Is Food Making You Sick?

Millions of people suffer from chronic conditions that are caused by sensitivities to foods and food additives. Food sensitivities are known to “trigger” inflammatory conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), migraine and fibromyalgia. Approximately 60 million Americans are affected by one or all of these three conditions. Unfortunately, medications are largely ineffective at preventing and treating these conditions.

Food sensitivity occurs when cells in the gut become hypersensitive to a food and respond by producing chemicals that cause or mediate inflammation. While food sensitivities involve the immune system, they should not be confused with food allergies. A food allergy occurs when the immune system identifies a food as being a potentially harmful substance and produces antibodies to attack it. Food sensitivities impact 30-40% of the population while food allergies affect approximately 3-4%.

Anyone can develop a sensitivity to most any food. The offending food could be something that a person consumed most of their life with no problem. But over time, cells in the gut become hypersensitive to the food and produce mediators of inflammation, which in turn inflame the gut and can cause IBS. Additionally, the mediators of inflammation can be absorbed into the blood stream and trigger “global” symptoms and conditions throughout the body. Migraine and fibromyalgia are the two most notable global conditions that arise from food sensitivities. Other conditions include arthritis, joint and muscle pain, heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD), attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obesity and weight imbalances.

Symptoms of IBS include diarrhea, constipation, frequent bowel movements, gas, bloating and abdominal distention. Approximately 10% – 20% of adults in America are affected by IBS, which is the second leading cause of absenteeism and a major contributor to “presenteeism” or lack of productivity due to fatigue, malaise and generally feeling lousy. Nearly 12% of all visits to primary care physicians are due to IBS. Unfortunately, medications for IBS have limited success and patients are commonly told that their symptoms are phsyco-somatic or “in their head.” Consequently, patients often develop depression, anxiety and exaggerated stress reactions due to the difficulties of coping with IBS.

Migraine is an inflammatory disease with symptoms that include episodic headaches, nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and/or sound. Approximately 30 million Americans suffer from migraine, of which nearly 11 million experience moderate to severe symptoms. Numerous medications exist to prevent and/or abort migraines, as well as reduce the pain and suffering of a migraine episode. However, not all sufferers respond to medications and many people seek other methods to better manage their triggers to avoid migraines all together. russian food store

Fibromyalgia is a musculoskeletal pain and fatigue disorder. The term fibromyalgia means pain in the fibrous, soft tissue of the body (muscles, tendons and ligaments). Some physicians dismiss fibromyalgia as a disease due to a lack of physical evidence. However, these physicians are wrong as nearly 10 million Americans suffer from fibromyalgia, which is often co-morbid (occurs) with IBS and migraine. The pharmaceutical industry has yet to develop an effective medication for treating fibromyalgia. Thus, fibromyalgia presents a frustrating challenge for physicians as they cannot test for it, have no effective medication to prescribe and their patients remain sick and in pain.

Food has long been considered a potential cause of the inflammatory conditions mentioned above, as well as many other conditions. Physicians regularly instruct patients to avoid foods that trigger their symptoms and sometimes provide a list of common trigger foods. However, food sensitivities vary widely from individual to individual and lists of potential trigger foods are, at best, a shot in the dark. For instance, caffeine may trigger migraine in some people, relieve migraine in others while caffeine withdrawal is a common migraine trigger. Thus, patients are essentially on their own to figure out their food triggers. Trial and error is a frustratingly painful strategy that often leads to fear of food, depression, eating disorders and makes sufferers vulnerable to gimmicky remedies that promise relief.

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