Health and Wellness

What I learned from IBS and Food Intolerances

By Eric Harry

The Early Signs

What preceded my trip to the hospital, was several months of bloating after dinners, constipation, which I sometimes chalked up to be normal aging. Then it starting accelerating over a couple weeks.

My wife and I tried removing milk, I ate root veggies, like Portobello mushrooms, drank soy milk, ate almonds…yams…all good tasty stuff. Tried using probiotic supplements, tried using digestives, thought we were doing the right things. Tried acupuncture, tried an osteopath, a Chinese doctor and more.

Episodes One and Two

A few years ago, one week before I was to travel to run my second half-marathon in San Francisco, I had a cramping episode in my gut. I called my doctor and he sent me to get an ultra-sound. During the ultra-sound, I couldn’t bear the pain and requested an ambulance.

This was my second episode. The first was 10 days earlier and I went to emergency. They discharged me and made an uneducated flimsy guess that my issue was a virus and released me after several hours of excruciating pain.

Back to the ultra-sound, in the ambulance they asked which hospital I preferred, I said “I trust you guys.. which one do you think?” To which one replied… "Toronto Western, they will take care of you, Mount Sinai has a reputation to rush."

I will skip the boring details of my stay, but suffice to say, after MRI’s and a colonoscopy, they found nothing. My stay was 6 days. I cancelled the marathon.

One Year of Trial and Error

After my hospital stay, I changed my diet to one that would allow softer foods, like rice, soups. Seemed like things settled down a bit. Well, for a little while anyway. Then it happened again.

I visited a naturopath doctor. She suggested I do a Food Intolerance test. Obviously you could have told me to chew gum and I would have tried anything at that point. I was on board.

IMPORTANT: Food Allergy vs. Food Sensitivity

It is important to know the difference between a food allergy and a food sensitivity.

Food Allergy

These can be potentially serious and/or fatal. Reactions can happen within seconds. Reactions include life-threatening anaphylaxis, hives, difficulty breathing, and other symptoms. This involves the release of IgE antibodies due to a certain food(s) e.g. peanuts.

I have not experienced food IgE allergic reactions therefore this article will not be expressing any opinions nor offering advice. You should consult your doctor for treatment.

Food Sensitivity

Usually happens over long periods of time. IBS symptoms like inflammation is common, gas, bloating, abdominal cramps, alternating sometimes between diarrhea and constipation.

The release of IgG antibodies is normal as well as the formation of antigen-antibody complexes. Cells called macrophages typically remove these complexes. However when too many of these residual complexes are present, the macrophages may not be able to remove them fast enough. As a result, excessive residual complexes cause inflammation in the gut. This can lead to IBS, leaky gut, severe cramping.

What is a Food Intolerance IgG Test

You need to start with an IgG test in order to educate yourself which foods to start eliminating from your diet.

For starters, it’s a simple test, taking a small pinprick blood sample and then sending it out to a lab. The results are analyzed and a report is sent back to your doctor. The graph will tell you on a scale of 1 – 10 which foods are triggers and which ones are best to avoid.

Some medical doctors may not even be aware of this test… depending on their openness to newer and upcoming treatments about IBS, leaky gut and food sensitivities. Mine was not. Nor did he offer an alternative. My position was it certainly can’t hurt to try. I then visited a local naturopath.

My food sensitivities were mushrooms, sesame, almonds and sunflower oil.

After the Test

The results will show you what exact foods cause a high antibody count on a scale of 1 to 10. This is unbelievably helpful to know what foods you must eliminate from your diet. It removes all the guesswork and trial and error of finding your sensitivities.

I started to completely avoid and eliminate my newfound trigger foods from my diet and noticed a difference almost immediately.

Even when you do know your food sensitivities it’s still very important to check food labels when you are purchasing anything at the store. For instance, cookies and other baked products often contain sunflower oil (the cheapest often most rancid of oils). Veggie burgers are made up often with mushrooms. Certain chocolates contain truffle (mushroom) oil. You need to become your own food detective.

In restaurants, it’s super important to ask your waiter if your food choice contains your sensitivity. Remember, it’s a sensitivity not a life-threatening allergy. You just need to avoid ingesting your certain food sensitivities. With IgE allergies, certain foods may not touch other foods…that’s extremely severe.

Intolerance Warning Signs

In my experience, when bad food hits your stomach you will get sick quickly. With a food intolerance, it can take 2 – 5 hours to experience upset or cramping in the GI tract (intestines) during peristalsic movement. That’s how long it takes food to reach your small intestines after a meal.

If your food sensitivities are left untreated, over time this can result in leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut happens when the small intestines have gaps or tears due to chronic inflammation, then toxins can enter the bloodstream. Typically it affects the immune system and can cause many other ailments like excessive colds, overworked liver, lack of energy and overall depression.

I suggest keeping a meal diary. Note what you ate and when. It is very important to note the 2 – 5 hour time period after a meal. Pain will send its message.

If you are Suffering

Gas in the GI track is your worst enemy. It will cause severe discomfort if you have accidentally ingested your sensitive food. Massage is about the only and best thing that I know you can do to alleviate severe intestinal gas cramping. Lying on your back, you can massage your GI intestinal traction a clockwise motion. This will help push gas further down your intestinal path. Keep doing it every painful episode.

In my episodes, it could take 5 – 6 hours until finally I experienced a relief of diarrhea. That is the indicator that it’s passed. Unfortunately, it could mean a sleepless night. The key is to be patient and know that it will pass. For me, I put on Calm Radio relaxing Sleep music channel to get a decent night sleep.

If the pain is unbearable, you should visit the emergency clinic at your nearest hospital.

Now the Good News

It is possible to correct IgG food sensitivity problems over several months to a year. But you need to start with an IgG test in order to educate yourself as to what foods to start eliminating from your diet. After this cooling off period, it is possible to slowly re-introduce these foods again…slowly.

For IgE food allergies, they can last a lifetime or disappear spontaneously.

I hope this mini-essay of my experiences with food sensitivities can help you cut corners and create a quicker path to healing.

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