Food sensitivities seem to be getting more and more common as the years go by. I remember as a kid, nobody had food allergies that I knew of and in college, I knew one person with a peanut allergy. Then, by the time I was in medical school, peanut allergies became really common. And then milk and gluten allergies became more common. All of these things were starting to come to the surface and more and more people were showing an intolerance to certain foods.
That gets you thinking, “Why didn’t it exist before and it exists now?” It has a lot to do with how our food is manufactured, grown, and handled in this country. So, when you talk about something with wheat gluten in it, it has been so genetically modified that our body doesn’t even recognize it anymore. So, our immune system thinks it’s foreign and it often attacks. There are so many people who can’t tolerate gluten in this day and age and a lot of it has to do with how food is actually being grown and manufactured.
Our Immune System
Our immune system has different branches of it. I like to think of it like the military. Our IgE branch is our immediate reactionary hardcore branch. I like to think of it as the military, they come out and guns are blazing. So, say you are allergic to shrimp. If you eat shrimp, your face and throat is going to swell up and you’re going to be in the ER in an hour or two. You could even possibly die. That’s an IgE reaction. It’s immediate, obvious, and it’s usually life-threatening.
We also have the IgG branch of the immune system which is what is driving food sensitivities. The IgG branch is a little slow to react and less obvious. It causes a lot of annoying symptoms when it starts to respond to what it’s seeing. I like to think of the IgG as the Navy. Its’s stealth, under wraps, and you might not see that submarine down in the water, but when it attacks you don’t know where it came from. It’s usually a two or three-day delayed reaction and you can’t really tell where it came from. It’s also slow to resolve. So, by the time you eat some food that you’re sensitive to, two or three days later, you are having an eczema breakout, headaches, or you’re just feeling exhausted. By the time you feel those symptoms you don’t even remember what you ate two or three days ago. You might have eaten multiple things since then and it can be really hard to correlate what caused it.
Then you have the IgA branch of the immune system. I like to think of the IgA as the army, it’s the frontline guys. Your IGA immune system lines everything from the outside world to the inside world. It lines your skin, respiratory tract, mouth, gut, GI tract, and vagina. The IGA army is on the frontlines and they’re ready to prevent invasion in the first place. So, you want to have good levels of IGA to fight off viruses coming in.
Your IGA is your first responder and it’s often silent to you. You don’t get an outright symptom, but you get an immune response. When your IgA is working overtime you can sometimes get a reaction of gut dysbiosis. When they are working so hard at the frontline defense all of the time, they get depleted. So, what I’ve seen more and more recently, especially in the last year, is low IgA levels. We don’t have enough guys at the front line to even fight the fight anymore. We are then more susceptible to catching a cold or another virus.
IGA is also what’s necessary for things like celiac disease. So when we test someone for celiac disease, we actually do a test to check their total IgA levels, it’s called Secretory IgA. If their Secretory IgA level is low, their test for celiac could be falsely low. So, you can have celiac disease, but the test will become falsely negative because you don’t even have the ability to build an immune response against that to show up as a positive test.
Watch the video version of this blog post here.
Immune System and Our Gut
But what I want you to understand is that 70% of your immune system lines your gut. Your immune system is really focused on preventing things from getting into your bloodstream, through your intestinal tract, and through your stomach. That is where your immune system is working overtime.
It’s really important to think about what you are putting in your gut and what you are exposing your immune system to that could potentially be pissing it off, triggering it, or over activating it. You can test these in different ways and that’s where a lot of controversies have come in, especially in the conventional medicine world. The conventional medicine world is very much disease-focused. If you don’t have an outright disease, that requires treatment, it doesn’t matter what’s happening underneath.
Testing for Food Sensitivities
So you go to an allergist, and they test your IgE levels for that life-threatening thing that you require an epinephrine shot for to keep you alive, but they don’t necessarily agree with IgG testing to food sensitivities. You can have sensitivities to different mycotoxins from molds in the environment. There’s definitely testing that you can do, but it’s not commonplace in the conventional world. So you probably will have to seek out a functional practitioner to do something like this.
There are also tests that you can buy online for food sensitivity testing. Here’s the deal though, some companies are better than others because it depends on what they’re testing, how they’re testing it, and how accurate the results are. If you have leaky gut, those results are dynamically changing as the days go on, because your immune system is continuing to see things that it shouldn’t and react to them. So oftentimes, I’ll get patients who do food sensitivity testing and stool testing and they’re reacting to a lot of stuff. Their food sensitivity test comes back and everything’s in the red, meaning they’re creating antibodies against pretty much everything they’re eating. That tells me you have an active leaky gut, your immune system is on fire, and it’s reacting to everything it’s seeing.
