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Is Your Diet Making You Sick? by Isadora Guggenheim

“Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.” ~Hippocrates

Your immune system lives in your gut and its main responsibility is to protect you from environmental toxins, chemical residues, bacteria, viruses, germs and foreign proteins. For individuals with food allergies, exposure to proteins in common foods can trigger chronic activation of the immune system causing immediate and delayed inflammatory responses. Systemic inflammation can manifest as joint pain, fatigue, migraines, heart palpitations, brain fog, infertility, breathing issues, obesity, behavioral issues, autism, constipation or diarrhea and skin eruptions. Inflammation also can cause and/or amplify chronic degenerative diseases.

The Inflammatory Response

Lymphocytes are the body’s white blood cells that keep the immune system strong. The immune system can be weakened by exposure to proteins in foods that cause immediate reactions within seconds to two hours after ingesting the allergen. Delayed responses to a food can take from two hours up to three weeks after exposure. Immediate or delayed responses cause intestinal permeability or “leaky gut” that is a major gateway to environmentally induced autoimmune disorders. Inflammation in the gut allows foreign proteins or antigens into the bloodstream. When these proteins pass through the gut lining an army of chemical messengers fight the foreign proteins but are unable to complete repairs.

Chronic inflammation causes cumulative repair deficits throughout the body seen in several chronic conditions. Autoimmunity has three stages. Stage I is silent, but shows the presence of antibodies with specific testing. Stage II shows antibodies and symptoms and Stage III has antibodies, symptoms and loss of function. Over time, chronic inflammation can breach the blood-brain barrier. Unwanted food proteins, chemicals and infectious agents can attack the nervous system, cause damage and release more toxic neural antigens. The immune system gets sensitized and reacts against the foreign proteins and normal brain tissue.

Childhood Allergies

Contrary to popular belief, most children do not outgrow food allergies and the associated inflammation continues into adulthood along with serious chronic diseases. Blood tests seem to be more accurate than skin prick testing. LRA ELISA/ACT testing, which uses lymphocyte reactions to purified proteins, has a 97 percent accuracy rate. It is estimated that 5.9 million kids under the age of 18 have one or more food allergies. Ninety percent of all food allergies are caused by eight foods: wheat, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, soy, fish and shellfish.

Are Elimination Diets the Answer?

Is it enough to eliminate gluten, dairy and fructose? Maybe and maybe not. There are limitations to this approach because this may miss associated crossreactive foods. In a recent study, when celiac patients were put on a gluten-free diet only eight percent achieved some gut repair. People who are sensitive to gluten (wheat, rye, barley, spelt) can be sensitive to soy, quinoa, millet and sorghum – all items which are often found in gluten-free products. Casein sensitive individuals can have cross reactivity with millet, hemp and amaranth. Buckwheat has cross sensitivity with potato, sesame with rice, coffee with corn, yeast with egg, whey with tapioca, latex with avocado and banana, and chocolate with teff. What is the answer? Functional tests with predictive biomarkers can help to navigate through this inflammatory minefield.

The Best First Step

The first step for those with chronic symptoms is to see a licensed practitioner who offers testing for both immediate and delayed food allergies, gut permeability and multiple autoimmune reactivity screening or MARS that measures 24 predictive antibodies that can appear up to 10 years before the clinical onset of disease. Immediate food allergies and gut permeability testing is covered by some insurances.

The testing will help identify food triggers that could be making a person sick. The path to better health can be paved once the problematic foods are removed from the diet and other lifestyle changes take place.

Isadora Guggenheim is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and certified nutrition specialist. Her offices are located at 8 Rockland Place, Nyack, 105 Shad Row, Suite 1B, Piermont and Total Life Care Center, 152 East Avenue, Norwalk, Connecticut. For more information, call 358-8385 or email or visit

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