Good Food, Bad Food

I am often asked by my patients if there are certain foods to avoid. Is a particular food “good” or “bad”? “Should I go gluten-free?” The answers to these questions are never simple and so I thought I would address this topic a bit this month.

I do not subscribe to the idea that a food is either bad or good as I don’t think one can really place a value judgement on a food. That being said, there are some things that we as human beings consume that are not recognizable as food any longer. Many of my patients know that I value diets that leave room for moderation in general for healthy people. There are certain conditions for which certain diets have been shown to help. For example- increasing iron rich foods if you are anemic works very well. I also will have my patients with heartburn avoiding fatty, spicy foods, coffee, peppermint, and, in some very unfortunate cases, chocolate. There is a very effective diet for those suffering from Interstitial Cystitis.

Aside from specific diets for specific conditions there are certain foods that certain people react negatively too. This is what is loosely referred to as “food allergies”. Technically a food allergy is an IgE-mediated immune response which can include anaphylaxis-although it doesn’t always get to that point. Many people carry an epi-pen in case they are exposed to their allergen if anaphylaxis does occur. IgE mediated responses have 6 sub-types but in general have a quick onset and are intense. A rash you get immediately after eating something, a tingling in your throat, swelling anywhere in your airway—these are IgE-mediated immune responses and are true food allergies.

What patients are usually asking me about are more correctly described as food sensitivities. Food sensitivities can be IgG mediated or can be caused physiologically via several mechanisms-foods that are too high in histamine can aggravate chronic allergy sufferers, people over the age of 8 or so can be lactose intolerant. Then there are nagging chronic conditions which have been difficult to find a cause for—IBS that isn’t responding well to conventional treatment, chronic headaches people can’t shake, or year-round rhinitis. I have had quite a bit of success treating these conditions with dietary modification, starting with a food sensitivity test.

Food sensitivity testing will measure the IgE and IgG antibody levels in your blood against about 100 different food protein antigens and give a scale of reactivity. These tests are not 100% accurate, but they are a very useful guide to starting the gold standard in food sensitivity testing-the elimination and (sometimes) re-introduction of the questionable food or foods. I don’t recommend this testing for everybody but it can be helpful in certain situations.

If you have questions about food sensitivities or if this testing could be helpful for you, please call us at 916.351.9355.

Dr. Jamie Brinkley, ND