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Food Sensitivities Part Two: Leaky Gut


As explained in PART ONE of this series, in medical school I was taught to evaluate symptoms in order to form a diagnosis. That diagnosis was then used to determine which medication to prescribe - such as a pill for your headache or a cream for your rash.

20 years later my approach has changed. Rather than focusing on which medication to prescribe for your symptoms, I ask the question:
WHY are you experiencing these symptoms?

I use Functional Medicine to evaluate and treat the root causes of illness.

While there are many factors that can contribute to illness, perhaps none are more important than FOOD. I see it with patients every day - the food that you eat has an immediate and significant impact on the way that you feel.

In PART ONE of this series I outlined how food sensitivities were different from food allergies and food intolerances. Today in PART TWO we dig into the WHY.
Why are you experiencing food sensitivities? The answer lies in your gut.

THE DIGESTIVE TRACT

The digestive tract (which starts at your mouth and ends where your poop comes out) is one of the primary places where the inside of your body interacts with the ‘outside’ world.

In the digestive tract, food is digested (broken down), nutrients are absorbed and various toxins and other by-products produced in the digestion process are eliminated.

Nutrients are absorbed into the body through your small intestine.

Your small intestine plays a very important role in the digestive process, letting nutrients in while simultaneously preventing bacteria, yeast, viruses, toxins, and other unwelcome substances from entering the body. This is accomplished through a special layer of cells that line your small intestine.

This layer of cells plays a very important role in your health! Between each cell is a space called a “tight junction”.

The health of these cells that line the small intestine, and the health of these tight junctions, are key to what is absorbed in the digestive tract and what is not.



WHAT IS INTESTINAL PERMEABILITY AND WHY IS IT A PROBLEM? 

Intestinal permeability is defined as how porous or “leaky” the small intestine lining is. A leaky lining occurs when the protective barrier of cells are damaged and no longer are tightly connected.

While some intestinal permeability is normal, increased and prolonged intestinal permeability (also referred to as a “leaky gut”) may reduce the absorption of essential nutrients and allow harmful substances and partially digested food to enter the bloodstream at higher levels than your body can properly manage. When this happens, the harmful substances and undigested food particles can lead to activation of the immune system and chronic inflammation.

This chronic inflammation can be experienced as a variety of symptoms throughout the body. It also increases the likelihood of developing many chronic medical conditions and even autoimmune diseases such as Celiac disease or rheumatoid arthritis.

FOOD SENSITIVITIES ARE A RESULT OF INTESTINAL PERMEABILITY, OR “LEAKY GUT”.
When the lining of the small intestine becomes porous or “leaky”, poorly digested food particles can enter the bloodstream, activate the immune system, and promote inflammation. This is the underlying factor behind most food sensitivities. Common symptoms of food sensitivities are a result of this inflammation and include:
  • Joint pain
  • Headaches
  • Weight gain
  • Rashes
  • Irritable Bowel
  • Fatigue and brain fog
  • and more
WHAT CAUSES INCREASED INTESTINAL PERMEABILITY?
There are many factors that can promote increased intestinal permeability, including:
  • Viral and bacterial infections
  • Antibiotics and other medications
  • Toxins
  • Stress
  • Inflammation
  • Poor diet
  • Food intolerances
  • Imbalances in gut bacteria
  • Poor digestion
BOTTOM LINE
Food sensitivities are the result of your immune system creating inflammation in response to food. Many symptoms throughout the body may be related to food sensitivities, and the root cause underlying most food sensitivities is increased intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut”.

Stay tuned for PART THREE of this series to learn more about how to treat symptoms of food sensitivities.

Are you suspicious that food sensitivities may be casing your symptoms? Are you ready to start your journey to feeling better by addressing the root cause of your symptoms/illness? Contact our office to schedule an appointment! 231-638-5585



Carin Nielsen, MD Integrative Medicine I use an Integrative/Functional Medicine approach with my patients to treat a variety of chronic medical conditions. During the COVID-19 pandemic I continue to see both new and returning patients using our secure, easy video-visit format. If you are interested in learning more or if you would like to schedule a consultation, please contact our office This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 231-638-5585.
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FOOD SENSITIVITY TESTING & The Next Generation FIT Test

FOOD SENSITIVITY TESTING and
The FIT Test by KBMO Diagnostics


In my medical practice, we look for root causes of symptoms and chronic disease, rather than focusing on simply treating symptoms with prescriptions. This is what sets Integrative and Functional Medicine apart from traditional Western Medicine. 

b2ap3_thumbnail_inflammation.jpg Inflammation is one of the main root causes of nearly everything I see wrong with my patients.  Food is a primary trigger for inflammation and should be considered as playing a large role in most symptoms, chronic disease, and autoimmune disease.  Like I often say to my patients:

Every time that you eat, you are making a decision to either
increase or decrease inflammation in your body.


