fibromyalgia-painGastrointestinal problems are a huge source of regular misery for millions of people including those who suffer with fibromyalgia.  In fact, some of the earliest symptoms of fibromyalgia both in patients who have yet to be diagnosed with fibromyalgia and those already suffering with it, are digestive and gastrointestinal problems.

Did you know that more than 60 million Americans experience heartburn once a month, and 15 million have daily problems with it. More than 1 million people in the US suffer from inflammatory bowel disease. While the digestive system is a miraculous set of organs which enable us to digest and absorb food it can become unhealthy in many different ways.

Digestive issues and poor eating habits can lead to major gut issues for people with fibromyalgia with symptoms such as:

  • IBS
  • Moderate to severe abdominal cramping
  • Bloating after eating
  • Flatulence
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Heartburn
  • GERD (gastro esophageal reflux disorder)
  • Fatigue and drowsiness
  • Candida-overgrowth

What lies behind many of these symptoms and complaints are characteristic of food sensitivities, intolerances, and allergies.

Food Allergies, Food Intolerances, and Fibromyalgia

Food allergies and intolerances are an almost universal phenomenon and they contribute to, or are the underlying cause of, many symptoms and diseases, including fibromyalgia.  This is mainly because allergies can tend to be “masked” or covered up by our “modern” highly processed diets and the wide array of food ingredients and additives which can lead to accumulative damage and serious trouble over time.  Secondly, since allergies may masquerade as other conditions, they are generally misunde rstood, often misdiagnosed, and sometimes completely ignored.

foods-for-fibromyalgiaWhile there are many cases that are reasonably “mild”, some physicians who specialize in the treatment of fo o d allerg i es a nd sensitivities have estimated that at least 70 percent of the population has this problem to some extent or another w hil e other experts claim it is closer to 90 percent. One thing is clear: their effects are far-reaching and they can and often do c aus e accumulative damage to your health and wellbeing.  Let’s take a closer look at the distinction between food allergies and intolerances and their connection to degenerative diseases and conditions, such as fibromyalgia, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, and others.

What’s the Difference between a Food Allergy and a Food Intolerance?

Food Allergy:

The word allergy is a fairly controversial one because it is often used loosely and inappropriately to refer to any form of food sensitivity or adverse reaction to a particular substance.   All allergies are an immune system response.  They are the body’s reaction to a substance, or combination of substances.   Food allergies are often caused by an otherwise harmless substance, usually a protein, which the immune system misidentifies and treats as a pathogen (also known as an antigen) and creates a defense system (antibodies) to fight it.  Antibodies, called immunoglobulin E or IgE, react by attacking the substance and in the process histamine is released by the surrounding cells which causes what we experience as an allergic reaction.

This antigen-antibody complex travels around the body and stimulates certain cells, called mast cells, to burst open and to release substances which mediate an allergic reaction.  Histamine is an example of such a mediator.  Histamine is a powerful chemical that causes an inflammatory response in the cells that it reaches, and this inflammatory response can affect the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, skin and cardiovascular system.  It is what causes the symptoms of the food allergy to occur.  The allergy symptoms you have depend on where in the body the histamine is released, for example if histamine is released in the gastrointestinal tract, you likely will develop stomach pains, cramps or diarrhea, and if histamine is released in the ears, nose and throat, you may have an itchy nose and mouth, or trouble breathing or swallowing.  If histamine is released in the skin, you may develop hives or a rash.  Oftentimes many people experience a combination of symptoms as the food is eaten and digested.

An allergy to a food gives rise to symptoms very rapidly, generally within minutes of eating or sometimes even touching the food.  The symptoms are often severe, and may even be life threatening.  Some of the more severe symptoms that might appear include asthma, vomiting, shortness of breath, chest pain, swelling of the airways to the lungs, and in extreme cases, anaphyl a ctic shock (total collapse).

fibromyalgia-food-allergyThe foods which are the most commonly associated with food allergies include milk and dairy products, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (such as walnuts, pecans, and almonds), fish, shellfish, wheat (gluten), soy, and sugar.  Food allergies often have a genetic basis, meaning that they may have caused problems from birth for you as well as for other family members.


