When tennis star Novak Djokovic cut out Gluten from his diet, his resulting increase in performance saw him rise from No 3 in the world, to world No 1 only a year later. It was a chance observation by a nutritionist that led to him investigating food intolerance as the possible cause to the breathing issues and lack of stamina he experienced during long matches.
And a shattered Paula Radcliffe returned from the Athens Olympics to start the post-mortem on her dip in form, only to find that food intolerances had triggered her IBS symptoms – so badly that it completely wrecked her performance. Once she knew what was going on she was able to eliminate the problem foods and get back to the business or winning races!
Recognising that some foods can be having a detrimental effect on health and performance is now becoming more mainstream. And, given the variety of issues that may arise due to food sensitivity it’s definitely an area to consider if you suddenly feel less than 100% for no apparent reason.
Food intolerances have been linked to a range of symptoms that many people brush off and live with rather than investigating the root cause. Symptoms range from lack of energy or fatigue, ‘fuzzy headedness’ or slow thinking, poor concentration, mood swings, migraines and headaches, joint pain, weight management issues, bloating, skin conditions, asthma or rhinitis.
So what actually happens to bring about a reaction to food? Intolerance or sensitivity manifests when molecules from poorly digested foods cross the gastrointestinal lining and enter the blood stream. This triggers a reaction by the immune system, which releases antibodies to fight off the invader.
This slows down the metabolism, causes inflammation in the body, and basically impairs function. Left unchecked, the body continues to try and fight the perceived ‘infection’ diverting energy from normal activities, so impairing function, hence the broad range of symptoms that can be felt as a manifestation of the food intolerance.
Unfortunately the foods that trigger this reaction are often the foods that we eat regularly. Wheat and dairy are common culprits, although by no means the only ones.
So what can you do about it? If you suspect food intolerance is at the root of your symptoms, the first step is obviously to identify the foods triggering the reaction. This can be done by a blood test, which screens for IgG antibodies for particular food proteins.
Once identified these foods need to be eliminated from the diet for 3 months, after which time careful re-introduction can be tested.
At the same time, it’s important to address gut health. If you have food intolerances, you must have some level of intestinal permeability (or ‘leaky gut’ as it’s commonly known). This is the mechanism that allows the passage of protein molecules to cross through the gastrointestinal wall incorrectly. An effective nutritional protocol can be put in place to correct this so that the gut barrier is restored before you start to reintroduce potentially problematic foods.
And your capacity to digest foods should also be thoroughly investigated. Better awareness of how you eat (do you chew your food properly? Do you eat on the move?), consideration of how well your stomach produces stomach acid, and imbalances in digestive enzymes are all areas that may need to be reviewed in order to prevent potential relapses.
If you want to know more about food intolerance testing or would like to book a nutritional consultation to discuss your digestive health, get in touch!