When the Foods You Love Don’t Love You Back: Unravelling Food Sensitivities and Restoring Gut Health

It’s a puzzling and an often frustrating reality: that sometimes, the foods we love just don’t seem to love us back. You might be surprised to find that certain foods, even those you might think of as “healthy,” can trigger unpleasant reactions in your body. In this blog, we will explore the intricate world of food sensitivities and intolerances and how they impact gut health. You’ll discover why certain foods cause discomfort, how to identify your personal food triggers, and, most importantly, how to navigate and restore your gut health for a happier, more comfortable life. Join us as we unravel the complexities behind food sensitivities and take steps towards restoring balance and wellbeing in your gut. 


What’s the difference between food sensitivities, intolerances and allergies?


The terms ‘food sensitivities’, ‘food intolerances’, and ‘food allergies’ often get tossed around interchangeably, yet they couldn’t be more distinct. 


Food Allergies: These are IgE immune responses, your body’s defence system overreacting to certain foods and viewing them as harmful invaders. It’s like a security system misfiring at the sight of a friend, not a foe, resulting in symptoms that can be immediate and, in some cases, life-threatening.


Food Intolerances: Typically occur when your body lacks specific enzymes needed to break down certain foods, as is the case for lactose intolerance. This scenario is akin to not having the right key for a lock. Intolerances can also encompass reactions like histamine intolerance, where some people don’t have enough of the histamine N-methyltransferase (HNMT) and diamine oxidase (DAO) and struggle to break down histamine found in certain foods, leading to symptoms like headaches, skin rashes, and digestive discomfort. Food intolerance reactions are often delayed and less severe than allergic responses.


Food Sensitivities: These are subtler, often stemming from low-grade inflammatory responses via igG immune cells to foods that can play a long game, leading to symptoms that may not appear until a few days after consumption. It’s like a delayed onset of fatigue after a strenuous workout you didn’t feel was too taxing at the time.


Understanding these differences is vital in identifying the right course of action to take for your gut health.

Why Do Some Foods Cause Adverse Reactions?


At the core of our wellbeing, the gut is more than just a digestive workhorse; it’s an intricate ecosystem where food and the immune system meet. When certain foods become irritants, it’s often a signal of deeper imbalances. 


Imagine your gut as a bustling city where food particles are visitors. Normally, these visitors are processed and assimilated seamlessly into the city’s rhythm. However,

when your gut’s ‘cityscape’ is disrupted by stress, infection, or environmental toxins, the local ‘residents’, your gut microbiota (the collection of microorganisms colonising the GI tract), can react unpredictably to these otherwise harmless visitors.


Here’s what could be happening:

– Your immune system may have become overzealous, tagging certain foods as threats, leading to inflammation.

– A compromised gut lining – think of this as the city wall – may allow food particles to wander into places they shouldn’t, triggering sensitivity reactions.

– An imbalance in your gut flora, akin to having the wrong crowd in the city, could ferment foods in ways that cause discomfort.

– You may have genetic variations that reduce your body’s ability to digest certain foods. The image below highlights a clients genetic test results showing a poorly poorly functioning (down regulated) DAO enzyme.

The image below highlights a clients genetic test results showing a poorly poorly functioning (down regulated) DAO enzyme.

How Do I Know If I Have a Food Sensitivity or Intolerance?


Identifying food sensitivities or intolerances can often require some detective skills. You’ll need to be on the lookout for clues like:


– Digestive changes post-meal that range from bloating to bowel habit disruptions.

– Unexplained fatigue or brain fog that leaves you feeling less than your best.

– Skin flare-ups or joint discomfort that come and go without obvious triggers.


If these signs are part of your everyday experience, it may be time to consider your diet. At The Thrive Practice, we help you decode these messages through personalised strategies, eliminating the guesswork and paving the way to a clearer understanding of your body’s language. There are a few ways we do this. The gold standard method to help you zero in on your specific intolerance is through an elimination diet. This short-term approach eliminates the most common food allergens that cause allergies, digestive reactions and other health issues. These foods are then reintroduced one at a time in order to determine which you tolerate and which you don’t. 


