We have all eaten something that didn’t agree with us. But when your stomach issues become more frequent and severe, you might have a bigger digestion problem, such as a food intolerance. Food intolerances occur more often as you age since your digestion naturally becomes slower and your body produces fewer enzymes needed to break down food. This allows for more bacteria to ferment in the GI tract and lead to digestive distress and bloating.
Unlike food allergies which involve IgE antibodies in the immune system, food intolerances can arise when we consume the same foods day after day with little variety. I see this a lot in my fitness competitors; they do a great job meal-prepping and portioning their food to fit their macronutrient goals, but they end up eating the same foods day-after-day! This can cause the body to become “sensitized” to these foods.
Food sensitivities or intolerances involve a different set of immune antibodies than food allergies, called IgG antibodies. Symptoms are less intense and typically do not appear immediately, but rather within 12-48 hours after eating. Heartburn, headaches, fatigue and decreased energy, inability to lose weight, bloating, constipation or diarrhea, gas, and abdominal pain can all be related to food sensitivities or intolerances. And because the connection between symptoms and a specific food can be difficult to identify for a lot of people, they often get worse and worse as their immune system takes a constant beating.
For my clients who believe they are suffering from food intolerances, I recommend BOTH IgG AND IgA antibody testing. IgA antibodies provide protection from mucosal damage, therefore IgA reactivity to foods will indicate mucosal damage. This is better indicator than just checking IgG antibody levels alone. If IgG reactions are negative and you still are symptomatic, IgA reactivity will help provide more answers.
Once we know what foods are problematic, creating a plan to rotate your diet/eliminate these foods will help to improve your symptoms. Many of us with food sensitivities do not even realize how bad we feel until the problematic foods are removed from our diet. Then suddenly, getting out of bed becomes easier, out energy, mood and concentration improves, joint pain, headaches and sinus congestion lessen, and we have better digestion and bowel movements.
Rachel Scheer is a Certified Nutritionist who received her degree from Baylor University in Nutrition Science and Dietetics. Rachel has her own private nutrition and counseling practice located in McKinney, Texas. Rachel has helped clients with a wide range of nutritional needs enhance their athletic performance, improve their physical and mental health, and make positive lifelong eating and exercise behavior changes.