Gluten for Punishment

courtesy-marissa-vicarioAbout the author: A certified health and wellness coach, Marissa Vicario (right) is the founder of Tribeca-based Marissa’s Well-being and Health (MWAH!)She works with clients one-on-one and in groups to help them set and achieve goals for a happier healthier more balanced life.

Have you ever wondered about sinus congestion that won’t go away, a constant bloated feeling in your stomach, dark circles under your eyes, or a recurring rash that you just can’t figure out? You may have even visited your doctor about these symptoms and left without a diagnosis—or with a prescription that didn’t help.

We often mistakenly believe we can treat our “illnesses” with medicines or creams but what if we could treat them with diet? Many of the annoying, chronic symptoms we feel and spend our lives tolerating may in fact be food intolerance or sensitivity. According to the George Mataljan Foundation for the World’s Healthiest Foods, an estimated 30 percent of the population will experience food intolerance at some point in their lives.

The most common food allergens include:
• gluten (wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt and kamut)
• eggs
• soy
• dairy
• corn
• peanuts
• nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, bell peppers, potatoes, eggplant)
• citrus
• yeast

Reactions to food that occur right after eating, and are sudden onset and severe, are considered food allergies. But there are some reactions that are delayed up to three days after food consumption (and as a result, people often don’t realize that food is causing their symptoms). These reactions are not true allergies but rather food intolerance or sensitivity. Symptoms vary by person and are most commonly gastro-intestinal, neurological, respiratory, or skin-related.

Combined with high stress levels, environmental toxins, and medications, the typical American diet—high in sugar and unhealthy fats and low in fiber, vitamins, and minerals—has the ability to damage the delicate surface of the intestinal lining where the enzymes that digest food are located. This creates improper digestion, resulting in undigested food particles leaking into our circulation. Recognizing these food fragments as foreign substances, the body naturally reacts by creating an immune response.

Your doctor can identify most food allergies with a blood test. But the most consistent and least invasive way to determine possible food sensitivities is with an elimination diet. Simply stop eating the allergen-inducing foods for one week or longer and then slowly add each food back into your diet. Eat one of the eliminated foods a few times per day and observe and record any reactions to it. Every three to four days, add another food back in. Based on the severity of your body’s response, you can then decide whether you would like to eat the food at all or if so, how often. Before adopting an elimination diet, it is best to get the support of family and friends or even a health coach who can guide you through the process.


Portobello's Pizza

For those who do find that they have a non-severe food sensitivity, all hope is not lost. There are options for healing your digestive system and creating a greater tolerance for a wider range of foods that you enjoy. Tribecans, for instance, can purchase gluten-free products such as bread, pretzels, pasta, and baked goods at the Tribeca Whole Foods (270 Greenwich) and the Amish Market (53 Park Place). Portobello’s Pizza and Catering (83 Murray) sells gluten-free pizza options and the menu at Le Pain Quotidien (81 West Broadway) includes a six-vegetable quiche with a gluten-free buckwheat crust. Even those without the condition can benefit from gluten-free products, which have the tendency to be easier on the digestive system. As with all foods, however, make sure to check the ingredients. Just because it is gluten-free doesn’t mean it’s the healthier choice.



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