What do all of these symptoms have in common?
- Frequent bloating / IBS
- Chronic migraines
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
- Interstitial Cystitis (chronic urinary tract inflammation)
- Chronic fatigue
Answer: They can all be caused by food sensitivities!
What is a food sensitivity?
Food allergies can be deadly, causing anaphylaxis, whereas a food sensitivity is less serious but can cause chronic symptoms as the immune system is activated against certain foods or chemicals, disrupting normal gut function. These reactions may be dose dependent and unlike a food allergy, which usually reveals itself in minutes, sensitivity reactions can be delayed by a few hours up to 96 hours! This makes them really hard to spot and of you have overlapping reactions or only react if you eat over a certain dose of a food so it can be almost impossible to identify your problem foods. To make an even more complex situation you can react to natural food chemicals like lecithin or tyramine which means that you may be able to eat one food with a high level of that compound but if you eat several you feel sick.
It’s estimated by Allergy UK that up to 45% of us could have some form of food sensitivity or intolerance (intolerances such as lactose intolerance or fructose malabsorption are not immune reactions but an inability to properly digest certain foods.)
I personally decided to take the MRT test because of my chronic health issues: chronic fatigue, constant bloating sometimes to the point of being unable to stand, joint/muscle pain, a messed up circadian rhythm, heart palpitations, brain fog, post exertional malaise etc. I spent a lot of days housebound and too weak for employment (or to function at all really) – I wanted my life back! I had already eliminated many ‘healthy’ foods from my diet and did feel better avoiding many of the common culprits – I was already living gluten and dairy free and I added a long list of foods to my avoid list. At one point I was down to about 10 foods I felt I was safe on! My health would deteriorate if I didn’t avoid dozens of these foods – most notably the whole family of grains, legumes nuts and seeds disagreed with me, especially nuts which would break out my skin, make my eyes swell and my breathing shallow and wheezy and make me even more dizzy and exhausted than usual. Doing colon cleansing and liver flushes had improved my tolerance so I could add small amounts of riskier foods which was important as for the amount of time I was avoiding these foods I was risking nutrient deficiencies. It was a catch 22 – eat the food and feel awful tomorrow or don’t eat it and feel awful over time as my body grew weaker from a lack of minerals. Luckily I found out about MRT. I knew many foods were provoking reactions but it was impossible to find all of them!
The test was not cheap – about £450 including paying a private clinic to draw blood and the lab and courier as well as the LEAP certified nutritionist for the consultation discussing my results. However I didn’t care how much it cost to get to the point of being able to work and socialise and cultivate a more vibrant life for myself!
MRT testing works by noting the inflammatory response from a range of inflammatory markers released from white blood cells such as histamines, leukotrienes, prostaglandins etc. Other food sensitivity tests such as IgG test for only one pathway of inflammation so may not be an accurate indicator of inflammation. These inflammatory markers are called mediators hence MRT = mediator release test. The test will not only show your reactive foods but your least reactive foods which are the basis of your personalised anti inflammatory LEAP diet. If you want a fancier wording of this, below is a quote from their website:
LEAP may be especially useful for those that like me are suffering with ‘leaky gut’ aka intestinal hyperpermeability:
‘Normally, only nutrients from fully digested foods such as vitamins, minerals, emulsified fats, amino acids and simple sugars are able to cross the intestinal barrier that separates our blood stream from our gut. But when the gut becomes leaky, undigested food particles, bacteria and toxins are able to make it through the gut lining and they enter the circulation, going to places in the body where they don’t belong. It’s like opening the front door of the house and allowing burglars to enter. The body’s defense system fights back and it’s during this fight that uncomfortable symptoms are experienced’
You can read more about leaky gut here.
One thing that MRT shows is that even ‘healthy’ foods such as apple, spinach or chicken could be provoking a reaction! What’s great about LEAP is its a diet designed for your unique biochemistry and immune system. LEAP is designed to calm inflammation, a root cause of chronic disease.
After avoiding reactive foods the immune system can bedome to desensitised and after 3 months you can provoke (see if you’re reacting to by reintroducing one by one) yellow foods and 6 months to 1 year introduce red foods. Eventually most people can return to a more normal diet eating all or nearly all of their once-reactive foods.
