Time to Up Your Fiber Intake: 4 Benefits You Never Realized

Although fiber is most well-known for keeping your digestive system rolling smooth, the benefits don’t stop there! Additional benefits include:

  • Slows stomach emptying: This suppresses a hormone called ghrelin — a hormones that triggers hunger — resulting in you maintaining a sense of fullness for longer
  • Balances blood sugar: Fiber is a non-digestible carbohydrate, meaning it slows down the breakdown of foods into glucose. Balanced blood sugar not only means fewer high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) but also fewer lows (hypoglycmeia)
  • Lower LDL (bad) cholesterol: Since fiber is not broken down in the intestine, a specific type of fiber, called soluble fiber (well get more into this) can bind to LDL cholesterol and remove it from the body. In addition, this study found that an intake of 30 grams or more per day may be helpful in increasing your HDL (good) cholesterol
  • Promotes healthy gut microbiome: Did you know that fiber is the food for our gut microbiome?! Without not only enough fiber, but a variety of different fiberous foods, our microbes will not have sufficient nutrients to thrive, resulting in “a loss of species reliant on these substrates”. This disruption could lead to a host of diseases. In fact, long-term studies consistently show an inverse relationship between dietary fiber intake and all-cause mortality!

Recommended intake

Nowadays, the average intake for women is 12-13 grams per day, while men average 16-17 grams. This is wayyy to low! And likely a large contributor to the high rates of colon cancer and why the majority of my patients experience only a few bunny-like bowel movements per week.

On the other hand, a healthy bowel movement is well-formed and comes without a struggle (you know what I’m talking about). You should have a bowel movement at least once per day — if none of this sounds familiar, this is a sign you are not eliminating properly — keep reading.

For adults, I recommend aiming for at least 45-50 grams per day. Interestingly, this study demonstrated that switching African Americans to a traditional South African diet including 55 grams of fiber measurably improved markers of colon cancer in just 2 weeks!

types of fiber

Insoluble: This type of fiber is not dissolved by water or gastrointestinal fluids. This allows it to move through your GI tract largely unchanged. It adds bulk to the stool, helping it to move through the intestines more quickly. Benefits include weight loss and reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. It also helps ease constipation.

Soluble: This type IS dissolved by water and GI fluids when it enters intestines. There it turns into a gel -like substance that is fermented by microflora in the large intestine. This promotes the growth of healthy bacteria. Soluble fiber helps also lowers LDL cholesterol, lowers blood sugar, and helps you feel full longer.

Amylose (aka resistant starch): This form is a type of starch rather than fiber, but I wanted to include it as it as well is associated with a host of benefits! Amylose resists digestion. It moves though the small intestine, largely unabsorbed, and is then fermented in the large intestine. This creates short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which stimulate blood flow, boost nutrient circulation, prevent the growth of harmful bacteria, help with mineral absorption and prevent absorption of toxins — I mean woahh. In addition, buyterate, another byproduct produced, encourages fat burning and has anti-cancer properties. You can see how this group is vital for health. Sources include green bananas, and cooled potatoes and rice.

ways to increase your intake

When increasing your fiber intake it is vital to increase it slowly over several days to avoid experiencing GI discomfort and constipation. Aim to increase by 5 gram increments. As you increase your fiber, be sure to also drink more water between meals as well.

