Content by Sara Wahls. Edited by Kim Bimestefer
Who am I? I am Sara T. Wahls, a woman approaching 50, in a happy relationship celebrating 16 years this fall, who likes her job, and enjoys a variety of active hobbies. I am not a scientist, teacher, writer or nutritionist. But I do value helping others better address their health by sharing what I have learned. Here is my story.
Hints to Help With The Change. Change is hard. We all know that. So, here are some secrets to make it easier.
Inflammation Caused By Food Sensitivities. Everyone has food sensitivities – some significant to the point of allergic reaction while others don’t have any noticeable symptoms at all. But even though you can’t relate symptoms or weight gain to a specific food, the sensitivities and impact are definitely happening inside you. That’s why it is important to get your food sensitivities identified – so that you know what to avoid.
A food sensitivity test is different from the skin prick allergy test, as it tests for food sensitivities that can cause inflammation vs. testing for food allergies that cause allergic reactions. Dr. Terry Wahls explained to me that food sensitivity testing looks for IgG and IgA reactions which can take hours to weeks to show up.
Alternatively, food allergy testing looks for IgE reactions which occur within 15 minutes. Because of the long delay in response to IgG and IgA, most people are unaware of the foods they are sensitive to or they can’t relate specific foods to symptoms or reactions. “Inflammation” is a great example. In layman’s terms, inflammation can be visible in the form of acne or skin conditions or weight gain. It can also result in things we can’t really see or don’t really think of as inflammation like water retention or increased number of fat cells. Most importantly, inflammation can lead to the inflammatory health conditions we can’t see progressing like cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, autoimmune diseases (i.e.: Multiple Sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, psoriasis, etc.), cancer, pulmonary diseases, diabetes, neurological disorders, etc.
There are several places you can have your food sensitivities tested. Kim and I had it done at LifeTime Fitness, at the advice of Kim’s co-worker, Theresa. It cost $280 each, but was well worth it. We picked up the kit at LifeTime, and took it to LabCorp. LabCorp drew the blood, centrifuged it to separate the blood from the plasma and sent the kit out with the blood via FedEx to Alletess Medical Laboratory where it was tested against a panel of 96 foods. It was an IgG test that is looking for anti- bodies in blood related to exposure. The results were sent back to LifeTime Fitness and to us via email. A nutritionist, Abby, met with us to discuss the results.
I was sensitive to 30 of the 96 foods, but had been unaware of any symptoms directly correlated with those foods. To say I was surprised would be an understatement. Once we removed the foods that we were sensitive to, the inflammation went way down. We literally started to “shrink”.
Here is an example of why it is so important to take this test and know what you are sensitive to. Kim was eating nuts, yogurt, and protein bars as snacks at work between meals. All seemingly healthy choices, right?
Wrong. Kim had food sensitivities to cashews, almonds, cow’s milk (in yogurt) and many of the ingredients in the protein bars (gluten, nuts, etc.). All of her seemingly reasonable snack choices were actually impeding her weight loss efforts. Once she removed those items from her diet, the weight started to fall off. Without the food sensitivity test, she would have gone through life thinking she was eating healthy, when she was actually harming her body by eating foods that caused inflammation.
For me, there were also food sensitivities on my list that really surprised me – foods that one would consider healthy options. Some of them were things that I was eating in large quantities, thinking that I was being healthy – like salmon, spinach, asparagus, sunflower seeds, tomato, peaches, apples, avocados, black pepper.
Eating salads with dressing and vegetables and meat with sauces, as well as other items on my food sensitivity list, was causing me to gain weight or solely maintain weight even though I was exercising regularly and eating what seemed like healthy foods to lose weight. I used to come home from the gym and eat eggs, cheese and toast for dinner and then wonder why I gained weight. When I cut out the 2 pieces of wheat bread and processed American cheese that I was eating and eliminated eggs and the other foods on my food sensitivity list, the weight really started coming off. My pants started getting baggy!