I recieved my results pretty quickly – exactly a week after my blood draw. During the week I was pretty nervous about my results – I’d heard of one extreme case where a woman didn’t even have 20 non-reactive foods to choose from (20 foods is about the amount of foods they start you with on phase one!) I had such bad reactions to some foods that I was scared I would be reactive to almost everything! When I got the email and the attachment wouldn’t open on either of our phones my boyfriend drove me straight home to look at my email because I was so anxious to know!
As it turned out, I was reactive to more than 30 foods and chemicals out of the 150 tested. Some of them were no surprise like tomatoes, milk and wheat (I have to live gluten-free anyway.)
Here are my results:
Some of them were foods that hadn’t caused me noticeable problems but I ate regularly such salmon and potatoes which were probably the hardest to say goodbye to. So glad I can have sweet potato!
Some of my reactive foods were foods I had a natural aversion to such as zucchini (courgette ) or I had never eaten – scallops.
Some of the results were actually surprising though. Who would have guessed I reacted to lettuce for example? Vanilla was a total surprise, as was ginger. No more herbal tea for me in the morning…:(
There were also foods I had problems with that didn’t show up – I was once mostly housebound for weeks after eating a meal rich in garlic yet garlic came up as safe – though I have since learnt that garlic is actually toxic.Many yogis avoid garlic and it is not recommended in Ayurveda. Garlic seems to be both friend and foe – on the other hand it’s compound Allicin has been proven to treat antibiotic resistant MRS A in clinical trials and there is even a study showing garlic can kill cancerous brain tumours without side effects!
Despite these amazing properties it has been revealed that eating too much garlic can actually poke tiny holes in the gut lining! This perhaps had enhanced my reactions to everything else. The sensible advice from LEAP is to of course avoid any foods that you’ve noticed a reaction to.
Fun fact: In WW2 soldiers would rub raw garlic on their bullets so that if the enemy was shot but the wound wasn’t enough to kill them they would die anyway from the raw garlic poisoning the blood!
I was pretty relieved with my 30 foods until I did a little digging. There were some foods like strawberries and raspberries that I seemed to react to if I had too much of and if I had anything over 1/2 an avocado my eyes would puff up and go bright red yet avocado was ‘safe!’ Also safe but a problem food was mushrooms – after one horrible incident of stomach pain I couldn’t even entertain the thought of going near them! Mushrooms are also part of the nightshade family which contain toxic alkaloids and I was reacting to a lot of the other nightshades such as paprika, cayenne pepper, tomatoes and potatoes. LEAP advises that if you are reactive to more than two foods in the same group to eliminate that group of foods completely. That also meant dairy was out as I reacted to both cow and goat milk. This didn’t bother me – I avoided dairy and ate it only when I had an extreme craving. Dairy is bad for healing the gut regardless of sensitivities except for those individuals that may be able to consume it raw or ghee or fermented milk kefir. If you’re experiencing any mysterious chronic health complaint my best advice is to try removing dairy! Conditions such as acne, IBS and eczema are particularly likely to be affected by dairy consumption.
As for the confusing ‘green foods’, using my nutritional knowledge I could join the dots and see that a lot of these ‘safe’ foods were high in salicylates. Salicyclic acid on my test was a very long green bar – almost touching the yellow line for moderately reactive. I only ate green foods and experimented with varying my salicylate levels in the week before my consultation and found that indeed, too many salicyclates caused a problem. This was pretty stressful to deal with as nearly all plant based foods contain salicylates but now I am more familiar with which are lower I can try to base my diet around these foods for the meantime and I seem ok with a few portions of high salicyclates here and there. (Note at end of month, salicylate tolerance definitely higher!)
I was also a challenging case as I react to all nuts,seeds, legumes and grains dependent on dose due to the antinutrient properties of their phytic acid and lectins, except in their oil forms . So my diet is looking a bit like a modified Autoimmune-Paleo, with only small amounts of these non-Paleo foods. I seen to tolerate some sprouted grains and soaked nuts (Sprouting and soaking reduces their antinutrient content.)
