Terri Prof Headshot 0412Susan was tired; tired of feeling foggy, bloated and unable to lose weight.  Her thyroid levels were out of whack and she felt awful.  Having just recently passed her 50th birthday, she assumed that this was what it meant to be a woman of a “certain age”:  A little heavier and slower than she would have liked, not quite as sharp, and generally, just feeling old.

It wasn’t until she watched other people coming into a lab that she co-owns and heard them talk about food intolerances did she consider that food might be causing her problems, not her age.  Changes to their diets, made after food intolerance testing, seemed to have worked miracles for her customers.

Over time Susan Lynch listened while clients described symptoms, strikingly similar to her own, that disappeared with an elimination diet carefully designed to address their specific food intolerances.

“What if it’s the food I’m eating that’s derailing all my attempts to exercise, lose weight and get healthy?” she thought.

It wasn’t a clear connection at first because she didn’t have allergies and she wasn’t the type of person to react poorly to food, but over time she suffered more and more from indigestion, gas and irregularity.  The puzzle pieces started to fall into place, so Susan did some research and got tested for food intolerances.

What are food intolerances and how are they different from allergies?  When confronted with intractable digestive issues, bloating and mental fogginess, many people just assume it’s a natural part of aging and live with the discomfort and drastic lifestyle changes.  Some people ultimately look into the food they are eating and how it impacts their health, and their mental and emotional wellbeing.  Unlike food allergies, which trigger a histamine, or immune, response by the white blood cells, food intolerances take longer to cause a reaction.  The body doesn’t launch an immediate all-out offensive, which, in the case of allergies, can lead to anaphylactic shock and even death.

Food intolerances cause internal inflammation and digestive issues that can cause the characteristic bloating, fatigue, lack of mental clarity and intestinal discomfort.  A reaction to a food for which you are intolerant, also called food sensitivity, can take hours or even days to appear.  The delay between ingesting the food and experiencing the reaction makes diagnosis difficult.  In addition, the accumulation of reactions that continue for long periods of time can make even a small intolerance event blossom into a grueling night of bloating, vomiting, diarrhea, heartburn and gas.

Some people never realize that their symptoms are really a lifelong struggle with food intolerance.  Symptoms range from bloating to arthritis and include:

  • Gas and bloating
  • Diarrhea/Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty losing weight
  • Difficulty concentrating or “brain fog”
  • Skin rash
  • Headaches
  • Heartburn
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Amy Mullin, another lab owner in Colorado Springs, Co, became interested in food intolerance testing when she realized that some foods were causing her stomach pain and intestinal discomfort, specifically pork.  Like Susan, she felt like she was in a “brain fog”.  She couldn’t remember things as well and recalls turning away from her desk to do something else for only a moment and not able to remember what she was in the middle of doing.  “It’s just my age,” she thought.

Some of the most common food intolerances are to dairy and gluten but they can also occur with foods as innocuous as iceberg lettuce or apples.  Some doctors believe that food intolerances can’t be tested for and the symptoms are caused by other underlying health conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome or celiac disease.   They may also feel that tests designed to identify food sensitivities or intolerances are not effective and can lead patients to avoid foods that are good for them and aren’t causing a problem.  But people who have taken control of their health through dietary changes swear by the tests and the dramatic health improvements they have experienced.

Food intolerance can be caused by numerous factors.  For some people it is the absence of an enzyme needed to fully digest a food, such as lactase, which is required to digest the lactose found in dairy products.  Over time some people produce less lactase and develop lactose intolerance later in life.  Food intolerances can also be caused by irritable bowel syndrome which causes cramping, constipation and diarrhea or by sensitivity to food additives, such as sulfites found in dried fruit, canned goods and wine.  Food poisoning, which produces toxins in food that has spoiled, can cause severe digestive symptoms, as can chronic stress or other psychological factors.  Celiac disease, in which the body is not able to absorb and process gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains, is a well-known and widespread food intolerance.

