Very often patients come to the office with complaints such as cramps, constipation, abdominal distention. These symptoms may be an alert that something is not well with our health and the way our body metabolizes nutrients.
Many times after several visits to the doctor we finally deal with the possibility of having a food intolerance or an allergy. These two terms can be confusing. Most of the time when the word allergy comes up it is correlated to symptoms such as red spots on the skin, breathing problems, abrupt signs that are, in fact, reactions of an allergy called immediate.
As time passes by, another type of allergy is currently on the spotlight, it’s called the late type of allergy. It tends to be more difficult to diagnose because the onset of symptoms occur hours or in many cases days after the consumption of the allergen (these manifestations may include headache, low blood pressure, lack of energy, among others). Even a careful evaluation of exams may not at first indicate that something is not in the way that it was supposed to be.
The late type of allergy differentiates itself from the immediate type by the antibodies involved, called IgG. It’s a fact that if most of us would turn up to show positive results for certain foods if we were to be tested for the late allergy antibodies in spite of not showing any symptoms. But, for a small part of the population the frequent consumption of such foods trigger a great amount of discomfort (enough to change social habits). The avoidance of many foods (as a fear of not feeling well) may, in the long run, leave us depleted of many nutrients.
With the increase of the quantity and quality of such exams available (to detect possible food intolerances and the late type of allergies) most patients are seeking to use these means of evaluation to improve health and use the knowledge retained from these results to reduce inflammation, malabsorption and strengthen the immune system.
These exams help not just the quest towards health improvement but also help athletes aiming to speed recovery between workouts as the lowering of intestinal inflammation makes it easier for the body to absorb more protein, antioxidants, vitamins, produce less hormones related to stress and catabolism and, as a result, have a faster recovery from the muscular micro lesions and inflammation caused by training as well as better recovery from anaerobic workouts as the body has more nutrients to produce red blood cells and reduce lost training sessions during the year due to illness.
EXAMPLES OF ALLERGIES AND INTOLERANCES
From the amateur to the professional athlete, to get to know the foods that can possibly cause allergy and intolerance is important (if those symptoms pose a problem). Nicholas Santos, for example, is the number one swimmer in the world in the 50 Fly ranking and used to miss many workouts in the season due to recurrent sinus infections before finding out that the milk protein posed an intolerance problem.
In regards to food intolerance what happens is an increase in the production of toxins on the gastrointestinal mucosa every time we ingest something the body thinks it’s an aggressor. The frequent ongoing ingestion of such foods may decrease the body’s own capability to digest and absorb nutrients such as lactose (sugar present in milk) and proteins, among others. The patient may also experience symptoms such as excessive gas production and nausea.
Besides using this knowledge as a way to improve performance (as recovery also speeds up) it’s not uncommon to feel an immediate improvement as well. These improvements may be felt for example in a reduction of symptoms such as nausea during anaerobic training sessions (during those sessions the athlete is more inclined to feel sick compared to the aerobic type of training). It’s interesting to note that even the drinks used during practice and meets may increase symptoms such as belly distension and low blood pressure. Example: An athlete sensible to corn may feel uncomfortable using hydration drinks/gels with maltodextrin.
It’s not possible to have an universal list that would work for everyone as far as permitted foods but most of the time it’s possible to point out the suspected aggressors with a careful analysis of the foods ingested using a 24 hour diary (sometimes the problem foods are condiments used in the meal preparation which may lead to confusion as well as unnecessary avoidances solely based on symptoms).
It only takes a blood draw to have these exams done (can be analyzed by a doctor and/or nutritionist). Every person is unique, unfortunately it’s not possible to have a diet plan that would work out for everyone. The very first step is to have your doctor analyze your symptoms in order to exclude any other adjacent health conditions before thinking about excluding foods from your diet plan just because many people are on fad diets.