You have to take these tests into context with what else is going on. This is where I see women have the biggest frustration. They will order a food sensitivity kit online, they will get a report, and be told to avoid this food for six weeks or up to three months and then you should be fine. When in reality, if you didn’t heal the leaky gut, or balance the microbiome issues that you had, you really can’t stop that immune response. Your immune system still isn’t seeing them. You also have to be 100% consistent when removing those triggers to calm your immune system down.
What Can We Do To Improve Our Sensitivities?
So for IgG, in particular, the half-life of that antibody is 21 days or so. That means if you eat something, just a little bit of it, but you eat it every three to five weeks, that’s enough for your immune system to say, “Oh yeah, we don’t like that guy let’s make more antibodies and keep that inflammation cascade going.” People will say to me, “Oh, I only cheat on Sundays. I only eat gluten or dairy on Sundays. Or I only eat the foods I’m reacting to once a month.” Whatever it is, it’s enough to trigger that immune response and never resolve the issue. You keep having those antibodies around, pissing off your immune system, and inflaming the process. Where I see women have the greatest success is consistently removing those foods long enough for those antibody levels to go away.
Here’s the thing, your immune system has memory. Your IgE branch has a great memory. You’ll probably always be deathly allergic to shellfish or peanuts. However, the IgG branch doesn’t have the best memory and they will forget. If you stop showing them that trigger, those antibodies will go away. You can almost always reintroduce those foods, but you have to help them forget and give them enough time.
Where I see women have the best response is when they consistently remove it long enough for the immune system to calm down and forget. We heal their gut, do stool testing, and get their microbiome back into balance so that things aren’t getting into your bloodstream anymore for your immune system to react to. That can be the missing piece that some women find frustrating that they’re not getting by going online by themselves.
To Wrap It Up
I hope that was helpful because our immune system is super important. That’s the key to being healthy overall is to support a strong immune system. It’s not about avoiding every little bacteria and virus. It’s about being able to live symbiotically with them. When we confront a pathogen as we have in the past two years, having a robust immune system that’s appropriately responding to things will be able to handle the situation.
I love supporting the immune system and immunoglobulins. If you have ever done them, you will know that they really do support your immune system, calm it down, and get it back on track. Think about asking something like immunoglobulins as they are amazing and helpful. That is the basis of my IgA product. It is to give you the immunoglobulins so that you have those guys on the frontline ready to fight so you can ward off infections and gut dysbiosis.
Image from: Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition
Popular hormonal IUDs include Mirena, Kyleena, and Skyla. They have a synthetic progestin in them, just like the Depo shot, and the Nexplanon rod. It gets slowly released day after day. The difference is that with the IUD your synthetic progestin is getting released inside the uterus where that lining is. The companies will tell you that it only works locally on the uterus to prevent that lining from growing. So, hopefully, you either have super light periods or no periods because you’re not growing any lining to shed. The problem with that is your ovaries are literally one to two inches away with a big fat artery connecting them and so that synthetic progestin goes into the bloodstream directly to the ovary. It tells the ovary “Wow, we have a lot of progestin in here. You don’t need to make any more hormones.” It’s really common for those IUDs to actually shut down that HPO Axis I was telling you about and you stop making your hormones.
Most women notice that they make less testosterone, no libido, and they’re not interested in sex. It’s the same thing when you’re on a birth control pill, testosterone production goes in the tank and you don’t have any libido. So, I just want you to keep that in mind because a lot of gynecologists tell patients that IUDs are not absorbed systemically and they don’t have any effects on your mood or your weight and that’s simply not the case.
The Mirena IUD has 52 milligrams of progestin, Ky Lena has 19.5 milligrams, and Skyla has 13.5 milligrams. Some women love the idea of the IUD because it is 99% effective. It’s the most effective reversible birth control out there. So, if you want to make sure you don’t get pregnant, it’s a great option. However, if you’re not handling the hormone aspect of it very well, you are feeling super depressed, gaining weight, or getting acne, then sometimes switching that out for a lower dose IUD like Skyla can make a difference for you.
Personally, I could not handle a Mirena IUD. It actually made me suicidal. That’s how strong it was for me personally and I have seen that with my patients time and time again.
