Many of the foods we eat today can cause undesirable reactions within the body such as indigestion, inflammation and fatigue. These reactive foods are best identified and restricted if we are to achieve long-term health.
When it comes to diet what we always focus on is the big picture stuff, such as going carnivore and eating just meat or vegan and its all plant based, if we pick a more omnivorous such as a Paleo Diet then the focus is on meats but also vegetables, a Keto Diet is mostly fat and Intermitting Fasting can be more plant or more animal.
However, when you come to work people regardless of which diet they have gone with the success quite often doesn’t come down to the macronutrient ratios, fats/carbs and protein balance, or where those macros have come from plant versus animal, it quite often is impacted on a meal to meal basis but the ability to digest, assimilate and utilise each of the foods ingredients or individual ingredients. In part due to genetics but also epigenetics, the impact of the environment that centre on stresses, toxicities and nutritional deficiencies, many people react to even their apparently very healthy food.
These reactivities are known as food allergies, sensitivities and intolerances. The terms are confusing and distinct but for ease of use sometimes its easier to combine the concepts to define foods as reactive and need to be restricted.
The best answer as always is to test but not all foods are picked up in tests and responses will change or vary across time. Elimination or rotation diets where you avoid certain food groups can be helpful but require significant patience and commitment.
The aim of this article is to explain the many food categories that are known to be problematic and armed with that information my hope is you feel more empowered to identify your problem foods and remove them or at least restrict them.
In many cases the symptoms such as headaches, fatigue and digestive upset can take up to 3 days to show up so its not always to pinpoint the culprit. Its been said that even with healthy people the typical diet only involves 17 different foods so keeping a food diary, as a painful as that can be for those short on time, it may prove to be a valuable to narrow your issues down especially if you are trying to lose weight but eat well or when eating healthy still suffer these symptoms.
It can also be the case you develop symptoms following a new diet but at the start there are no issues and a few weeks in, losing weight, gaining energy, feeling otherwise great the odd symptom starts to creep in and as time goes on the loss of capacity to cope with problem or reactive foods leads to just too many symptoms and a loss of gains that leads to once again you giving up on your diet.
My preference is to start with identifying the right food types and their balance alongside a specific macronutrient ratio, learn the right animal and plant foods for how you function right now by using a system called Metabolic Typing. Then use specific lab tests as to assess loss of function in key systems linked metabolism; hormones, digestion, detoxification and immune that helps identify need for individual nutrients to support the food. Then as we work through implementing these changes we personalise it further by modifying meals in accordance with the reactive foods we will go on to discuss.
Even for those people that choose not to go down the route of Metabolic Typing and follow a new diet popular in the press or online or that a friend has had success with, food reactivities can be a persistent road block and worth identifying.
With up to 20% of the world population estimated to suffer from some type of food intolerance we are going to take a look at the 3 most common intolerances and then the 14 most common foods to restrict.
First of all we are going to take a look at the most common foods you can be reactive to based on your blood group. If you know your blood group this can be a good general place to start especially if digestive, respiratory and skin problems are common but you cant put your finger on what causes them.
The first column (GENERAL) is a list of the “Most (frequently) Reactive” foods – Note the light blue background of all of those foods.
The other columns list the Blood Type Specific reactive foods.
All foods in a given Blood Type are not reactive in every person with that Blood Type.
Only a high percentage of people in a given Blood Type will be found reactive to the foods.
Those foods with a light blue background are also listed in the GENERAL reactive foods column. Red font foods typically produce the strongest reactions.
How to use the reactive foods lists
- If the blood type is known, compare the appropriate list of reactive foods to your current diet or ideally your Metabolic Type diet
- Draw a line through any reactive foods that appear on your diet
- Omit those foods for 3 months
- Then, each food, if desired, can be added back to the diet, one food at a time
- Eat the test food 3 times per day for 3 days and carefully monitor symptoms
- If a food is reactive, omit for 6 months, when once again a trial can be attempted
- If no symptoms result, add the food back into the diet but do not eat every day
Most common food intolerances
- Lactose Intolerance
- Carbohydrate Intolerance
- Alcohol Intolerance
There is a gene which if expressed leads to the formation of an enzyme called lactase that breaks down the primary sugar, lactose, that is found in dairy products and specifically milk. For the majority levels of lactase decrease drastically after we stop breastfeeding. Lactose intolerance then can develop more as we grow older in some people. If you have lactose intolerance, the milk sugar, can pass through the gut to the large intestine, colon, and as bacteria ferment the undigested sugar the most common symptoms can present;
- Abdominal pain
The poison as always is in the dose and some of us can happily consume diary products on a daily basis without symptoms but only notice a change in symptoms if the typical dose goes up on a particular day or for several days. I have regularly noticed some clients can consume cheese or yoghurt but cant consume milk so there is variation in the tolerance in part due to the dose per time but also the product consumed will vary in quantity of potentially damaging lactose.
In general, there’s no need to stop eating dairy if you’re not experiencing any symptoms. If you think it is an issue I would perform the same elimination method as described for the most frequent reactive foods above and gradually re-introduce in time. it may be prudent to start back with dairy products choosing aged cheeses or fermented or cultured dairy, fermented with lactic acid bacteria, including kefir and sour cream. I am a firm believer in enhancing digestive capacity especially as we age by using probiotics and digestive enzymes and the enzyme lactase can also be supplemented to enhance digestion and minimise symptoms in particular for situations where it’s unavoidable to consume dairy knowing its an issue. I know this will seem like a huge challenge if dairy is an issue for you but its been found that 50% of people with a sensitivity to gluten also have a reaction to dairy so it can be prudent to tackle both if you have an issue with either, more information on gluten can be found below.