Food Intolerance:

Food intolerance is more a digestive system response rather than an immune system response.   Food intolerance is an abnormal response to food and is triggered by several different mechanisms that are distinct from the immunological reaction responsible for food allergy.  It is a term that’s used mainly to describe a pharmacological reaction to a food component.  A pharmacological reaction refers to the drug-like side effects caused by a range of chemicals which may be present in food as natural or added components.

Food chemicals that have been implicated in causing pharmacological reactions include salicylates (from processed foods, alcoholic drinks, fruit juices, and others), amines (from foods such as aged cheeses, citrus fruit, red wine, and others), and benzoates (from pickles, jams, concentrated tomato juice, and more), which can occur naturally in foods or as added chemicals that manufacturers use to prevent spoilage by microorganisms to extend their shelf life.  Others include a range of food additives, such as MSG and aspartame, which are often used in food flavoring and sweetening, and a myriad of other chemicals used in processing and the preservation of foods.

Food intolerance reactions occurs when something in a food irritates a person’s digestive system or when a person is unable to properly digest or breakdown the food.  It often results from intestinal damage due to infection by bacteria, viruses, and sometimes parasites; inflammation due to food allergy, and a variety of pathological situations that harm the enzyme-producing cells in the lining of the small intestine.  For example, intolerance to lactose is due to the body’s inability to produce enough of the digestive enzyme, called lactase, which splits lactose into its constituent mono-saccharides (single sugars), glucose and galactose.  Problems occur when the amount of lactose in the food exceeds the capacity of the enzyme to digest it.

lactose-intolerantThe important thing is to determine tolerance levels.  By remaining within one’s own limits, a person should not have symptoms.  What we find instead is a tendency towards consuming large quantities of a particular food, such as cow’s milk, which when consumed daily in our diets can become problematic to our health and rob our vitality.

The onset of symptoms which occur due to food intolerance is often delayed, and can take up to several hours to several days to appear.  This makes tracking them down very difficult.  Pharmacological reactions to food or food components can also occur at any age.  This is in contrast to food allergy, in which the reaction is usually immediate, the allergy occurs early in life, and generally people are allergic to only one or two foods.

With food intolerance the severity of symptoms is dependent upon the dose or the amount consumed of the offending substance, and the dose can be cumulative over days of ingestion.  This characteristic can sometimes complicate matters by increasing the difficulty of diagnosis, since quite often the symptom-inducing chemicals may be common to many foods, so that different foods may appear to cause symptoms on some occasions, but not on others.

The range of symptoms which can be induced by food intolerance overlaps with many of those caused by food allergy and this can sometimes make it difficult to differentiate between the two conditions.  Additionally, food intolerance may also lead to more widespread symptoms such as fatigue, drowsiness, irritability, headache, and muscular aches and pains — in fact, many of the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia.


General Features of Food Allergies and Food Intolerances

It may come as a surprise to some people to learn that food does not cause allergy or intolerance reactions.  Food in itself is harmless—it cannot cause disease.  It is our body’s response to the food, or more accurately, something in the food, that causes the symptoms we experience.  Even when we experience food poisoning, it is so because our bodies lack the resources to detoxify the material (a biochemical / immune system process).

