By ANGELA CASCO
Struggling with weight loss despite proper diet and exercise? Can’t seem to sleep at night? Experiencing persistent skin problems despite efforts to find a care routine that works? Having an unexplainable migraine? Feeling bloated all the time? Experiencing irritable bowel syndrome?
It’s probably time to consider getting tested for food intolerance. An adverse reaction, intolerance to food happens when the body has difficulty digesting and processing specific food items due to enzyme deficiencies or sensitivities to certain components of food. As a result, the digestive system gets irritated.
In an intimate gathering at the LifeScience Center for Health and Wellness, nutritionist and dietician Maddie Calalo explains food intolerance and how a test could jumpstart improved health.
FOOD SENSITIVITY IS NOT ALLERGY
Contrary to popular interpretations, food sensitivity is different from an allergy. In fact, the two are completely different.
“Allergies are the immediate types of reactions,” Calalo says. When somebody is allergic to and eats peanut, they likely get swollen lips in a matter of minutes or have difficulty in breathing. “Food intolerance, on the other hand, takes around 72 hours or more before reactions occur, “ she says. “It builds up over time, too, as you consume these items. They’re not usually life-threatening but they can hamper your productivity.”
Food sensitivity is reversible and acknowledging its possible presence is the first step to addressing it. By being proactive in finding out what’s troubling the body, one is able to not just identify, but also take the necessary steps to improving health. By health, the World Health Organization (WHO) means not just the absence of disease but the overall state of optimal well being in terms of physical, mental, and social aspect of life.
Undergoing FIT requires no more than 15 minutes. It’s a simple and quick procedure which involves a blood draw. Processing in the lab takes eight working days, after which the results are ready for an individualized interpretation, as well as a nutrition counseling session with a nutritionist-dietitian or a doctor.
If one tests positive for any of the food groups, eliminating them from the diet can help rid some of the symptoms. A nutritionist will recommend a plan modifying one’s diet following the consultation.
This includes guidance towards a food reintroduction plan after the recommended elimination period, which can last for as short as 21 days or as long as 60 days. This means that if one is intolerant to milk, that cup of ice cream, glass of milkshake, or large milk tea shall wait.
An easy way to group food items according to levels of food sensitivity is through a traffic light system using the colors red, yellow, and green.
“Red means stop for a while,” Calalo says. “We regulate the intake of the ones in yellow and make sure that the patient eats enough of what’s in green.”
MATTERS OF THE GUT
Healing the gut is key to beating food sensitivity. After all, its poor health is one of the reasons why food sensitivity occurs. “Your gut is important for so many things,” Calalo says. “It is involved with your digestion and absorption of food, as well as detoxification. About 70 to 80 percent of your immune system is located in your gut. It is also responsible for producing and regulating happy hormones, which means mood disorders such as anxiety and depression are related to the gut, too.”
Calalo says a normal gut has a layer of cells sitting tightly together along the passageways of the digestive system. An unhealthy gut, meanwhile, has gaps.
“When you have a compromised gut, whatever you eat, as well as bacteria and viruses get into the system easily,” Calalo says. “Your immune system then finds it difficult to recognize these particles causing and creating what we call food sensitivity.”
These unwanted bacteria and viruses cause inflammation in parts of the body, which triggers migraines, headaches, joint pains, lack of energy even when well-rested, weight gain, skin problems, hyperactivity, insomnia, diarrhea, constipation, depression, and palpitations.
Removing food items the body is intolerant to is allowing the gut to rest, head itself, and restore balance in the body.
It happens through replacing food items in red with good whole foods, which are almost unprocessed. To further treat the gut, intake of probiotics or good bacteria found in coconut yogurt, nato, kombucha, among many others is necessary, as well as supplying the body with nutrients from a generous serving of fruits and vegetables per meal.
A healthy amount of protein and healthy fats and oil benefits the gut, too. Even rebalancing other aspects of one’s lifestyle such as stress, sleep, exercise, and water intake can contribute to the gut’s complete recovery.
One can slowly reintroduce eliminated food again after this period. This way, items that still set off reactions can be identified and one will learn to bid goodbye to them for good.
THE FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE APPROACH
At LifeScience, there’s not one treatment or procedure that fits all. Though in-house experts follow a remove, replace, reinoculate, repair, and rebalance protocol on food intolerance, modifying each step is bound to happen.
Their brand of healthcare means “we need to get to know you.” “The approach starts with gathering information. Whether you start with the actual test or you would like to be able to speak to someone from the team first is going to be the first question from us,” says Mich Henado, chief executive officer of Lifescience. “Everything here is by appointment so what we will do is supply a set of questionnaires that you can fill out.
That will arm our dietitian and the rest of the care team with enough information about your concerns so that we can ensure that we don’t waste your time during the consultation.”
Unlike most that last for about five minutes, Henado says consultations at LifeScience last for about an hour and a half to two hours. “We take getting to know you seriously,” he says.
Henado says they map out the information they have gathered in a timeline and a matrix to make sure that everybody in the care team understands the same information, before proceeding to offer recommendations on how to move forward.
At this health and wellness center, what is reasonable enough for the client to do will always be a priority. After all, this approach is patient-centered.
“There are a lot of doctors in hospitals doing disease care, but not a lot train in something like functional medicine,” he says. “In this approach, we need to understand our patients more than the disease. We’re not just administering a procedure born from an acute problem. Instead, we look into non-communicable disease like diabetes, hypertension, among others as manifestations of an underlying root cause.”
These causes could range from unhealthy eating habits, lack of exercise, sleep depravity, and more. This approach makes sense for Calalo as each person is unlike any other.
“A person is so unique in their biochemical makeup and at the same time they are so unique in terms of the environment in which they are exposed,” she says. “We have to consider all these aspects in caring for the patient.”