A "hidden" stress to our adrenal glands, delayed food allergies and food intolerances are also culprits in hindering our attempts to feel better and have more energy. When we think of being allergic to something, we typically expect that within a relatively short time period we will begin to see obvious and dramatic reaction to the offending substance, like hives or swelling and shortness of breath, but with delayed food allergies, that is not always the case. It may take hours or DAYS to manifest symptoms, and then they may not be a reaction that we recognize.
The adrenal hormone cortisol plays a role in responding to allergens, so when you are constantly exposing yourself to foods you are allergic to, your adrenal glands are constantly working to respond. When the offending allergen is something as common as wheat, your adrenals are always on some level of "alert", and you may not even realize that a food allergy is the source of this stress.
Something most people are not aware of is that there are two kinds of food allergies. Sometimes you may be severely allergic, and have serious immediate anaphylactic reactions (a reaction commonly associated with peanuts and seafood). This is called an IgE or "true allergy", and is what most people think of when they hear the words food allergy.
However, the second type of food allergy is far more common, and far less popularly understood. The second kind is called an IgG food intolerance, food sensitivity, or delayed food allergy. Delayed food allergies have many different types of reactions, that take place hours or even days after you've eaten the offending foods. You may not even be aware that some of the physical problems you are having are related to something you ate, much less something you ate 3 days ago. If we *do* associate a physical response with something that we ate, we are usually trying to think of something unique that we ate, never realizing that we are most likely sensitive to something we are eating all the time. Some of the most common food allergies are wheat and dairy! Sometimes, it can even be a reaction to a specific combination of foods that you don't react to individually...
When you have multiple food sensitivities, the lining of your stomach and intestines becomes irritated and inflamed, and if you are continually eating something or other that is irritating, it never has a chance to rest and heal, leading to stomach pain, or heartburn, or gas, or other digestive discomfort. You may even develop "Leaky Gut Syndrome", which is an increased permeability of the intestinal walls that allows undigested proteins and fats to "leak" out of the intestine and into the bloodstream, where it sets off an autoimmune reaction. This irritation triggers increased cortisol secretion as your adrenal glands are alerted to an increase in histamine levels (the histamine causes the inflammation, the cortisol is an anti-inflammatory).
What does this mean for people with tired adrenal glands?
If you are constantly eating something that is causing inflammation or autoimmune response, you are asking your already tired adrenal glands to continually maintain elevated cortisol levels to supress the inflammation. Now imagine if your sensitivity is to wheat, which is consumed in at least one form at nearly every meal, either as a main feature, or as an ingredient in the canned soup that you used, or the soy sauce you marinated the meat in. The unrelenting exposure to an allergen is an often unrecognized contributing factor in adrenal burnout.
Aside from the obvious gastric symptoms, delayed food allergies can also manifest themselves in ways you would never think to connect. Rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia and other autoimmune syndromes, migraines, asthma, ADD, autism--these and many other conditions have all been found to have food sensitivity "triggers", and people who have identified their food sensitivities and eliminated them from their diets have often found dramatic improvement in their health.
Many day-to-day complaints are also unknowingly caused by delayed food allergies: cloudy thinking, inability to concentrate, lethargy, headaches, migraine, joint pain, muscle weakness, depression, chronic sinus issues, plugged ears or chronic ear infections, weight gain, dark circles under your eyes, rosy cheeks, acne, and oddly, cravings for the food you are allergic to, are all common food allergy reactions.
Your doctor can order a blood test to identify your level of sensitivity to the most common offenders. There are some who debate the reliability of the results (especially the moderate to low scores) however, it is still a good starting point for a list of things that you can try eliminating or monitoring for reactions. If you have multiple food allergies (which is quite likely), this will be the fastest and easiest way to determine what they all are.
If you don't have a doctor, you can also order a food sensitivity lab test yourself directly from TrueHealth Labs. While not cheap, the turnaround time is approximately 7 days after the lab receives your sample, and the price includes a one-on-one phone consulation with a functional medicine doctor to review your results.
If you want to go the self-diagnostic route, you can follow the general instructions below for doing your own elimination diet, or follow a more structured elimination diet as outlined in the book The Plan.
Fortunately, it is possible to reverse some IgG delayed food allergies. It is important when you have multiple food allergies to start by eliminating EVERYTHING on your sensitivity list, for a period of 2-3 months, because it can take that long to clear the allergens from your system. You should be taking a good probiotic during this time to help repopulate your intestinal tract with beneficial bacteria to aid digestion. Aloe Vera juice also has intestinal healing properties. If you have a candida yeast overgrowth in your gut that should be addressed during this time as well.
After that healing and cleansing time, you can start re-introducing the eliminated foods one at a time, starting with the lowest scoring offenders. It should be very obvious after the resting period which foods cause a reaction, and what it is. It is possible that many of the foods that previously caused problems can be tolerated in small or infrequent amounts. Keep a journal noting each food you try to reintroduce. If you don't get a reaction the first day, you can try that food a second time on the next day, and if you still have no reaction, you can have more on day 3. After that, wait 4 days, and try the next lowest scoring food on your list, following the same method. If you *do* have a reaction, of course, you don't need to keep trying that food.
Delayed food allergies are far more common than most people realize, and can be at the root of MANY health issues, not just adrenal fatigue. If you have chronic health issues that you just can't seem to shake, consider the possibility of a food sensitivity to something you eat regularly and try an elimination diet, you may find the results to be enlightening!
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