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Gut health is one of the most important yet overlooked aspects of feeling your best. Your gut affects all aspects of your health and well-being.
Many things affect your gut’s health, too. One of the most noticeable links is between your gut health and allergies.
Suppose you’re experiencing leaky gut syndrome. It is a term used to describe a condition where digestive toxins from the gut leak into the bloodstream. This is brought about by increased intestinal permeability. An inflammatory response in the body is triggered. As a result, you might notice a variety of health issues.
When your gut microbiota is healthy, it’s able to control what gets into your bloodstream. Nutrients from the foods you eat are absorbed, while toxic substances are eliminated from your body.
What Causes Food Allergies and Intolerance?
In many cases, problems with a leaky gut lead to food intolerances or allergies. These allergies develop when acid, bacteria, and food molecules leak into your bloodstream and wreak havoc.
Researchers believe that chronic inflammation plays a role in gut health. The more inflammation there is in your body, the more toxins seep into your bloodstream. This further exacerbates inflammation and becomes a vicious cycle.
Making things worse is that most modern diets lack proper nutrients, and lifestyles are filled with stress. Poor diet and stress negatively interfere with healthy gut bacteria. It makes it difficult for the body to digest food properly.
The bottom line? Allergies, both to certain foods and seasonal allergies, and gut health are connected. Food intolerance and gut health are also connected. But intolerance and allergies are not the same things.
What are Food Allergies?
Food allergies occur when someone eats something and experiences an adverse physical reaction.
The most common allergies are caused by:
• Fish and shellfish
This isn’t a comprehensive list. Any food can trigger an adverse physical reaction, but that doesn’t mean it’s a food allergy.
Signs and symptoms of a mild allergic reaction include:
- stuffy nose
- watery eyes
- stomach pain
Severe allergies trigger anaphylactic shock, which is a medical emergency.
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What’s the Difference Between a Food Allergy and an Intolerance?
Some people are still confused about food allergies and food intolerance. They assume allergies are worse than intolerances. This is sometimes the case, but not always. It depends on how long it takes for the adverse reaction to develop that determines if an issue is an intolerance or allergy.
A food allergy triggers an immediate response. It involves a systemic immune reaction because the body sees the substance as a dangerous foreign invader. The immune system kicks into overdrive and responds immediately or within a few minutes.
An intolerance, on the other hand, takes hours to manifest. As the offending food moves through the digestive system, symptoms arise.
What Causes Food Intolerance?
Intolerance is caused by the body’s inability to digest certain foods. Food intolerance means the body isn’t able to digest the food properly. It triggers unpleasant digestive symptoms. There is no risk of anaphylactic shock. However, there are instances in which food intolerances cause secondary medical emergencies.
Gluten sensitivity or intolerance is an issue that has gotten a great deal of attention in recent years. It’s linked to celiac disease, which is a severe form of intolerance. Someone with celiac disease must eliminate all forms of gluten-containing foods from their diets. People with intolerance can eat these foods occasionally. However, they put themselves at risk for unpleasant digestive symptoms.
There is also a genetic component to food intolerances and food allergies. For example, lactose intolerance occurs at much higher rates in the East Asian community. There is also evidence of higher rates of alcohol intolerance within this same community.
A variety of unpleasant symptoms occur when a person’s system cannot properly break down a substance. These include an upset stomach, stuffy nose, and a red flush. These substances irritate the gastrointestinal tract and affect the entire body negatively.
Most of the time, food intolerance is caused by an imbalance in the gut microbial environment. The human gut is home to trillions of bacteria. To ensure the gut’s optimal health, a balance must exist in the gut flora. Harmful bacteria should never outnumber beneficial bacteria.
To learn more about your gut health, there are human microbiome tests that you can take at home. The Everlywell Food Sensitivity Test kit tests your body’s immune response to 94 different types of food. Their Food Sensitivity Comprehensive Test Kit tests measures your immune cells’ response to 204 food types.
If you suspect you have a food allergy, your doctor will conduct a test to identify the allergy. There are medications available to manage the symptoms of the allergy. However, in many cases with food, it’s best just to avoid the food. Should you accidentally come into contact with the food you are severely allergic to, carrying an EpiPen is the best way to manage potentially deadly symptoms.
What Can You Do If You Have Food Intolerances and Allergies?
Being intolerant or allergic to some types of food is not a death sentence. It should not get in the way of you enjoying life. When it comes to diet and lifestyle, there are some things that you can do to manage these conditions. Here are some of them:
This is the best option available for dealing with food intolerances and allergies. Avoid eating foods that you know will trigger symptoms in you.
Having a healthy gut is your strongest defense against trigger problems with foods. There is evidence that people with a healthy gut microbiome have a much lower risk of experiencing food allergies. There is also evidence that the increase in food allergies is linked to the modern diet damaging gut health. As our guts get less healthy, instances of food allergies rise.
The evolution of our lifestyle has led to an increase in allergies.
For example, people who eat a smaller variety of foods tend to be prone to an allergic response. Lack of exercise and time outside also affects gut health. It increases the risk of developing problems with food. There’s even evidence that breastfed children have a diminished risk of allergies because breast milk contains so many healthy microbes for the gut.
What’s the Best Way to Reduce Your Risk of Allergies?
There are a few things you can do to reduce the risk your body will react poorly to certain foods.
Know your risk
Understanding your genetic risks of developing food allergies and intolerances gives you a starting point for better managing your diet. You can watch for symptoms and make adjustments based on your specific circumstances.
Improve your gut health
The best way to do this is to cut out processed foods and replace them with gut-healthy whole foods. Gradually increasing your intake of foods high in healthy bacteria strengthens your gut health.
Making healthy choices regarding your diet and lifestyle choices helps you restore gut health and reduce the risk of an adverse reaction to foods. Avoiding antibiotics or only using them when absolutely necessary is also important.
Although you want to start eliminating foods from your diet that could be problematic, eventually, you’ll want to include a lot of diversity. Eat a wide range of gut-healthy food. Do what you can to improve the good bacteria and probiotics in your diet. If you want to reduce your child’s risk of developing a gut health problem, exposure to various foods during childhood is important.
Invest time in understanding your body
Your body is unique, and there might be foods that don’t agree with you. Accept that what works for other people might not be suitable for you.
Furthermore, your body changes as you age. A food that you were once able to eat might be intolerable as you grow older. Be willing to adjust. The better you learn to feed your body, the better you’ll feel. This lessens your risk of having long-term health complications linked to your diet.
The Ultimate Guide for a Healthy Gut. Read our 2021 Guide.
MD, Marcelo Campos. “Food Allergy, Intolerance, or Sensitivity: What’s the Difference, and Why Does It Matter?” Harvard Health Blog, 30 Jan. 2020, www.health.harvard.edu/blog/food-allergy-intolerance-or-sensitivity-whats-the-difference-and-why-does-it-matter-2020013018736.
Harvard Health Publishing. “The Gut-Brain Connection - Harvard Health.” Harvard Health, Harvard Health, 2019, www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/the-gut-brain-connection.
UC Davis Health, Public Affairs and Marketing. “What Is ‘Gut Health’ and Why Is It Important?” Health.ucdavis.edu, health.ucdavis.edu/health-news/newsroom/what-is-gut-health-and-why-is-it-important/2019/07.