IBS Treatment Center

Seattle, WA

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The Ecosystem in the Digestive Tract & Your Stomach Issues

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Dr. Stephen Wangen of the IBS Treatment Center.

Dr. Stephen Wangen of the IBS Treatment Center.

Inside the digestive tube is a vast ecosystem where some 100 trillion bacteria live. This should not alarm you. We have been conditioned to think of bacteria as something bad, and the thought that we have 100 trillion “bugs” inhabiting our body can make us feel slightly queasy. Although some bacteria are bad, others are very good. In fact, if you don’t have them you feel very bad, because they are critical for proper digestion.

These bacteria have several important jobs: they help to break down food, they actually create some vitamins, they work directly with the immune system surrounding the digestive tract to protect us, and they independently protect us against invading organisms. Our relationship with the 100 trillion bacteria in our digestive tract has developed over hundreds of thousands of years. There should be no doubt about the importance of this ecosystem to good health.

Recent advances in DNA analysis have enabled us to determine the different kinds of organisms living in the intestines.  In just the last few years tests that analyze the DNA of these organisms and enable the determination of which healthy microbes and which pathogenic microbes are present and in what relative numbers have been created.  This dramatic advance is have been available to physicians, though they are mostly used in research facilities.

The IBS Treatment Center is proud to be among those with both the training and the expertise to use such testing for our patients.

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Celiac Disease vs. Gluten Sensitivity: Defining Celiac Disease

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celiacHow many times have you read that celiac disease is the worst form of gluten intolerance? Or perhaps you’ve heard that celiac disease is the potential end-stage of gluten intolerance?

Certainly you’ve probably read that gluten sensitivity isn’t nearly as severe as celiac disease. These statements are often repeated, and they sound fairly logical.

But are they?

To get an accurate handle on what these statements mean we need to clarify the differences between celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. And in order to clarify these differences the first thing that we need to do is to revisit the definition of celiac disease.

To be diagnosed with celiac disease you need one thing, and only one thing. That one thing is called villous atrophy. To explain simply, villous atrophy is a very specific kind of damage that can occur in the small intestine.

If you don’t have villous atrophy, then you don’t have celiac disease. Period. There are various ways to test for celiac disease, but they are all designed to measure one thing–villous atrophy.

A diagnosis of celiac disease is not based on how sick you feel or on how many symptoms you have. It’s not even defined by the type of symptoms that you have, or on how long you’ve had symptoms. The only thing that identifies whether or not you have celiac disease is the presence of villous atrophy. That’s it. Continue reading →

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Painkillers Can Cause High Blood Pressure & Stomach Damage

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(img from commons.wikimedia.org)

Americans consume an estimated $2 billion per year in over-the-counter painkillers like Tylenol, Advil and Motrin.

The most common reason for taking these drugs is for arthritis. However, these drugs are not without side-effects. It also doesn’t take as much as you might think to cause damage. And the variety of side effects includes high blood pressure, stomach ulcers, and other problems.

A study of more than 80,000 women found that women who used acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, for 22 days or more a month had the greatest risk of high blood pressure, estimated at twice that of non-users. And even those who used the drug as little as one to four days a month had a 22% greater risk of having high blood pressure than non-users.

The risk for those taking NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), including ibuprofen products such as Advil and Motrin and naproxen drugs such as Aleve, was similar. Heavy users had a risk of high blood pressure 86% higher than those who didn’t use the drug. Light users carried a 17% higher risk. Journal Hypertension November 2002 20(11):2301-2307

Significantly, researchers report that patients with pre-existing kidney disease who took these painkillers at least twice a week for 2 months were two to three times more likely to have the beginning stages of chronic kidney failure, compared with individuals who did not use these painkillers on a regular basis. The New England Journal of Medicine December 20, 2001;345:1801-1808

If you think that you should be taking aspirin to thin your blood, think again. A recent study that investigated the effects of taking low-dose aspirin daily for close to four years found that only participants with compromised kidney function benefited significantly. And another study, in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), showed that fish oils have a blood-thinning effect similar to aspirin. JAMA. 2001 Jan 17;285(3):304-12

And it may affect your colon, too. A questionnaire of over 35,615 male health professionals showed that regular and consistent use of NSAIDs such as aspirin, acetaminophen, Advil and other prescription anti-inflammatory drugs was associated with diverticular disease, a serious type of colon damage. Arch Fam Med. May 1998;7:255-260

Finally, it is also well known that aspirin and NSAIDS are tied to stomach pain and bleeding ulcers. Yet nearly 30,000 people a year die from using these medications. Many of these deaths are due to bleeding ulcers.

If you have pain, whether it be arthritis or otherwise, you should know that there are a variety of healthy and effective alternatives for reducing inflammation and pain that will put you on the road to better health, not temporarily alleviate your symptoms while causing other problems.

