I can honestly say that for the last 20 plus years, I have worked hard in some areas to ensure that I ate a well-balanced and healthy diet, keeping grains, vegetables and proteins, healthy fats and fruit at the core of my daily food intake. Yes, I have also eaten a lot of crap, I don’t deny it, but in between the crap was an understanding of and determined adherence to eating food that was good for me, was healthy and filled the biological needs of my body. While I know (and knew all along) that the crap was bad for me, I was completely unaware that some of the good foods were just as bad.
Thanks to the battery of tests Dr J. sent me through, I now know that I have a high (+4) sensitivity to both milk and wheat. This is the highest level and means serious business. I can tell you from first hand experience, that makes breakfast difficult to say the least!
What is a sensitivity and how is it different to an allergy?
A food allergy is an immediate reaction of the immune system causing rash, anaphylactic shock and stomach problems, and in some tragic cases, death. A sensitivity takes longer to develop and while less dramatic, can still cause enormous problems, including:
- inflammation, arthritis and joint pain
- immune deficiencies
- migraine headache and neurological disturbances
- general fatigue
- sinus congestion
- eczema and acne
- inflammatory bowel disease
- gall bladder disease
- irritable bowel syndrome, diarrhoea/constipation, indigestion, intestinal gas
Sensitivities can also cause childhood hyperactivity and behavioural disturbances in children (see here for more about this).
My sensitivity to milk includes all dairy – so that means no yogurt, no cream and – heartbreakingly for me – no cheese (my favourite food!!). It also means I have to check the contents of every packet to ensure there are no milk/dairy products involved in production. It’s amazing how many foods include some form of milk solids. My problem with milk is not a lactose intolerance, but a problem with casein – the protein in all cow’s milk. So simply looking for lactose free products doesn’t help me. It has to be dairy free or I can’t eat it.
Wheat sensitivity is a different animal and not to be confused with a gluten intolerance, of which there is plenty. I can’t eat wheat regardless of whether it is gluten free or not. My problem is with the wheat, not the gluten. So all those wonderful gluten free foods out there now are no good for me. And again, it’s astonishing how many foods require some form of wheat in them.
Worse still – having an intolerance means you can also suffer from desperate cravings for the food you can’t eat! This makes eradicating it from your diet difficult to say the least.
I have to say, I was unsurprised to find I had a problem with milk. As a kid, I always had a runny nose and there was talk of an operation – which, as it turns out, wouldn’t have helped. But I was surprised to discover the wheat issue. I’ve always stuck with whole grains and wholemeal, trying to do the best for my tummy that I could. In so many ways however, that was the worst thing I could do. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (which I have) particularly hates whole grains and wholemeal! But my gut actually hates wheat in all its forms. I also don’t digest soy or rye well, which leaves me without so much as a cracker for my non-cheese! 🙂
What’s really important is how many people have one or both of these sensitivities. About 15% of people have a problem with wheat, almost 70% can’t deal with milk!
Now that I’ve identified the cause, I can attribute so many of my symptoms to these sensitivities: aching joints, fatigue, sinus congestion, eczema, IBS, gall bladder disease and asthma. The bad news is that I need to eradicate both dairy and wheat from my diet for at least 6 months in order to clear my system and give it a chance to reset. I have very little confidence that will work, given I have been off both these foods for more than that in my travels. But I will do it, of course, because I want to be healthy – and I’ll just have to hope that in the future, I’ll be able to indulge in a little blue cheese here and there without too many terrible consequences.