Does the food you love, love you back?

Having a hard time putting your finger on what the cause of your digestion issues are? Is your bloating worse at the end of the day, when you go out to eat, or after meals? WHAT you eat may be contributing to how you feel - and it might not just be effecting your digestion. 

How can the food we eat cause us symptoms? 
The immune system's job is to defend the body against potentially harmful organisms. One of the ways it does this is by producing cells called immunoglobulins. Below we will discuss the immunoglobulins IgE and IgG, that can cause food allergy or sensitivity reactions. Let's first tease out the difference between these and food intolerance. 

Food Allergy: an immediate reaction triggered by IgE. This is your typical allergic reaction which usually occurs within minutes of exposure.  Common symptoms include: itchy/watery eyes, rash and more severely, breathing difficulties. Eg/ Peanut allergy causing anaphylaxis

Food Sensitivity: delayed immune reactions, often, but not always, triggered by IgG. It may take hours or days to develop this reaction, which can make it difficult to decipher what food is responsible for those symptoms. The symptoms may also be nonspecific (listed below) which can be a challenge when seeking for the root cause and WHY you are having those symptoms in the first place. Eg/ Wheat sensitivity causing bloating 

Food Intolerancenon-immune reaction. This characterizes disturbances caused by enzyme deficiencies. Eg/ Lactose intolerant - deficient in the enzyme lactase used to digest milk

Here we will focus on food sensitivities and that IgG reaction, where these antibodies attach themselves to the food antigen perceived as "foreign".  This signals our immune system to remove them. If this can't be done efficiently, inflammation may occur which may contribute to many different symptoms.

Symptoms that may be associated with food sensitivities:

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  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea or Constipation
  • Gas
  • Indigestion or Heartburn
  • Headaches/Migraines
  • Skin conditions (eg/ Eczema)
  • Joint pain
  • Fatigue

Where to start?

Again that goes back to my philosophy of treat every person as an individual. What are the specific symptoms you are struggling with? It is important to rule out other, potentially more serious causes initially. Once that is done, we will look at the next most likely reason that could be contributing to your symptoms.

 

How to determine if you have food sensitivities?

1. Elimination Diet:

This is the gold standard for determining food sensitivities. Why? Because it gives us real-life feedback: if you eliminate a certain food that was the cause of your symptoms, your symptoms will resolve. Voila! However it's not always so easy...

How will I know what to eat?

We will consider what the most common food sensitivities are that may be contributing to your issue, and from there, create a program just for you. We work with you to emphasize not what you can't have, but what you CAN have. Included in this is a well-balanced meal plan, including grocery lists, and recipes.

Will my diet become too restrictive?

We work with you to find the right fit for you at this point in time. We also work to ensure you are still getting proper nutrients if you are undergoing diet changes and restricting food groups for a specific period of time. We also monitor your condition and the timeline. It is important we don't restrict certain food groups from our diet for too long without a good reason for doing so. 

What if I don't have time?

There is an alternative to doing an elimination of potential food allergens, and that involves a lab test. This is a great option if doing food removal is just not feasible for you or your family, or you have already done this and you still cannot put your finger on what is causing the symptoms. 

 

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2. IgG Lab Test:

What do you get with testing?

An individualized report of your reaction to +120 different foods. We then provide a comprehensive review of your results and create a diet plan appropriate for you and continuously monitor symptoms. We set appropriate timelines and monitor progress to help determine our long term treatment plan.

Which option is better?

While there has been controversy regarding this test, it is important to remember that an Elimination Diet is still the gold standard for determining food sensitivities. However for some, this restrictive diet is not feasible or appropriate. In these cases, lab testing can be beneficial in determining the root cause of their symptoms, and guiding diet choices and treatment without doing a complete elimination diet. 

Will I have to eliminate everything I love?

Again, this is so individual, and it depends if what you love, loves you back! For those who fear that eliminating food groups may be too restrictive, it is important to work with your Naturopathic Doctor to ensure proper dietary needs are still met, and what alternative choices there are. Any food elimination should be done in a timely manner and appropriate for that person's individual needs depending on their age and health status. 

If you have more questions or are wondering if this is right of you, book a complimentary 15 minute meet and greet to further discuss your options. 

 

References:
"Is it a food allergy or a food sensitivity?" Food Reactions & Immunology. Rocky Mountain Analytical. 2018. 
"IgG Food Sensitivity". Food Reactions & Immunology. Rocky Mountain Analytical. 2018. 

6 Stress Busting Tips

Stressed out

Stress is all around us and nearly unavoidable. No matter what happens in your life, your ability to cope and deal with stress is constantly changing. Especially with the impending holiday season, it is important to have many tools to draw upon when that stress comes our way. 

1) Exercise: I know, the last thing you want to do when you have no time, and are so busy you can't even sit down. But, I believe that even in your craziest day, that there is 10 minutes either right when you wake up, or right after lunch, or before bed. 10 minutes that you can either just go for a walk to get the mail, or do a few yoga poses, or even just a 7-minute workout that you can find at http://7-min.com/ to do while you're waiting for your water to boil for dinner.