Carbohydrate intolerance refers to an inability to digest certain carbohydrates and similar to lactose intolerance is often due to a lack of carbohydrate digesting enzymes. The typical sugars people are intolerant to are:
Intolerance to these carbs can cause digestive issues when eating foods that contain them. Some of the more common symptoms of carbohydrate intolerance include:
- Abdominal distension
Specific Carbohydrate Intolerance – FODMAPs
Short chain carbohydrates resistant to digestion are called FODMAPs or “fermentable oligo-, di-, monosaccharide and polyols. The symptoms are similar to the sugars mentioned above. They causes symptoms for those sensitive commonly found with those suffering Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), when friendly gut bacteria digest the fibre from your diet you produce methane gas but when FODMAPs are fermented the in the colon the gas produced is hydrogen;
- Abdominal pain
FODMAPs can be grouped in to 5 types;
- Fructose – fruits, honey, some vegetables, agave syrup
- Lactose – milk/dairy
- Fructans – grains, vegetables and some fruits
- Galacto-oligosaccharides – legumes, beans and lentils
- Polyols – sugar alcohols; xylitol, sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol
Although prebiotics have many benefits if you suspect FODMAPs are an issue it would be advisable for at least 8 weeks to avoid prebiotics on their or ones included in some probiotics such as;
- FOS (fructooligosaccharide)
- GOS (galactoligosaccharide)
Here is a low versus high FODMAPs food list as a guide:
People that suffer alcohol intolerance have genetic variants to the enzymes, alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH), which are each involved in the breakdown of alcohol in the liver. These variants lead to the faulty metabolism of alcohol. The ADH enzyme is responsible for the conversion of alcohol into potentially toxic acetaldehyde. The ALDH enzyme then helps remove acetaldehyde from the body.
- Accelerated heart rate (tachycardia)
Unfortunately the genetic nature of alcohol intolerance leads to advice to minimise or avoid alcohol consumption.
In some cases it can be the ingredients in alcohol that are the issue for example;
- Sulphites (preservatives)
It is possible to have less alcohol, or sulphite free and vary the type of alcohol to minimise the ingredient related reactions. Further suggestions can be found in this previous article.
Food restriction categories
- Saturated fats
- Thyroid suppressing foods
Gluten is a group of proteins found in the seeds of grasses. The gluten proteins in wheat (storage proteins, gliadin and glutenin known as prolamines), barley (hordein), and rye (secalin) are particularly damaging and must be completely avoided by individuals who have a gluten sensitivity or Coeliac Disease. For some people the gluten proteins in other grains (i.e. “zein” in corn, “avenin” in oats, etc) are also potentially problematic, so a grain-free diet is the only true gluten-free diet.
If you use the acronym “BROW”: (B = barley, R = rye, O = oats, W = wheat). Although oats don’t contain the most damaging family of gluten proteins, they are cross-contaminated with wheat during growing, storage, and transportation, so they are considered a source of gluten unless you specifically get certified gluten-free oats. Being aware of the symptoms of gluten to identify if its an issue that explains your health challenges is wise but for some people they really need to get specific and require food sensitivity testing and in more severe cases to identify progress towards healing and also minimising the damage specialised food sensitivity testing for gluten is required. In the absence of either of these testing options it can be truly valuable to acquaint yourself with the common gluten related symptoms which include;
- Digestive issues (gas, bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhoea)
- Skin rashes / Eczema
- Headaches / Migraines
- Brain Fog
- Poor cognitive function
- Anxiety / Depression
- Mood changes / Irritability
- Numbness in extremities
- Joint Pain
- Neurological symptoms (neuropathy, migraines, dementia, schizophrenia, ataxia)
An immune system response to eating gluten results in damage to the small intestine of people with gluten intolerance its highly inflammatory nature triggers whats called Leaky Gut or increased intestinal permeability. Gluten experts say this damage occurs in everyone that ingests gluten not just those with the disease that results from gluten, Coeliacs. As far as foods to restrict gluten is up there as the top challenge to restrict but also the top challenger on your body. Research has shown that even if there is no immunologic response to gluten, it still stimulates the production of a protein called zonulin which increases gut permeability and blood-brain barrier permeability. The good news for most of us is this “leaky gut” condition is only temporary if we take steps to restrict gluten. However continued consumption over years leads to the immune system producing antibodies against gluten you could then say your issue is now one of gluten sensitivity. The stool test is a great insight to digestive function and what can cause your digestive system to have lost function and cause symptoms, with one of those causes being gluten as it reports on levels of antibodies to gluten or more specifically the most abundant protein, gliadin.
Gluten Related Disease
Gluten causes sensitivity that goes right up to Coeliac Disease, an autoimmune reaction where the intestines are damaged. A much greater number of people have what is called non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) which may or may not cause intestinal damage or symptoms which can be neurological and even give rise to antibodies against the thyroid gland resulting in a condition known as Hashimoto’s. There are 55 “diseases” that can be caused by eating gluten, including;
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD),
- Mouth ulcers,
- Rheumatoid arthritis,
- Multiple sclerosis,
- Majority of autoimmune diseases,
- Many psychiatric and neurological diseases; anxiety, depression, dementia, schizophrenia, migraines, and neuropathy
Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, said “All disease begins in the gut.” Gluten causes inflammation in the gut, it is really not healthy for anyone, but it is especially damaging for those with symptoms and health challenges. There are so many situations with health that are about toxicity and overloading the bodies ability to cope, everyone has different ability to cope, different challenges and toxicities so adding a more likely than not toxin, gluten in the mix is like adding fuel to the fire.
