There’s a lot of talk about food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances. The chances are that you’ve heard something about the topic. This article should help break down the basics of food reactions. We hope to shed light on the power you have to eat well and feel well!
What creates food allergies and sensitivities?
First, you should know that health and your reaction to food are typically dependent on the gut. The gut includes the whole digestive system, from your mouth to your rectum. It is the mecca for the body’s absorption, protection, and detoxification.
Reactions to food, whether it be allergy or sensitivity, can be controlled by the immune system. The immune system is located in the lymph nodes of the body; there are more lymph nodes in and around the gut than anywhere else! These lymph nodes are our first defense against things that can make us sick, and if they are activated, we can become inflamed.
The Importance of Healthy Gut Lining
We have an incredibly complex lining around our digestive tract that happens to be the largest mucous membrane surface in the body. It is essentially a tight barrier that protects and controls everything being absorbed into the bloodstream. The brush border is an area in the small intestines that has a microvilli-covered surface where absorption of food and nutrients takes place. The microvilli are fingerlike projections that grab nutrients and create enzymes for digestion.
The gut lining and the microvilli can be susceptible to damage by bacteria, viruses, stress, and certain foods, depending on your health status and diet. If there is damage to the gut lining, this weakens the tight barrier and can create microscopic rips and holes in the gut lining. If this damage continues for long enough, foreign substances can leak into the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) and bloodstream. Lymph nodes can become activated and alert the immune system, causing inflammation and immune activation. This poses a threat to the health of the gut and results in inflammation, digestive dysfunction, and possible infection. In short, we call this Leaky Gut.
The Microbiome and Genetics
Microorganisms in the intestines also play an essential role in gut health and food reactions. Microorganisms include bacteria, yeast or fungus, and parasites. We have a large number and diverse array of organisms in our gut and refer to the community as the Microbiome. For instance, inflammation, antibiotics, processed foods, and environmental toxins can all cause an imbalance in the gut microbiome leading to more inflammation, leaky gut, and food issues.
Genetics can also contribute to food sensitivities. If your family historically is lactose intolerant, for example, chances are you might be lactose intolerant. We inherit our ability to create pancreatic digestive enzymes from our parents.
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