2) Getting outside: again, but where is the time for all of this? Getting outside even means just parking a little bit farther from your work so you can walk for a few minutes longer and breathe in some fresh air. Or taking 2 minutes after lunch to just walk around the block and refresh yourself for the second half of the day. It doesn't have to be a big change to make a big difference - you just have to be willing to do it!

3) Eating properly: we all know that not eating properly voids us of many nutrients we need, that give us energy and help us get through the day. B vitamins have been shown to be helpful for stress and anxiety symptoms. Leafy green vegetables, nuts, eggs, and fruit are high in B vitamins, so try to adding a dose of one of these to your daily routine. 

4) Finding your outlet: whether it is listening to or creating music, making art (adult colouring books, anyone?), walking, baking, journaling, reading, yoga, taking a bath, knitting etc... Take the time to find at least ONE thing that makes you feel centered and calm, and use it as your go-to when things start to get a little hairy.

5) Meditation/Mindfulness: the most challenging but also the most worth it. It is like any skill, you have to keep practicing to improve and get the most out of it! I usually recommend starting with just a few minutes each day to get used to the process. I love having apps on my phone so I can do this at any time of the day where I have anywhere from 1 extra minute to 30. You can also tailor them to what you like - different backgrounds, themes, guided, or just peace and quiet. With the constant "go-go-go" of our society it is important to take a few moments and just focus on yourself and NOT your to do list. Time to quiet your mind and not have to think about what you are making for supper or where you have to take the kids next. I love the app Calm (or visit www.calm.com) and Stop, Breathe & Think.

6) Make an appointment: If you can't find the time in your day to do some of these things, make it! Scheduling appointments in advance to get a massage, acupuncture, or even just to talk to someone. These are a few ways you can build self-care into your hectic schedule. It is an opportunity for you to take some time for yourself, and when that day of the week finally arrives you'll  be so thankful you did! 

What are your favourite stress-relieving tips?

Beat the Bloat!

Bloating is something we have all experienced to differing degrees, maybe it was the feeling you got after eating too much thanksgiving dinner or after a night out trying so many new foods your digestive system didn’t know what to do with. For others, bloating is a DAILY occurrence. It can begin from the moment they wake up and for some, increases with each meal they consume. While bloating may be your “normal”, it doesn’t always have to be! Believe it or not, bloating tells us information about what is happening inside your body and what your digestive tract is (or is not) doing! You may feel like “you’ve tried everything” – every old wives’ tale, and you’ve followed the internet’s top 7 steps to stop bloating - but nothing seems to help! That might be because you aren’t actually treating the reason WHY you are getting bloating, which may be different from someone else. Below are some of the top reasons that I see cause bloating, as well as heartburn, constipation/diarrhea, and many other digestive disturbances.


1.    Stomach acid or enzyme deficiency
Many people are all too familiar with the signs of too much stomach acid and the havoc it can wreak on your digestive system, but what about not enough? Stomach acid and enzymes are so important, they help to digest the foods that we eat and absorb the nutrients we need. Some foods can put up more of a challenge for our digestive system and some people just need a little bit of extra help to break them down.

2.    HOW you eat
We often put so much emphasis on WHAT we are eating we sometimes forget to think about HOW we are eating. Is it in front of the TV, in the car on the way to work, or do you take bites between running around the house getting ready to leave? When we eat while preoccupied or on the go, we can be in more of a FIGHT or FLIGHT state which puts more stress on our digestive systems. When we actually sit down and focus on just eating, it puts our nervous system into a REST and DIGEST phase – helping us to digest our foods better.

3.    Food allergy or sensitivity
Food allergies like lactose intolerance or celiac disease often present not just with bloating but a myriad of other symptoms immediately after you consume food with these proteins in them. These conditions can make it difficult for us to absorb the rest of the nutrients we are eating and are important to go see your doctor about. A food sensitivity however can cause similar symptoms but often times less severe, and can be a delayed reaction that can present from bloating to headaches and even fatigue! 

4.    Bacterial overgrowth
Our gut is filled with a ton of different bacteria that all help to create our microbiome, but it all needs to be in the proper balance. Abnormally large overgrowth of bacteria in the wrong places can cause major digestive issues. Bloating, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting - you name it! These bacteria feed on simple fiber and sugars so it can seem like you are sensitive to SO MANY foods, when in reality it is unwelcomed guests that are causing all of the trouble! 

5.    Rule out more serious causes
Although less common, it is important to rule out more serious causes like colon or ovarian cancer or GI infections which may also cause bloating. Make sure you talk to your doctor about any new or alarming symptoms that you may have to rule out these first.


References: 
Sugerman D.T. Abdominal Bloating. JAMA. 2013;310(15):1637
 

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Laura Jasmin, Naturopathic Doctor

Practicing in a rural town in Southwestern Ontario, when I tell people I am a Naturopathic Doctor, they often ask "what is that?". I decided to collect the top 10 questions that I have been asked in my first few months of practice as a quick resource for all your Naturopathic Doctor specific questions. By no means is this a complete list, so if you have questions that aren’t answered here, feel free to book in for a free 15 minute meet and greet to see how I might help you optimize your life!

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