I have written a lot about food immunoreactivities in the past you can read two of these posts here and here. Yet, it’s still too sciencey and people have trouble grasping the real-world damage that eating food that they are immunoreactive to may be doing to their bodies. This is because this damage is not as tangible or visual as a cut or a burn. The wreckage lives within and the symptoms may not be pain and may not even be in the digestive system. There also may not even be any really symptoms we can feel. But, that doesn’t mean that everything is OK.
You put three to five tons of food into your mouth every year. Your immune system has to see that food and not react. The barrier between that food and you is one cell thick. This system is incredibly resilient. But, just because something is resilient doesn’t mean we chip away at it every day just for kicks or to fit in.
This analogy may help you put the pieces to together, but more than that I hope it helps you take action.
We all know what keeps a good relationship going – individualized consistent effort, intently listening and being present with our partner, and not being reactive or taking things personal.
Yet, we all have that couple in our lives who is awkward to go to dinner with because they make snide comments to one another. Perhaps, they interrupt or are just abrasive in their behaviors and everyone can feel that this is not a positive or nurturing relationship.
Think of food immunoreactivities in this way.
When you eat something that you know doesn’t work for you – whether you isolated this item through the elimination/provocation method or Cyrex testing it is like that insidious comment eating away at the foundation of your relationship or it could even be the yelling match that wakes up the neighborhood and ends with someone putting their foot through a wall.
For most of us it is the insensitive or mean word that perhaps at its first occurrence both parties might laugh. Yet, over time you can’t take them back and they are additive, taking weeks, months, or years for both parties to move on. Say mean shit to your significant other every day for a week and see how that goes. Every meal? Forget about it. You are going to be that lonely, insensitive human whose own family doesn’t even invite them to Thanksgiving.
How insidious and dangerous those words are depends mainly on three attributes.
The strength of your relationship or the health of the GI tract. Do you have incessant GI symptoms? Did you get sick abroad and have never been the same? Do you have dysbiosis, intestinal permeability, and/or constant bloating or flatulence? When the last time you had a truly life changing experience on the toilet?
How reactive or sensitive your partner is or the tolerance of your immune system. For this we have to look to the past – Were you breast fed? Did you have a natural birth? Was your first food cheerios? Did your parents lock you in a room with hand sanitizer? All of this matters.
You don’t poke someone on the edge and we must test the waters of what disrupts the balance. Some people have to walk on egg shells their entire life because you can’t change your upbringing or divorce your immune system or your gastrointestinal tract. Other people can get away with murder on a regular basis and still be relatively functional human beings – maybe their significant other is a rubber doll they bought on eBay. Don’t be mad that they can do whatever they want. You throw that doll against the wall enough and it will pop.
The degree to which you react and the price you pay– Do you have real life Celiac disease or NCGS where being exposed to gluten can prime the immune system for 60 to 90 days? That means one bite of bread is brick through the window of your relationship. Can you fix it? Yes, but it is going to take some time and other damage might be done from the opening to the outside world. Do you have gluten ataxia where eating gluten primes the immune system to attack your cerebellum? Do you get diarrhea at the thought of a milk shake? Do you have an autoimmune disease where you absolutely cannot be activating an immune system that is by definition already intolerant?
Food immunoreactivities and the health of the GI system is individual, extremely complex, and forever changing. Yet, your journey with food involves really listening, consistent effort, and learning how to become less reactive and avoid the situations that set you or your partner off.
*For more on going through the elimination provocation diet check out Chris Kresser’s – The Paleo Cure or for an even deeper dive into all things immunology and food read Dr. Ballantyne’s – The Paleo Approach. If you hate the word Paleo, you could also just eliminate the most common food antigens for 30 days and then reintroduce them in a systematic fashion. Per the FDA, these include: diary, eggs, seafood, nuts, legumes, wheat, and soy.