Gluten Cold Turkey
Most people think of gluten as only being an issue for your gut and if you don’t have digestive symptoms then it cant be gluten thats causing you problems and therefore the bread stays on the table. However gluten can harm the brain by changing brain function and behaviour. It does this by causing inflammation, as an excitotoxin, which over excites the brain cells causing damage or killing these cells. The principal excitotoxin contained in the gluten complex is called glutamate which is also found in several other foods and is worthy of being considered as a separate food that is commonly reactive (see below). Gluten is also broken down during the digestion process into opiate-like peptides called gluteomorphins, similar in structure to morphine! These chemicals can create feelings of euphoria and can be addictive so stopping eating bread isnt always easy as these chemicals can be responsible for a strong withdrawal reaction; fatigue, headaches, depression, and nausea. I always remember one of my early mentors saying nevermind testing for gluten sensitivity just ask the client, if they were to never to have bread or pasta ever again tomorrow do they break out in a cold sweat and get irritable at you or are they totally cool with that. These gluteomorphins or even more fancy proper name, gliadorphins (like endorphins) are serious players in controlling the foods you routinely eat and the challenge to change your diet long term for the good. If you suspect this excitotoxic effect of gluten is responsible in part for your symptoms when you eat bread, pasta and gluten containing grains then it can be helpful to experiment with specific enzymes that target this exact problem with gluten metabolism. DPP IV, dipeptyl peptidase found in supplement form can be very helpful here.
Gluten avoidance is principally about eating a diet of natural, whole food but thats not always possible and gluten lives in some sneaky places but its worth remembering one tiny exposure to gluten can cause antibodies to be produced in the body for 3-6 months! To be 100% gluten-free; simply reducing gluten is not enough! It only takes 1/1000 of a gram of gluten exposure (a tiny crumb of bread) to reactivate the immune system, so it is also not sufficient to just take the bun off your burger or pick the croutons off your salad. Be as strict when it comes to gluten as you would be if you had a severe peanut allergy. Cross-contamination must be avoided. I know that sounds a bit over the top but in my experience its one of those food issues that unless you get hardcore serious with it you never really make progress and ultimately allow the body to heal from the damage and so the symptoms continue and potentially exacerbate.
Those with gluten intolerance diseases such as coeliac disease (1 out of every 150 in the U.K.) and dermatitis herpetiformis (DH) should avoid the following gluten-containing foods;
- Wheat (durum, semolina)
- Farina (and their cereals)
If problems persist, then avoid all gluten foods;
- Rice milk
- Oat milk
- Ice cream
- Sour cream
- Rapeseed (Canola) oil
- Soy sauce
- Brown sugar
- Vanilla extract
- Rice vinegar
- All grains except rice (brown, white, wild)
Mercury is one of the most toxic substances on our planet. Unfortunately, it is finding its way at an alarming rate into our food supply via many forms of seafoods. It is recommended that the consumption of any mercury containing foods be limited to no more than twice a month or not at all. See http://www.gotmercury.org/ to calculate actual mercury levels in seafoods. Mercury is found in high levels in:
- Mahi Mahi
A good way to counteract the mercury would be to take chlorella that comes in capsule form 30 minutes before your meal. Let me know your thoughts on this and I will help you sort that out and receive the right type and quality source. Chlorella works as a sponge to bind toxic metals in the gut so that they don’t get into the body. This is a good example of the decisions you have to sometimes make when choosing the right food for you. Some people do really well on fish especially those that are more balanced towards plants as their primary food but need the fish for a highly efficient source of protein. You wont to narrow your food groups down and if you do you definitely don’t want to narrow your individual choices as that can lead to sensitivities, over consumption of the same foods. Its not uncommon to find people that say they love fish and do well on it only eat tuna and even then its tinned. However although it is a mercury challenge the upside is for those more plant based or vegetarian the amino acids from the tuna are vital for detoxification, therefore helping to detox that mercury. You can argue amino acids and therefore quality and sufficient amounts of protein are key optimise detoxification and metabolism. I find it is quite often a lesser of two evils and if it promotes a focus on the rest of your food and lifestyle being clean or lower in toxins then has to be helpful. Adding a mercury specific binder or gut cleanser is certainly wise to provide that extra level of safety coverage note unlike with lactose or gluten intolerance specific enzymes can be taken.
Lectins are a type of protein that can bind to carbohydrates or whats called glycoproteins, a combination of carbohydrates and proteins. Plants use lectins to communicate with their environment, store them as “reserve proteins,” and form a key part of plants’ protective mechanisms, among many other important functions. Plants are so very clever with many tricks to ensure survival, anti-nutrients are one of those tricks. Lectins are able to restrict digestion of plant seeds to protect them from birds and animals so this type of protein allows the seed to pass through the digestion as waste, undamaged, so it can survive and go onto to grow and become a plant.
Lectins are found in especially high amounts in:
- Legumes; red and white kidney beans, broad beans, soybeans, and chickpeas
- Whole grains particularly wheat
- Tubers particularly potatoes
- Cucurbitaceous vegetables, such as cucumber, melon, squash, pumpkin, courgette (zucchini),
Lectin sensitivity is a poorly understood food intolerance research in animals and cells shows that these proteins since they are resistant to digestion can damage the gut lining, and are yet another dietary cause of “Leaky Gut”. Lectins are known to interfere with nutrient absorption and the long term result is nutritional deficiencies that can go on to cause further loss of function throughout the body and symptoms.
