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How Food Sensitivities Affect Us and What We Can Do About Them

Do you often have heartburn, stomach pain, or gas and bloating? Many people have digestive issues caused by bad diets and certain foods that they are sensitive to. Food allergies and food sensitivities can lead to inflammation in the lining of the digestive tract that cause overt digestive problems, but they can also manifest as skin conditions, fatigue, joint pain, and other symptoms. Choosing to eat a clean, nutritious, anti-inflammatory diet can help with these symptoms along with maintaining overall health.

Eating offending foods not only affects the digestive system but also impacts the immune system. Inflammation in the digestive tract results in “leaky gut,” allowing for the absorption of proteins that do not normally find their way into our bloodstream. With the increased antigenic load in our body, we see increasing symptoms as the immune system reacts against the proteins. Eczema and asthma are examples of other symptoms that can develop. Limiting exposure to problematic foods decreases inflammation in the digestive system and ameliorates related symptoms.

A good start to a clean diet includes varied and colorful fresh fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens. These foods are anti-inflammatory along with providing plenty of antioxidants to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and other illnesses. To minimize exposure to toxins while maximizing nutrients, choose organic foods when possible, paying special attention to avoid the fruits and vegetables that are highest in pesticides. (Click on Environmental Working Group's list of the “dirty dozen” to see which foods have the highest amount of pesticides.) When choosing animal foods, choose free-range, hormone-free, antibiotic-free meats and eggs, and wild fish. Emphasize fish and lean, white meats over red meats. Drink plenty of water to help flush out toxins, aiming for at least half your weight in ounces of water per day.

To further clean up your diet, avoid the chemicals and high amounts of salt, sugar, and other artificial ingredients in packaged foods. If you are still having digestive issues, consider removing foods you eat most frequently along with those foods known to be most allergenic. The top allergenic foods include wheat, corn, soy, dairy, nuts, and eggs. If after making these changes and still having symptoms, it is worth getting a food allergy panel to more closely target offending foods specific to your body. By limiting exposure to offending foods and eating a good diet, you can heal your digestive system, decrease your symptoms, improve your general health, and prevent other illnesses from occurring in the future.

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