Please CONTACT US for more information.

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USA Spends Most on Healthcare and Has the Least Healthy Population

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(photo: commons.wikimedia)

(photo: commons.wikimedia)

From CBS News

There are many lessons to learn from this news but probably the most important is this:

Insurance driven healthcare choices are not resulting in the best healthcare.  The countries with the best health have systems that incorporate more than just drugs into their treatment options.

Excerpt:

Overall, the U.K. and Switzerland were rated highest for factors that included quality, access, efficiency and equity of health care. The U.S., Canada and France overall ranked lowest. The U.S. was found to perform worst in areas concerning cost of care, efficiency, equity and overall health of its citizens, even though health care expenditures were highest per capita compared with the other 10 countries in the report.

The IBS Treatment Center remains completely dedicated to getting results.  Our mission is to improve the health of our patients, not just provide standard care.

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Your Diet Can Trigger Headaches

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(img via commons.wikimedia)

Many people with chronic headaches suffer from them for years with no permanent relief. Whether or not you have migraine headaches, tension headaches, sinus headaches, or an undetermined form of headache, it is very possible that you are suffering from food allergy-induced inflammation.

Recent research on migraines indicates that food allergies mediated by IgG-type antibodies are specifically to blame.

A headache is really a symptom of something else. It is obviously pain in the head, but the common factor is that headaches of all types usually involve inflammation. If the immune system reacts to one or more of the foods that you eat, then an inflammatory reaction is taking place that can potentially affect your head. Such reactions are far more common than many people realize.

The inflammation and thus the headache will resolve once the triggering food or foods are removed from the diet. Sometimes this is easier said than done, because the foods that we eat are often complicated combinations of numerous base foods. But once the problem is understood, the results can be dramatic.

Click here to read the complete article at CenterforFoodAllergies.com.

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What Causes Sinusitis and Runny Nose?

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(img thanks to openclipart)

Sinus infection (sinusitis) and runny nose are inflammatory conditions that result in mucous production and congestion. This leads to the resulting problems of sinus pressure headaches, a runny nose, or stuffy ears.

Then What Causes Inflammation?

Inflammation is caused by anything that can activate the immune system. It can be caused by a bacterial, fungal, or viral infections, or by environmental or food allergies. 
Bacterial and fungal infections are readily treated by antibiotics, and viral infections generally resolve on their own. Food allergies are the most under-rated cause of inflammation and congestion, and frequently exacerbate known environmental allergies.

How Do Food Allergies Trigger Sinusitis or a Runny Nose? 

An allergy is an immune response, resulting in inflammation and in this case mucous production. Such a response to food can be exhibited in any part of the body, because nutrients are digested, absorbed and circulated throughout the body. This is why food allergies can cause a wide range of problems, including sinusitis and runny noses. 
There are many other conditions that can be caused by food allergies.

What Foods Trigger Sinusitis and Allergic Rhinitis?

Any food that can trigger the immune system via an allergic reaction is capable of causing sinusitis or allergic rhinitis. And the fact is, any food is equally capable of triggering an allergic reaction. 
There is no one-to-one correlation between foods and symptoms or diseases. Food allergies result in inflammation, which then leads to problems such as sinusitis. 
Therefore proper blood testing must be done in order to determine one’s food allergies.

Why Is It So Difficult to Recognize One’s Own Food Allergy? 

This is problematic because of the often delayed nature of food allergies. Allergy symptoms may show up hours or even a day later, after a food is well absorbed into your system. 
This difficulty is compounded by the fact that certain foods, such as dairy and wheat, are so prevalent in our diet that many people eat them nearly every day. Therefore connecting your symptoms with your eating habits often nearly impossible.

What Causes a Food Allergy? 

It is most likely that food allergies are genetically predetermined. In the big picture, humans have only recently introduced many current day foods into the diet, so it’s not surprising that the immune system doesn’t recognize every food as a friendly substance. 
Undoubtedly we do not understand everything there is to know about food or food allergies.

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Bacteria That’s Bad for Your Gut

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(photo: creativecommons)

(photo: creativecommons)

What makes a bad bacteria bad?

The worst bacteria (the ugly) either directly destroy tissue by feeding upon it or produce a toxin that destroys tissue. Other bacteria (the bad) react negatively to food, or are poor fermenters of food, creating IBS symptoms like gas and diarrhea. And some species of yeast and bacteria are bad simply because they take up space, thereby crowding out the good bacteria and depriving your body of all the health-giving benefits that friendly bacteria provide, resulting in the poor digestion of food and the poor absorption of nutrients.

