Food Sensitivities

A Different Approach to Food Sensitivity Testing

The notion that a person may or may not suffer from a food sensitivity is certainly not a new thing.  This has been a concept that I hear people all the time asking about, experiencing, arguing with their doctors about, etc.  And this is something that I deal with all the time in my practice as I work with a particularly sensitive slice of the population.  It is my hope to shed some new light into this topic and try to explain why not all lab testing is the same.  Or why there is might be a high potential for false negatives on these tests.  And what in the world does one do when 90% of everything they tested for comes back positive?!?  Don’t worry.  There are answers. 

I just want to start out this discussion with my own personal story.  It is something that I have written about in years past but feel that it is particularly important to revisit here.  Almost five years ago now, through testing, I confirmed that I have a serious gluten sensitivity condition.  I had been having increasing headaches and weekly migraines that were no longer treatable by either mainstream or alternative methods.  Acupuncture had always worked in the past for these headaches but at some point became useless.  I had also developed psoriasis-like patches on my elbows and knees.  I even had elevations in my liver enzymes which were scary to say the least.   Those go high enough and a liver transplant is on the horizon.  So as much as I did not want to know the answer I tested myself with the best lab I could find.  What do you know?  I showed positive to not just gluten sensitivity but autoimmune reactions as well which are tightly associated with gluten.  The kicker to this story, and why I include it here, is that if I were to have gone the mainstream way of gluten testing, I never would have shown positive.  It would have been a classic false negative!  I didn’t have stomach pain and I did not show positive to the one marker that a mainstream practitioner would have looked for.  So I would have been looked in the eye and confidently told, “Mr. Chialtas, you do not have a gluten problem.  I urge you to continue to eat a whole grain based diet.  After all, it is good for you heart!”  It is important to realize here however that we show positive to things like gluten or other foods, or heck even to our own body by making antibodies that recognize small sequences of amino acids that make up the larger protein in question.  In this case gluten.  There is no antibody large enough to recognize the gluten protein.  Instead we make antibodies that recognize little corners of the protein.  I just so happened to not react to the gold standard corner or the protein that the mainstream chooses to look for. But thankfully the lab I used looks for a lot more corners!  And I was reactive to just about all of the others.  So I had my positive findings and started my new life.  Migraines reduced by at least 90% immediately.  Skin condition totally resolved after 6 months. Liver enzymes also returned to normal after a few months.  So I am one example of a patient who would be told there is no problem when in reality it was the testing that was the problem.  I can’t tell you how many people tell me with full sincerity that they have been tested and do not have a gluten problem.     I always beg the question…  How were you tested? 

But this food reactivity concept gets much MUCH deeper than just gluten.  People are routinely getting tested for 100-150 foods at a time.  And to be quite honest I used to not run these tests often because I kept seeing the same thing over and over.  I would get the report back and 120 foods out of the 150 would be positive!  What is a person supposed to do with that kind of information?  The typical approach would be to have that patient remove all of the offending foods and do a rotation program with the remaining foods available.  The trouble with this approach as I see it is twofold.  First, we have to remember human nature.  We are rebellious for the most part and tend not to accept strict dietary guidelines like that.  I have just seen this time and time again with my patients (and myself).  Failure here is a high likelihood.  Second, if that person would take the recommendations to heart and eat only those foods on the OK list it would only be a matter of time until that person began to develop reactions to those foods as well!  The reality of what is going on in these cases is that this person, for some reason or another, has lost what is called “oral tolerance.”  This means that the majority of things that go into their mouth are reactive to their system.  The immune system is on a hair trigger so to speak and reacts to the things it sees most often.  (Gluten is in 80% of our diet by the way.  And dairy is close behind that!)  So instead of eliminating the majority of a person’s diet how about we take out the few that are known to cause symptoms and then focus all of the support directly at how the immune system behaves? 

