Originally published July 4 2012
Food intolerance epidemic - Why does it happen, and can it be treated?
by Eric Hunter
(NaturalNews) True food allergies are very rare, but observations and research lead to believe that there's a fast-growing number of people experiencing some type of food intolerance. Fatigue, bloating, diarrhea or other issues appear many hours after a meal. This delayed response makes it hard to know exactly what caused the problem. Also, the fact that food intolerance won't show on a regular food allergy test at the doctors office, results in a lot of misdiagnosed and overlooked cases.
While a food allergy results from an adverse immune response to a food protein, the cause of food intolerance is often said to be that the body for "various reasons" can't digest the food properly.
Dr. Art Ayers did his PhD in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. Since then, he's held various research positions, and he was an assistant professor at Harvard University. Most of his research focuses on gut and inflammation, and food intolerance is one of his main areas of expertise.
Dr. Ayers says that "food intolerance is based on missing bacteria in the the gut rather than inadequacy of human enzymes, e.g. lactase, or altered immune system. The vast majority of intolerance can be cured by changing the bacterial composition of the gut's microbiological community, the gut flora, rather than attempting to accommodate a permanent deficiency."
Studies show that symptoms of lactose intolerance are alleviated significantly after supplementation with yoghurt, probiotic supplements or kefir. Bacteria in these products have lactose digesting enzymes, and when they get a chance to grow in the gut they can transfer their genes to the bacteria on the lining of the gut. Persistence is key, and symptoms of intolerance persist until the gut flora adjusts. Celiac results from a complex interaction in the gut and isn't considered a typical food intolerance.
Carbohydrates found in grains, vegetables, legumes etc. are fermented by gut flora, and when our microorganisms are lacking the genes/enzymes needed to completely digest the food component, symptoms of intolerance occur.
In nature, vegetables are contaminated with species of flex Clostridium and Bacillus bacteria which are vital for proper digestion and development of the immune system. When we spray soil and plants with man-made chemicals we damage the fragile ecosystem, and extensive washing or cooking also gets rid of the naturally occurring microorganisms clinging to foods. Antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals, poor diet, excessive hygiene and bottle-feeding also contribute to the rapid increase in people getting food intolerance.
Treating food intoleranceMost diets recommend avoiding food intolerances. This will naturally alleviate some of the symptoms, but it doesn't help the underlying problem. Problematic foods should be avoided until new species of bacteria are added, and then they can be slowly introduced again.
Dr. Art Ayers recommends a variety of sources of beneficial bacteria when treating food intolerance. Bacteria interact with each other, food and cells lining the gut; and therefore, it's difficult to predict which types of bacteria become established in the gut. Besides fermented foods and probiotics, Dr. Ayers is a strong proponent of organic, minimally washed plants and plant products. Prebiotics, soluble fiber that feeds the beneficial bacteria, is also vital in treating food intolerance.
Sources for this article include
Zhong Y, Huang CY, He T, et al. Effect of probiotics and yogurt on colonic microflora in subjects with lactose intolerance.
Wei Sheng Yan Jiu. 2006 Sep;35(5):587-91.
Almeida CC, Lorena SL, Pavan CR, et al. Beneficial effects of long-term consumption of a probiotic combination of Lactobacillus casei Shirota and Bifidobacterium breve Yakult may persist after suspension of therapy in lactose-intolerant patients.
Nutr Clin Pract. 2012 Apr;27(2):247-51. Epub 2012 Mar 8.
Hertzler SR, Clancy SM. Kefir improves lactose digestion and tolerance in adults with lactose maldigestion.
J Am Diet Assoc. 2003 May;103(5):582-7.
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