Food intolerance

I continue to be amazed at the flood of misinformation that surrounds the various forms of food intolerances that increasingly plague modern people. It leads to all manner of restrictive diet programs to avoid such things as:

  • FODMAPs—i.e., fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols (essentially sugars and sugar alcohols)
  • Nightshades—such as peppers and eggplant
  • Fructose-containing foods—such as fruit
  • Histamine-containing foods—that includes fermented cheeses, wine, other fermented foods
  • Lectin-containing foods such as nuts and seeds
  • Eggs
  • Soy

It’s not uncommon to undergo some form of food intolerance testing and be advised that you need to avoid a list of 20, 30, or 40 foods—impossibly restrictive.

(People who fail to understand the broad health implications of wheat would add “gluten” to this list, but those of us who have a deeper understanding recognize that all humans are intolerant to wheat and this does not represent a food intolerance but a normal reaction to the mix of toxic components in wheat and related grains.)

This does not mean that food intolerances are imaginary—they most definitely are not. People with food intolerances, for example, can experience genuine disruption of the lining of their gastrointestinal (GI) tracts that can be visualized, as well as diarrhea, bloating, gas, abdominal pain, joint pain, skin rashes, asthma attacks, and emotional effects. And some forms of food intolerance can be genetically-determined, e.g., lactose intolerance (although lactose intolerance acquired as an adult is almost always due to disrupted bowel flora).

Viewed from the perspective of human adaptation, food intolerances make no sense. A wild living human with numerous food intolerances would simply not survive, succumbing to either starvation and/or ill health. Food intolerances are a modern phenomenon, issues rarely experienced by prior generations, certainly not experienced by people living hunter-gatherer lifestyles. Food intolerances are a result of exposure to antibiotics; herbicides/pesticides in food; glyphosate (with antibiotic properties in addition to herbicide properties); emulsifying agents like polysorbate 80, carboxymethylcellulose, and carrageenan in common foods such as ice cream and salad dressings; synthetic sweeteners aspartame, sucralose, and saccharine; statin cholesterol drugs; non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen and naproxen; stomach acid-blocking drugs such as Prilosec, Protonix, and ranitidine, and numerous other factors. In other words, modern people are exposed to numerous factors that disrupt the composition and location of GI microbes. Food intolerances are simply a symptom of this disruption, NOT the cause.

A telltale sign that hints at the cause: food intolerances can often disappear temporarily after a course of antibiotics.

The problem is not the food; the problem is the disruption of microbes in the GI tract that have come to be dominated by Proteobacteria such as E. coli and Klebsiella, the so-called Gram-negative species that can be normally present in the colon and stool in low numbers, but come to dominate and then ascend up the ileum, jejunum, duodenum, and stomach, 30-feet of unhealthy microbes that essentially take over the small intestine with a thin single-layer mucus barrier, unlike the two-layer mucus barrier of the colon: small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, SIBO. This allows various components of food, as well as bacteria, to enter the bloodstream and generate immune reactions against them experienced as a food intolerance. Eliminate the food and the reaction can be reduced, but you are left with the disruption and proliferation of unhealthy bacterial species in the 30-foot length of your GI tract. While avoiding this or that food may reduce bloating, gas, diarrhea, or other symptom, you are still exposed to the body-wide inflammation this bacterial situation generates (endotoxemia), insulin resistance, inability to control weight, potential for autoimmune and neurodegenerative diseases, diverticular disease, and colon and other gastrointestinal cancers (e.g., pancreatic, biliary, lymphomas).

Unconvinced? Then get yourself the newest version of the AIRE device that allows you to measure hydrogen and methane gases in your breath after sugar or prebiotic fiber challenge to know whether or not your food intolerance is due to microbes that have taken over your entire GI tract. Just as fingerstick blood glucose measurement took the mystery out of tracking blood sugars, so the AIRE device takes the mystery out of food intolerances.