One other concept that I see missed all the time in both mainstream and alternative approaches alike is to determine the status of a person’s antibody count in general.    Let’s be frank here…  Getting a full food reactivity panel done is not cheap.  Nor is it covered by insurance for the most part.  So for that reason alone I like to make sure that a test like this would actually provide an accurate reading. I want to help clear the concerns about false negatives.  Because remember, if a paper says no reaction but there really is, the person will keep on eating the offending food.  And in a lot of cases that means destruction of an organ!  So the basis of what I am describing here has to do with the antibodies our immune systems make to recognize, and mark for attack, any particular amino acid sequence it feels necessary such as the ones found in gluten for example.  The most common way to screen for these reactions is to look for two types of antibodies called IgG and IgA.  A person may have IgA antibodies to Alpha-Gliadin for example which is the most common gluten marker (the one I did not show positive to).  But if that person did not make enough IgA antibodies in general they couldn’t make enough of the Alpha-Gliadin IgA antibodies to show positive on the report.  That does not mean however that there is not a reaction going on anyway.  So before I have my patient spend a lot of money and emotion on a test like this I want to make sure that they are able to make enough of these antibodies to provide accurate reporting.  This is just not something I see going on out there. This is just one more way that a person could be given a false negative report which means they keep eating the offensive food!   And in an autoimmune condition like with MS let’s say, reactions like this could literally mean continued destruction of brain and spinal cord cells!  If you are going to go down this road be sure to ask these questions of your practitioner.  And if they can’t answer them then move on.   Practicing with this level of understanding and detail is key to your success. 
And finally something to realize about just about every food testing lab but one is that they do not all test in the same way. Each lab has their own methods and they are not all equal.   Let’s just take egg protein for example.  Egg is a common reactive food for people.  Most all labs however only run these antibody tests against raw foods.  When you cook a food the heat changes the structure of the protein.  So raw egg protein looks slightly different than cooked egg protein.  That means that there will be two different antibodies as well!  Antibodies are very specific to structure.  Now unless you are Rocky Balboa you probably are not eating your eggs raw.  So why, I ask are you looking for raw egg reactions and paying hundreds of dollars too-boot?  Way too many of these tests in my opinion are steering people in the wrong direction by giving results based on food a person isn’t even exposing themselves to like raw eggs!  It is important to test for the foods we actually eat.  I personally eat both raw and cooked spinach. So if I were tested I would want to know both!  I only know one lab who understands and offers this kind of detail. 

So in closing I just wanted to propose a few different tactics to working with the results of food sensitivity testing like these.  If for example one or two foods came back positive then by all means cut them out.  We pray for those reports.  They are straight forward and easy to take to heart.  But if the test comes back mostly positive make sure you take out the heavy hitters right away like gluten and dairy for starters.  And any others that the person may recognize as symptomatic in some way.  But be sure to take measures towards gut lining repair as well.  This is a lengthy discussion by itself and I am happy to consult with you individually.   But more than that, steps need to be taken to help the immune system not react as easily to what it is coming in contact with.  Each individual will present with a unique set of needs to achieve optimal gut repair.  So a good functional blood chemistry work up is vital.  Things like anemia or blood sugar disorders can all work against a healthy gut and can in time lead to things like food intolerance.  The rabbit hole is deep here and it takes a practitioner with a keen eye to spot all of the cycles at play.  This is the kind of thing I love to work through with my patients.  I love seeing them light up when all the pieces finally connect for them and they start feeling better.  So I am putting out a call to action for anyone suffering strange reactions to their foods.  Or anyone for that matter with a known autoimmune disease or a condition that their MD’s just don’t know what to do with.  There are gut concerns at the core of these most all of the time.  And the answer could be as simple as changing some dietary habits.  

30 Day Group Gut Repair / Anti-inflammatory “Cleanse” – Repairvite Program

“All disease begins in the gut.”  That quote has been referenced as far back as the times of ancient Greece, and it is supported by more and more modern research every day.  The surface area of the digestive system is enormous.  It is estimated to be between 30-40 square meters which is about the size of a tennis court.  Inflammation along the course of these organs may not even be noticeable as far as frank symptoms go, but that does not mean that it is not impacting your entire body.  Inflammation in the gut will always cross into the blood and impact all other systems in your physiology.  There is a strong gut/brain interaction for example.  An inflamed gut = and inflamed brain.  But the correlations do not stop there.  All major health concerns can have inflammation at their root.  Cancer, Autoimmune disease, Neurological decline, Diabetes, Arthritis, Obesity, Heart disease, etc. all have their roots with inflammation.  So lower inflammation in the gut and lower inflammation in the body at the same time.
The focus of this program is not actually to “cleanse” the body per se.  The term “cleanse” in my opinion is a very loaded word.  For some people it means being married to your toilet for several days.  For others is means detoxing the liver.  This program does not directly do either really.  It does involve a ton of fresh veggies, dark greens, berries, fruits, clean meats and healthy fats.  It is designed to dramatically reduce the amount of inflammatory foods that commonly irritate a person’s gut.   Eating this way will indeed be “detoxing” however.  This program involves foods which are very dense with nutrition. 

