Toxic Food Syndrome

Posted 02/03/2009

• A 35-year-old woman who has had two unsuccessful sinus surgeries and still remains chronically congested.
• TR, 44, described by the rheumatology department of a leading Chicago teaching hospital as having “seronegative rheumatoid arthritis,” meaning she had all the features of rheumatoid arthritis but her blood tests were negative for the condition.
• A young man seeing a world-famous gastroenterologist for his ulcerative colitis. He’s worried about the immune-suppressant drugs he’s been prescribed, yet when he asks if food allergies could be involved, his doctor dismisses his concerns as quackery.
• BD is just four years old. A third of her body is covered with an eczema-like rash and her pediatrician wants her tested for attention deficit disorder.

Need more examples? How about chronic obesity despite dramatic calorie restriction? Unexplained mood swings…chronic indigestion… fatigue… headaches… acne… asthma… poor focus and concentration.

Except for obvious food allergies, like the severe reactions from peanuts and shellfish or lip swelling from strawberries, I was never taught a thing in medical school about food sensitivities as a cause of chronic illness. And decades later, medical students haven’t progressed one iota. Gastroenterologists, allergists, and rheumatologists are either oblivious to the role of toxic foods or openly hostile to the concept.

When I explain the reasons for this deliberate ignorance of food sensitivities to non-medical people they shake their heads in disbelief. They don’t believe American physicians would compromise the health of their patients on the basis of nothing more than a glorified turf war.

Here’s the story: At the onset, the American medical profession’s contempt for any research not homegrown may have played a part. The first articles about toxic foods appeared in South African medical journals in the 1960s. More articles then appeared in the UK. American doctors seem to vaguely distrust anything beyond our borders, and woe betide any research that has to be translated.

What South African doctors realized was that certain foods could sufficiently irritate the lining of the intestinal tract so that large, incompletely digested food molecules could “leak” through the intestinal barrier. This, in turn, would trigger an emergency response from the immune system, which would produce antibodies in much the same way that antibodies are produced against viruses, bacteria, and even cancer cells.

However, instead of the antibody (called an IgG antibody) clearing out these large food molecules, it attached itself to them, and this clump would land somewhere in the body and start causing problems. It might irritate joint linings and produce arthritis symptoms, irritate sinuses and cause chronic nasal congestion, or land in muscles and diminish muscle efficiency, causing fatigue.

This unusual reaction to food differed from regular allergies (like hay fever or hives) because with an allergy, a different family of antibodies (IgE) shows up and triggers the release of the chemical histamine, which causes symptoms. This is why you take an anti-histamine, like Claritin, for hay fever.

Given this information, US allergy specialists stated categorically, “If there’s no histamine, there’s no allergy. This ‘leaky gut’ stuff is nonsense!” They then convinced the gastroenterologists there were no food sensitivities with comments like “Do antihistamines work for ulcerative colitis? Of course not.” Worse yet, the insurance companies, not wanting to pay for anything to begin with, asked the allergists if they should be paying for food sensitivity testing. “Ha!” answered the allergy association, “Why not pay for homeopathy or snake oil or acupuncture while you’re at it.”

And so, to this day, the vast majority of health insurers will not pay for food sensitivity testing unless (and here’s the best part) it is performed under the supervision of a certified allergist and specifically tests for IgE antibodies.

Currently, millions of people are eating foods responsible for a whole range of chronic symptoms, from memory problems and asthma to headaches and obesity. These same people swallow vast amounts of prescription drugs to suppress, but never cure, their symptoms. This of course pleases the pharmaceutical industry, which would collapse if patients started taking their health into their own hands.

Click here for Part 2: Symptoms of toxic food syndrome and how to test for it at home.

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Noon to 2:30 pm; $40

The holiday season brings countless occasions to celebrate with family, friends, and coworkers, leading to periods of higher stress, overindulgence, and indigestion.

Just in time for Thanksgiving, Gentle Yoga for Digestive Health will take an in-depth look at the function of the digestive system, how it responds to stress and over-eating/drinking, and healing practices for digestive health. Accessible to all levels, the workshop will teach breathing techniques; short, guided meditations; and gentle movement to facilitate healing. You’ll leave with the tools you need to cultivate a balanced and detoxified digestive system, through the holidays and beyond.

For more information or to register, please contact Renee at Renee@wholehealthchicago.com or call (773) 296-6700.

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