Living with Food Sensitivities

by Cindy Brown, Taos News

Food gives us pleasure and is essential to our survival. However, depletion of our soils and other effects of our lifestyles seem to be producing an increased incident of food sensitivities.

If you struggle with digestive problems, fatigue, aches or difficulty concentrating, you may be experiencing signs of food intolerances or allergies. Many people assume that these issues come with aging, but often these problems can be alleviated by understanding which foods are causing disruptions in your body.

As you identify sensitivities, one option is to change your diet. Your body will begin to heal and return to a more balanced state. Making changes to your diet can be healthy for your body, but they require commitment and adjustments to what and how you eat.

One woman's journey

For years, Denielle Prokopenko Rose of Taos suffered from very low energy, brain fog and chronic fatigue symptoms, "along with the inability to lose weight, despite doing all of the good things," she said. "I was eating no refined sugar, no wheat and following mostly an Ayurveda protocol (an ancient Indian approach to mind-body health). Nothing was helping."

When Rose was a child, she had chronic mononucleosis and missed a lot of school. She also had been dealing with irritable bowel syndrome for a long time.

Tina Hawley Hahn at Taos Herb suggested she get tested for Epstein-Barr, the virus that causes mononucleosis, and candidiasis, the condition when normal yeast in the system begins to multiply too much and cause imbalances. The results were positive with high readings, but no doctor she consulted could help her.

Although she was a new mom, the fatigue Rose was experiencing was far beyond normal. "I knew something was way wrong," she said.

In her search for help, she found Keith Christian, a doctor of Oriental medicine at Taos Chiropractic Health Center. In exploring symptoms and causes, Christian confirmed the Epstein Barr virus and also found evidence of major fungus issues.

"Christian suggested I go on a ketogenic diet," Rose said. "This means no beans, grains, fruit, sugar and very low carbohydrates. You eat lots of green veggies, healthy fat and moderate amounts of protein."

The purpose of a ketogenic diet is to help the body switch from burning glucose (sugar), which is the easiest energy source for the body to use to burn fat. This change makes the body adapt and become more flexible and can produce a surprising number of positive effects.

Recent studies have shown that a ketogenic diet can be beneficial in reducing cholesterol and glucose while helping with weight loss, as reported by Experimental and Clinical Cardiology. But other medical researchers caution that few long-term studies confirm how the diet affects people with various health conditions.

Rose said, "This diet has been great, but hard. I've become more antisocial because I can't eat out or have a drink with friends." As she sticks to the diet, she has experienced some difficulties with the transition and has days of low energy and nausea.

"I still don't feel 100 percent," she said. "Sometimes it's almost painful to try to get through a day. But some days I have energy, and I feel like I have some pretty huge healing taking place. I'm incredibly grateful to be on a healing path."

An approach to dealing with pain

Christian has practiced at Taos Chiropractic Health Center since 1996. He diagnoses ailments using methods, such as applied kinesiology, which is muscle strength testing that helps the practitioner figure out disruptions in the body.

Pain of some sort is what typically brings a patient to Taos Chiropractic. Christian uses the muscle testing approach to explore the patterns of the body and follow the patterns as they lead to imbalances in the body's health. After diagnosis, treatment can consist of acupuncture, adjustments to the skeleton and connective tissues as well as nutritional changes and herbal remedies.

Christian sees patients with a variety of food sensitivities. He says food allergies often bring a dramatic and immediate impact to the body soon after eating the food in questio. Food intolerance symptoms can take longer to manifest, sometimes a day or two after eating the food.

"Anything that devitalizes the system has the potential to manifest itself as some form of dysregulation, which can be the root of a newly manifested food sensitivity. For example, the liver has over 500 different functions. Anything you eat, breathe, absorb through your skin is going to the liver for processing. It is a workhorse like no other. It can become burdened and sluggish, decreasing bile production and causing food sensitivities," says Christian.