So what are inflammatory foods?  Well interestingly inflammatory foods are often times the foods we eat most often!  Grains for example have a tendency to be inflammatory for most people.  Now I know that goes against all of our training.  Whole grains are healthy right?  Well in some cases and in some people yes…  But it just so happens that of all the food sensitivities out there grains are at the top of the list!  And this is aside from the fact that all grains tend to elevate Insulin levels which is inflammatory all by itself.  Dairy is another high sensitivity food.  So the thrust of this program is to eliminate as many of the most commonly inflammatory foods as possible as step one of the process.  (The second step is supplements which I will discuss below.) 

The second dietary concept that people need to be aware of is that this is a program that involves quite a bit of animal protein.  (Sorry to any vegetarians reading this.)  The diet plan is basically a modified “Paleo Diet” which involves plenty of animal protein, lots and lots of veggies, most fruits, higher than normal intake of fermented foods, and a lot of healthy fats.    All grains, dairy, soy, eggs, nightshade plants (potato, tomato, eggplant, and peppers), nuts/seeds, & beans/legumes are all on the NO-NO list for the full 30 days.  (Among a few other things.)  I know that it sounds like a lot is missing, but people can live this way forever.  You would not be missing out on any nutrients and you will not starve!  The emotional loss of the comfort foods we all enjoy is the worst of it and that passes. 

The second part of the program and one that is not to be forgotten is the supplement part.  It is one thing to avoid all of the potentially irritating foods, but it is another thing to provide compounds shown to reduce inflammation and which work to rebuild the lining of the digestive tract.  Used together we have a very powerful gut repair and systemic anti-inflammatory program.  For the supplement part I choose to use two formulas.  The first formula is the backbone of the program which is the Repairvite Powder itself.  This powder is high in L-Glutamine which is widely known for healing the gut.  But it also contains Licorice Root Extract, Aloe Vera, Slippery Elm, Marshmallow, and other botanicals and compounds which all show benefit to the digestive tract.  The second formula is just a good high dose probiotic called Strengtia.  On this program you will consume 120 billion probiotic bugs per day.  That is a good healthy therapeutic dose which can help the digestive system in many ways.  As a third formula, for those who are interested, we can add in a formula for what I call a “killing spree.”  This is a formula called GI-Synergy which combines herbs and compounds to help eliminate Parasite, Yeast and Bacterial overgrowth.  I can discuss this on an individual basis.  These are strong herbs so I did not want to include that in the program for everyone.  If you have questions about this let’s talk in person.  The cost of the Supplements comes to $199.37 for the month.  ($80 extra for the GI-Synergy)

Think of this program as a vacation from many of the things in your diet that might be working against you!  It can be a struggle and there will be difficult parts, but that is where the group comes in.  We are all here to support each other…  Me included!  I will be doing this program along with the rest of you.  And we can all leave comments and questions for the group on a group forum.  It is important that we all interact with each other.  I will also be holding a pre- and post-meeting for those who are interested and/or in the area.  I think that it would be great to have a little potluck gathering in the last week of the program together for our closing meeting.  We can all bring in our favorite Repairvite-friendly foods to share!  I am asking for $225 even to take part which covers the supplements as well as the time and support that I will provide throughout the program.  I look forward to sharing this experience with you and being there for you all.  See you soon!

The SIBO Curse

Have you ever known anyone who no matter what they eat they blow up like a balloon and suffer painful and uncomfortable gas and bloating?  Perhaps you even experience this yourself?  You may have been to every doctor in town and tried every probiotic with no avail.  A lot of your friends, who pay attention to natural medicine, all feel that you most definitely have the dreaded candida (yeast) curse!  I end up hearing so much about candida from my patients that it is surprising really.  So you go on a radical diet, take probiotics and a bunch of anti-candida herbs.  Nothing works.  And in fact you think that it even might have made you worse!  Okay, what already?  What could be causing so much discomfort?

