What Is Food Intolerance?
This critically important health issue of food intolerance is finally coming out of the closet and into its own. But what is it and why have we not heard of it before. The former is pretty easy to understand. Grasping the answer to the latter takes some serious effort and is not for the faint of heart.
The term “food intolerance” has been applied to both immune-mediated (involving the immune system) and non-immune related disorders (e.g. to food additives) that result from the consumption of certain foods to which an individual is sensitive. Here is the Wikipedia definition of food intolerance. This is a pretty good starting point. But things are not always that clear-cut as we are finding in the study of celiac disease (gluten intolerance), the condition that catapulted me into this mission.
This site focuses on the immune-mediated forms of food intolerance, which include those reactions to gluten, casein (dairy), soy, and corn. I also now have a small section on nightshade intolerance. In my G.A.R.D. diet, I emphasize the need to eliminate MSG (monosodium glutamate) and aspartate (NutraSweet), two food additives that are neurotoxic, with some individuals having much more dramatic reactions to their consumption than others. Some would call this a food intolerance. Like many other “intolerances”, these items affect everyone negatively to some extent but produce serious reactions in those who are already in a downward spiral from others factors.
The most serious food intolerances are those to the gluten grains (wheat, barley, and rye), casein (dairy products), soy and corn, with the first three being the most common. Celiac disease (gluten intolerance) is finally making its way into the public eye. At the time of my diagnosis in the year 2000, it was considered a “rare disorder in the US, affecting less than 1:5000 Americans.” In 2006, it was declared to be one of the most common conditions in the country, with Johns Hopkins and The Mayo Clinic stating that the official number of celiacs in this country was 1:120 people. However, the unofficial number by celiac researchers is a whopping 1:30. Other papers on this site address this obvious and unsettling discrepancy.
Celiac disease, which serves very well as the example of the immune-related food intolerances, is caused by the reaction of the cells that line the intestinal tract to the presence of gluten, a sticky glycoprotein (part carb, part protein). This reaction to thelectins in gluten leads to the classic lesion of villous atrophy, the destruction of the tiny finger-like projections of the intestinal tract that are responsible for the absorption of nutrients. The main area of intestinal damage is the duodenum, that first stretch of intestine after the stomach. As the condition progresses, the next section- the jejunum- is also involved. This progression of villous damage along the length of the small intestine helps to explain the variability in symptoms among affected individuals, both in severity and age of onset.
The destruction of the intestinal villi results in a number of serious complication, including the malabsorption of essential nutrients, the entry of undesirable proteins, and the leakage of certain important elements into that damaged gut. These things are often described as the “leaky gut syndrome”.
The most important thing for the novice to grasp is the malabsorption issue. It is this part of the mechanism of food intolerance that helps people to see the potentially devastating aspects of this important health issue. The duodenum and jejunum are responsible for the absorption of the vast majority of our calcium, iron, iodine, B complex, C, and trace minerals (zinc, magnesium, boron, chromium, lithium, manganese, etc.). Immediately, one should be able to see the potentially catastrophic effects of damage to these areas: Osteoporosis, iron deficiency anemia, thyroid problems, immune system failure, and a myriad of symptoms related to trace element deficiencies. All tissues of the body can suffer from such malnutrition. So, we should not be surprised to learn that celiacs have a much higher rate of the illnesses that plague mankind…and his pets.
But gluten intolerance is only one of the “big 4” or what I like to refer as “the four horsemen of the apocalypse” when I am writing more melodramatically. I have good reason to do so. Gluten, dairy products, soy and corn are doing an incredible amount of harm to a phenomenal number of people and animals. We covered the incidence of celiac diseases above. What is the true incidence of casein, soy and corn intolerance? No one really knows for sure. But I can tell you that wheat is “only” the number two human food allergen, with cow’s milk being number one. That fact combined with the amount of research information linking dairy products to many of the common medical conditions from which we all suffer has led me to the conclusion that true dairy intolerance (to casein and other glycoproteins in cow’s milk) will be found to have a higher incidence in people than celiac disease.
The bad news is that over 75% of the calories in the standard American diet (S.A.D.) are derived from the “big 4”. Once we grasp the true incidence, the devastating consequences, and all of the common food sources of these food intolerances we will have a much better view of the big picture of medicine. The origins of the downward spiral in our health and that of our pets will be so clear that we should all wake up to what we have done to ourselves.
And then we can embrace what I like to call the “gospel of medicine”: We do have our health destinies more in our own hands than we have ever believed, certainly more than we have ever been told. Miracles can occur when we identify and eliminate the foods that are driving our bodies (and the virusesand bacteria they contain) crazy. I am a living example. Many others are experiencing profound results as seen in my Testimonials section.
The rest of this Website is dedicated to helping the reader grasp the vital nature of this information as well as covering other topics that contribute to the decline in our health (e.g. air quality issues, sleep, and “genetics”). When taken as whole, these issues should lead the reader to the same conclusion that I have came to a number of years ago: We are doing all of this harm to ourselves. That is an unsettling but true realization. But that same conclusion should give us hope for the future. This situation is still within our control. We can change things, in our household and beyond. It is not easy but it is “simple”. All we have to do is stop doing to ourselves what we know to be harmful and then reap the benefits. Yes, in our medical lives, we also reap what we sow.