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Why Do Food Sensitivities Develop and Spread?

Although identifying food sensitivities or allergies and eliminating these elements from the diet can provide significant improvements in emotional and physical health, many people make the mistake of just removing the foods they are sensitive to and think that is all that needs to be done. Most people do not understand that this is only the first step in the process and there is much more work to be done.

The question below is a great example of this scenario and a very common struggle among individuals with sensitivities.

Cynthia, after being diagnosed with fibromyalgia 5 years ago, I got tested for food allergies. The tests showed I was allergic to milk, chicken, egg yolk, and peaches.

I eliminated all 3 from my diet and approximately 2 years later, I started having the same symptoms of extreme fatigue and VERY SORE LEGS. I was tested again and showed no allergy to milk, chicken or eggs, however showed allergies to pork, pineapple and peanuts. (These were the foods I used to replace the previous allergy prone foods).

Now it seems EVERYTHING makes me sore. Most mornings I wake up feeling like my legs should be black and blue from the pain; stiff, sore and debilitating. I “look” fine to my friends and family, but walk around most days feeling like my entire body has the flu.

Also, I have inhalant allergies to EVERY grass and 13 of the 18 trees I was tested for. I have lived in upstate SC my entire life and began developing allergies in my late 20’s. Today I am 40 and feel 80.

Please tell me there is something I can do. Kim

The first and most important fact to be aware of is that food sensitivities are not a condition in and of themselves. They are a symptom of something bigger. That something bigger is a gut lining that has been compromised.

Food sensitivities develop when large pieces of undigested food particles penetrate the gut lining and make their way into the blood stream. Undigested food particles are not supposed to be in the blood stream, so the immune system recognizes this as a foreign invader and launches an attack.

This results in inflammation in the gut as well as many other areas of the body. It also puts extra burden on the liver as it works to try and eliminate these substances.

A healthy gut does not allow undigested food particles to escape, so the primary focus needs to be on repairing the gut. Otherwise, as we see with our friend Kim, new sensitivities develop over time.

This is called leaky gut or intestinal permeability.

As this issues progresses, the more inflammation that develops and the more sensitivities develop. It is not uncommon for people in the advanced stages to have a sensitivity to everything they put in their mouth.

Now, although removing the foods one is sensitive to from the diet is a crucial component of healing the gut, it is only the first step. The second step involves removing all other foods and substances that are inflammatory by nature. This includes the following:

  • alcohol
  • pharmaceutical drugs and OTC drugs
  • caffeine
  • sugar of all kinds (including honey and organic sugar)
  • grains (including whole grains)
  • legumes
  • chocolate
  • dairy
  • artificial sweeteners
  • food additives/preservatives
  • all processed foods
  • heavy metals

Regardless of whether you have a sensitivity to these items or not, they cause inflammation and the gut cannot heal if they are consumed. It is my belief that the caveman diet, also known as the Paleolithic diet, should be followed for healing the gut as it inherently does not contain foods that cause inflammation.

Now, if improvements are not seen with these steps, then there must be an even bigger underlying factor.

There are two primary causes of food sensitivity — eating foods that degrade the integrity of the gut, and/or proliferation of an unfriendly organism like parasites, yeast or bacteria. If one removes all foods that inflame the gut and don’t improve, then there must be an organism present.

Additionally, if one has a lot of gurgling, particularly in the area of the cecum or appendix, and a lot of gastrointestinal pain, there is likely some kind of organism present. If one has a diagnosis of IBS, Crohn’s or any other bowel disorder, they typically have overgrowth of some kind of organism.

Regardless, it is wise to just go ahead and do some testing for unfriendly organisms right off the bat, so you aren’t wasting time.

Once the foods that cause inflammation and the unfriendly organisms are removed, then other steps need to be taken to help the gut heal. Lecithin, colostrum, probiotics, fish oil, glutamine and zinc are essential nutrients in this process.

However, some food sensitivity symptoms can be the result of dysfunction in the autonomic nervous system. Food sensitivities and overgrowth of an unfriendly organisms are both a form of stress, which sets off the body’s stress response system. If the body remains in a state of chronic stress then it can become hyper-aroused and any food in the system sets off a symptom. So there needs to be some focus on soothing the autonomic nervous system.

So, in a nutshell Kim, the likely reason that your sensitivities have spread is because the root problem of an impaired gut has not been addressed. It’s also important during this process that all foods be on a rotation diet to reduce exposure and decrease likelihood of new sensitivities developing.

I would also like to share with you that I completely eliminated my Fibromyalgia pain by removing all starchy carbohydrates, following the Paleolithic diet, addressing some nutritional deficiencies and living a green lifestyle. Common everyday chemicals in your environment can also cause pain and inflammation. Be sure to read the Fibromyalgia section of my website to learn about other factors that should be explored.

Best Regards

4 thoughts on “Why Do Food Sensitivities Develop and Spread?”

  1. What should one do if they’ve become sensitive to almost every food they put in their mouth? You mentioned that removing the foods that one is sensitive to is a crucial part of healing, but I can’t remove all of these foods or else I’ll starve. Is it possible to still heal while consuming these foods and am having a reaction to them? I really hope you’ll be able to answer my question! Thanks!

  2. Thanks for the reply! I’ve been working on my sympathetic dominance problem for several months now, but am still reacting to almost everything. Can you please tell me if it’s still possible to heal while continuing to have these reactions? I know that eating foods I’m sensitive to causes a stress response and isn’t good for healing my leaky gut and for my blood sugar levels, but is it possible to get better while continuing to eat foods I’m sensitive to? I’m at a loss what else to eat.

    1. Admin - Cynthia Perkins

      Hi Jen,
      Working on sympathetic dominance is an ongoing practice. Once upregulated it typically requires long-term and possibly life-long work. And one must be working on eliminating or at least reducing the underlying factors that are driving the dominance. The food sensitivities are also most likely the result of Candida or SIBO, and both of these are typically not cured, they are managed. One can’t go without eating, so the best one can do sometimes is to simply eat the foods that are the least offensive, and take a look at the following page for guidelines one should follow.

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