Perhaps it is SIBO…  Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth.  But what in the world does that mean?  Simply put the small intestine should contain virtually little to no bacteria.  The primary location for bacteria along the digestive tract (respectfully speaking… bacteria is of course just about everywhere) is in the large intestine/colon.  When these bacteria in the small intestine overgrow they end up breaking down carbohydrates and fibers too early in the process and produce gas in the wrong compartment!  When this happens in the large intestine the gas can pass rather easily, though not always conveniently of course.  Like on a plane, or in class, or on a first date…  But I digress.  J  But if this takes place in the small intestine that gas will get trapped and build up causing bloating and pain in a lot of cases.  The most common symptom associated with SIBO is frequent bloating after meals.  And this bloating can often be described as looking something like pregnancy!  The tummy can quite literally be round and firm.  There can also be either constipation or diarrhea which may differ from person to person.  In fact the typical “Irritable Bowel Syndrome” (IBS) condition may actually be due to SIBO!  I have heard all too often where a patient was diagnosed by their medical doctor with IBS and given acid reducing medications, case closed.  Did this therapy in fact help?  No!  That is why they found my office after all.  In fact I would argue that the therapy actually made them worse.  I will go into some of the factors leading to SIBO below so that you can better understand how and why each case could be different.

One of the most common reasons for SIBO to develop is low stomach acid.  This is more common than you know.  And this is something that can easily be induced with both prescription and over the counter medications.  Know anyone who parks themselves next to an economy sized bottle of anti-acid tablets?  I do.  These people are neutralizing their stomach acid.  Aside from digesting the food, stomach acid is also responsible for sterilizing the first section of the small intestine.  If this does not occur bacteria can grow there and lead to SIBO!  So I urge you to think twice when someone tells you to cover up your digestive symptoms with acid reducing medications.  I recently went to see a gastroenterologist for something that I was experiencing and wanted a medical opinion about.  They found that it was a mild hiatal hernia and he then prescribed acid reducing medications.  I told him I might try a short trial, but that I didn’t like the idea. (I decided not to.)   I was surprised to hear his reply, “Yeah, they aren’t very good for you.”  It is kind of like any woman with hormone concerns who always gets put on birth control pills.  Most everyone with any digestive concerns almost always get put on acid reducers!  But they may just be leading to larger problems in the end.  If you choose to go this route, please do your research and proceed with caution! 

Another very common situation that can lead to SIBO is poor neurological function.  The gut, like everything else, is stimulated directly by the brain via the Vagus nerve.  If there is damage to this nerve, or even if there is a decline of overall brain function the stimulation to the gut will be hindered.  (Poor brain function will lead to poor Vagus nerve activity and therefore poor gut stimulation.)  This impacts blood flow to the area and certainly the functioning of the various valves sealing off the different compartments of the intestinal tract which can all lead to bacterial overgrowth.  This is something that you see a lot in the elderly who often times suffer from advancing neurological decline.  But rarely does anyone ever make the link between their bloating after meals and their neurological status.  But pay attention.  The next time you talk to someone of advanced age with neurological decline see if you can find out if they are digesting their food well. Most are constipated and bloated.   In these cases simply “fixing the gut” will not get very far.  Brain support is critical for them and in some cases all we can do is stop the progression.  If enough nerve damage has occurred that may just be how it will be going forward.  We can however support the condition to reduce discomfort and make eating a bit more enjoyable while not being so scary.