So for my first week, these were my foods:
Turkey, Shrimp, Rice**, Sweet Potato*, Spinach*, String Bean, Banana, Lemon, Cranberry*, Strawberry*, Apple*, Carob Syrup, Cashew Oil, Corn Oil *, Tumeric*, Cumin*.
* = limit due to Salicylate content – Golden delicious apples are low salicylate but other varieties are high in salicylates.
** Limit due to lectins and phytates
Unlike most clients my therapist advised I add in certain supplements straight away such as fish oil, l glutamine and digestive enzymes (providing they were free of reactive ingredients).
He also encouraged me to drink fermented vegetable juice and coconut kefir even if the food isn’t yet on my list, so long as it’s a green food.
I did end up breaking the rules a bit and adding in a couple of foods that I wasn’t meant to add for another week or so. I had the worst animal fat craving and there was none on my diet! I used to be vegan and this really didn’t work out for me which all made sense when I found out I was a metabolic Protein Type. Animal fat is also very healing to the gut and I reasoned that instead of breaking the diet completely it would be better to eat some tuna, which I would be adding in a week anyway.I didn’t recieve a reply from my LEAP therapist so I just went right along and added some Tuna and my body breathed a sigh or relief. Getting all my fat from hazelnut oil and corn oil was not nourishing me and I felt so much better for adding in a different variety of protein also. I don’t think most people would have any trouble starting with their 20 foods but my diet was so limited with far less foods so I tuned into my intuition and just knew it was the right thing to listen to my body over the exact rules. I was also desperate for a starch I didn’t have to limit due to salicylates so I added in green peas – another sigh of relief and no negative reaction. However your body can have withdrawals and crave reactive foods so it’s a good idea to talk to your LEAP therapist before breaking any of the rules of your plan. Now I have those two extra foods in my plan I intend to follow the protocol exactly. I’m adding in the next green foods one by one now so the diet is slowly getting less restrictive – maybe I will even be able to fashion something resembling a cake for my birthday next month!
Also I have discovered a liking for hazelnut oil and carob syrup mixed with banana. Yum!
Day 8: (although I was eating only green foods for almost a week before my consultation and the offices start of my LEAP journey). The last two weeks I have felt better on average – at first I had bad insomnia but was finally able to stay awake sleep deprived which I couldn’t physically manage before. My sleep pattern is now much more normal and there is no pain in my legs and less in my back. If I am completely honest apart from the sleep pattern I don’t feel much better than when I was just eating all of my green foods. But hopefully in the next few weeks I will continue to improve. My digestion hasn’t improved at all – I’m still bloated as ever, whatever I eat. Tomorrow I am going to add in some Ox Bile which supplements low bile acid from the liver as my liver is congested and struggling at the moment. I have a specific liver detox protocol which thankfully I can still do with the ingredients on phase one.
End of month 1: I now have around 60 safe foods. Been able to eat chocolate without problems – super exciting! No improvement on the bloating front but due to do another liver flush soon. Although often I have issues with eating safe foods because certain foods are harder to digest and if I eat to many of these in one given day I have stomach pain from the distention I can fast or drink juices and recover more quickly.In order to feel my best (which is still not totally well but much better) I have to combine LEAP with low FODMAP and SCD approaches (check these out if you have IBS) which means limiting my starches and other harder to digest foods. My baseline level of a bad day is also not anywhere near as bad as a bad day before! Also my joint and muscle pain is much better, less frequent and usually only showing up if I accidentally eat a non safe food. I’ve noticed accidental ingestion of a reactive food or too many lectins causes me brain fog and mood swings as well – I feel much happier and concentrate better sticking to the diet. In conclusion LEAP was definitely 100% worth it as it improved my quality of life but there hasn’t been a dramatic change since the first week nor do I expect one to come soon. Healing takes time and my body has a lot of damage to fix and nutrients to assimilate – I didn’t get here overnight and I can’t expect a fast escape either! But I am optimistic based on my progress that full recovery is in reach! So if you’re struggling with any of the aforementioned problems I highly recommend you try it! My health was plateauing and LEAP is allowing for a slow and steady upward trend (she says whilst chowing down on the soaked cashews she couldn’t have a month before, yay!)