Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hidden food intolerances

One thing that a lot of people just starting on SCD have trouble with is understanding hidden food intolerances.

I am queen of hidden food intolerances. In fact, all of my intolerances have been hidden.

At one point in my life I tested mildly allergic to cats and dogs, and mildly allergic to milk.

In more recent years, I tested allergic to cats. That's it. :)

I have no allergies to any foods -- on paper, anyway.

And yet, I am severely intolerant to all grains, cow dairy, eggs, probably citrus to some degree, and probably feedlot beef.

You can be intolerant to a food without being allergic.

How do I know this? How is this possible?

See, when you eat foods over a long period of time that your body can't really handle, your body tries to tell you. Sometimes there's a real allergy that can show up on a test somewhere, but often it just doesn't.

In some people, these intolerance reactions balance out -- if one food causes diarrhea and one causes constipation, then it can kind of balance out so you don't notice. Your body also may dial back your immune response so it doesn't keep going crazy over the exposure.

Imagine your body is a glass of water. Now imagine that each food intolerance is a dark dark drop of food coloring. Let's say each intolerance is a different color. You end up with a muddy glass of water with five, six, ten drops in there. In that kind of environment, another drop of something here or there isn't going to be noticeable.

Now, let's say you go on an elimination diet. You eliminate everything possibly problematic. Your glass of water is crystal clear.

I bet you'll notice as soon as one of those drops of food coloring hits this time, won't you?

I might have celiac disease, which is a genetic inability to digest gluten. I might not. It's hard to say. In order to be tested, I'd have to start eating gluten again. Thanks, but I'll pass.

I myself never had any intestinal reactions to food until I went on the SCD. I was diagnosed with RA long before I knew I had problems with foods. About a year in, I discovered that gluten put me into an instant flare. That was the first sign.

Another thing I noticed was that I was having some success treating my RA with sulfasalazine. It's a medication used to treat RA, but it's also used to treat colitis and Crohn's disease. This put up a red flag in my mind. I found some relief by cutting out gluten and dairy, and then I found even more relief on the Paleo diet. But something was missing, and I knew I was terribly addicted to sugar. I finally cut sugar out completely, and that was when I found the SCD, while in a horrible die-off phase from the sugar withdrawal.

After I went on SCD, more food reactions became noticeable. Some people misinterpret this and think SCD "caused" extra food allergies. Not necessarily -- your body might just not have been able to tell you before.

About three months after I'd been on SCD, I wasn't sure the diet was actually working. So far, I hadn't noticed any "weird" reactions, certainly nothing like others I'd read about had been experiencing.

Well, I decided one morning to try almond butter. I had a spoonful in the morning at work.

Less than 30 minutes later, I was running for the bathroom!

Yeah, almond butter didn't agree with me at ALL. I was totally amazed. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before. Ever!

Later, I had more signs -- when I overdid yogurt and when I ate tomatoes are two other notable ones.

My son (who has high functioning autism) has completely different reactions. He'll have gastrointestinal signs, but also behavioral signs. Some foods ONLY cause behavioral reactions. The only way to know for sure was to test each one carefully.

This is why I think SCD is a wonderful diet -- it's completely customized to YOU through the Pecanbread protocol.

Only an elimination diet will be able to tell you which foods you can tolerate.

The Pecanbread web site can provide that. On the site, there are "stages" to help you. You start with easy to digest foods, and you work your way up to harder foods, waiting 2-4 days between each addition. The stages are only a guide -- you may find that some stage one foods don't agree with you, but the stage two foods are fine. That's OK. They're just there to give you some guidance and a starting point.

You do this at your own pace, monitoring your own reactions. Obviously, don't eat anything you have a true allergy to, even if it is SCD legal.

I think many people with autoimmune diseases have undiagnosed intolerances. People with chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, autism, colitis, Crohn's, and even people with ADD/ADHD have benefited from this diet -- it's sort of a step further than the Paleo diet.

There are many Pecanbread members who have suffered from at least one of the listed ailments -- people who have found an improved level of functioning with SCD. And they're there to help you, too.

Good luck and good eating!


Eli said...

I don't understand your distinction between an allergy and an intolerance. Can you clarify?

The SCD girl said...

Good point -- I made a new post addressing this.

Susan :)