Highest Fiber Foods
FoodTotal Fiber Soluble Fiber
Beans/lentils10-16 grams per cup2-7 grams
Artichokes7 grams per artichoke4 grams
Blackberries4 grams per 1/2 cup3 grams
Avocado13.5 per avocado4 grams
Chia seeds5.5 grams per Tbs1 gram
Quinoa8 grams per cup (cooked)4 grams
Brussel sprouts4 grams per cup2 grams
Broccoli5.6 grams per cup2.6 grams
Steel cut oats5 grams per 1/4 cup2 grams
Tips to increase intake
  1. Salads: Load them up! When I make salads it is usually to use up all any left over vegetables I want to get rid of. Also, if you are still using iceberg lettuce — ditch it and upgrade to spinach, kale, romaine, or virtually any other dark leafy green. Iceberg has minimal nutritional value and 0.1 gram of fiber per leaf…
  2. Start your day with a smoothie: Starting your day with a high fiber smoothie will keep your full and stabilize your blood sugar throughout the morning. See below for a recipe I have recently been using:
  3. Eat a non-starchy vegetable with EVERY meal: I always tell my patients to start where they’re at. If you eat 1 vegetable per day, make it your goal to eat 2 serving per day. Refer to my Zucchini and Tomato Frittata Recipe for a fun way to include them at breakfast.
  4. Buy a high quality fiber powder: Some of the best types are inulin (made from artichokes), psyllium, apple pectin, or modified citrus pectin. Add this to your morning coffee, water, soups, and smoothies! I recommend choosing an organic option if possible.

High fiber smoothie

1-2 scoops protein powder (high quality, no fillers or artificial sweeteners)
1-2 tablespoons fiber (chia seeds, hemp seeds, freshly ground flax seeds, fiber powder)
1/2-1 cup frozen berries
large handful spinach
1 cup liquid (water, unsweetened coconut or almond milk)

Want to start meal prepping? Check out my Meal Prepping Made Simple Guide to get you started!

How are you going to start increasing your fiber intake? Share below!

spinach salad with sauteed portobello mushrooms, roasted Brussel sprouts, tomatoes and hemp seeds – 15 grams fiber

Got a Sweet Tooth?

If your holiday and end of year celebrations were anything like mine, they were probably overloaded with candies, cakes, your aunt’s delicious cookies, endless vino, and so forth. By the time New Year comes around I am exhausted, bloated, and feeling something like this:

This inspired me to complete 30 days of no sugar, no booze, no excuses. Since I started this past Monday, January 6, I have already lost count of the number of times I have been asked “….why?” Sugar has become so mainstream in our diet it has actually changed, for many, the ability to appreciate unsweetened foods. A perfect example of this is peanut butter. Many brands are loaded with high fructose corn syrup or cane sugar, and when individuals try clean, raw peanut butter with no additional ingredients, it tastes off. Sugar lights up the reward centers in our brain, similar as to cocaine for an addict. After going a period of time without it, as the body stars to rebalance, you start to crave them all over again.

Sugar is also a tremendous contributor to blood sugar dysregulation (another cause of sugar cravings). According to the Center for Disease Control, in 2015, an estimated 33.9% of US adults 18 years or older had prediabetes along with 48.3% of adults age 65 or older. An additional 9.4% (30.3 million) of the population has actual diabetes. My family has not been an exception, so preventative measures early on have been a priority of mine!

Chronically elevated blood sugar (BS) levels result in inflammation as high BS is damaging to our nerves and small blood vessels. High intake of refined sugar also results in the formation of AGEs, or advanced glycation end products, which are destructive molecules that trigger inflammation. Inflammation is thought to be the underlying cause of many chronic diseases.

If I have not yet convinced you that sugar is evil, this study demonstrated that ingestion of sugar can alter the function of phagocytes (cells that ingest harmful bacteria, particles and dead cells) for at least 5 hours. In other words, after eating a piece of chocolate cake, your immune system will become suppressed, leaving you more susceptible to catching a cold or flu. Not ideal this time of the year.

There are several steps I took to prepare for this little endeavor:

  1. Recruit a support system. Maintaining any type of lifestyle change is not only easier but can even be fun when you have a team that supports you, or even better, will do it with you! Two of my sisters and my fiancé have agreed to participate. This has been a gamechanger in maintaining my motivation.
  2. Prepare. Don’t start immediately. I took a couple days to get rid of any leftover holiday goodies and meal prep for the week ahead. My sisters also took time to read food labels and clear out any foods that would not be acceptable to avoid temptation. We also discussed healthy, sugar-free alternatives.
  3. Make specific goals. I wrote out a list of guidelines and ingredients that were to be avoided for the next 30 days including: all added sugar, artificial sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, agave nectar, cane juice, caramel, barley malt, and glucose to name a few.
  4. DO NOT say “I will try”. This is one phrase I always make a point to avoid saying, otherwise I might as well not waste my time. It indirectly gives me permission to fail, which I do not want as an option.

