A One on One with a Nutritionist About Food Intolerances
Author: Dietitians of Palm Valley
June 19, 2018
It can be quite troubling, even scary, for many new parents who are finding their babies or children are reacting to foods, even if it doesn’t run in the family. Adults can also suffer from food intolerances that may have never been an issue in the past. So, we decided to ask a trusted dietitian and nutritionist, Sammy Previte, RD, LDN, CPT, about the issue. As the Co-Founder of Dietitians of Palm Valley, she helped us understand the murkiness of facing food intolerances and helped us understand that people’s lives have been completely changed once they were diagnosed!
If you haven’t read this first article by Dietitians of Palm Valley on Food Allergy or Food Intolerance, you should check it out. It’s a very clear, easy-to-read post on what exactly happens when you have an intolerance or allergy. This interview below, however, will go over follow up questions once you suspect you have a food intolerance rather than an allergy and will cover testing options such as the Antigen Leukocyte Cellular Antibody Test (ALCAT).
Q: What do you say to people who think food intolerances and testing might be “crazy, a scam or not worth it because it’s not a real issue”? How is a food intolerance different than a food allergy?
When people say food intolerance’s and sensitivities are a “joke”, our dietitians love to give this analogy: Let’s say you broke your ankle. Obviously your next steps are to go to the doctor and (maybe) receive surgery. With this injury, friends and family will know you are suffering because the injury is easy to identify… plus you won’t be able to walk! HOWEVER, for those suffering from food intolerances, the symptoms can be embarrassing to share, and can even go unnoticed, making identification and support for those suffering so difficult.
Additionally, although food intolerances can share similar symptoms as food allergies, intolerances do not trigger life-threatening immune reactions, contributing to why society may not always take them seriously.
Q: Can food allergies or food intolerences be prevented if you start early with your babies? Can they be cured or reversed if you have issues later in life?
Despite the new research on food intolerances and sensitivities, there are no general recommendations on how to prevent food allergies, sensitivities, or intolerances. There are also no methods to cure or reverse these conditions. To date, it seems best to introduce all foods early on. Delaying the introduction of solid foods that often can cause allergies or sensitivities (such as dairy and peanuts) does not appear to protect against developing these conditions.
Q: Is it possible to have minor food allergies that don’t cause anaphylaxis or are those simply food intolerances?
Yes, it is possible to have a food allergy that does not cause anaphylaxis. Allergies are more than just an itch or a stomachache. Food allergies can cause symptoms from hives and a stuffy nose, to vomiting, difficulty breathing and loss of consciousness. If an allergic reaction is severe or involves several parts of the body, it becomes anaphylaxis and can be life-threatening.
Q: Can you give a real-life example of someone who was affected by undiagnosed food sensitivities or intolerances?
Both myself (Sammy) & Mindy (co-owners of Dietitians of Palm Valley) have had the ALCAT test done and have seen major benefits from the testing. Before I took the test I had a list of 9 foods that caused me some type of gastrointestinal symptom occur (some mild & some more severe). When I got my ALCAT test results back, all of those 9 foods were listed as either a mild or moderate reactant on my ALCAT results.
In addition to myself, I have had multiple clients seen decreased gastrointestinal symptoms and increased energy from implementing their ALCAT results.
*Editors note: We asked SML President and 7 Time Olympic Medalist, Shannon Miller, about this issue as well. Shannon shared:
“I had battled gastrointestinal issues for quite some time. It seemed to crop up several years ago after chemo and having my daughter. I proceeded to have about every test you can take to find the cause and with none showing any issue. I began to think it was something I may simply have to live with. Then I heard about ALCAT testing and connected with Sammy Previte. I figured it couldn’t hurt to at least take the test. In short, I found some of the foods I was eating as healthy snacks (cashews, pineapple, cheese) may actually be part of my issue. I did not have a long list of concerning foods, but there were certainly a few things I could cut down on to see if it made a difference. I spoke to my doctor about elimination of those foods and for how long. Her advice, knowing my lack of will-power, was to cut back as much as possible for 3 months and see if it made a difference. If I wasn’t having symptoms, then I would slowly reintroduce them. If I had an issue, I would cut back a bit more. I won’t say it was easy since some of my issues included dairy, coffee and sugar (some of my favorites!) but I will say that it made a significant difference to date. I continue to enjoy all of these foods, but I have learned to recognize when I eat too much of an item and need to cut back. Or maybe I just don’t have them all in the same day. I am glad I kept searching to see what might help. I have made women’s health a focus and my goal is to make sure we all listen to our bodies. Now I feel like I can be just a little more in control of how my body is working.”
Q: Do you think people should consider a strict elimination diet?
Elimination diets work, but they are very tricky to execute. One thing to keep in mind is that most sensitivities vary in the severity of the symptoms. For example: let’s say you have a sensitivity to grapes. One time you eat a handful of grapes and bloat after they are digested. The next time you eat a few grapes and no symptom occurs. This can be very confusing if you are keeping an elimination diet journal to track your symptoms.
Q: What symptoms would someone exhibit that has a food intolerance? (skin, internally, pain, etc??)
Food sensitivities do not involve an immune system response, but the innate immune system. Food sensitivities cause a chronic inflammatory process. Sensitivities manifest in a wide variety of symptoms. Some may be: gastrointestinal (stomach bloat, distention, diarrhea, constipation), headaches, fatigue, and “brain fog”–feeling muddled in thought, migraines, and arthritis. Sensitivities do not cause immediate allergic reactions.
Q: Should moms go ahead and get a food intolerance test to be proactive in their family’s health or do you think only people showing symptoms should?
If your child eats the same food every single day and is experiencing uncomfortable symptoms then yes, we believe it would be helpful to get them tested. If your child eats a great variety of foods and has no typical GI symptoms, headaches, and/or extreme fatigue, I would not recommend testing. A child’s relationship with food is extremely important. If they are given a list of foods they “can’t eat” or that are “bad”, it can create an unhealthy relationship with food.
Q: What can someone do or take once they know they have food intolerances or allergies to speed up recovery of their gut?
When it comes to speeding up recovery, a dietitian’s number one role is to make sure our clients are getting enough calories (energy) and macronutrients (carbs, protein, fat). Although supplements can be nice to “fine-tune” nutrition, they are not going to benefit our clients if they aren’t reaching their minimum calories & macronutrient needs.
Q: What is the out of pocket cost to families?
See options at www.cellsciencesystems.com. ALCAT Testing Pricing:
- Packages range from $310.00-$699.00
- Coverage is dependent on the type of insurance you have
Q: Are there resources like a Facebook group, book, or blog you love to share with others that will help someone going through this?
Biggest piece of advice: take it one day at a time. You do not need to eliminate all of the foods at once if your list is overwhelming. It is important to remember that you were consuming all of these foods before and you may have been uncomfortable, but you lived. (I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s true).
Food sensitivities can be overwhelming when discovered at first–consult a registered dietitian that can help you set small, REALISTIC goals and meal plan to manage your mild, moderate, and severe reactants!
About the Interviewee: Dietitians of Palm Valley