Other options include sensitivity and genetic testing. Food sensitivity tests use finger prick blood to measure IGg and immune complexes that lead to food sensitivity reactions. Genetic testing uses a check swab to sequence DNA to understand, as a default, how you respond to gluten, lactose, caffeine and understand your microbiome diversity.


It’s like being a food detective, identifying the culprits through clues left behind. Elimination diets, food diaries (try this one), and targeted testing can all be part of your investigative toolkit. By tracking your reactions to certain foods, we can pinpoint which ones your body is rebelling against.

Can Food Sensitivities and Intolerances Affect My Overall Health?


Absolutely. When a particular food upsets the functioning of the gastrointestinal tract or negatively reacts with one of its constituents, the resulting food sensitivities and intolerances can ripple out beyond the gut, affecting your entire wellbeing. They can act like a pebble thrown into the pond of your health, creating waves that may manifest as persistent skin conditions – itchy skin, eczema, rashes and acne, migraines, joint pain, and even mood swings. This is because the gut is not an isolated organ; it’s a central hub connected to your entire body through networks of nerves, hormones, and immune cells.


Think of your gut as a garden. When well-looked after, everything flourishes, but the disarray can spread if neglected. 

What Role Does Gut Health Play in Food Sensitivities and Intolerances?


Gut health is the stage on which the drama of food sensitivities and intolerances unfolds. The gut is about so much more than digestion and absorption of nutrients; it’s about the intricate dance of bacteria in the microbiota, the integrity of the  gut lining, the immune system’s response to what passes through your gut’s ‘cityscape’, and the interconnected network, where the gut and the nervous system communicate, known as the gut-brain axis. 


A compromised gut might not distinguish friend from foe, leading to sensitivities. Or it may struggle to process foods properly, as a result of  intolerances.

Are Food Sensitivities Permanent?


Not always. With the right care and adjustments, many people can reintroduce problematic foods over time. The key is understanding that the body is dynamic, constantly interacting with its environment. 


By nurturing gut health, rebalancing the microbiota, and healing the gut lining, it is possible to create an environment where once problematic foods can become friends again. 

What Steps Can I Take to Manage or Overcome These Issues?


Management and recovery from food sensitivities and intolerances start with understanding, and then action, and our Restore programme supports our clients in doing just that.


Restore is your personal ally in the fight against food sensitivities and intolerances. Rooted in the wisdom of functional medicine and nutritional therapy, Restore doesn’t just mask symptoms—it aims to correct the underlying imbalances contributing to discomfort.


Here’s how Restore makes a difference:


Identifying Triggers: With comprehensive testing and symptom tracking, Restore helps highlight the specific foods your body struggles with, moving beyond guesswork to scientific accuracy.


Gut-supporting Nutrition Plans: Restore crafts a nutrition plan tailored to your body’s needs, focusing on anti-inflammatory foods that support gut healing and excluding those that provoke sensitivity reactions.


Gut Microbiome Support: Since a healthy gut microbiota is essential for processing food, Restore includes strategies to rebalance and support these vital gut flora with prebiotics, probiotics, and fermented foods.


Gut Lining Repair: By incorporating gut-repairing nutrients and supplements, Restore works to heal the intestinal lining, which is often at the core of food sensitivities and intolerances.


Lifestyle Adjustments: Restore looks at the whole picture, addressing stress, sleep, and activity levels—all factors that profoundly impact gut health.


Education and Empowerment: Beyond just therapeutics, Restore is about educating you on how to make informed choices about your diet and lifestyle to maintain and build upon your progress.


By addressing each of these areas, Restore offers a comprehensive programme designed for both temporary relief and lasting change. It’s about transforming your relationship with food and your body, leading you towards a life of better health and greater enjoyment. 


Ready to begin? Let’s get you started on this journey to restoration together. Join us on a journey to eating without fear, living without discomfort, and thriving in full health.


Hello, I’m Leah! Functional health consultant and founder of The Thrive Practice. Driven by data and supported by science, I’m unerringly obsessed with exploring your unique biochemistry to methodically get to the root of your health issues. So, you can achieve real and lasting relief.


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