What healthy habits have you committed to this year? If you are interested in trying 30 days No Sugar. No Booze. No Excuses. the guidelines are as follows:

30 DAys no sugar. no booze. no excuses. guidelines

  1. No sugar or hidden sources of sugar (refer to chart below)
    • Beware of foods such a bread, peanut butter, ketchup, dried fruit, chips, milk alternatives, and pasta sauce that could unexpectedly have some form of added sugar (TIP: if it has a barcode, check the ingredients)
  2. No honey, agave nectar, coconut sugar, maple syrup or any other “healthy” form of sugar
  3. No alcohol (wine, liquor, beer, etc).
  4. Approved:
    • Fruit (beware of sugar added to store-bought smoothies or açaí bowls). Ideally no more that 2-3 servings per day. Berries are best as they are lower in sugar.
    • Stevia or monk fruit (0 calorie natural sweeteners) in small amounts

3 Warming and Nutritious Beverages

As winter approaches I find myself constantly preparing different types of warming beverages to sip on throughout the day. Waking up to an energizing cup of hot water with lemon and settling down in the evening with a soothing mug of herbal tea has been part of my winter routine for years.

These beverages also have many nutritional properties such as aiding in digestion, lowering inflammation, and providing beneficial antioxidants!  

My Favorite Types of Tea

  • Green tea has been used for medicinal purposes in China and Japan for thousands of years. It has been boasted for its powerful antioxidant content (100x more than vitamin C!), along with its ability to reduce inflammation, lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and boost metabolism. Caffeine content ranges from 30-50 mg per 8oz (compared to 95 mg for coffee). 
  • Tulsi tea is a more bitter type of tea that enhances liver detoxification and can help prevent cancer by inducing cell death in precancerous and cancerous cells. It is most well know for its natural adaptogenic properties, or its ability to help the body adapt to stress, making it a perfect beverage during the stressful winter holidays!
  • Hibiscus tea has been shown to decrease both systolic and diastolic blood pressure by an average of 7.58 mmHg and 3.53 mmHg, respectively (according to a 2015 review of 5 studies). 

*I prefer to buy organic, loose-leaf tea – it is cleaner, cheaper, and has less packaging so it’s better for the environment!

Hot Water With Lemon

The benefits of water with lemon should not be underestimated. Drinking a warm cup first thing in the morning on an empty stomach has been part of my routine for years! Below is a list of some of its wonderful benefits.

  • It can help improve digestion by increasing production of hydrochloric acid (HCl) in your stomach, which further helps to increase important digestive enzymes. 
  • An increase in acid and digestive enzymes can lead to more regular bowel movements (at least 1 per day is optimal).  
  • It can be a natural remedy for acid reflux. This may sound counter-intuitive, but many people with heartburn are actually under-producing acid! When you increase your digestive secretions you may notice a decrease in your symptoms.
  • Aids in detoxification of of anything potentially harmful or toxic (such as pesticides, alcohol, caffeine, prescription drugs, and chemicals from personal care products) by increasing the livers detoxification processes.  

*Be sure to drink a cup of plain water after to rinse your teeth of the acidity

Healthy Hot Cocoa

An obvious fan favorite during the winter. However, with all the sweets floating around this time of year, sometimes I want that amazing chocolaty flavor without all the added sugar. Many commercial hot cocoa mixes also contain artificial flavors, caramel coloring, artificial sweeteners and trans fat. This recipe eliminates those toxic ingredients, replacing them with healthy fats and antioxidants.

Recipe

  • 1 cup boiling water or warmed nut milk
  • 1 heaped Tbs cacao powder
  • 1-2 tsp MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oil or (my favorite) coconut butter
  • 1/2 tsp monk fruit extract or natural sweetener of choice (I prefer local honey)
  • Dash of cinnamon
  • Optional: 1 tsp Ashwaganda
  • Optional: 1 tsp Lion’s Mane mushroom
  • Blend until frothy and enjoy!