On the flip side, I’ve seen a lot of women feel amazing on their Mirena IUD. It all depends on where you were when you started, and how much it’s affecting your HPO access, thyroid, and adrenal function. Everybody is different, but what I want to get across to you is that as long as you know the truth, risks, benefits, and alternatives, you should be able to sign up for whatever you want to. If you want a Mirena IUD every five years for 15 years, that’s your prerogative. Just know that it might be causing you issues that your doctor isn’t necessarily putting two and two together and relaying to you. So, if you’re struggling with things that seem hormonal, but you’re being dismissed, then you need to question and consider other options. If you feel amazing on it, good for you and I’m super happy for you.
Paragard is non-hormonal and it’s made of copper. It simply blocks the sperm from ever reaching the egg. It makes a hostile environment in the uterus, so the sperm dies off and never makes it to the tube where the egg is hanging out.
You’re not going to have any potential hormonal side effects. However, the most common complaint from a copper IUD is that it causes heavy painful periods. Here’s the key ladies, those heavy painful periods are usually from a hormone imbalance. So usually you’re already dealing with estrogen dominance or lack of progesterone to keep that estrogen balanced. There are some women that get the IUD placed that had great periods before that they get the Paragard and it got worse because you are creating a hostile environment with this foreign object inside your uterus. Some of us have more reactive and stronger immune responses than others. Your immune system is like, “Hey, that’s a foreign object in here, let’s attack.” And some women’s bodies never stopped that attack and that can create a lot of cytokine production and prostaglandin production. Those don’t feel good. It causes cramping and they make the period heavier.
But there are so many women who absolutely love it because it’s the most effective birth control that’s reversible. 99% of the time it doesn’t affect your hormones. Once it’s in you can leave it in up to 10 years. So, it’s a really great option for some women.
There is some talk about copper toxicity, but I think that’s a very uncommon issue for women. You can measure your serum copper levels. Sometimes that can cause your estrogen to go up. Although, I have not seen it that often in the past 20 years that I’ve been doing this.
Another option is permanent sterilization. You can get your tubes tied, but really, we cut, burn and remove them. We don’t tie them. It’s just a nice term to make it not sound as big of a deal. I do not recommend the Essure coils. That was a guinea pig situation where we just experimented on women and some women did okay, but a lot of women had major complications from Essure coils. So luckily, that has been exposed and is no longer an issue. If you’ve had Essure coils, there are little coils that go in the fallopian tubes to scar them shut to prevent pregnancy. They are known to cause cyclical pain. They’re known to migrate and leave the fallopian tube and go out into the abdominal cavity or into your uterus. A lot of women end up having other surgeries or even hysterectomies because of these complications. So if you had Essure, and you’re having chronic pain or abnormal bleeding, you need to get that evaluated because those little Essure coils could be the problem.
Have your partner get a vasectomy. If you’re 100% done having children this is another choice. However, you want to make sure you guys are 100% done having children because it’s permanent.
Focus on Gut Health
Focus on good gut health and make sure you’re not eating processed garbage food. Make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep your gut lining healthy. Sometimes that looks like supplementation or managing your stress better.
The other main issue with birth control pills is that they deplete really important vitamins and minerals. Namely B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, and selenium. Those vitamins are super important for energy production and thyroid function. This is what I see go hand in hand, ladies. A woman is on a birth control pill for 10 or 15 years, she develops a thyroid issue, her doctor says, “Oh, your thyroid is just sluggish.” Then that woman gets exhausted and she can’t function. She’s barely making it through the day, gaining weight, and losing hair. So much of it can be attributed to that birth control pill that she was on for so long because that combination of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, leaky gut, and autoimmune disease, culminates into thyroid dysfunction and chronic fatigue.
The amazing thing is it’s all reversible so, please don’t lose hope. Please be aware if you don’t have enough vitamins and minerals, then your body can’t do the processes that it needs to do all day long every day. So, if you’re on a birth control pill and you’re going to continue, please take a high-quality, nutraceutical grade multivitamin with methylated B vitamins. That will make a huge difference for you whether or not you’re going to develop fatigue like so many women are struggling with right now.
I honestly think every woman needs a high-quality multivitamin, not one from your corner drugstore. Those kinds of supplements are filled with heavy metals and fillers such as gluten and other toxicants. You need something that’s high quality and that’s third-party tested on the regular. You need good quality supplementation that you’re just not going to get from your diet.
To Wrap It Up
There are so many non-permanent options to choose from. I hope that this really helped give you a better idea of which way to go. If there’s anything I missed, please let me know. I’m trying to answer all your guys’ questions so that you can make the best-informed decisions despite what your regular doctor may or may not be telling you. The answers are out there, there are alternatives and other options. You don’t have to do what they say. Use your voice, speak up and always ask why, and come to me if it doesn’t make sense.