You have eliminated gluten from your diet and you feel a lot better. You are very careful about what you eat, but you still have symptoms that you blame on gluten somehow sneaking into your food via cross-contamination or because you were not being careful enough. You may be frustrated or confused as to why you are still have reactions when you can’t figure out where the gluten could be.
Perhaps you are getting traces of gluten, but the reality may be that you are reacting to another food. That’s right — you may be sensitive to more than just gluten! It’s not a pretty thought to have to cut another food (or foods) out of your life, but it may make you feel a lot better.
After I was gluten-free and felt dramatically better, my body and especially my digestive system, felt clean… I don’t know how else to describe it, but it just felt like there was no turmoil going on inside, like a glass of water without any bubbles. If I did get a trace of gluten, I knew it, and I would track down the source. But then there were times when I had cooked at home and knew that there was no way I could have gotten glutenized (I am sure they will be adding this word to Webster soon!), but still didn’t feel perfect.
After keeping a mental food diary — really paying attention to when I didn’t feel well and what I had eaten prior — I realized that I was blaming gluten for those days when my tummy was feeling, well, bubbly. But it wasn’t gluten at all. It was… drumroll, please… soy! Yes, folks, I do not eat soy anymore. I do eat a little wheat-free soy sauce sometimes and soy lecithin, but other than that, no soy. My daughter is soy-intolerant also, so there you have it — genes at work. Lucky girl… at least she got some of my good genes too: charm, good looks, etc. — ha ha!
I’m not the only one with multiple food sensitivities. In fact, on the celiac.com forum, there is a whole category called Other Food Intolerance and Leaky Gut Issues with people talking about how they have realized that they are intolerant to more than just gluten. This is no coincidence…
Leaky Gut Syndrome
A reason that people can develop more food sensitivities could be leaky gut syndrome, also known as increased intestinal permeability. A very simple explanation of what happens with leaky gut syndrome is this:
- Large spaces develop between the cells of the intestinal wall (due to many possible causes — see below).
- Bacteria, toxins, and incompletely digested proteins and fats leak in. Normally these larger molecules would be kept within the intestines, but because of these holes in the intestinal lining, they leak through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream, where they normally shouldn’t go.
- The immune system releases antibodies to fight what it sees as foreign invaders in the blood.
- These antibodies also attack the body’s own cells, causing damage, allergic reactions, pain and inflammation throughout the body.
What causes leaky gut?
Some of the possible causes of leaky gut syndrome are:
- Damage caused by taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen
- Gastrointestinal disease, like celiac disease
- Eating allergenic foods
- Consuming alcohol
- Consuming caffeine
- Taking antibiotics
- Eating too much sugar
- Ingesting toxic chemicals
- Intestinal infection
Food sensitivity can cause leaky gut, which can then cause other food sensitivities — it is a vicious cycle.
So, where do you go from here?
If you are gluten-free and you don’t know why you are still having reactions to the food you are eating, I would recommend that you keep a food diary — write down the time that you eat, what you eat, what symptoms you feel at what time of day. If you wake up in the morning and feel fine, and then have breakfast and feel rotten the rest of the day, examine everything you are eating in the morning, from coffee to juice to the milk you pour on your cereal. Once you think you know the problem food, cut it out and see how you feel. You can add it back in later and see if you react (please consult your doctor if you think you are at risk for a serious reaction to a food). In my case, after I cut soy out my diet, my lingering symptoms went away, and I have not wanted to try it again!
And what about that leaky gut? There are a lot of websites out there with advice about how to improve the permeability of your intestines. I am going to start doing some of these things for myself and my family in hopes of preventing more food sensitivities. Here are a few of the sites I found useful:
Do you have more than one food sensitivity? Let me know in the comments… I’m curious!