Everyone has different food sensitivities, so I hesitate to mention our specific food sensitivities except to explain that both Kim and I were very surprised to learn that so many traditionally good-for-you-foods caused inflammation in us and equally surprised at how we started losing weight after eliminating them.
Since I was sensitive to so many foods (1/3 of what I was originally tested for), I’m doing another test 6 months after my initial test date to see if I have sensitivities to any of the additional 104 foods they test in the ALCAT 200 Food Sensitivity and Intolerance Panel. Basically, the Alcat test directly challenges the white blood cells to determine food sensitivities that are 1 (mild), 2 (moderate) or 3 (severe) standard deviations away. (White blood cells create antibodies to any item that they see as a foreign invader. This could mean a food, bacteria, virus, pollen, etc). They create an antibody for anything they don’t recognize). According to their website, “The Alcat test diagnostic system is designed to electronically measure changes in cell size and volume when your blood is incubated with the test substances. These measurements are plotted on a graph and compared to a “Master Graph”. The Master Graph is a chart plotted from the measurements obtained when a sample of your blood is treated identically but without being exposed to the test substances. The degree of difference between the cell size and volume of the sample incubated with the test substance, in comparison to the control, determines the range of reactivity.” Parker Med Spa offers this test via AnyLabTestNow and Alcat. Kim’s colleague, Mia, told me about this website http://www.holistichelp.net/alcat-test.html. We both mail ordered a test kit from that company and have the option to have the blood drawn at Exam One in Centennial, CO, or have the lab technician come to our home. In either case, the lab technician inverts the test tube of blood and sends to the Alcat Lab via Fed Ex as whole blood. As I was researching that one, I came across this website http://www.anylabtestnow.com/tests/200-food-panel-alcat/. These companies also offer tests for a panel of 100 or 150 foods if you are interested in testing a smaller number of foods, like I did initially.
Additionally, I re- took the 96 panel test mentioned above via Lifetime Fitness. The idea would be to eliminate the severe and moderate food sensitivities from both tests and incorporate the mild food sensitivities back in via a 4 day rotation diet, so that they have time to exit my body fully before reintroducing them again.
Below are some common food sensitivities that are also on my food sensitivity list:
- Cow’s milk
- Cocoa (chocolate!)
- Gluten (I think gluten-free bread is awful, so I eliminated bread completely. I still eat “gluten-ous” cereal that is high in fiber mixed with gluten free granola and flax seed.)
Below are the foods and additives that I’ve been avoiding, because I’ve studied my body’s response to them.
- Sugar (unless it occurs naturally in fruits or vegetables)
- Sodium (which is in high quantities in packaged or processed foods)
- Salt (I don’t add it to my food)
- Processed Foods
- Salad Dressing (in restaurants or from bottles in the grocery store). Instead, use straight vinegar from the bottle or make your own natural dressing
- Processed Sauces (use fresh squeezed fruit juice and organic herbs)
- Foods with GMOs (genetically modified organisms)
- Processed Protein products like protein powders, protein bars and protein drinks
- Power Drinks (high in calories, sugar or artificial sweeteners and it’s processed)
- Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil – like processed peanut butter, fries
- Processed Meats – like lunch meats, deli meats, Lunchables, etc.
- Canned Soups – (too much sodium, low nutrients).
Best Wishes! I wish you luck on your journey. You are important. Your future is important. I hope the ideas and learnings I have shared herein will help you on your own personal path towards better health!
Other excellent resources that influenced my lifestyle change
I definitely recommend the book by Dr. Terry Wahls, “The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine”. It has lots of outstanding information on her recommended paleo-based protocol, the interesting and motivational science behind it, the importance of Vitamin D, as well as recipes to support your success.
Dr. Wahls offers 2 great options for you if you are new: 30 Day Quick Start Programs, which includes 30 days of menus and shopping lists to really jump start you into the Wahls Protocol and you have the 3 levels to choose from or you can go through each of the 3 program levels, and the Wahls Protocol Membership site, which enables you to get additional information about the Wahls Protocol, ask a monthly question to Dr. Wahls, and interact with your peers.