In the blood, lectins stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies. This increases the risk of developing or worsening food sensitivities and autoimmune conditions. Some of the symptoms commonly experienced by people with lectin sensitivity include:
- Digestive problems; bloating, nausea, diarrhoea, flatulence
- “Brain fog”
- Anxiety and depression
- Skin conditions; eczema and rashes
- Autoimmune conditions
- Inflammation; pain, joint discomfort, water retention (eyes/extremities)
Quite often with lectin sensitivity its hard to spot so needs a look at the presence of several symptoms and several lectin containing foods being core within the diet before you would decide to eliminate lectins foods. Having said that for some people that really do have a lectin sensitivity it can make a huge difference in the reduction of symptoms.
Here’s an example of a low lectin breakfast you could try:
Nightshade vegetables include;
- Aubergine/ Eggplant
- Cape Gooseberry
- Chinese lanterns
- Ground cherry
- Tree tomato
- Garden huckleberry
If you have any degenerative problems involving your bones or joints, you may want to try omitting these foods from your diet for 12 weeks to see if any positive change is noted. A substantial number of people report improvement in pain and other symptoms as a result. In a study published in the Journal of the International Academy of Preventive medicine, of the 5000 arthritis sufferers who eliminated Nightshades, seventy percent reported relief from aches, pains, and disfigurement. Sadly if this sounds like you then you need to give fajitas a break for awhile to allow your system to settle, heal and then slowly re-introduce.
Phytates are another anti-nutrient. When phytic acid is bound to a mineral such as phosphorus its referred to as phytate. Phytate is the storage form of phosphorus. These compounds found primarily in cereal grains, legumes, and nuts and to a lesser extent in roots, tubers and some vegetables. They bind with calcium, iron, manganese and zinc and interfere with their absorption in the body hence the term anti-nutrient. Higher levels will be consumed in whole food diets and our digestive systems can deal with them the majority of the time, breaking down to forms of inositol and excepting what we don’t need. However they do seem to impact digestion of starches, and proteins and fats making them harder to digest. The result can be good and bad. If you have low levels of iron already and suffering from iron deficiency anaemia a diet high in plants also high in phytates will result in even less iron available. On the other hand if it binds minerals it can bind heavy metals in the gut such as cadmium or lead and that can only be a good thing and there is an argument they bind free radicals so in effect operate as antioxidants which can be cardio-protective and anti-cancer.
Depending upon on your mineral balance and amount of plants high in phytates in your diet this may not be too big a concern. There may be times being aware of phytic acid issues are more relevant so it’s worthwhile knowing the foods that are higher in phytic acid and in ways to minimising their effects. Soaking, fermenting, or sprouting the grain before cooking or baking will neutralise the phytic acid, releasing nutrients for absorption. This process allows enzymes, lactobacilli and other helpful organisms to not only neutralise the phytic acid, but also to break down complex starches, irritating tannins and difficult-to- digest proteins including gluten. Soak grains for 12 – 24 hours in an acid medium such as buttermilk, yogurt, other cultured milk, or water with lemon juice, whey, or vinegar added.
Highest phytate foods are:
- Green beans
- Soy beans
Phyto-oestrogens are compounds that occur naturally in plants (phyto) and under certain circumstances can have actions like human oestrogen. When eaten, they bind to oestrogen receptors and may act in a similar way to oestrogen. Therefore this can be helpful in the right situation and operate as a mild food based form of hormone replacement therapy. Of course when you are already high in oestrogen this is less desirable.
Higher levels of phyto-estrogen containing foods have been used in the diet when suffering from;
- Hot flashes
- Menstrual cycle issues,
- Skin issues eg acne
There are 3 types of phyto-oestrogens; lignans, coumestans, and isoflavones.
- Flax seed
- Sesame seed
Coumestans which can block the aromatase enzyme that converts testosterone to oestrogen which is helpful for high testosterone imbalances or Poly Cystic Ovaries (PCOS);
- Split peas
- Lima beans
- Pinto beans
- Alfalfa sprouts
- Red clover
- Clover sprouts
Isoflavones, can be helpful if you have high levels of oestrogen and are whats referred to as Oestrogen Dominant (bloating, sore breasts, headaches, low sex drive, mood swings, hair loss, thyroid issues);
- Green beans
- Chick peas
Full list of foods containing varying amounts of phytoestrogens are:
- Garbanzo beans
- Red beans
- Soy beans
- White beans
- Black tea
- Green tea
- Sesame seeds
- Sunflower seeds
The binding of dietary sources of oestrogens, phyto-oestrogen, bind to the oestrogen receptors making the body think it has all the oestrogen it needs and you can then be insufficient in oestrogen as the body doesn’t produce as much thinking it has what it needs. Depending upon your hormone balance consuming phyto-oestrogens may or may not be helpful.
Purines are protein fractions found in certain foods and cells in the human body and are found in the animal proteins. In Metabolic Typing, the Metabolic Types that do best on higher levels of animal fats and proteins are called Fast Oxidisers and Parasympathetics and the specific type of protein they benefit from are the proteins higher in purines. In contrast the Slow Oxidisers and Sympathetics do better on proteins lower in protein.
These proteins are the building blocks for our DNA which is clearly a good thing. However for some people purines are more readily broken down in the digestive system to substances that can form uric acid and potentially increase our risk of gout. Uric acid travels through the bloodstream into your kidneys and most of it is eliminated through urination. However, there are instances where you may have an excess of uric acid and are unable to excrete the bulk of this substance through urination. An increased amount of uric acid can be due to either producing too much during digestion or your kidneys are unable to filter all of the uric acid. The result is higher uric acid and in time development of gout an extremely painful form of arthritis. The excess uric acid in time is stored in the joints as crystals.
