symptoms tend to include diarrhea, hives, skin rashes, headaches and other reactions resulting from direct irritation to the tissue.
*food be thy medicine and **medicine be thy *[*food” *]~ Hippocrates
All of the food reactions described in this guide have the potential to lead to mysterious and frustrating symptoms as well as chronic health concerns. I share with you the exact process through which I teach my patients to easily identify their food sensitivities and other adverse food reactions in “A Naturopathic Guide to Identifying your Food Sensitivities – Part Two: Identify your Food Triggers and Transform your Health!” You can download this guide for free at healthyliferedesign.com/free-guide-elimination-diet.
All rights reserved.
No part of this guide may be reproduced or transmitted in any form whatsoever, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, faxing, or stored in any retrieval system without the express written permission of Dr. Kimberley O’Brien, ND.
Medical Disclaimer and Legal Notices
The information presented herein presents the view of the author at the date of publication. The author reserves the right to alter and update her opinion based on new conditions as they arise. This publication is for informational purposes only.
This information is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. Do not use the information in this guide to diagnose or treat a health problem without first consulting your physician.
Healthy Life Redesign and Dr. Kimberley O’Brien do not assume any responsibility or liability for any consequence resulting directly or indirectly from any action or inaction you take based on the information in this publication.
© 2015 by Dr. Kimberley O’Brien, ND and Healthy Life Redesign™
About the Author
Dr. Kimberley O’Brien is a Naturopathic Doctor in Calgary, Alberta with expertise in digestive disorders, food sensitivities and hormonal imbalances. In addition to her naturopathic practice she is a pharmacology instructor at the Canadian College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the founder of Healthy Life Redesign™ and the creator of the Elimination Diet Meal Plan online program. Dr. Kimberley is on a mission to help you own your health and live a life you love!
Connect with Dr. Kimberley, ND:
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Are you aware that food sensitivities are a common underlying cause of fatigue, bloating, IBS, chronic pain and skin conditions like acne or eczema? Dr. Kimberley O'Brien, an expert in digestive health, nutrition and food sensitivities, teaches you to transform your health from the inside out by identifying which foods may be leading to your chronic symptoms. Through "A Naturopathic Guide to Identifying your Food Sensitivities" you will learn the difference between food sensitivities, allergies and intolerances and their implications for your health. Learn how to quickly resolve many of your chronic symptoms while regaining your energy and transforming your health!