If you told me 3 years ago that I would no longer be able to eat the very foods I loved most, I would have been utterly crushed. Greek yogurt is healthy, right? Loaded with protein, low in sugar, and you can make great snacks and dessert-like treats. Oatmeal was my favorite and I made lots of treats like cookies, bars and pancakes.
Think about how many diets that are out there today that promise that you can “have your cake and eat it too”. For example, Weight Watchers makes you give up more points for treats, but ultimately still be able to eat whatever you want. If It Fits Your Macros or "IIFYM" has become a trend with bodybuilders and fitness buffs, promising that a carbohydrate is a carbohydrate no matter what, giving the green light on processed foods like cereals, protein bars and bread. But what about when it’s not about calories, macronutrients, or restriction? What about those of us whose bodies actually do not have the right mechanisms we need to be able to indulge in our favorite things because of autoimmune diseases, allergies and other stomach issues?
A Brief Overview of My Digestive Health Journey
It’s been 10 years since I was first diagnosed with food allergies, and 2 years since I found out I had Hashimoto's disease.
I vividly remember asking my doctor years ago about what I could be avoiding food-wise to help me with my allergies, weird rashes and digestive issues, and every time without fail, his answer was, “the food you eat has no impact on your health, just avoid your known food allergies.”
That's it? Really? It just didn’t add up to me. I wasn't feeling right and I knew something was not functioning properly in my body. I knew deep down that a lot of the foods I was eating wasn’t working for me since I had a lot bloating and abdominal pain, but I never received the right answers and was never even suggested to do anything at all. I was dizzy, bloated, had no energy and was sleeping half way through the day on a regular basis.
Yet I was told I was normal and completely healthy.
Fast forward to 2016 when my Naturopath discovered that not only did I have major food allergies to dairy, nuts, eggs, pineapple and other foods, I found out I was severely anemic as well as diagnosed with a thyroid disease, which is Hashimoto's disease.
And so, my investigative work began. I dedicated my time to research about the impacts of food on gut health, learning the most healing and also the most irritating foods for my thyroid, and finally came up with a plan. The Autoimmune Protocol. But that is another post.
I will further explain the five most inflammatory and irritating foods that can trigger or exacerbate digestive issues, allergies, leaky gut, thyroid issues, and autoimmune disease.
This one is usually the hardest sacrifices to make for most people, especially since many arguments can be made about the health benefits of dairy. However, much research shows that through evolution, our bodies have ceased to make the proper enzyme to break down dairy’s sugar particles. The milk enzyme, called lactase, is designed to break down the components of dairy products so that they can be absorbed through the intestinal wall during digestion. So, if you have a lactase deficiency and consume large amounts of a lactose-containing items, like milk, cheese, or ice cream, much of the sugars pass through the stomach and into the intestines without being broken down. These large particles then absorb water and become food for intestinal bacteria that form gases and acids. This often results in abdominal bloating, cramps, loose stools and diarrhea. Removing dairy can help with this issue.
I now use guar-gum free coconut milk for my coffee, as well as for cooking and baking.
I believe that gluten sensitivity today is highly underrated because many don’t realize that how they feel is actually a result of consuming gluten. Gluten is the protein found in many grains that binds them together, but our bodies weren’t really built to digest it. Especially if gluten gets into your circulatory system, it can spread inflammation throughout the body.
Those who are sensitive often feel fatigued throughout the day, have trouble sleeping and have inflammation in the gut, joints, and thyroid as well as experience unexplained weight gain or difficulty losing weight. So, while you may not feel awful the moment you bite into a sandwich, it doesn’t mean your body is tolerating it well. YOU JUST MIGHT NOT NOTICE.
As I continue my fight against Hashimoto's disease, I avoid any foods that cross-react with gluten. This means your body will still think you are eating gluten, even if you have cut it out of your diet. Scary.
Cross-reactive foods for thyroid disease, autoimmune disease and celiac disease are any grains like oats and quinoa, also corn, potato, rice, instant coffee, and yeast.
Once looked at as a healthy superfood protein, we now know that soy can in fact cause a great deal of health issues. Not only is the soybean one of the most difficult beans to digest, but the type of soy we consume today is highly processed in foods like commercial soy milk, soy meat, and soy ice cream. Soybeans are some of the most genetically engineered crops, so unless you’re buying from a trusted organic source, or picking the soybean yourself in the middle of the jungle, you may be eating a highly altered form of soy that your body simple doesn’t recognize and therefore cannot digest.
Another issue with soy is that it’s a phytoestrogen, which can cause estrogen levels to become elevated. This is concerning for both men women and can cause some strange symptoms in the human body.
The biggest issue about sugar today is that it’s in EVERYTHING! Not just the obvious foods like ice cream and cookies, but condiments like ketchup, store-bought tea blends, spice rubs on meat, natural juices, and much more. The next time you are at the grocery store, look at a few ingredient labels and chances are you will find a form of sugar on there.
Sugar is problematic for a number of reasons. When we consume sugar, dopamine levels in our brain surge, which creates a release of serotonin into our blood stream. This leads to a rise in insulin, which is supposed to bring blood sugar levels back in range, but also creates a sugar crash. To avoid the effects of this sugar crash, our brains convince us to have more to avoid that awful feeling. And so, the evil cycle continues.
When it comes to gut health, and if you have bad bacteria present, sugar is food to this bacteria. This literally "feeds" gut issues which can lead to serious infections. Sugar can also interfere with our appetite hormone, leptin, which causes us to over-eat sugar, eventually leading to obesity
Generally speaking, most processed foods, which comes in a box, a wrapper or a can, contain one or more of the above foods, plus other unhealthy ingredients like canola oil, sucralose, dyes and other additives. While convenient, processed foods can cause a great deal of systemic inflammation as well as digestive issues.
I hope my article was helpful and educational. By avoiding these foods, I have lowered my antibody levels extremely as well as increased my energy levels, became leaner than ever and overall healthier!