However for those that handle purines less well there are those that benefit from more purines due a combination of genetics and how their bodies currently function they have more receptors expressed on their cells for purines. This can be a good thing as purines have been shown to help digestion and heart health. As always we have different capacities to cope with different foods. For some people fatty acid liver disease or oxidative stress (lack of antioxidants to free radicals, lack of repair from damage) are underlying causes of elevated uric acid and exacerbated by a high purine diet. Medications such as beta blockers, diuretics, and immune suppressing drugs can lead to higher levels of uric acid thats not directly linked to purines in the diet. Its also probably obvious too many glasses of Malbec (red wine) to go with the high purine, steak can further exacerbate the purine to uric acid clearing challenge.
Most common symptoms to look out for and to justify the focus on lowering purines in the diet include are in the joints of the fingers or toes swelling, pain, inflammation and redness or lumps under the skin.
All foods contain purines and it has been found that there is up to a 100 fold difference in the amounts of purines in different foods allowing for wide variety in purine content of varying diets.
Very high purine
- Dark meat (eg chicken/turkey leg)
- Tuna (dark)
- All other animal/ seafood proteins
Scientific evidence is mounting that the recent belief that saturated fats cause cancer, heart disease and other degenerative conditions is false!
In Metabolic Typing speak I am a Fast Oxidiser and do poorly on more of a carbohydrate diet but perform to my potential on a diet more banded towards high purine meats that come complete with their visible fat on them. So I am a fan of natural, unadulterated saturated fat in the form of animal fat, dairy (butter, cream), coconut oils and palm oil are extremely beneficial for good
health. The real dangerous fats, regardless of dietary preference or dogma, are the trans fats and an excess of omega 6 fats (seed, nut oils). Although these articles are not that recent they are really well written and accurately discuss the issues in a researched and factually correct basis.
For more info,
However for all the positives of saturated fat especially over the processed, damaged, rancid and toxic nut, seed and vegetable oils there are people that dont do as well on saturated fats. It tends to be as is often with food an issue of volume. Some of us just don’t have the capacity or current function to eat whatever we like and in the case of fat and saturated fat the ability to consume too much at anyone sitting. This is a bit like protein where normally a digestive infection such as H.Pylori is present at high levels in the stomach and disrupts normal acid production levels that first of clean the food of bugs you don’t want and sets up the body to produce the amount of the main protein digesting enzyme, pepsin. The result, meat sits in your stomach like a brick for days on end or at least longer than it should. When it comes to looking at the research an additional factor with higher fat in the diet is they typically also come with higher carbohydrates. Much of the research looks at high carb, high fat diets as high in grains and processed, heat sensitive oils/fats. I have found some people not well suited to higher fat diets (most popular version called the Keto Diet) that a practical issue is the lack of carbs leads to quite severe hypoglycaemia, low blood sugar. Other fancy names for issues with too high fat are hepatic steatosis – too much fat in the liver and hyperproteinemia – too much protein. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies can result not so much from the body metabolising the fat but from the lack of these nutrients in the balance of the macronutrients; fat, protein and carbs. For example a combination of too much fat and not enough vitamin c containing foods can alter iron metabolism, fat slowing the absorption and the lack of carbs providing the vitamin c to support the uptake by the body can lead to lower energy levels. Potentially deficient nutrients;
In more recent years due to people having gone through more periods of either too low calories and starving themselves to lose weight and the adrenal gland hormones suffering, or lack of fat from more plant based or just simply low fat diets I have seen many people benefit from consuming more fats. However as always testing can be invaluable as oppose to guesswork, even when it’s supposed intelligent guesswork. The Metabolic Typing test looks more specifically at your need for what actual balance of the macros; fat, protein and carbs. A stool can look at bacteria levels that disrupt protein metabolism and also the ability to digest fats or whether you need more enzymes to breakdown and use your foods whilst balancing blood sugar. The hormone test can identify the need to support your body repairing and balancing your hormones by providing the raw building blocks of more fat, specifically saturated fat. The toxin test and blood test amongst other functions looks at need for vitamin and minerals as well as blood sugar and whether you lack the amino acids or proteins to help the body detox and get rid of all the nasty toxins floating around us each day.
Thyroid suppressing foods
There can be certain foods that you dont know you have an issue with but because of a health condition it is advisable to minimise them, if you have been diagnosed with hypothyroid, you may wish to avoid foods known to suppress thyroid function by interfering with iodine uptake known as goitrogens, particularly when eaten raw. Again as part of how plants protect themselves to ensure survival they have chemicals that act like pesticide know as glucosinolates that when broken down form the goitrogens; goitrins, thiocyanates, and nitriles. Digestive enzymes divides the glucosinolates to goitrogenic and non-goitrogenic compounds.
Your thyroid controls how your body responds to other hormones, makes certain proteins, and controls how fast your body uses energy. It influences your body temperature, mood, and your metabolic rate, its seriously important for good health. It produces the hormones that do all this good work known as triiodothyronine (T3), thyroxine (T4) and calcitronin (less about energy and more about how the body uses calcium.