What are your favorite healthy winter beverages? Share below!

Guide to Healthy Protein Sources

Vegetarian fed. Cage free. Natural. Free range. We all see these labels on packaging but understanding what they actually mean is a different story. Despite consumers’ interest in reading food labels and willingness to spend more money for a superior product, many do not actually know what labeling terms actually entail or what regulations accompany them. This guide will help you navigate the various terms and certifications to ensure you choose the foods best for you and your family.

Most Reliable Labeling

American Grassfed Association Certified

  • Applies to: beef, bison, lamb, goat, sheep, milk
  • PROS
    1. Indicates animal was raised primarily on pasture and fed only grass and forage
    2. Grain feeding and GMOs prohibited
    3. No antibiotics allowed (sick animals treated no longer qualify for this certification)
    4. Pasture management to maximize soil fertility
  • CONS
    1. No audits to ensure humane slaughter

Food Alliance Certified-Grassfed

  • Applies to: beef, bison, lamb, goat, milk
  • PROS
    1. Raised outside on pasture or range for their entire life
    2. Fed only grass or forage (no grain)
    3. No antibiotics allowed (sick animals treated no longer qualify for this certification)
  • CONS
    1. No audits to ensure humane slaughter

*Note: Be sure the term “grass-fed” is used on all Food Alliance Certified products, as this this is a more rigorous certification.

*Additional note: Meat will commonly indicate “grass-fed”. However, if it does not specifically say “grass-fed, grass-finished”, “100% grass-fed” or is not accompanied by one of the above certifications, then it is possible the animal only spent a small amount of time in pastures.

USDA Organic

  • Applies to: beef, lamb, goat, milk, pork, turkey, chicken, eggs
  • PROS:
    1. Animals fed only certified organic feed
    2. GMO feed prohibited
    3. No antibiotic allowed (sick animals treated no longer qualify for this certification)
    4. Animals must have year-round access to outdoors. Cows, sheep and goats must have access to pasture.
  • CONS:
    1. No audits to ensure humane slaughter
    2. Some use of feedlots allowed (where they are fed corn, grain, etc. in confined areas)

Marine Stewardship Council

  • Applies to: seafood
  • PROS:
    1. Only certifies wild-caught fish (this will ensure the fish were not treated with antibiotics/growth hormones or fed inappropriate diet)
    2. Only certifies fisheries that minimize environmental impact on ecosystem and keep fishing at a sustainable level
    3. Requires ocean to table traceability, which results in a best-in-class fraud rate of <1% (this industry averages an overall 30% fraud rate).

Fair and Potentially Misleading Labeling

AMERICAN HUMANE CERTIFIED

  • Applies to: beef, bison, milk, pork, turkey, chicken, eggs, duck
  • PROS:
    1. Specifies a minimum about of space required for each animal
    2. No growth hormones allowed
    3. Annual on-farm inspections
  • CONS:
    1. Animals can be confined in cages or crates
    2. No requirement for outdoor access
    3. Permits use of antibiotics to prevent disease associated with unsanitary conditions or confined space
    4. No audits to ensure humane slaughter

grassfed, pasture raised, no beta agonists, no antibiotics

  • PROS:
    1. USDA requires documentation from farms to be able to use these terms
    2. Implies animals were raised by specified healthier practice
  • CONS:
    1. These are very “loosely” defined terms with no federal standards
    2. No annual inspections to verify correct use of these terms

*Note: Beta agonists are growth hormones given to animals to promote the growth of lean muscle over fat.

Buyer Beware

Natural

According to the USDA, this refers to “a product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed” and the product could not have been “fundamentally altered”. It does NOT:

  • ban use of GMO feed or hormones
  • mean the animal was raised in sufficient open space or grass-fed
  • indicate the animal was not treated with antibiotics

This term is commonly misinterpreted to mean the animal was raised more humanely and by healthier means than it actually was.

cage free

As many industrial egg producers use cages, this term implies that the egg-laying chicken was not caged. However, cage free environments can often be worse compared to caged as chickens are at higher risk for injury and pecking each other.

