Are White Foods Making You Sick?

Copyright: colorcocktail

If you have any tendency to hit the bread basket at dinner, or you have a penchant for plates of regular pasta or sweet treats like cookies, you are consuming white foods which can have a deleterious impact on your health. Some white foods are actually quite healthy for the most part, such as eggs, cauliflower, onions and turnips. However, white foods which are highly processed and refined wreak havoc on our bodies, and should be eliminated from our diets. Not only do they adversely affect digestion, they cause spikes in blood sugar, diminish the collagen and elastin in our skin, and lead to heart and kidney disease.

Not sure what constitutes the white foods I am referring to? Here’s a list:

Enriched White Flour
White Rice
White Pasta
White Bread
Crackers
Table Sugar
Refined Salt

One of the reasons why the flour which is used in processed foods is usually enriched is because fiber, vitamins and minerals are stripped during the refining process of the grain. In addition, processed grains and table sugar are absorbed very rapidly, causing a sharp increase in insulin release with a corresponding crash, resulting in hunger pangs and cravings, not to mention adversely affecting one’s health over the course of time. In case you didn’t know, the average carbonated soda has 10 to 12 teaspoons of table sugar. According to the American Heart Association, an average of 22 teaspoons of sugar is consumed daily by the average American. Sugar in any form provides very few nutrients, and that is why it is described as providing “empty” calories.

Another white food which could be added to the do-not-eat list is dairy. The dairy industry often uses hormones and antibiotics in raising the cows, which then can cause weight gain, hormonal imbalance, inflammation, allergies and digestive issues in humans. I have seen a fair number of patients who dealt with chronic pain and inflammation which abated once they eliminated dairy products from their diets.

I honestly believe that everyone should examine all foods which are currently in the pantry or elsewhere in the kitchen, disposing of any processed foods. Once this purge is completed, it is critical to read nutrition labels when shopping at the grocery store and to avoid purchasing foods which have ingredients on the above list. I discovered that I have a severe intolerance to barley and I also have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Because of this, I have cut gluten out of my diet, which means that I avoid bread, crackers, and pasta which are made with wheat flour or any other glutinous grain. However, this doesn’t mean that gluten free bread products are the answer either, especially because they are also processed foods. I only consume gluten free pastas, breads or cookies a few times per year, and I truly have cravings for healthy foods. For example, when I want a crunchy snack, I opt for a bowl of raw veggies like radishes (my favorite), cucumber, and fresh raw mushrooms, while others might reach for a bag of potato chips. My palate is so conditioned to like clean foods that I actually crave things like radishes, arugula, and lean cuts of turkey and seafood.

If you stick to fresh vegetables, lean meat, and incorporate healthy fats like avocado into your regimen, the fresh flavors will hopefully break you out of your refined food habits and lead you to healthy eating habits.

Do you have food intolerance?

Image ID : 29041123 Copyright : guniita

What is food intolerance?

Have you ever noticed that when you eat a certain food, such as tuna, blueberries, avocado, asparagus or broccoli, that you get extremely bloated to the point that you are extremely uncomfortable? Since the foods I mentioned are celebrated for their many nutritional benefits, it might not occur to you that you most likely have an intolerance to that food. Up to 80% of the U.S. population has some form of food intolerance.

Most people are aware of food allergies, but food intolerance is a different phenomenon which can have a tremendous effect on a person’s quality of life. Food allergies appear quite suddenly, from seconds to minutes after ingestion of the offending food, and can be life-threatening, whereas food intolerance is a more gradual process (taking hours to a couple of days for symptoms to emerge), not life-threatening, and may only occur after a large amount of the food is eaten. Food allergies and food intolerance can both cause similar symptoms, such as abdominal pain, nausea, and diarrhea, but food intolerance is notorious for causing bloating, heartburn, irritability, headaches and general malaise. The most common food allergy triggers are peanuts, tree nuts, shellfish, fish, soy, wheat, milk and eggs, while the foods most commonly associated with food intolerance are dairy products, gluten-containing grains, eggs, citrus, beans, cabbage, and broccoli.