Lastly I wanted to talk briefly about “IBS” while I am at it because it is a very commonly thrown around diagnosis.  I personally take offense to a diagnosis like this because it is nothing more than a description of a set of symptoms.  There is nothing in that “diagnosis” that tells us anything about the root condition!  An irritable bowel can be from a lot of different things.  But regardless this condition often involves constipation and/or diarrhea.  Interestingly in the SIBO spectrum of disorders depending upon the type of bacteria that is overgrown in the small intestine there can either be Methane gas or Hydrogen gas produced by the bacteria present.  Methane tends to decrease intestinal motility leading to constipation and Hydrogen tends to increase motility leading to diarrhea.  So is the proper therapy for these conditions acid reducing medications (which can lead to bacterial overgrowth), smooth muscle relaxants (which can lead to poor valve control in the digestive tract leading to translocation of bacteria from large to small intestine), or something like laxatives/Imodium to quell the symptoms?  Well perhaps that is the way you prefer to go.  But perhaps steps could be taken to address the specific underlying mechanism at play.  Is it low stomach acid?  And if so why?  Is the Thyroid working properly?  Are there medications involved that are working to lower the acid production?  Are there infections in the gut which may be impacting acid production? Or is there perhaps a neurological condition leading to these symptoms?  Was there head trauma? Or is there any developmental disability?  There might even be physical reasons like an abdominal injury or surgery.  Each case is a little different. 

So what can be done?  First like I described above it is important to understand the specific mechanism involved in each case.  That means it is important to find a practitioner who is knowledgeable about the differences and how to pick up on the subtle signs and symptoms of each.  Second you must work to nutritionally support the small intestine itself by providing compounds needed by the intestinal cells to thrive.  Digestive enzyme support is also essential to help the body break down the food more efficiently before the bacteria can get ahead of things.  It is essential to provide good probiotic support to promote optimal bacteria distribution in the gut but make sure that they do not contain any prebiotics (bacteria food).  Most probiotics contain prebiotics which are generally great but not with SIBO!   And lastly in some cases a person may need to work on the neurological function associated with the gut.  There are some tricks for stimulating the Vagus nerve and I am happy to share them with you in person sometime. 

In closing I want to share just a few statistics from a couple of well-respected medical journals.  (Journal of Clinical Gastroenterol & Gastroenterology Hepatology).  The following list are percentages of certain groups of people who show positive for SIBO:
  • ·         66% of patients with Celiac Disease
  • ·         53% of patients who use antacid medications
  • ·         78% of patients who have been diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • ·         33% of patients with chronic diarrhea
  • ·         90% of alcoholics

The consequences of long term SIBO are many.  Over time this can lead to permanent nerve damage to the digestive tract.  Food sensitivities become more and more common. It can be argued that all chronic disease can arise from chronic inflammation in the gut.  SIBO is one way to foster such inflammation.  It has been with us for a while but with the widespread use of antacid medications, poor diets, and poor physical health in general the condition is only getting worse.  I urge you to take your symptoms of gas and bloating seriously.  It isn’t just uncomfortable.  Your body is working hard to try and tell you something is not right.  I am happy to schedule a consultation to go over some of your concerns.  I am here for you.  Call on me anytime!  

A Good Time to Detox in an Otherwise Toxic World

In the last 33 years the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has tested for safety only 200 chemicals and banned only 5 of the more than 80,000 chemicals in commerce today. Since the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) became law in 1976, the number of chemicals in commerce has risen from 60,000 to the 80,000 mentioned above. Currently, under TSCA language, chemicals are considered safe until proven otherwise. In my opinion our Government has it backwards. If the health of the people truly came before the profits of the corporations every new chemical put into commerce would need to be proven safe before its widespread use in America and around the world. Wouldn’t you agree?

So how are we Americans being impacted by this chemical exposure? In 2009 the Center for Disease Control (CDC) released the findings of their National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) looking at 2500 participant’s blood cells, serum and urine samples. The findings were less than positive. Below are only a few examples of what was reported:

• Polybrominated diphenyl ethers are fire retardants that accumulate in the environment and in human fat tissue. They were found in the serum of all of the NHANES participants.
• Bisphenol-A (BPA) found in plastics and deemed by Canada and other countries to be a clearly toxic substance was found in 90% of the urine samples of the participants.
• Perflorooctanoic acid (PFOA) found in non-stick coatings of cookware was found in most participants.
• Another CDC study found that 97% of Americans contain the chemical oxybenzone found in sunscreens which has been linked to allergies, hormone disruption and cell damage. Approximately 84% of the 910 sunscreen brands contain oxybenzone.

