Mark Bittman's New York Times piece on "Dietary Seat Belts" this week was a rallying cry to continue imposing regulation and restriction on unhealthy foods, such as sugary soft drinks and deep fried foods in school lunch rooms. Public health policies in recent years have proven to reduce food-caused illnesses and epidemics. We all know sugar and saturated fat can lead to chronic illness, but what if the healthy foods you're eating are doing harm as well?
I was faced with this question recently after undergoing a food sensitivity test that ranged from food, food additives and environmental factors. The results were somewhat astonishing, particularly because some of my favorite high-nutrient foods have been causing inflammation in my cells and tissues, which can lead to chronic illness and weight gain if I don't curb my appetite for those foods.
Food intolerance (sensitivity) is not an allergy
I didn't know these foods were causing inflammation because I was mostly asymptomatic. Or so I thought. Other than feeling a little itchy around my mouth after eating an entire avocado, skin break outs while consuming dairy, or feeling my gums swell after a heavy dose of spicy Mexican food, I didn't experience strong reactions or anaphylactic shock that led me to believe I was sensitive to a long list of "healthy" foods.
That's because I am not actually allergic to these foods, but my body can't digest them effectively and therefore cannot absorb the nutrients I thought I was getting from them. Meanwhile, my body could become so worn down from fighting off inflammation that one day my immunity levels can weaken and I could develop chronic illnesses. Later, it can lead to unnecessary weight gain. All from eating healthy food!
There's plenty of food left to eat
If you decide to get tested for food sensitivities, don't feel overwhelmed by the list of "can't haves." There's plenty of foods you can still eat, though it will require an adjustment.
Intuitively, you already suspect where your sensitivities lie. When I stopped eating dairy and eggs, my skin cleared up. And my gums swelling after eating Mexican food? It turns out I'm sensitive to avocado, chili peppers, pinto beans, corn, lettuce and bell peppers. The real surprises for me were berries, watermelon, canola oil, pine nuts, broccoli, bok choy, wild rice and caraway. On the bright side, I feel like the only person in the world not sensitive to gluten.
Sense of empowerment
While we wait with frustration for food safety regulations and restrictions on unhealthy foods for school kids, let's not forget we have the power to strap dietary seat belts over our own reactive foods and take personal responsibility for our own health and quality of life.
What foods or additives are you sensitive to? Have you found reasonable alternatives to the foods you love? Share below!