Finding a solution
Once you have identified a culprit, the question is: What should you do about it? Avoidance is the most effective approach, and the one Nenninger recommends most, especially if your sensitivity is to eggs, dairy or gluten. Nenninger says he thinks these three foods are the cause of most problematic sensitivities, and that ongoing exposure to them may kick off other sensitivities by causing leaky gut. Still, cutting out dairy, eggs and gluten can be a painful process— especially since they are so pervasive in our culture. Doing so unnecessarily can also remove needed nutrients from your diet, says Ruth Frechman, M.A., R.D., spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. “Yes, there are intractable food allergies, but you should be able to resolve sensitivities,” she says. “We were designed to be omnivores—our bodies should be able to handle all foods. And the truth is we need these foods to get the nutrition we need.” If you discover a food sensitivity— yet want to keep everything on the menu—try these strategies:
Eat a variety of whole foods “When we eat too many packaged foods, we get overexposed to wheat, soy, dairy and corn,” says Reardon. Choose foods without labels and increase the variety of whole foods, including fruits, grains, vegetables and protein sources, and you’ll naturally decrease your reactivity—and over time, your sensitivity.
Pump up the probiotics If you have a longstanding sensitivity, a good first step is to re-establish the proper balance of healthful bacteria in your intestines. Try a broad-spectrum probiotic for best effect.
Explore enzymes Another byproduct of our fast food nation is that the pool of natural enzymes in our food has decreased, says Teitelbaum. “When we don’t have proper enzymes to digest our food, we end up with partially digested food fragments in our bloodstream that look like invaders to the body—and trigger food sensitivity,” he says. Restore your natural enzyme reserves with a plant-based digestive enzyme supplement taken with each meal. We like Enzymedica’s Digest Gold ($28 for 45 capsules; enzymedica.com).
Detox Sometimes, sensitivities are a result of toxicity in the gut, says John Douillard, D.C., an Ayurvedic practitioner based in Boulder, Colo. “We blame milk, or eggs or gluten—but real the problem is that our digestive strength is compromised,” he says. The solution? A detox.
Knock it out with NAET Teitelbaum is a believer in this desensitization technique (shorthand for Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique), which involves a combination of chiropractic manipulation, acupressure, muscle testing and energy medicine. To find a practitioner near you, visit naet.com.
Supplement yourself Food sensitivities can cause inflammation, which then causes the body to hold on to water—which can cause weight gain and high blood pressure, says Elson M. Haas, M.D., author of The False Fat Diet (Ballantine Books). He recommends vitamin C and quercetin to reduce reactivity to foods. “Vitamin C will help reduce allergic-type reactions and eliminate excess fluid,” he says. “Quercetin will reduce allergy reactions and inflammation, and help heal the gut lining.” Take 500 milligrams of vitamin C and 300 milligrams of quercetin three times a day.
Process of elimination
To learn whether certain foods are causing your symptoms, you can try a twoweek elimination diet. It’s simple: eat clean for seven days, avoiding wheat, citrus fruits, processed meats, dairy, corn, cocoa, bread, eggs, peanuts, sugars, artificial food colorings and preservatives. On the eighth day, begin to reintroduce the foods one at a time, this way:
Day 8: Add milk
Day 9: Add wheat
Day 10: Add sugar
Day 11: Add egg
Day 12: Add cocoa
Day 13: Add food coloring
Day 14: Add corn
Day 15: Add preservatives
Day 16: Add citrus
Day 17: Add peanuts
Keep a record of what you eat and how you feel throughout the diet—and for a week afterward. Headaches, a stuffy nose or digestive problems might point to a culprit. Try eliminating that food for a month, then consider reintroducing it slowly.