By Brian Rigby, Clinical Nutrition Writer
I don’t know if I or anyone else ever explicitly said this, but it is true in a way. Essentially, if a person has leaky gut syndrome (which is likely if they’ve been having sensitivity issues with foods) then even if they eliminate that food they’re sensitive to, they may develop new sensitivities.
The problem isn’t the food itself, except in certain cases such as celiac or true allergies, but rather the compromised gut. It may be that some food is more likely to compromise the gut, making developing a sensitivity more likely, but even a person who ends up with a sensitivity to gluten is unlikely to have started out with one.
Rather, over time (possibly from the gluten, though research is far from extensive at this point) their small intestine develops ‘cracks’, openings which are larger than normal which allow larger bits of food to slip through. These food proteins may then cause an immune reaction, which will manifest as a sensitivity.
So, developing a new food sensitivity is not so much caused by eating that food often as it is a game of odds. If your gut is compromised, and you keep eating the same foods, eventually some of that food will slip through, and as it continues slipping through, your body mounts progressively larger immune reactions until finally you notice some symptoms.
Your best bet, if you have a known sensitivity, is to cut that food out and go to work repairing your gut so as to preemptively avoid new sensitivities. Continuing to eat foods which cause symptoms will make the problem difficult to resolve as they will keep the inflammatory cycle alive, preventing healing.
As an interesting note, these ‘cracks’ in the gut are why babies are so much more prone to developing allergies early on in life. Babies derive a lot of their immune system from their mother’s breast milk, and immunoglobins are much larger particles that require larger ‘cracks’ to squeeze through.
Babies have larger ‘cracks’ which allow these immune factors to enter the bloodstream and develop their immunity. Unfortunately, other undigested food particles, if they are introduced too soon, can trigger the immune system to improperly recognize invaders and the child to develop an allergy. Eventually, the child’s gut ‘cracks’ tighten up and over time allergies can go away as the immune system fully develops in adulthood.