Leaky Gut Syndrome / Intestinal Permeability

While food intolerance is much more common than food allergy it’s important to recognize that either can be brought about, or exacerbated by, increased intestinal permeability, also called leaky gut syndrome, which underlies an enormous variety of illnesses and symptoms.  It’s not a disease or an illness itself.  Rather, it manifests itself in an enormous variety of ways depending on your genes and your personal ecology.  A healthy intestinal lining allows only properly digested fats, proteins, and starches to pass through so they can be assimilated.  At the same time it also provides a barrier to keep out bacterial products, foreign substances, and large undigested molecules.  When the intestinal lining becomes damaged, substances larger than particle size—disease-causing bacteria, potentially toxic molecules, and undigested food particles—are allowed to pass directly through the weakened cell membranes.  They go directly into the blood stream, activating antibodies and alarm substances called cytokines.  Oxidants are produced in the battle, causing irritation and inflammation far from the digestive system.  That is the basis for the condition called increased intestinal permeability.  Depending on our own susceptibilities, we may develop a wide variety of signs, symptoms, and health problems.  It’s essential to discover the underlying cause, which may be parasites, Candida infection, bacterial or viral infection, pancreatic insufficiency, medications, or poor nutrition and lifestyle habits.

Hidden sensitivitiwomen-with-fibromyalgia-paines and allergies to food you eat every day are making you sick and tired.

The list of health conditions associated with increased intestinal permeability grows each year as we increase our knowledge of the synergy between digestion and the immune system.  Some of the medical problems associated with intestinal permeability or leaky gut syndrome are: fibromyalgia, allergies, malabsorption syndromes, celiac disease, and Crohn’s disease.  It is also linked to autoimmune diseases like AIDS, ankylosing spondylitis, asthma, bronchitis, eczema, food and environmental sensitivities, other allergic disorders, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, Reiter’s syndrome, Sjogren’s syndrome, and skin irritations.

Finding and Fixing Food Allergies and Intolerances

Just because you have a food allergy or intolerance doesn’t mean you have to suffer with it.  In fact, there’s a lot you can do to deal with the problem, rebalance your system, and eliminate chronic symptoms.

While everyone is different, there are some foods that irritate the immune system more than others.  They are gluten (wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt, kamut), dairy (milk, cheese, butter, yogurt), corn, eggs, soy, nuts, nightshades (tomatoes, bell peppers, potatoes, eggplant), citrus, and yeast (baker’s yeast, brewer’ yeast, and fermented products).


How do You know if You are Allergic or Intolerant to Foods?

There are two ways to find out if you are reacting to foods.  One is a blood test for IgG antibodies to foods.  This is useful and can pinpoint trouble areas, but it is not always 100 percent accurate.

The second is a simple, successful and well-accepted treatment called elimination / provocation.  This means you get rid of the top trouble foods for 1 to 4 weeks, then reintroduce them on at a time and see what happens.

Eliminating foods that cause allergic reactions or sensitivities is the basis for remarkable results people have — like getting rid of chronic aches and pains, feeling better, having more energy, and even losing excess weight — when they follow the Detox phase of the Eat to Beat Fibromyalgia Challenge system.

I have personally guided hundreds of people through this process and I can help you through this process too in the Eat to Beat Fibromyalgia Challenge system.

Most people are sensitive to an average of five to fifteen or more foods, therefore many of those foods (as I’ll explainEattobeat180) are likely to be staples in one’s diet.  Fortunately, there is hope and it is possible to desensitize yourself from most, if not all of them.  During the first stage of the Eat to Beat Fibromyalgia Challenge system and your road toward optimum health and wellness, you will experience considerable change in your body’s reaction to the foods you eat.  Your body will desensitize itself to most of your intolerant foods while at the same time your digestive tract and immune system will have had a chance to repair the mselves.  At the end of six to eight weeks of abstaining from the offending substances and allowing repair and healing to take place, you will have a lot more energy, little or no aches and pain, and your complexion will take on a more radiant and youthful appearance as well.  Your gastrointestinal lining will be well on the road to repairing itself and incidences of issues such as Candida albicans, food intolerance upsets and other chronic digestive symptoms, and disturbances will become a thing of the past.

Very quickly — in a week or less — people notice dramatic relief from all the symptoms they thought they had to live with the rest of their lives!

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