He points out that as humans, we can forget that we are part of nature and that our guts are teaming with microbes, which are a microcosm of the greater natural ecosystem. When the delicate balance of these microbes is disrupted through processed food, chronic stress, antibiotics, pharmaceuticals or other means, inflammation can occur, and the body will signal us that something is wrong through means that we recognize as pain or dysfunction.

Christian works with each patient to first alleviate pain and then looks to the patient to see if they are interested in exploring changes to their diet and their lives before offering advice. Oftentimes, that advice will include looking at sugar intake.

As Christian points out, "Sugar is highly addictive and releases dopamine. When we consume sugar, our bodies will use that glucose for energy first, rather than burning other sources of fuel like ketones - our stored fatty acid."

Each of us comes with a genetic predisposition. Add to that our life experiences and exposure to toxins and symptoms that are unique to each person begin to show themselves.

When we are young, we might not notice these impacts, but as we get older, our bodies are less resilient in dealing with the stressors. He advocates following the lead of our bodies, observing our own rhythms and patterns: resting when we are tired, eating when hungry and getting help when we are in pain.

One challenge we all face is that our soils have become depleted over time since the 1940s. Farmers began using the pesticide DDT in the fields rather than replacing the minerals lost through growing food.

More recently, the genetic engineering of food to improve yields is having far-reaching effects on plant genes. And, we don't yet fully understand what the effects may be. Although we can't always control system-wide problems, we can improve our health by choosing to eat local organic food.

"We can't unscramble the egg, but we can begin to take back our health and help bring our bodies back into balance through caring for our bodies in natural ways, including diet and exercise. The more vital we are, the more we can withstand the toxicity in our environment," said Christian.

Increase in allergies

Amanda Lora, a registered nurse with Allergy Solutions of New Mexico says, "I am definitely seeing an increase in sensitivities, especially in children. Emotional and day-to-day life stressors, along with an ever-increasing amount of environmental and chemical toxins are showing up in our foods, make-up, toiletries, clothing and homes and they are contributing to more allergies and intolerances."

Lora believes that a number of these intolerances stem from five basic foods: wheat, dairy, corn, soy and sugar. "These foods cause inflammation and immune hyperactivity in the body," she said. "In turn they can create secondary responses, such as environmental allergies. By reducing or eliminating these foods from our diet, we can reduce the inflammation burdening our bodies"

Using a system called advanced allergy therapeutic or AAT, she employs kinesiology, acupressure and biofeedback to retrain the body not to start the inflammatory response to the offending item. She also offers recommendations on lifestyle, nutrition and other ways to support the body. "I stress moderation and variety and not eating the same foods on a daily basis. However, sometimes elimination of the food is the only way."

Removing the source of the problem

Kristin Swim is a certified nutritional therapy practioner. She agrees that sometimes removing the suspected problem food from the diet is the best way to address the problem. "Often I recommend that my clients eliminate certain foods for a period of time and then reintroduce them one at a time to determine which foods are not tolerated."

The people who come to see Swim might not realize they have a food sensitivity. "Symptoms may take time to emerge, so there isn't a direct connection in people's minds between what they eat and how they are feeling. Headaches, bloating, runny nose and fatigue are all symptoms of food intolerances," she said.

She also uses applied kinesiology and monitoring of the pulse to identify problems and collaborates with the doctors she works with at Taos Whole Health who might order lab tests to complement her approaches.

She received her training through the Nutritional Therapy Association where the emphasis is on functional holistic nutrition. She was trained to evaluate each client's nutritional needs, identify nutritional deficiencies and balance digestions and energy regulation.

"I work with clients to make changes and shifts in their diet, including finding replacements for offending foods that meet their nutritional needs and recipes that excite them. Because trigger foods create inflammation and can exacerbate many chronic health conditions, it is very important for people to stop eating foods that are triggers for them. Once we are able to identify and manage sensitivities, symptoms often disappear and the body is able to heal itself," said Swim.

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