  • Pertains to: eggs (chickens and turkeys are never caged, so this term is especially meaningless when listed on poultry products)
  • PROS:
    1. The birds are free to roam and potentially engage in normal behavior
  • CONS:
    1. There are no regulations specifying the minimal amount of space per chicken
    2. There is no legal definition, so practices vary
    3. No regular on-farm inspection to verify this claim
Example of a cage free farm

free range

Implies that the animal had some type of access to the outdoors.

  • Pertain to: turkeys, chickens
  • PROS:
    1. USDA requires documentation from farms to be able to use this claim
  • CONS:
    1. No regular on-farm inspection to verify this claim
    2. No specification on the size or conditions of outdoor range
    3. No specific time frame on how long the animal must have been outside

humanely raised

  • Pertains to: beef, bison, lamb, pork, goat, milk, turkey, chicken, eggs, duck, geese, mutton, seafood
  • PROS:
    1. None.
  • CONS:
    1. No legal definition
    2. No regular on-farm inspection to verify this claim

For a more extensive list, visit the EWG’s Decoding Meat and Dairy Product Labels user guide.

What is Intermittent Fasting? Key Components for Success

If you are interested in wellness or weight loss, you have probably heard the term “intermittent fasting” and like most health and diet crazes, have also most likely heard conflicting information about it.

So what exactly is intermittent fasting? Unlike specific diets that manipulate what you eat, intermittent fasting manipulates when  you eat. The most typical time people fast is from the time they eat their last bite of food in the evening until their first meal the next day. Unless you tend to wake up for a little midnight snack, you are already fasting! However, this pattern of eating prolongs the amount of time you go without eating to achieve a level of benefit.

Benefits of Intermittent Fasting

  • Improved blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity  –> reduced risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Weight loss via increased metabolism and decreased caloric intake    
  • Reduces oxidative stress and inflammation –> reduced risk of disease overall
  • Improved memory and learning
  • Improved cardiovascular function
  • Appetite control

According to a study from the National Institute on Aging:

Although all cells in the body require energy to survive and function properly, excessive calorie intake over long time periods can compromise cell function and promote disorders such as cardiovascular disease, type-2 diabetes and cancers. Accordingly, dietary restriction (DR; either caloric restriction or intermittent fasting, with maintained vitamin and mineral intake) can extend lifespan and can increase disease resistance. Recent studies have shown that DR can have profound effects on brain functions and vulnerability to injury and disease.  DR can protect neurons against brain degeneration in animal models of Alzheimer’s Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases and stroke. Moreover, DR can stimulate the production of new neurons  from stem cells (neurogenesis) and can enhance synaptic plasticity, which may increase the ability of the brain to resist aging and restore function following injury.

How to Incorporate Intermittent Fasting

There are several ways to perform intermittent fasting so you can choose the method that would be most realistic with your lifestyle. Individuals have been shown to benefit from fasting windows lasting anywhere from 12-20 hours, though 14-16 hours seems to be ideal for most people.

For example:

  • If you stop eating at 8pm, start eating at 10am (14 hour fast, 10 hour eating window)
  • If you stop eating at 7pm, start eating at 11am (16 hour fast, 8 hour eating window)

Intermittent fasting has the ability to be very flexible based on individuals work schedule, eating habits, ability to control blood sugar, etc. Those that tend to be late night snackers may benefit from a later dinner, and starting their fast at their last bite of food to help avoid those late night trips to the pantry.

Safety

For generally healthy individuals, intermittent fasting is safe if done correctly. On the other hand, extended periods of food restriction is NOT recommend for diabetic individuals, those that tend to experience low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), breastfeeding moms, or moms-to-be.

Tips For Success

In order to have success with intermittent fasting, it is vital to have a plan on how to make it sustainable for YOU.