FOOD SENSITIVITIES & SYMPTOMS
First things first, we are not talking about food allergies.  Food allergies are mediated by an IgE immune system reaction, which produces immediate and often serious or life-threatening symptoms that require immediate medical attention.  In contrast, food sensitivities (also referred to as food intolerances) are mediated by an IgG immune system reaction that is more delayed and generally less serious. Reactions may take up to 3 days to develop, and the IgG antibodies can remain in your body for up to three weeks.
Click here to read more about Food Allergy vs. Food Sensitivity

With food being a primary driver of inflammation, and inflammation underlying most symptoms, the argument could be made that food may be a trigger of nearly any symptom in the body!  The most common symptoms that I see in my practice that have a strong association with food include:

  • b2ap3_thumbnail_Abdominal-Pain-Is-It-Appendicitis_article_main.jpgRashes, Acne, Eczema and other Skin Conditions
  • Joint Pain
  • Digestive Issues, including IBS
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue/Energy and "Brain Fog"
  • Autoimmunity of any kind
  • Hormone Imbalance
  • Weight Gain
  • Mood Disorders, including Depression, Anxiety and more

 

DETERMINING FOOD SENSITIVITIES
Traditionally, the Comprehensive Elimination Diet has been considered the “gold standard” for determining food sensitivities. The Comprehensive Elimination Diet involves removing the food, drink, and additives that are most commonly associated with inflammation and symptoms, including:

  • b2ap3_thumbnail_Donuts.jpgGluten/Wheat
  • Dairy
  • Sugar
  • Eggs
  • Soy 
  • Corn
  • Peanuts
  • Nightshade Vegetables
  • Citrus Fruits
  • Caffeine 
  • Alcohol

The Comprehensive Elimination Diet needs to be done for at least three weeks (if you recall from above, the IgG antibodies associated with food sensitivities can remain in the body for three weeks, this allows time for them to "flush out").  After this time foods may be re-introduced one at a time while monitoring for an increase in symptoms.  For those patients who are able to complete a Comprehensive Elimination Diet, the process can be life-changing.  In my patients who complete this process, I frequently see a dramatic reduction in symptoms, improved energy and mental clarity, and better sleep. However, for many others, this process can be difficult or nearly impossible.


FOOD SENSITIVITY TESTING and the FIT TEST
One of the most common Food Sensitivity laboratory tests (and the one I have previously used) involves measuring IgG antibodies in the blood to a variety of foods.  The presence of these IgG antibodies indicates an immune system reaction to that food.  While the information on an IgG food sensitivity test can be useful, I have found several problems associated with this testing:

  • Some patients have so many IgG food reactions that they could not possibly remove these many foods from their diet.
  • We cannot always correlate a positive IgG food reaction directly to inflammation or a patient's symptoms.
  • These tests can be expensive!

FIT = FOOD AND INFLAMMATION TEST
b2ap3_thumbnail_KBMO.jpgThe FIT Test by KBMO Diagnostics is, in my opinion, the next generation in Food Sensitivity Testing.  Rather than simply measuring IgG antibody reactions, the FIT Test measures IgG and Complement-mediated Immune Complexes.  Translation = by adding the measurement of immune complexes the FIT test may more accurately identify the foods that are actually causing inflammation in the body.  

Other benefits of the FIT Test:
  • The FIT Test measures sensitivities to up to 132 different foods,  as well as coloring and additives.
  • The FIT Test can diagnose increased intestinal permeability, or "Leaky Gut", through the identification of a positive Candida immune-complex response.
  • There are less positive reactions to work with, allowing patients to more easily remove inflammation and symptom-triggering foods.
  • In addition to the 132 item option (currently $275), the FIT Test offers a more-affordable 22 item option which includes the most commonly identified food and antigen triggers (currently $100).*
Click here to learn more about the FIT test, see a list of the foods tested, and view a sample report.