People who are allergic to certain foods know that even a small amount of the food can trigger an allergic response, and the response occurs every single time the person is exposed. The immune system reacts to the food by causing a release of IgE antibodies, which then cause a release of histamines and cytokines designed to attack the offending agent. Sometimes the entire body is affected by this response, and symptoms such as shortness of breath, hives, rash, or a sudden drop in blood pressure can occur. Food intolerance, in contrast, is more insidious, and may only occur if a large amount of the triggering food is eaten or if it is consumed frequently. Trigger foods will cause a rise in IgA, IgG, and IgM antibodies, causing the body to mount a delayed reaction which is characterized by mostly gastrointestinal symptoms, but which can cause other symptoms as well. Regardless of how the body reacts, the discomfort caused by poor digestion of the food can be enough to make the sufferer miserable.

Why does food intolerance occur? There are several explanations. One cause is enzyme deficiency. All enzymes are specific to one type of molecule, such as lipases which break down fats. Sometimes an individual can be deficient or completely lacking in a very specific enzyme which is required for digestion of a particular food. A common example is found in lactose intolerant individuals who do not have enough lactase to break down the milk sugars into their constituent parts for absorption in the intestine. The lactose cannot be broken down so it sits in the intestine, causing bloating, spasm and diarrhea when it sits in the digestive tract. Approximately 25% of the U.S. population suffers from lactose intolerance, which amounts to a lot of bloated bellies from the consumption of dairy products.

Another common type of food intolerance is to gluten. Gluten is highly resistant to digestion as it is, and in some individuals, the gluten cannot be broken down at all. The problem with gluten is that it is found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt and kamut, so avoiding gluten can be challenging to say the least. Approximately 1% of the U.S. population has celiac disease, while about 15% have gluten intolerance. Regardless of whether someone has celiac disease or gluten intolerance, ALL gluten must be avoided. However, if there are occasions in which completely avoiding gluten is impossible, digestive enzymes, specifically DPP-IV, can help individuals to digest meals containing gluten.

The list of substances which people may have an intolerance to doesn’t stop there. Some individuals cannot break down phenols, including salicylates, due to insufficient amounts of xylanase, and suffer from behavioral and learning disorders, including ADHD and autism. Some individuals are unable to break down disaccharides, an intolerance which is closely linked to irritable bowel disease, ulcerative colitis, Candida overgrowth and autism. As if all that wasn’t enough to worry about, there are chemical substances in foods which can spark intolerance, such as caffeine, aflatoxins in undercooked beans, amines in cheeses, artificial colorings and flavorings, preservatives, sweeteners, emulsifiers, nitrates, MSG, sulfites and salicylates. Salicylate intolerance can cause a susceptible individual to react to large amounts of salicylate-containing foods, particularly citrus fruits, teas, mint flavoring, berries and processed foods with flavor additives.

The digestive tract regularly takes the brunt of foods, medications, hormones, and chemical additives which can interfere with repair of the gut lining, causing increased intestinal permeability which is more commonly known as leaky gut. Leaky gut is characterized by the loosening of tight junctions between the cells which line the gut, thus allowing food molecules to pass through. These free floating food molecules are viewed by the immune system as a threat and will mount an immune response which manifests as the signs and symptoms of food intolerance. Think of all that food sitting in the gut, undigested. Pretty unnerving, huh?

How to diagnose food intolerance

Diagnosing food intolerance can be extremely difficult since the signs and symptoms often mimic those of food allergy. One method of ferreting out which foods are involved in a food intolerance is keeping a food diary in which all foods eaten are recorded, along with symptoms and their time of onset. After suspected trigger foods have been determined, an exclusion diet can be implemented, in which those foods are removed from the diet for weeks to months. If the symptoms disappear during the exclusion phase, potential trigger foods can be re-introduced after this phase is completed in order to determine which substances are problematic. If the food intolerance is mild, a small amount of the food will not trigger symptoms, and in many cases may still be consumed, especially if enzymes are taken to aid in digestion. Essentially, many people can return to foods which they were mildly or even moderately intolerant of after avoiding it for a period of time.

Blood testing is considered the most reliable and comprehensive form of testing for food intolerance, but there are only a few laboratories which specialize in this type of test. ALCAT, Pinnertest.com and HEMOCODE Food Intolerance System are laboratories which offer food intolerance testing via serum analysis, with ALCAT considered the largest food intolerance testing group in the U.S. Some insurance plans will cover part or all of the expense of the testing, so it is always worth inquiring about insurance coverage. Some testing panels also provide a detailed rotation diet which patients can follow when they are ready to reintroduce the foods of which they are intolerant.