  1. Quality: Since you may now be eating slightly less or skipping a meal, it is even more important to eat healthy, nutrient dense foods. Fasting is not an excuse to eat pizza and ice cream during your eating window (sorry!) — this is not the purpose or goal. In order to experience the biological benefits, we must maintain healthy (and sustainable) habits.
  2. Quantity: It is important to make sure you still eat enough food and maintain your caloric requirements, especially if you are fairly active or exercise regularly. I recommend eating at least 2 meals plus a small snack if you are hungry.
  3. Be realistic: Start with a fasting time frame you know you can be successful with. For example, if you typically stop eating at 11pm and eat breakfast at 7am, start with extending the fast 1 hour each way until you feel comfortable extending it further.
  4. Use exercise to your advantage: Research has shown that exercise can enhance the benefits of intermittent fasting!

Example of Daily Routine With Fasting Exercise

I have personally noticed that exercising first thing in the morning while maintaining my fast can improve my physical performance (less sluggish) and increase my mental clarity and productivity throughout my workday. Here’s an example of what a typical day with a 13-hour fast could look like:

6am – exercise (only drink black coffee or water)

8am: eat breakfast

12pm- eat lunch

7pm: Finish eating dinner

Rest of evening: Drink water or unsweetened hot tea

In Conclusion…

Many of us have been conditioned to believe that we need to eat 3 meals per day plus snacks to maintain a healthy metabolism and blood sugar control. However, this can often lead to high blood sugar, excessive caloric intake and ultimately, weight gain.

Our bodies came with excellent feedback mechanisms to let us know when we are hungry. In additional to occasional intermittent fasting, a goal of mine has been to let my hunger guide my eating, rather than forcing myself to eat because it is a certain time of day. If I’m not hungry in the morning, I don’t eat.

If you are interested in experimenting with fasting, try out the Zero fasting app, which can make getting started easier and help you stick with a fast longer via the built in timer and Fast Journal.

Are you open to fasting? Have you already tried it, and if so, how was your experience? Let me know below!

Eating With the Seasons: 4 Reasons Why

It’s October and you’re picking apples and drinking hot apple cider, or August and you just visited your local blueberry patch. Many of us eat seasonally without even realizing its fantastic benefits! Seasonal eating is something that our ancestors did naturally but now can take a bit of effort due to the convenience of being able to buy almost any food year round at your local grocer.

Listed are some reasons why eating seasonally could not only benefit you, but also your community.

  1. More nutritious. Nutrient degradation starts immediately as produce is harvested! The farther the produce has to travel to reach its destination and the longer it sits on supermarket shelves, the more its nutrients become depleted. Much of the produce is harvested before ripe and then exposed to gas to ripen it after transport. Picking produce before it has fully matured results in a lower nutrient density.  According to biochemical researcher Donald R. Davis, the average fruit and vegetable sold in our supermarkets contain 5 to 40% less minerals than those 50 years ago. In fact, vegetables can lose 15 to 55% of vitamin C within a week. No wonder over 52% of Americans are deficient in magnesium, and 43% do not get enough vitamin A!
  2. You Save Moolah! The cost-savings of buying food from  your local farmers market boils down to a matter of supply and demand. When you buy in-season produce,  you are buying food at the height of its supply. When there is more available, prices go down. This may seem like common sense, but many don’t take advantage of this or plan their meals around what’s in season. Although eating healthy can be expensive, it doesn’t HAVE to be. This can save you a lot of money in the long run. 
  3. It supports your community. Buying straight from the farmer, whether it be via farmers market or CSA, cuts out the middle man so the farmer makes more money. City Fresh, a Cleveland Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), reports “We are consistently 20-40% cheaper than the grocery store, and unlike the typical grocery store, where only 5 to 15 cents of your dollar goes to the farmer who grew your produce, 81 cents of your City Fresh dollar goes directly to our farmers.”
  4. Increased nutrient variety. An added bonus of eating in season is a more nutritionally varied diet. Ever heard the phrase, eat the rainbow? Not only do different plant foods grow best in different seasons, but different colored foods contain different types of micronutrients. For example, the purple/blue hue of plants such as plums, blueberries and eggplant is primarily due to its anthocyanin content. This antioxidant is particularly beneficial for preventing blood clots and cancer. When you eat seasonally, you are exposed to a wider profile of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants at the peak of their nutrient density.

