Eating a Restricted Diet And Still Experiencing Symptoms ? There's hope!
Have you been careful to avoid foods that trigger your symptoms only to find that you're still reacting to other foods? This could be a sign your experiencing what's called a loss of oral tolerance. The good news is that you can recover your oral tolerance to foods and once again enjoy the meals you eat.
Loss of Oral Tolerance: What is it?
In a nutshell, loss of oral tolerance is the inability of your immune system to tolerate the food you eat. Prior to birth, your gastrointestinal tract - which contains 70 % of your immune system- is "sterile" which means it doesn't contain any bacteria whatsoever. That changes, however, as soon as you make your way down the birth canal and are exposed via your mouth and nose to the bacteria that reside there. Those bacteria start to populate your gut and are nourished by your mother's breastmilk.
After birth, oral tolerance develops as you grow and begin to eat real food. The immune tissue in your gut registers each new type of food you eat, but doesn't react to it. Instead, your immune systems develops a tolerance to the foods in your diet. As your diet expands to include more and more foods, the population of healthy bacteria in your gut becomes more diverse which helps your gut and your immune system stay healthy.
When the bacteria in your gut are healthy, the lining of your gut is able to recognize foods as friend and not foe. It acts as a protective barrier, absorbing only beneficial substances like nutrients while blocking the absorption of harmful pathogens. However, the combination of a poor or limited diet, exposure to pesticides and other harmful chemicals, an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, chronic stress, and, in some individuals, genetic susceptibility can tip the balance in your gut, causing inflammation and eventually leading to food sensitivities and loss of oral tolerance.
Loss of oral tolerance is a sign that your immune system is unbalanced.
If left unchecked, your immune system goes into overdrive and begins to target your own tissue - your joints, skin, sinuses, lungs, and even your brain. This friendly fire represents the onset of autoimmune illness.
Loss of Oral Tolerance: How to Reverse It?
Restoring oral tolerance involves a multi-prong approach.
Eat a variety of different foods: While a diversified diet may seem counter-intuitive in the setting of multiple food sensitivities, restoring immune balance involves nourishing the good bacteria in your gut. Eating a variety of nutrient dense, whole foods that you can tolerate creates a healthy and diverse population of gut bacteria. This bacterial diversity is key to healing your gut and restoring immune tolerance. The top foods that promote bacterial diversity include:
Vegetables: Asparagus, artichokes, garlic, leeks, jerusalem artichokes (sunchokes), jicama onions, tomatoes.
Fruits: Apples with the peel, bananas, berries, cherries, kiwis, mangoes, pears.
Grains & Legumes & Seeds: Black beans, chickpeas, lentils, white beans, quinoa, flaxseeds
A few tips to get you started:
Fill half of your plate with vegetables.
Drink your fruits & vegetables by making a smoothie.
Prep veggies in advance by storing cut up veggies in the fridge in either a glass container or a plastic bag. When you are ready to cook or make a smoothie, you will have them ready to go.
Check out a few of our gut-healing recipes.
When increasing the number of vegetables in your diet, it's best to go slow to avoid possible bloating, something which can transiently occur if you add to many high fiber foods to quickly.
Take Steps To Reduce Stress: Your gut keeps score, so identifying & modifying your stressors are essential components to healing your gut & re-building oral tolerance. A few ways to offset stress include:
Prioritize sleep - even if it means going to bed 15-30 minutes earlier than usual.
Avoid skipping meals
Take a quick break to take a deep breath & stretch
Restoring oral tolerance also involves targeted immune support through the use of supplements and, for some people, hormone balancing. Your healthcare provider will create a customized recovery plan for you that includes a personalized diet and health coaching. While there is no quick fix for a loss of oral tolerance, there is a path to wellness for you. If you think you might be suffering from a loss of oral tolerance, please contact us - we're here to help you find your path to wellness.
Keet, C & Wood, R. Food Allergy. Elsevier: 2012, pg.1-14.
Vodjdani, A & Vodjani, E. Food-Associated Autoimmunities: When Food Breaks Your Immune System. A& G Press: Los Angeles. 2019, 54-68.
The contents of this blog are intended for educational purposes only. The information presented here is not a substitute for proper medical attention, diagnosis, or treatment by a qualified healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before starting or making any changes to an existing treatment plan, exercise program or dietary regimen, and before using nutritional supplements.