So I ask you this, “Are we living in the same world that our parents lived in? And should we do the same things that our parents or grandparents did to protect their health? Should we do nothing and just hope for the best?” My sincere hunch is no. We need more than ever to take deliberate actions which work to counter the ever increasing exposures and environmental influences that are working to harm us literally with every breath we take and every bite we swallow. The reality is that we have a long way to go to change the politics behind what is happening. But what we can easily do is take better control over what we put into our bodies and how we help our bodies throw out the stuff that does not belong.

Symptoms of such toxicity could be any or all of the following:

• Brain fog / poor memory
• Allergies
• Joint pain
• Depression
• Fatigue
• Weight gain
• Ringing in the ears
• Headaches / Migraines
• Autoimmune disorders
• Skin disorders

I will be offering a group Detoxification program in late January to work with some of these concerns. This will be my second annual group program and I am very excited about it. This program will be 7 days long and involve a modified diet while on the program, a hypo-allergenic rice protein based powder packed with anti-oxidants and nutrients, and some nutritional/herbal supplements which all aid in Phase I and Phase II liver detoxification pathways. Included with this program will be an introductory meeting to discuss and solidify the understanding of the program and the reasons why it is important. There will also be an online chat in which all participants can write down their questions and/or experiences while on the program. I will be interacting with the group as a whole in this manner. The more participants the better on things like this and I will be participating as well. There is power in numbers. Let’s all help each other stay healthy!

The program is scheduled to go from January 22nd – January 28th. We will hold the pre-detox meeting on the 19th at 6:30 pm and all interested participants must contact me by January 12th to secure their spot and have plenty of time to get the products ordered. If you have any questions or want to RSVP now please contact me either by phone or email. I will be happy to answer any questions that you may have.

Happy New Year! And be well…

Celiac Disease and Elusive Gluten Sensitivity

According to statistics from the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, an average of one out of 133 otherwise healthy people in the United States suffer from celiac disease (CD). The trouble with that statistic though is that there are only two requirements set forth by the mainstream medical establishment which qualify a person for a Celiac Disease diagnosis. Those requirements are 1) a positive alpha-Gliadin antibody (Gliadin is a small portion of the gluten molecule) and 2) a complete atrophy of the intestinal micro-villi (very small fingerlike structures on the lining of our intestines) found via an intestinal biopsy.

The important thing to realize here is that Celiac Disease, being a gluten sensitivity condition, means that people with this condition can not have gluten in their diet whatsoever! Doing so will lead to very poor health indeed. But what about all those people who do not qualify for either of the two findings above? What if someone comes back with a negative alpha-Gliadin antibody and a moderate atrophy of intestinal villi? This person would be passed over and disregarded and told that they could continue eating gluten! (Which is what we all want to hear anyway… Or is it?)

Now what if I told you that besides the alpha-Gliadin antibodies that can be found that there were also:
• Beta-Gliadin
• Gamma-Gliadin
• Omega-Gliadin
• Deaminated Gliadins (15, 17, and/or 33) – These are found in processed foods.
• Glutenin
• Wheat Germ Agglutinin
• Gluteomorphin

Any one of these findings is enough to warrant a Celiac Disease diagnosis or at least gluten sensitivity. Now I am not telling you all this to sound really smart by using big words, nor do I expect you to understand what these things all are. But what I want you to take home from this is the fact that there are a lot of indicators for gluten sensitivity that are not being screened for out there. So when we hear that one in 133 people have Celiac Disease based upon only the two parameters tested for, you have to ask yourself what would that number be if ALL of the parameters were screened for? It is a staggering concept to say the least! And scary too when you consider all of the health problems out there which are linked to gluten sensitivity like thyroid problems, neurological decline, ADD/ADHD, autism, auto-immune disorders of all kinds, gastro-intestinal problems, muscular problems, skeletal problems, liver problems, skin problems. In fact there is not one part of the body that does not have a direct link to gluten sensitivity in those individuals with gluten sensitivity problems. Simply put for those people affected, gluten can and will be the fuel for the fire that will work to destroy one’s health.

Only recently has it been possible to screen for all of these parameters I mentioned and really start improving the lives of a great many people. In fact there is a new laboratory with cutting edge technology to finally screen for conditions like these who I am happy to be working with this starting in January of 2011. If you have any difficult medical conditions, auto-immune disorders, or just want to know if you are indeed Gluten intolerant get in touch and we can get you tested. I hope to hear from you real soon.