Foods potentially capable of blocking iodine uptake by the thyroid;
- Bok choy
- Brussels sprouts
- Pine nut
- Artificial sweeteners (aspartame, Sucralose etc)
- Oils; rapeseed/ canola, margarine, safflower, sunflower
If you suspect that your Friday night Chinese take away is specifically making you feel unwell then it is possible a substance known as glutamate may be playing a role. Glutamate is an amino acid that your body cant make that we get from plant and animal foods. It works as a excitatory neurotransmitter, stimulating brain cells involved in communication within the brain related to learning, memory and brain development, so its a pretty important. However this simulation can be too much and the brain needs to put the breaks on, so too much glutamate leads to symptoms of over-stimulation such as
Adverse reactions to glutamates may include the following:
- Headaches and Migraine
- Skin rashes and hives
- Runny nose or congestion
- Mild chest pain
- Numbness or burning, especially in and around the mouth
- Facial pressure or swelling
- Digestive symptoms e.g. nausea, bloating, diarrhoea depression and mood swings
- Irritability and sleeping difficulties
- Joint Inflammation
For some people symptoms can be more serious and in these situations its more clear glutamate is a dietary challenge requiring restriction:
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling in the throat
You can try to eliminate any sources with free glutamate (specifically in processed and packaged foods and absorbed too quickly) and monitor your symptoms. If symptoms persist, then try eliminating sources of natural free glutamate as well. Once your symptoms have subsided or resolved, gradually introduce some natural sources of free glutamate back into your diet as tolerated over a period of weeks to learn which foods may trigger a reaction.
Most of us have heard of Chinese take away meals causing symptoms and its the glutamate in the form of Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) that gets the blame, however the effect is normally in addition to other sensitivities to preservatives or amines and salicylates we will discuss below.
- Monosodium glutamate
- Calcium caseinate
- Soy protein (isolate/ concentrate)
- Flavourings eg natural vanilla flavour
- Milk powder
- Corn syrup
- Monopotassium glutamate
- Autolysed yeast
- Whey protein (isolate/ concentrate)
- Soy sauce
- Modified food starch
- Yeast extract
- Textured protein
- Citric acid
- Anything “protein fortified”
- Anything “hydrolysed” eg hydrolysed protein
- Bouillon/broth/ stock
- Corn starch
- Bone broths/meats cooked for long times eg braising
- Foods matured/ cured/preserved eg Parmesan, Roquefort
- Grape juice
- Ripe tomatoes
- Wheat gluten
- Dairy casein
- Malted barley (used in breads/ beer)
- Soy sauce
- Fish sauce
- Soy protein
Oxalic acid occurs naturally in quite a large number of plants and can combine with calcium, forming less soluble salts known as oxalates. As a result, foods high in oxalic acid, by lowering calcium in the body, may help some Metabolic Types and be a problem for others. Its more commonly an issue in those with a complex illness.
High oxalic acid foods;
- Beet greens (beetroot leaves)
- Peppers (bell peppers)
- Swiss chard
- Summer squash
- Most berries (especially strawberries, cranberries)
- Mustard greens
- Sweet potatoes
The specific concern with oxalates is that they can bind with calcium to form crystals with razor sharp, knife-like edges, they are extremely irritating and painful to tissues where they cause or increase inflammation. Oxalates can affect every system of the body.
High oxalic acid symptoms include:
- Pain especially; urinary, genital (vulvodynia), joints, muscles, eyes, head, intestines
- Painful or inflamed joints and muscles (similar to fibromyalgia or arthritis)
- Burning feet
- Gas and bloating
- Frequent urination and/or urinary pain
- Cloudy urine or crystals in the urine
- Kidney stones
- Interstitial cystitis
- Headaches, depression, anxiety, brain fog
- Yeast overgrowth
- Rashes and hives
The binding by oxalates of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and iron from your food and preventing absorption in the body means oxalates are more like anti-nutrients.
The are a series of personal factors that can be identified through testing that further drive this anti-nutrient effect;
- Antibiotic Use (kills the primary bacteria responsible for breaking down oxalates)
- Overconsumption of high oxalate foods; spinach, swiss chard, chia seeds, nuts, rhubarb, plantains
- Micronutrient deficiency a blood or urine toxin test can show a Vitamin B1 and B6 deficiency which will make the body generate more oxalates; calcium and magnesium are necessary to bind to oxalates so they are excreted in the stool instead of being absorbed
- Genetic mutations as seen in a genetics test show that some people have less of an ability to handle oxalates
A stool test can show the follow issues specific to oxalates;
- Fat malabsorption – the extra fat binds to calcium, calcium isn’t available to bind with oxalates, and oxalates are free to get into the blood and tissue
- Leaky Gut – allows oxalates to get into the bloodstream
- Lack of good bacteria in the gut (to break down oxalates
Normally, we absorb 1-2% of oxalates, but when gut inflammation is present, we can absorb as much as 50% of oxalates. The body recognises oxalates as a toxin, so it will store them to keep them out of circulation, until a certain level is reached where it is overwhelmed (due to the overconsumption of high oxalate foods or an inability to excrete oxalates very well) and it has to start “dumping” some of the excess oxalates. This is when symptoms appear and also help explain why its not always present. Many of these foods to restrict are challenging to identify without testing. Elimination diets are educated guesses and rely on symptoms however when symptoms are not persistent or reliable then testing has its place otherwise it can feel like a never ending challenge trying to figure out just what you can eat that is healthy. Oxalate is a great example, for some its clear but for many its a question on a list until some specific testing adds extra weight to point in a certain direction when modifying your diet.
Once you are more confident oxalates are an issue it’s worthwhile following the food list below and definitely removing the very high and high foods but do this slowly by reducing portion sizes of oxalate foods and not to go “cold turkey” to help manage symptoms. You can help minimise oxalate by boiling to soaking the low or medium oxalate containing foods and pouring the water away.
The foods we love or crave are quite often the ones that poison us the most and very sadly this is the case for me! Histamines are my nemesis in a dietary sense. My favourite foods; steak, cheese, chocolate, caffeine and red wine are right up there as the highest histamine containing foods or histamine releasing foods.