So whats in season?!

This user friendly Seasonal Food Guide makes finding what’s in season easy based on your location! Below, I have also provided a seasonal food guide for my Ohio followers.

Interested in finding a local farmer’s market or CSA in your area? LocalHarvest.org is one of my go-to resources for this!

Food Intolerance VS Food Allergies

More families are being affected by food allergies and intolerances then ever. According to a study released in 2013 by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies among children increased by ~50% between 1997 and 2011.  While most of us are aware of the signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction, intolerances are a whole different animal. Understanding the difference and being able to identify potential symptoms of both food allergies and intolerances is essential for maintaining and optimizing health and quality of life.  

What Is a Food Allergy?

Food allergies occur when your immune system identifies a food as a foreign invader. Your immune system then reacts, or rather overreacts, by producing antibodies called imunoglobulin E (IgE) which travel to cells that then release chemicals to cause a reaction. This reaction typically happens immediately and can be as mild as inflammation (hives, for example) or as severe as anaphylactic shock.

The “Big 8” most common food allergies include milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soy. These account for 90% of all allergies.

Symptoms include:

  • hives, itchiness, swelling of skin
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • anaphylaxis (difficulty breathing, dizziness, loss of consciousness)

potential causes

  • Avoidance of allergens. Previous recommendations for the avoidance of allergens, particularly peanuts, during pregnancy, infancy and breastfeeding have been dispelled. New evidence supports early exposure to allergenic foods to reduce the risk. In fact, it’s predicted that following the LEAP (Learning Early About Peanut allergy) study protocol could prevent 40-60% of peanut allergies!
  • Vitamin D deficiency. Studies have suggested that infants with low vitamin D are at an increased risk for food allergies. Check out my post on vitamin D for more information on how to optimize your levels.
  • The Hygiene Hypothesis. This theory states that being too clean and lack of exposure to microbes and pathogens at an early age can increase susceptibility to allergies. Living on a farm, having a pet dog, playing in the dirt, childcare attendance, and having an older sibling may have a protective effect.
  • A history of eczema. This study demonstrated that 1 in 5 infants with eczema had an allergy by 12 months of age, compared to 1 in 25 infants without eczema. One of the primary reasons for this is due to the break in skin barrier, so maintaining skin integrity by preventing eczema is key. 

You can refer to this article on the Prevention of Food Allergies for a more in-depth review on causes and prevention strategies.

What Is a Food Intolerance?

Food intolerances are typically more difficult to diagnose than allergies because they present in so many different ways and can take up to 72 hours to occur after eating the offending food. Also unlike allergies, they don’t involve the immune system.

Symptoms may include:

  • bloating
  • asthma
  • digestive upset
  • headaches or migraines
  • arthritis
  • eczema
  • fatigue

Based on the above symptoms, you can see why it may be difficult to connect the dots between food and what you may be experiencing. Unlike IgE, which causes an immediate response, the immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody is related to delayed reactions. Food intolerances are typically caused by increasing levels of IgG in the body.

potential causes

  • enzymatic deficiencies (e.g. lactose intolerance due to lactase deficiency)
  • nutrient malabsorption  (e.g. fructose)
  • sensitivities to certain proteins or components of food such as histamine, gluten or FODMAPs (fermented carbohydrates, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols)
  • leaky gut (more on this to come!)

So What Do I Do?

If a food intolerance is suspected, an elimination diet is the most cost effective way to identify foods that may be causing issues. This type of diet removes foods that could be problematic, then reintroduces them one by one.

Receiving testing is also an option. Have your doctor test for suspected food allergies or take a test such as this one to identify IgG-mediated food intolerances.