Tests that identify food intolerances look for an IgG response (as opposed to an IgE response caused by a food allergy).  The levels and types of IgG found in the body are specific to reactions to individual foods and can help pinpoint foods to avoid.  While people have been successful in improving their health by eliminating some obvious, highly reactive foods (dairy, gluten, peanuts, or tomatoes) this can be difficult to do without guidance.  Eliminating groups of food over time can be a very long, complicated process, especially if some foods that are causing a reaction would not normally be suspect, like lettuce.

Susan’s test results showed that she has sensitivities to 35 of the 250 foods that the test measured!  Some of these surprised her, such as iceberg lettuce, apples, beets and black pepper.  These were foods that Susan ate every day and that she thought were good for her.  Susan decided that if she was going to spend the money for the food intolerance test she would accept the advice and guidance that the test results provided.  She carefully followed the suggestions that came with her test results and adhered to a very specific elimination diet for six months.  The program Susan followed required that she avoid some of her favorite foods completely.  After the six month detoxification period, she was able to add some foods back in to her diet to determine whether she was still reacting to the food or whether her body had recovered enough from the onslaught of reactive foods, including dairy and gluten, that she could tolerate her favorite foods, like apples and beets, again.

Amy’s results were even more amazing.  Her test showed that she was intolerant to two thirds of the foods tested.  Her eye opening list of foods to avoid left her with a diet so restrictive that she found it difficult to stick to for six months.  But she worked at it and found that her stomach pain and intestinal discomfort disappeared.  For Amy, the most life changing part of her elimination diet was that after two weeks her “brain fog” was gone.

“The biggest benefit for me was the mental clarity.  It was even bigger than the stomach issues.”

One of the things that Susan and Amy learned from their testing was that Americans, and they in particular, eat too much of certain foods and we don’t vary our diets enough.  If your body is constantly trying to fend off toxins that cause chronic inflammation then even something as simple as an iceberg lettuce salad is enough to cause a tremendous reaction.

Amy was also surprised and conflicted about some foods that the dietician she consulted with after receiving her results told her she should avoid completely, like cinnamon and green tea.  Weren’t these foods supposed to be powerful antioxidants and good for you?  She followed the advice anyway and looks forward to finding out if her food intolerance list has changed since she has reduced her body’s chronic inflammation.  Amy is certain about one thing: she doesn’t expect to ever eat pork again!

Since receiving her test results and following her prescribed nutrition plan Susan has lost, and kept off, 25 pounds.  She has more energy, doesn’t have gastric symptoms and her thyroid levels are back to normal.  She is mentally alert and clear.  She stays away from dairy and gluten, but for Susan, this isn’t a diet: “This is a lifestyle that keeps me healthy.”  The discomfort she was feeling “isn’t worth having a slice of bread anymore”.

Susan’s new way of eating and living allows her to be more social, to exercise, and to feel good about her body and herself.  She savors the 2 apples a week she eats with her nutritional regimen and varied diet, and that no longer cause her to feel ill.  Susan doesn’t waste her apples.  She reads nutrition labels and avoids eating apples as apple juice added as sweetener into her food.  Even if doctors don’t agree with food intolerance tests, there are thousands of people who have found a way to embrace the right foods in the right amounts and live a fuller, healthier life as a result.

Terri L. McCulloch is the Vice President, Sales & Marketing, for ANY LAB TEST NOW, a retail lab testing company empowering people across the U.S. to Take Control of Their Health® with budget-friendly lab tests and transparent prices.  From March, 1999 to April, 2005, Terri served as the Director of Business Development for the first direct-to-consumer DNA identification testing laboratory, IDENTIGENE, Inc.  This innovative business model brought paternity issues and testing to the forefront, providing solutions to social questions discreetly and quickly.  She became the Chief Development and Operating Officer for DNA Services of America, from May, 2005 to February, 2008, followed by the Director of Sales & Marketing for ExperTox, Inc., a toxicology laboratory, until she joined ANY LAB TEST NOW in July, 2010.  Terri has provided educational presentations to over 75 business and community associations across the U.S., including hospitals, pregnancy outreach centers, human resources managers, attorneys and private investigators, and other local organizations.  She is also a member of the Lone Star College System’s Women’s Advisory Council in Houston, Texas.

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