I have long known this and taken steps to minimise the impact of these foods and limit how often I overdose. I notice that if I pretty much eat those same foods I will be fine for a day or more but my tolerance only takes me so far and symptoms will appear warning me to take heed and back off. For me the symptoms are change in bowel habits, itchy skin, and stuffy nose, definitely more of a sinus issue tha t comes with more sneezing. Of course its also quite common that I load up on histamine producing foods at the exact same time it’s hay fever season, so thats some histamine on top of histamine. Having said that for many years now having realised I had a histamine issue, through monitoring food intake and recording symptoms as well as testing that included identifying genetic weakness specific to histamine, my hay fever really isn’t much of an issue. Targeting the wider aspects of inflammatory responses within the body through gut repair and supporting the liver have also helped overall histamine tolerance, so that means my red wine threshold has gone up!
Histamine is a chemical involved in your immune and digestive system, and also your central nervous system. As a neurotransmitter, it communicates important messages from your body to your brain. It is also a component of stomach acid, which is what helps you break down food in your stomach. An example of histamines role in the immune system is seen in hayfever season, we have all heard of histamine or more precisely anti-histamines, medications to block the histamine driving you mad from non-stop sneezing and itchy and swollen eyes. Antihistamine medications like Zytrec, Piriton or Benedryl provide quick relief of your symptoms when you have seasonal or food-allergies. This is because histamine’s role in the body is to cause an immediate inflammatory response. It serves as a red flag in your immune system, notifying your body of any potential attackers. Histamine causes your blood vessels to swell, or dilate, so that your white blood cells can quickly find and attack the infection or problem. The histamine buildup is what gives you a headache and leaves you feeling flushed, itchy and miserable. This is part of the body’s natural immune response, but if you don’t break down histamine properly, you could develop what is known as histamine intolerance. Histamine travels throughout your bloodstream, affecting your gut, lungs, skin, brain, and entire cardiovascular system, contributing to a wide range of problems often making it difficult to pinpoint and diagnose.
The main focus in dealing with histamine intolerance is avoiding foods high in histamine then focus on foods that cause more histamine to be released and then onto looking at foods that block the main enzyme, DAO (Diamine Oxidase) that breaks histamine down. The lack of this enzyme can also have a genetic aspect.
- Fermented alcoholic beverages (wine, champagne, beer)
- Soured foods (sour cream, sour milk, buttermilk, soured bread)
- Nuts (walnuts, cashews, peanuts)
- Fermented foods (sauerkraut, vinegar, soy sauce, kefir, yoghurt, kombucha)
- Dried fruit (apricots, prunes, dates, figs, raisins)
- Vegetables (aubergine/ eggplants, spinach, tomatoes)
- Vinegar-containing foods (pickles, mayonnaise olives)
- Most citrus fruits
- Smoked fish and certain species of fish (mackerel, mahi mahi, tuna, anchovies, sardines)
- Cured meats (bacon, salami, pepperoni, luncheon meat, hot dogs)
- Aged cheese including goats cheese
- Wheat germ
- Cow’s milk
- Many artificial preservatives/dyes
- Green tea
- Energy drinks
- Black tea
- Mate tea
There is a lot to work out with histamine sensitivity but as a guide here is a sample week’s worth of recipes and a meal plan for going low histamine to get you started.
For many people with oxalate issues there can be similar issues with salicylates as they are also classed as anti-nutrients. Salicylates are organic chemicals found naturally in many herbs, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. They are found in higher levels in unlike foods. We regularly consume salicylates and our body has to detoxify and clear away these chemicals before they accumulate. We have a threshold for symptoms.
Once our salicylate load gets to around that level we start getting allergic style inflammatory reactions. For the small percentage of people who have difficulty processing these phenolic compounds, even small amounts of salicylates can cause adverse reactions. This is called a “Salicylate Sensitivity” or “Salicylate Intolerance” and is dose-dependent.
The most common salicylate symptoms are;
- Anaphylaxis (rare), blackouts
- Dizziness, poor balance, vertigo
- Blurry vision
- Ringing in the ears, Tinnitus, recurring ear infections
- Addictions, food cravings, constant hunger, excessive thirst
- Weight problems
- Difficulty swallowing, stomach pain, nausea, upset, bloating
- Gall bladder problems
- Breast pain, menstrual problems (including PMS)
- Blood sugar problems
- Palpitations, racing pulse, high or low blood pressure, temperature fluctuation
- Asthma, breathing difficulties, wheezing
- Swelling of eyelids, styes, sore, watery, gritty, puffy eyes, face or lips
- Sinusitis, congestion, nasal polyps
- Chronic sweating, heavy body odour
- Ulcers in the mouth or hot, red rash around the mouth, bad breath, coated tongue, Thrush, metallic taste
- Changes in skin colour or discolourations
- Acne, Eczema
- Athlete’s Foot
- Persistent cough
If these symptoms help describe your issues then it can be worthwhile considering the following list of salicylate containing foods to avoid.
What Causes Salicylate Sensitivity
Again much like oxalate there can be many reasons for the variation in symptoms and reasons behind why salicylates are a problem for each individual. Its not possible to test for a specific salicylate sensitivity but symptom identification can really help. In many cases the symptoms are more of a mental health such as anxiety or depression or behavioural type, ADD/ADHD, restlessness or hyperactivity. For those suffering significantly a more specialised approach is required and we would look to implement the Failsafe Diet for an extensive list of foods that also includes other related class of food sensitivities, amines and glutamates (mentioned above). This is more like a therapeutic approach we would employ for a period to bring things back under control before re-assessing dietary needs and building out a more comprehensive dietary approach based on your function as whole.