Are you interested in the FIT Food Sensitivity Testing?  Do you have questions?  Feel free to send me an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or contact our office 231-638-5585.

*I do not make any profit of the FIT Test, or any other laboratory test offered in my practice. Any costs associated with laboratory testing are related to the laboratories themselves.



Carin Nielsen, MD Integrative MedicineLooking for a personalized approach to your healthcare? I use an Integrative/Functional Medicine approach with my patients to treat a variety of chronic medical conditions. Treating symptoms and chronic disease simply by prescribing medication doesn't address the underlying factors that contributed your problems in the first place, and is not likely to provide lasting results. My approach involves getting "under the surface" to find and correct underlying imbalances. If you are interested in learning more or if you would like to schedule a consultation, please contact our office This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 231-638-5585.

 
 
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Leaky Gut Explained

Leaky Gut = Inflammation, Food Sensitivities, Nutrient Deficiencies and Autoimmune Disease

b2ap3_thumbnail_GutHealing.jpgOur intestinal lining is a very important barrier. When working properly, the lining allows only certain small desirable substances (like nutrients) to pass through, while keeping out larger undesirable particles (like infections, allergens and toxins).

Think of your intestinal lining like a net with very small holes. If the net becomes damaged and the holes of the net become larger, then larger particles are able to pass through the net that ordinarily couldn’t. This damaged intestinal lining is what may lead to increased intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut”.

b2ap3_thumbnail_FineMeshStrainer.jpgIf the intestinal lining is damaged or compromised, undesirable substances such as bacteria, viruses, undigested food particles and toxic waste products can leak from the inside of your intestines through the damaged lining into your bloodstream. Once they get into your bloodstream, these particles are transported throughout your body and can trigger your immune system to react. The end result is inflammation in various parts of your body.


An unhealthy intestinal lining can be a major source of inflammation in your body.

The inflammation in your body caused by a damaged digestive lining can lead to a wide variety of symptoms, including:
  • Bloating and abdominal cramps 
  • Fatigue and “brain fog” 
  • Rashes, Eczema and Acne 
  • Food sensitivities 
  • Weight Gain 
  • Joint pain 
  • Headaches 
  • Depression and Mood Swings 
  • Chronic sinus infections 
  • Allergies 

When your intestinal lining is unhealthy, you are more likely to have food sensitivities.

When you have a leaky gut, certain foods that you eat are likely to make your symptoms worse. This is because large, undigested food particles entering the bloodstream trigger your immune system to react, promoting more inflammation and symptoms such as listed above.


An unhealthy intestinal lining can also lead to nutrient deficiencies.

With leaky gut not only is the intestinal lining more porous (bigger holes in the net) and less selective about what can get in, but normal absorption can also be affected. Intestinal villi are finger-like projections in the wall of the small intestine that are responsible for absorbing nutrients. When these villi become damaged, certain nutrients are not able to be properly absorbed, resulting in nutrient deficiencies. Common deficiencies seen include:
  • Iron 
  • Vitamin B12 
  • Magnesium 
  • Zinc 

An unhealthy intestinal lining over time can lead to autoimmune disorders.

There is a growing consensus that the immune system response triggered by leaky gut may be a primary cause of autoimmune disease. As discussed above, your immune system acts like your own personal army, ready for attack! When larger, undesirable particles get into the bloodstream, the immune system goes on “high alert”, increasing inflammation in preparation of fighting off invaders. The immune system then may begin to produce antibodies to attack and destroy these invaders. Problems result when this antibody response gets out of control, and begins to attack your own tissues. This is self-attack-self, the hallmark of autoimmune disease. This may trigger or worsen conditions such as:
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis 
  • Thyroid disorders 
  • Psoriasis 
  • Celiac disease 
Before you jump to potentially harmful prescription medication - get to the root of the problem! Healing an unhealthy intestinal lining is one of the most important steps in treating a variety of symptoms and conditions, including autoimmune disease.



Carin Nielsen, MD Integrative MedicineI use an Integrative/Functional Medicine approach with my patients to treat a variety of chronic medical conditions, including many that are linked to an unhealthy digestive lining. Treating symptoms simply by prescribing medication as a “band-aid" doesn't address the underlying factors that contributed your problems in the first place, and is not likely to provide lasting results. My approach involves getting "under the surface" to find and correct underlying imbalances. If you are interested in learning more or if you would like to schedule a consultation, please contact our office This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 231-638-5585.


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