Everybody is talking about allergies. Most people though, are affected by food intolerance.
True food allergies are not as common, they present very specific symptoms so are often easier to diagnose, but they are also potentially life threatening.
A food intolerance, on the other hand, is not so quick to diagnose, and the number of people affected is very high.
The reason why these intolerances are not so easy to diagnose, is because their symptoms are usually delayed, making their relationship to our diet less obvious.
Unfortunately the longer we wait before a food intolerance is diagnosed, the more likely we are to develop more serious symptoms such as migraines, bronchitis, chronic fatigue, panic attacks, candida, bloating, colitis, leaky gut and GI symptoms in general, PMS, infertility, chronic pain, menopausal symptoms, ear infections, autoimmune disorders, ADD/ADHD, depression, autism, eczema, fibromyalgia and the list goes on!
These symptoms often take us through a variety of tests and treatments to no avail, or even worse, only to be finally told that “it’s all in our head”. I can relate to that!
However, there seems to be a number of symptoms that point to food intolerance:
Persistent tiredness and not helped by rest, difficulty to gain or lose weigh, occasional palpitations after eating, swelling or bloating of hands, face, ankles or abdomen and others.
Did you know that often food cravings also point to an intolerance?
Very often gluten dairy, sugar are amongst the main triggers!
When it comes to allergic conditions diet plays a key role together with our microbiome (our human ecosystem) (1). There is in fact increasing evidence that our gut flora contributes to health and disease (2), for example it helps with vitamin production (B12 and K2) and can protect us from pathogens that can cause infection.
Diversity is essential
I have used probiotics since I can remember and I have always been fascinated by this subject. With time and experience I learnt that different strains of probiotics have different effects and that a lack of diversity in probiotic strains is directly related to many health issues such as obesity, allergies, digestive problems etc. In short a balanced microbiome is key to good health. This would also explain why some probiotic supplements are beneficial to some people and not to others.
So what bacteria do we actually need? How can we tell which are needed and beneficial for us and which ones aren’t?
If you’re starting on a probiotic protocol it might be useful to know that there are specific stool tests that are able to identify lack of important bacteria or an overpopulation of others.
One of the predominant bacteria that live in our small intestine are the Lactobacillus species, the ones that produce lactase, the enzyme required to break down lactose (the sugar in milk), ferment carbohydrates in the gut and help to produce vitamin B6, B12, and folic acid.
Other strains with similar functions belong to the Bifidobacterium family, this group that is mainly found in the intestines and in the colon, produces B-complex vitamins and vitamin K really important to our health.
Did you know that a common class of gut bacteria called Clostridia helps prevent sensitisation to food allergens?
Enters Clostridium butyricum.
As stated by Health Canal “The presence of Clostridia, a common class of gut bacteria, protects against food allergies, a new study in mice finds. By inducing immune responses that prevent food allergens from entering the bloodstream, Clostridia minimize allergen exposure and prevent sensitization — a key step in the development of food allergies.”
You can find other studies about clostridium butyricum at the bottom of this page.
Remember that, apart from supplements, we can optimise our gut flora through diet.
As always, a healthy diet, rich in whole, unprocessed foods and plenty of cultured foods without the use of processed sugar and refined ingredients goes a long way.
In particular, there are studies about resistant starch (RS), a type of starch that isn’t fully broken down and absorbed, that feeds our good bacteria responsible for butyrate production, the prime energy source of our colonic cells.
This type of starch acts like a prebiotic.
Foods rich in resistant starch (RS) and naturally gluten free are green bananas, tigernuts, potato starch, but also plantains, beans/legumes and some types of cooked and cooled down starch.
Inulin also acts like a prebiotic. Onions, leeks and garlic are good sources of inulin. Fermented vegetables, better if homemade, like sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha are a good source of healthy prebiotics.
There is always something we can do to improve our health.
Everyday new studies take us a step closer to achieve optimal health but we can certainly do our part. Improving our diet it’s a good start 😉