In a healthy body we have plenty of mechanisms and resources to deal with what comes in to our internal environment from the air, fluid, medications, how we work on the inside, bacterial balance in our gut, liver function and of course the food we eat. we don’t have enough of the building blocks we can get into trouble and symptoms result. When it comes to salicylates we need good levels of sulphates and liver enzymes, then phenols like salicylates (also includes polyphenols, flavonoids, resveratrol and many healthy foods) are easily metabolised. The body utilises what it needs and disposes of the rest through the bowels. Sounds simple enough. The sulphate is the form we get the element sulphur from in our food, mostly protein (animal products but also nuts and legumes are a source). The main function of sulphate is to stabilise protein structure, involved in formation of vitamins B1 and B7, and is part of insulin, the hormone secreted by the pancreas to control levels of blood sugar. Its uncommon unless your diet is low in protein to be too low in sulphates.
The following factors can influence the body’s ability to handle salicylates:
- Low sulphate: A biochemical process called sulphation is required for salicylate/phenol processing. Insufficient sulphate may result from: lack of amino acids in the diet, poor absorption of amino acids, inhibited conversion of amino acids into sulphate form, low sulphur intake, pathogens in the gut (which interfere with sulphur), issues with the kidney, and poor methylation.
- Low PST (phenol-sulphotransferase) enzyme activity: This important liver enzyme (Phase II) attaches sulphate to phenol compounds. If it’s not working properly, the liver will have trouble eliminating the phenols in food. Research has shown PST is under-active in the majority of autistic children.
- Yeast or bacterial overgrowth: Yeast and fungi in the intestines can produce phenol compounds, adding to the body burden. Certain bacteria in the gut can convert sulphate into sulphide, making sulphate unavailable.
- Micronutrient deficiencies: Magnesium is needed for the proper function of the PST enzyme. Sulphites are converted to sulphates by the SUOX (sulphite oxidase) enzyme, which uses Vitamin B12 and molybdenum in the reaction. Vitamin D is needed for the kidneys to regulate sulphate.
- Low thyroid function: Low thyroid causes more salicylate intolerance and salicylates can worsen thyroid function.
- Oestrogen dominance: Oestrogen requires sulphation and places a burden on a poor sulphating system.
- Genetic mutations: Mutations in the SULT1a family (from the PST enzyme genes) can impact phenol processing, and mutations in CBS (cystathionine beta synthase) and SUOX can affect how the body handles sulphur and converts sulphites to sulphates. A genetics test can identify these potential issues.
The Coca Pulse Test for Foods to Restrict
As you can see there are many different symptoms foods can cause and many foods that can cause these symptoms. For most of us symptoms can be a real good especially when the symptoms quite promptly following a particular food substance. For others it can be very confusing and if it takes several days it can feel almost impossible to narrow it down, narrow it down to food never mind figure out what that food is. In this situation alongside a clear picture of symptoms food sensitivity testing using blood can be extremely helpful. I am still a strong advocate for looking at underlying issues and a stool test or in some cases a urine toxin test can show where the related areas of loss of function have occurred and the challenges that brought the situation about. There are many occasions where we have worked to clean up and strength the gut and immune system resulting in less symptoms or less severe and in some cases the food sensitivity completely goes away making a food sensitivity test redundant. You have to view these cases on an individual basis.
However alongside knowledge of symptoms a little home test on a few strongly suspected foods can also help provide more clues without or before going on to testing. I would see this test as more of a steer in the right direction as oppose to a nailed on food sensitivity and the food must be removed. The idea is to use the test to spot foods that could be stressing out your nervous system and match it to symptoms and eliminate them, and assess if symptoms reduce. Symptom reduction should be apparent in a matter of days or sooner. Your body reacting to the consumption of a food can result from different mechanisms and not just to the response of your nervous system, this is only one type of response and therefore might be reliable enough to uncover your particular food challenge. It is however a simple enough, convenient and easy place to start. You only have to be able to measure your heart rate using your pulse or a heart rate monitor as well as a stopwatch and you can give it a go.
Pulse Test instructions
- Record the name of the food item or supplement to be tested below.
- Sit quietly for 5 minutes. Then measure your resting pulse rate for 1 full minute and record it in the Pretest Pulse Rate column below.
- Place the food item or supplement to be tested on your tongue, then close your mouth. You do not need to chew or swallow the sample – just get a good taste. Note: Encapsulated supplements need to be removed from the capsule first.
- Wait at least 1 minute.
- Check your pulse rate again for 1 full minute.
- Record the result in the Post Test Pulse Rate column below.
If your pulse rate increases or drops by 4 or more beats per minute then the item being tested is causing a reaction.
- Rinse your mouth thoroughly with pure, warm water and then wait until your pulse rate is back to the original pretest rate. Note: This can take hours to happen for severe reactions, but normally only takes about 10 minutes.
- Repeat this test with the next food item or supplement.
Option: Do this test after eating a whole meal. An increase or drop indicates something in the meal is causing a reaction. Note all of the food items eaten then test them individually at next meal or at a later time.
How to reduce the effects of reactive foods
Beyond avoiding the foods discussed above and investigating underlying health issues brought on by digestive infections, environmental toxins and genetic weaknesses there are many health principles and specific supplements that support the inflammatory type symptoms.
- Aim to get sun exposure on as close to daily basis as is possible based on location to ensure adequate vitamin D levels
- Do your best to maintain a healthy weight, aim to be active daily and minimise processed foods
- Build into your day small breaks that you focus on yourself to minimise stress that leads to inflammation; mediate, breathing or stretching exercises, read a book, phone a friend/family
- Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, either by eating more fish products or supplementing with fish oil
- Consider adding probiotic supplements to your daily routine