I am often asked if food tolerances can be reversed. The simple answer? Yes, it is possible – but what you need is a very specific approach.
This is an important topic for many people, as food intolerances become more and more common, and consequently more prevalent in mainstream health discussions. Researchers estimate that up to 15 million Americans have food allergies, including 5.9 million children under the age of 18.1
In a 2002 study, consisting of over 1,500 subjects from a range of demographic groups, 20.8% reported having problems with either food allergy or food intolerance, but over 25% were found to be sensitive to at least one food allergen when tested.2
Sadly, the prevalence of food intolerance alone has received very little attention. Many cases of intolerance go unnoticed for years because the symptoms they produce are associated with another health problem (however falsely).
Equally, many patients have never received the kind of care needed for a direct causal connection between food intolerance and another condition to be discovered. Asthma, eczema, IBS, and chronic fatigue are good examples of conditions that may be directly related to food intolerance.3
The question that we face today is: Does this apply to you?
Intolerant, or Allergic?
Food allergy and intolerance are very different things. The following are how we might best understand them apart from one another…
A food allergy is:
- An abnormal immune system response, or clear allergic reaction, which occurs after a food is ingested.
- An immune reaction (IgE antibody) mediated reaction that occurs within minutes to hours after the food is ingested.
Symptoms can be mild to severe, and include:
- Swelling of the mouth
- Difficulty breathing
- Abdominal discomfort
A food intolerance is:
- A non-allergic reaction to a particular food when ingested.
- A delayed hypersensitivity response whose symptoms develop more slowly: from hours to several days.
- Sometimes caused by enzymatic deficiencies (when no immune reaction occurs). This category includes lactose, fructose, and gluten intolerance.
The most common intolerance symptoms include:
- Brain fog
- Mood changes
Other symptoms can include pain, weight gain, autoimmune diseases and much more.
5 Action Steps to Healing Food Intolerances
So can we reverse all these insidious symptoms? Yes, we can!
Follow these five steps, and not only are you likely to see a dramatic reduction in the above issues long-term, but you can also gain back what you deserve for your hard work: vibrant health that really shows and health benefits that expand into every aspect of your life.
1. Identify Reactive Foods
It can be difficult to pinpoint which foods you’re intolerant to without effective intolerance testing. Testing gives us important clinical results, and there are now a variety of specialty tests available to help uncover the culprit of your discomfort.
Bottom Line: Skin prick tests are useful for IgE allergies but they are not very helpful for intolerances because the reaction can be delayed. A simple blood test can be used to identify IgG (immunoglobulin G) antibodies and detect the body’s reaction to certain foods.
2. Eliminate Offending Foods
Once a food intolerance or multiple intolerances have been detected through blood work, the elimination of the offending foods can begin.
That is an absolutely essential part of this 5-step process because without excluding the culprit foods, your body will continue to contend with them and present the same symptoms you are trying to eliminate as a result.
Bottom Line: Studies show that dietary exclusion can lead to the fast relief of symptoms associated with digestive upset.4 Even taking a holiday from culprit foods can allow the gut lining to heal enough for symptoms to subside and remain at bay.
3. Repair The Gut
Food allergy is highly related to gut permeability5,6, or “autoimmune gastritis,” and is even used in its diagnosis. Food intolerance is no different, and repairing the gut is another sure way to improve the symptoms of food intolerance, which are often caused by the wrong substances getting through the gut wall and triggering an immune response.
There are a number of substances that can help with this:
- L-glutamine, which helps maintain the integrity of the intestinal lining.7 5,000-20,000 mg per day in divided dosing should be adequate.
- Zinc (25-50 mg daily), which helps stabilize the small intestine mucosal function and stimulate gut repair.8
- Quercetin (1-3 grams per day divided across the day), to support the cells in the gut lining.9
- N-Acetylglucosamine (NAG, 100-500 mg per day), to enhance healthy absorption.10
Bottom Line: Excellent gut repair Integrative Health formulas to try include: GI Reset, Gut Shield, and SBI Protect.
4. Balance Your Gut Microbes
Once you start working on gut repair, adding prebiotic and probiotic foods and supplements is the next natural step. Doing so will populate your digestive system with all the right life to support excellent health within your body and help ensure intolerances cannot make a return.
Prebiotics feed the probiotic bacteria in your gut. Many foods are rich in prebiotics. These include things like:
And in order to build up your body’s store of probiotics, add:
Alongside these foods, a supplement is highly recommended, but not all probiotic supplements are created equal. Make sure to choose capsules will a high strain count (that contains a range of different types of bacteria including lactobacillus and bifidobacterium), and those with between 10 and 100 billion CFU.
Bottom Line: Make room in your diet for some of the above foods, and take supplements daily for best results (following the manufacturer’s dosage recommendations).
5. Improve Digestion
The final step to reversing food intolerances is aiding your body in the breakdown of the food you consume. Many patients with food allergies have difficulties digesting proteins.11
Food intolerance can present similar issues, but adding betaine hydrochloride (HCL) and digestive enzymes can help substantially. Follow the supplement manufacturer’s instructions on dosage, as these tend to vary based on the brand.
Healing Food Intolerances Today
What I want you to know is that healing food intolerance is possible and absolutely important. We use this 5-step approach with our patients and get great results. Need more support? Talk to your IH doctor, who will be more than happy to help and answer any questions you might have about potential undiscovered food intolerances affecting your health.
Dr. Roz Ranon, NMD is an Arizona board-certified Naturopathic Physician practicing with Dr. C at Integrative Health with a focus on Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. She received her doctorate from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona. In addition, Dr. Roz received further training and earned a certification in advanced metabolic endocrinology and fellowship in metabolic, nutritional and functional medicine through the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine.
Dr. Roz is passionate and committed to provide the best quality healthcare by educating within an empowerment model to help patients attain better health. Her approach is to explore core causes of illness and focus on primary prevention. With an approach to whole body medicine, Dr. Roz becomes a proactive integrative health partner that uses the full spectrum of natural care modalities along with the most effective conventional medicine to help you achieve optimal health, improve quality of life, and longevity. Because looking at things from a different perspective at every angle leads to a fresh prescription for life.