These days, many of us are working with (I mean suffering from!) food allergies. Besides not being fun, food allergies are becoming increasingly common. When we talk about food allergies, there are those that people are born with, which can cause reactions anywhere from slight discomfort to extreme illness. There are also those that develop over time. These allergies are generally a result of the body's rejection of certain foods that have been modified, heavily processed, and grown with excessive chemical inputs.
We will focus on the latter for today's post. Just know that if you are working with food allergies, you are not alone! There are many great resources for you to help you heal and deal.
1) The SAD (Standard American Diet). Perhaps you've managed to carve out a healthy diet according to the Michael Pollan philosophy of eating, which we love: "Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants." But when you think about the Standard American Diet -- what comes to mind? We imagine fast food, processed food, sugary sodas, and junk foods. These foods are convenient, so it makes sense we reach for them in times of low energy! After all, it takes time and effort to seek out and consume whole, healthy, plant-based foods. For many of us, our immune systems are bombarded with the constant inputs of these readily available, but not-so-healthy processed foods. These can vary by individual, but tend to include excess meat, dairy, sugar, wheat, and corn.
2) The industrialization of food. Filler foods like corn, soy, wheat, and sugar are meant to make up a small fraction of our diets, yet due to being affordable and subsidized heavily, they are present in nearly every processed food available on supermarket shelves today. This can result in many negative health effects and is thought to strongly contribute to modern prevalence of food allergies.
3) The way conventional foods are grown and processed. Our bodies often respond negatively to various chemicals from conventional (as opposed to organic) farming practices. Symptoms in individuals vary widely: some people are hyper-sensitive, while others seem not to notice. Even if you're one of those lucky individuals who doesn't notice any negative symptoms from over-consuming processed foods, we're sure you can still benefit from the tips laid out below!
1) Cut all processed foods. BAM. It may seem like an Everest-style endeavor -- but it really isn't. Once you acclimate, and have re-educated yourself and your pallet, eating only whole foods can be extremely satisfying. Not to mention, the level of nutrition you will be receiving daily will probably make you feel phenomenal! Whole foods are simply foods that come directly from animals or plants without being processed into another form. Think "outer perimeter" shopping at the supermarket: whole fruits and veggies, nuts, organic meats, etc. Anything with multiple ingredients including chemical additives, chemical preservatives, fancy names, you get the picture -- these are the things to stay away from.
2) If you are really suffering with chronic and regular symptoms (the most common being bloating, loose stools, headaches, yeast infections, mood swings and irregular appetite), it would be worth your time and energy to contact a nutritionist or dietician and have stool and saliva samples taken to test for parasites allergies and/or fungal overgrowth.
3) Increase your intake of non-starchy veggies and fresh vegetable juices - they leave you feeling satisfied, energized and truly nourished.
4) Drop refined sugar for three weeks. This also can seem like an unnerving task (and considering how many foods have sugar in them or added to them it is certainly not EASY), but it CAN be done. Treat it like an experiment, or a mystery you must solve, so it's fun. Be deliberate about it. Remove all sugar for just three weeks (if you're feeling extra-committed, include 90% of your fruit intake -- ohmygosh!), and see how you feel.
5) Get more rest. This may be the hardest one for many of us. We have busy lives and we like to fill our days with activities and fun things in addition to work. But sometimes what the body really needs and want is just some quality uninterrupted R&R. Conserve energy for healing - especially when cleansing and/or restricting your diet in ways mentioned above.
Food for Thought: Your symptoms may be your body's way of telling you what it needs and what isn't working. Listen and evolve as necessary.
Lastly, there is TONS of info available on the web - so do some research, get in touch with your physician or dietician, and experiment a bit with your own body. The body is built to heal, and many people suffering from food allergies can find ways to modify their diets temporarily or permanently in ways that drastically improve well-being and are actually really enjoyable. It feels great to feel great! :)