Many people have food sensitivities that force them to live on a restricted diet. In some cases, sensitivities continue to develop, and with them even more food restrictions. The restrictions can mount to such an extent that living with them can paint you into a "dietary corner" with virtually nothing you can eat.
What Causes This?
There are three main health issues that trigger food sensitivities:
- Incomplete digestion of proteins because of insufficient stomach acid or digestive enzymes.
- Leaky gut from infections, especially candida, and other causes. Anti-inflammatory arthritis medications such as ibuprofen are major triggers for leaky gut as well.
- Adrenal fatigue.
Your digestive system is one of your main protective barriers between you and what's unhealthy in the outside world. Because of this, your immune system patrols your gut pretty aggressively. When eating food, especially proteins, these border guards check to make sure that what you've eaten has been properly broken down into their component amino acids.
You can think of proteins as being long sentences made up of letters called amino acids. The letters by themselves have no meaning, but they represent important building blocks that your body uses to make a wide array of necessary things. But if your body absorbs a long string of these into your blood without properly breaking them down (i.e., an incompletely digested protein), your body will treat it like an outside invader and form a sensitivity to a food.
So if your digestive system doesn't completely break down the food you eat, or if its border patrol isn't doing its job and allows incompletely digested food to be absorbed into your body (called "leaky gut"), your body will react. Normally, this reaction is tempered by a healthy adrenal gland. But if your adrenal gland is fatigued and fails in its tempering responsibility, you'll have a perfect trifecta for developing food allergies.
And it gets worse. When your diet becomes limited, you can be left eating disproportionately large amounts of just a few different kinds of food. Unfortunately your digestive system is geared towards breaking down wide varieties of foods, and doesn't work as well when it sees the same foods over and over again. When you're forced into this eating pattern, you can find yourself spiraling towards ever more sensitivities with ever shrinking foods to choose from.
Sensitivity Versus Allergy
Medically, a sensitivity and an allergy are two very different things. An allergy is when one specific part of your immune system is getting triggered (e.g., IgE antibodies and histamine). Sensitivity is a more generic term for when your body and immune system react adversely to something.
Most people have food sensitivities, and not allergies. Sadly, most physicians are unfamiliar with food sensitivities and often believe they don't exist.
Food Allergy Testing
Most food allergy blood tests are, IMHO, worse than useless. A study done by Bastyr Naturopathic College showed that if you have three tubes of blood drawn, and send them to the same lab (fibbing and writing different names on the three tubes), your results will come back showing you to be allergic to about 20 to 30 foods. But each lab result will show a totally different mix of food allergies – even though all three tubes were drawn from you at the same time! (I should note that the lab ELISA/ACT Biotechnologies, founded by Dr. Russell Jaffe, seems to have avoided this "random results" problem.)
I generally tell people who've already had food allergy tests performed to ignore the results, especially if they were IgG antibody tests. One exception to this is if only IgE testing was done, which would be clearly shown on your lab report. If only IgE testing is done, you will probably have no positive results. And if something does show positive, you can trust that it's a true food allergy and you should avoid that food. However, this test will not look for food sensitivities.
My preferred approach to testing? Muscle testing (see next section) in the hands of somebody experienced in the technique can be very reliable.
A multiple food elimination diet is most reliable, but a nuisance. You can find a "kinder and gentler" elimination diet developed by Doris Rapp, MD.
Eliminating Food Sensitivities
Although allergy shots can be very effective for inhalant allergens like pollen, they're not very effective for food sensitivities. But there is a technique that is gentle, yet effective. This is called the Nambudripad Allergy Elimination Technique, or NAET®.
NAET uses muscle testing called applied kinesiology to test for sensitivities. Looking at it, my first reaction as a scientist was that there was no way on earth this testing or treatment could possibly work. In fact, until my early 40s I suffered with severe hay fever (ragweed allergy). I met an NAET practitioner who said that she could get rid of it in 20 minutes. Being an all-knowing doctor, I told her "Leave me alone. That voodoo can't help me!"
A few weeks later, when I was especially miserable, she said "Stop being a nitwit and let me treat you." Twenty minutes later, my hay fever was gone, never to return.
One of my mentors, Dr. Janet Travell, used to say "First see what's going on before trying to understand it. Otherwise, you'll never see anything unexpected." Physicians such as myself, however, are more likely to follow Winston Churchill's quote. "We often stumble over the truth. Fortunately, we get up, brush ourselves off, and quickly walk away before any real harm is done!"
Keeping both of those thoughts in mind is part of what got me into trouble as a physician. Instead of closing my eyes to what happened and quickly walking away, I flew to California to meet Dr. Devi Nambudripad MD, PhD, RN, DC, Lac — the physician NAET is named after. Despite all the letters after her name, I found her to be brilliant, with no ego. I studied her technique, and was so impressed that I went back home to Annapolis, and married the woman who had used it to eliminate my hay fever!
One day years later, I came to work and a little five-year-old autistic girl was in my office who my wife had been helping. I'd seen her many times and had never heard her string more than two words together. That day though, she was running around the office like little Chatty Cathy, seeming to be completely normal. The breakthrough was that my wife had desensitized her to one nutrient group that day, and her autism disappeared!
I spoke with other NAET practitioners who found this to be a common occurrence in autism. Our foundation then funded, and I was chief investigator on, a study using NAET to treat autism. By the end of one year, 23 of the 30 autistic children were back in regular school. Zero of the 30 in the control group were!
We published this study, and a large double-blind placebo-controlled study is currently underway. For those of you who know any autistic children, you can find information on how to enroll in the study at the NAET website.
NAET is very simple. You just hold a glass tube with the energetic signature of a food. The practitioner stimulates the acupressure points along the spine. And the next day the food sensitivities to that food group are gone.
I know it's really hard to believe, but it actually works brilliantly. The mechanism is not clear, but it seems to reset the immune system so that it no longer sees that food as an enemy. Kind of like hitting the "restore factory defaults" setting on your computer when it goes on the fritz.
I recommend having 15 NAET treatments performed to address each of the 15 major food groups. If it isn't clearly helping by the end of those, then it isn't likely to help. Though practitioners can be found at the NAET site, most practitioners aren't there. So if you're looking for a practitioner to work with, search online for people in your area (although the practitioners on their website will likely be more experienced).
I have even seen NAET by itself eliminate fibromyalgia in some people with severe sensitivities.
To prevent the food sensitivities from coming back, it's important to take a good plant-based digestive enzyme (e.g., CompleteGest by Enzymatic Therapy, Inc.) and something to enhance stomach acid (e.g., a vinegar-based salad dressing) with larger meals, eliminate gut Candida and other infections, and address the adrenal fatigue. For the adrenal fatigue, I recommend Adrenaplex® by EuroPharma.
Simply put, an easy and rather remarkable treatment!
Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D. is one of the world's leading integrative medical authorities on fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. He is the lead author of four research studies on their treatments, and has published numerous health & wellness books, including the bestseller on fibromyalgia From Fatigued to Fantastic! and The Fatigue and Fibromyalgia Solution. Dr. Teitelbaum is one of the most frequently quoted fibromyalgia experts in the world and appears often as a guest on news and talk shows nationwide including Good Morning America, The Dr. Oz Show, Oprah & Friends, CNN, and Fox News Health.