An imbalance of healthy bacteria, low digestive-enzyme activity, parasites, food sensitivities or leaky gut syndrome can affect the way you digest and absorb nutrients and assimilate vitamins, minerals, protein and essential fatty acids from the food you eat – potentially leading to a laundry list of health problems.
For example, the gut is sometimes referred to “the second brain,” because you synthesize more neurotransmitters in your gut than in your brain. So food sensitivity, which can cause an inability to digest protein properly, can deprive your body of amino acids it needs to create many key brain chemicals, resulting in depression. An inability to absorb nutrients can also cause food cravings and overeating, leading to weight gain that’s difficult to lose. Poor protein digestion can cause low serotonin levels, leading to disrupted sleep patterns. Undetected bacterial infections in the digestive tract can cause adrenal and female hormone issues, as well as recurrent heartburn. And low stomach-acid production can hamper calcium absorption important for bone strength.
Additionally, your gastrointestinal system is responsible for up to 80% of your body’s immune function – so you must have good digestive function in order to have optimal health.
Food Allergy vs Food Sensitivity
It’s believed that more than 80% of the population has food sensitivities, while only 5% has true food allergies.
Food allergy is an immune-system response to a food, causing an increase in immunoglobulin E or A. This type of reaction happens with minutes to hours of ingestion, and can trigger symptoms like rash, difficulty breathing, anaphylactic shock, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
Food sensitivity is an immune-system response to a food, causing an increase in immunoglobulin G. Food sensitivities can happen at any age, can happen up to 72 hours following ingestion, and can trigger different symptoms and contribute to a vast variety of health issues, including Inflammatory Bowel Disease [IBS], gas and bloating, headaches and migraines, anxiety, fatigue, weight gain, mood swings, rash, sinusitis, ear infections and rheumatoid arthritis or other auto-immune disorders. A food sensitivity reaction may not be recognized until the problematic food is eliminated from, then reintroduced to the diet. Most sensitivities will resolve with a period of elimination.
Both reactions can cause inflammation at a cellular level, which can predispose a patient to chronic conditions or disease.
Julie Long, WHNP-BC can help gauge how well your GI tract is digesting, absorbing, and contributing to your immune system, and how to get your gut working at its best.