Food sensitivities - by Dr Debbie Smith
in Blogs

You have most likely heard more and more people say they feel they are becoming sensitive to foods they were not sensitive to before.

The first big one to look at is gluten. Many have become sensitive to gluten. The big reason for this is the organo-phosphates, i.e. pesticides. If your body is taking strain detoxifying in general, it now has to work so much harder getting rid of this extra toxin as well. This in turn will impact the gut.

The other big factor is wheat has been sooooo genetically modified that it is not the same as our great-grandfathers consumed. When I imagine wheat, I see this beautiful golden yellow stalk with seeds blowing in the wind. Well, what happened is scientists discovered most of the yield comes from the top part of the plant. So they hybridised and engineered this part bigger to look like a berry, and to contain more of the yield.

Then scientists discovered that the plant’s thin stalk could not carry the weight of the berries. The next obvious step would be to make the stalk thicker. But alas the plant was using too much energy supporting this big stalk. So Voila, we ended up with a plant around 30cm high that doesn’t even look like wheat anymore.

The other factor is that the wheat is now genetically modified. They insert the genetic structure of an herbicide into the plant. So when the insect eats the plant, its stomach pops and the insect dies – and that’s what farmers want, of course. Fair enough, we are not insects and we are a 1000 times bigger; however, eating these foods can have the effect of creating inflammation in the digestive system.


So many patients come to me and tell me they have done food allergy tests and are not allergic to any foods so that can’t be the cause of their problems.

The first thing you need to understand is that there is a huge difference between allergy and food sensitivity.

If you eat peanut butter, your throat closes, and you start to have an anaphylactic reaction, then you have an allergy. However, sensitivities are much more subtle. In fact, you can eat something and only have a reaction two days later, making it harder to track down the cause of this reaction that appears to come out of the blue.

Symptoms of food sensitivities

⦁ Battle to lose weight
⦁ Depression
⦁ Bloating
⦁ Migraine
⦁ Headaches
⦁ Cough
⦁ Runny nose
⦁ Feeling under the weather
⦁ Stomach ache
⦁ Irritable bowel
⦁ Hives
⦁ Chronic sinusitis
⦁ Diarrhoea
⦁ Moodiness
⦁ Brain fog
⦁ Food cravings
⦁ Fatigue
⦁ Joint pain
⦁ Acne
⦁ Dark circles under eyes
⦁ Fibromyalgia
⦁ Metabolic syndrome
⦁ Otitis media
⦁ Polycystic ovary syndrome
⦁ Food cravings

Food cravings can be a sign that you have developed a sensitivity to that food.

Here’s how it works: When you eat a food you’re sensitive to and it doesn’t digest well, it causes inflammation. When the gut lining is inflamed, small fissures open between the tightly woven cells making up the gut walls. Known as ‘leaky gut syndrome’, these chinks in the gut’s armour allow bacteria and partially digested food molecules to slip into the bloodstream where they are considered foreign invaders.

When the undigested fragments permeate your gut and enter your circulation, where they don’t belong, antibodies rush to the scene, surrounding the offending particle, creating an immune response and inflammation ensues. Sadly, it doesn’t just create enough antibodies for that one time. It anticipates another ‘attack.’ And when it has all these antibodies with nothing to break down, they crave it and, in turn, so do you.

This chronic inflammatory reaction is to be distinguished from an acute inflammation like a throat infection or a splinter in your finger. It is the body’s appropriate response to a true invader, and once the infection is controlled, the inflammation stops. These food sensitivities are more like a hidden, smouldering fire created by the immune system as it tries to fend off a daily onslaught of allergy-causing fake-foods.

Healthy villi in the gut
Healthy villi

What suddenly causes food sensitivities?

Anything that compromises beneficial bacteria and affects the gut lining can make you susceptible to food sensitivities. This can include stress, antibiotic use, birth control pill, steroids, anti-inflammatory drugs and hormones.

Absence of an enzyme is a more chronic problem. Enzymes are needed to digest foods fully. For example, people who are lactose intolerant do not have enough lactase, an enzyme that breaks down milk sugar (lactose) into smaller molecules. Ideally you would want to avoid lactose. However, sometimes when you eat out and are not sure what is in your food, the solution is to take a digestive enzyme that contains lactase with meals to digest lactose.

Another example is where the body cannot break down histamine. DAO (diamine oxidase) is the main enzyme responsible for breaking down ingested histamine. Histamine foods are in so many different foods, including cheese, alcohol, pickled or canned foods, smoked meat products, shellfish, beans and nuts. This is usually genetic and requires a supplement that helps break down the histamine.

It is always a good idea, if you have had to take antibiotics, to take steps to heal the gut effectively and prevent leaky gut from causing any long-term problems. Also remember that 80% of your immune system is affected by the health of your gut.

There are tests available to establish whether you have food sensitivities, leaky gut or lack the enzyme to break down histamine containing foods, to name a few:

Intestinal permeability assessment
Nordic food panel
Celiac and gluten sensitivity
Histdao test

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