Meet the Experts – Food Intolerances

Meet the Experts – Food Intolerances

Want to learn about how knowing your food intolerances can impact on training? Then read on. Words: Jamie Shaw.


What are they?

Let's start with what food intolerances are. An intolerance to a food or group of foods is an unfavourable response from the body. It is the reaction of the immune system flaring up when we consume foods, and some of the symptoms can be pretty unpleasant, including IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), migraines, bloating, inflammation of the gut, increased levels of water retention, sinus congestion, fluctuating energy levels, skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema – plus may more. This is not to say that an intolerance is the only cause for these conditions, it can be a contributing factor amongst being a sole influence.

Are they the same as allergies?

No. There is quite a difference between the two. Although both are caused by a reaction from the immune system, the key difference is the severity of the symptom and reaction, as well as the time it takes to come into effect. An allergic reaction is almost instant, with some allergic reactions taking slightly longer, but they will appear quickly in relation to the time of exposure. The reactions are also usually severe, with swelling of the throat, lips, mouth, stomach and other areas and can be life threatening. Intolerances on the other hand are never life threatening, but can be a real pain to someone trying to achieve an optimal training routine and living a healthy lifestyle. Constant exposure to unfavourable foods will in turn lead to chronic gut inflammation, potentially chronic symptoms and make your nutrition hard work. Around 2-5 per cent of the population suffer from an allergy (increasing per year) with a much higher number, around 45 per cent, being subject to the symptoms and suffering from food intolerances. Many people lay claim to having either an allergy or intolerance without ever being tested or doing the groundwork to find out if they have one.


I eat healthy and watch what I eat, so I'm fine, right?

Many city slickers, gym-goers, and weekend warriors lay claim they are eating healthy and especially for those training – a diet that supports their goals. Well, even if a diet is healthy from a glance, any food can become a contributor to an intolerance. Even the staple of every (insert witty name for guys and girls who train), broccoli, can cause problems inside the gastrointestinal tract which eventually rears its ugly head as one of many symptoms. How? In short, as mentioned before, the immune system reacts to the presence of undigested food particles. When we eat and digest our food, it should be broken down into smaller molecules for our bodies to absorb. In the case of many people, we either eat too fast – not chewing properly – or we over consume the same foods, again and again. This leads to poor digestion and deficiency in the particular enzymes needed for those foods. With undigested food particles traversing our gastrointestinal tract, some of them pass through the gut wall and into our blood stream. With these undigested food particles in our blood, the immune system responds by releasing something known as the IgG antibody, as these larger particles are similar in size to many bacteria. This in turn causes the symptoms that many of us feel due to the inflammation from our immune system intervening with the larger undigested food particles.


So if I chew my food, then I'll be OK?

Although it is good to start chewing properly, it won't solve the problem by itself. Now that your immune system is on high alert, or these food particles, it will react almost every time you consume a food that causes aggravation to your digestive system, and the rest of the body. So how do you find out which food is causing you problems? First, a food diary is a must. Keeping tabs on the foods you consume, the ingredients, the time of consumption, the amount you eat as well your mood, energy and symptoms before and after meals will start to paint of picture of what foods you are eating that may be contributing to your intolerance and symptoms. This can take some time as symptoms may not flare up straight after a meal. In some cases they can take up to 72 hours before any signs show. Once you have gathered enough evidence of which food or foods may be the culprit, you then need to proceed by eliminating each one, week by week. This needs to be done in this fashion so you don't alter your nutritional intake too much, and create other deficiencies as well to be able to identify which food each week may be causing the problem. This can take a matter of 4-8 weeks to successfully determine a food or group of foods as being problematic. It makes a huge difference and is worthwhile to do. However, there are quicker ways to determine an intolerance through doing a comprehensive blood test. These tests assess the level of the IgG antibody in the blood specific to each individual food.

So, if I eliminate these foods I'll feel much better?

Correct! I have done many elimination diets with clients, and the change and improvement of symptoms has been pretty amazing. In one case with one my clients, he followed a procedure of blood testing and was very strict with removing the problem foods. Not only did he show improved signs with sleep patterns and general energy levels, he showed improvement with condition of depression as well as dropping a staggering 24kg within a 5 week period. Most other cases have noted similar improvements in skin health, mental clarity and improved performance in and out of the gym with improvements on their ability to reduce body fat. Reduction of unfavourable symptoms, as well as improvements in your digestive system and #GAINS in the gym, is a definite a definite reason to be wary of your diet in terms of intolerances.

If you wish to get tested yourself (or if PTs want their clients tested) you can contact myself via my social media, or via [email protected]

Jamie teaches Gymbox classes Battlebells, Kettlebells, Bike & Beats, Tour de Gymbox and Wattbike.

Some useful links

Understanding food intolerances

Food allergy, or food intolerance

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