The ugly bacteria are never regarded as normal flora within the body. They are not usually considered to be causes of IBS, but they do cause severe, often life-threatening, conditions. Ugly bacteria include Salmonella, Shigella, Yersinia, Vibrio cholerae, Campylobacter, and certain strains of E. coli. Just a tiny amount of the most virulent strains of bacteria in a person’s body is enough to begin the process of infestation. The symptoms of these bacterial infections usually include severe watery diarrhea, which is often bloody. Some cause vomiting, muscular cramps, dehydration, and permanent intestinal damage. If untreated, they may even cause death. In short, they are nothing to fool around with. Luckily, the medical community is generally good at identifying and treating these kinds of bacterial infestations.
Continue reading →

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What Really Causes Acne?

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(img thanks to commons.wikimedia.org)

(img thanks to commons.wikimedia.org)

A majority of acne cases, as well as many other skin blemishes, are caused by food allergies. Hormone imbalances may also play a role, but are largely over-rated. Fortunately both are treatable.

How Do Food Allergies Cause Acne?

Food allergies are the number one cause of acne, and the worse the acne the more likely food allergies are involved. Eating a food to which the body is allergic leads to a continuous toxic reaction. In such a case the immune system fights the food as if it were an invading organism. This can cause inflammation in the skin (and many other conditions), as well as the need to eliminate the toxin.

What Foods Cause Acne?

There isn’t just one food that causes acne. Any food allergy is capable of causing acne. However, the most common cause of acne that I see in my practice is dairy products.

Why Is It So Difficult to Recognize One’s Own Food Allergy?

This is problematic because of the often delayed nature of food allergies. Allergy symptoms may show up hours or even a day later, after a food is well absorbed into your system. And acne generally doesn’t come and go quickly enough to be associated with food.

This difficulty is compounded by the fact that certain foods, such as dairy and wheat, are so prevalent in our diet that many people eat them nearly every day. Therefore connecting your symptoms with your eating habits is often nearly impossible.

What Causes a Food Allergy?

It is most likely that food allergies are genetically predetermined. In the big picture, humans have only recently introduced many current day foods into the diet, so it’s not surprising that the immune system doesn’t recognize every food as a friendly substance.
However, we undoubtedly do not understand everything there is to know about food or food allergies.

How Do I Determine if I Have a Food Allergy?

The only sure way to determine if you have a food allergy is to have your blood tested for antibodies to a variety of foods. This is done with an ELISA Food Allergy Panel, which measures your immune response to approximately 100 different foods.
If you experience acne CONTACT US to schedule an appointment.

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Quick Questions on Gluten

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(photo: commons.wikimedia)

QUESTION:
What Are the Results of Avoiding Gluten?

ANSWER:
If you are allergic to gluten, then the result of removing gluten from your diet is generally a reversal of your health problems. Symptoms very often resolve, some faster than others, and you gain a new definition of optimal health.
Even celiac disease is reversed, usually resulting in complete recovery of the damage to the small intestine.

QUESTION:
What if Someone with a Gluten Allergy Chooses Not to Avoid Gluten?

ANSWER:
Of course, they continue to suffer the symptoms that their gluten allergy is causing. However, the long term consequences are much more severe. People with celiac disease are known to be at higher risk for many conditions, including cancer of the digestive tract, thyroid problems, anemia, osteoporosis, and many autoimmune conditions. If you or someone you know suffers from any of the symptoms listed above, be sure to be screened for food allergies via blood testing.

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Probiotics – What You Need to Know

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probio

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You may have heard that probiotics might help with your IBS symptoms. But do you need them?

Which ones? How many?

Probiotics, or supplements containing strains of good bacteria that normally live in the intestinal tract, are frequently taken by individuals suffering from digestive upset in an attempt to improve their symptoms. In our practice, it is common to hear from patients who have tried probiotics that the supplements offered no improvement or even made them feel worse.

The following points should help to explain why a negative reaction to probiotics is not necessarily surprising:

1. Many brands of probiotics contain low numbers of organisms, which essentially translates to a low dose of good bacteria.

Prescription probiotics can have numbers as low as 1 billion organisms per dose (which sounds like an awful lot, but is actually far less than what research finds to be a therapeutic dose). We commonly find that for some patients, doses as high as 25-50 billion organisms per day can effectively address the causes of IBS.

2. Most probiotics are grown on dairy, which can be very problematic for patients who suffer from a dairy allergy, a common cause of IBS symptoms.

In treating IBS, it is essential to identify any underlying food allergies and intolerances prior to starting treatment with probiotics, as taking a supplement that contains foods that your system reacts to negatively can cause more harm than good. Unique and specialized food allergy testing helps our physicians identify negative reactions to specific foods in patients suffering from IBS.

3. The strains of good bacteria found in the supplements may not match the strains that your intestines need to reach healthy and appropriate levels.

By identifying the microbial ratios in the gut via a DNA stool analysis test, specific levels of different strains of good bacteria can be measured and identified as deficient. By replacing specific bacterial strains (instead of guessing), healthy levels of good gut bugs can be replenished to maintain a
healthier intestinal environment.

4. Some strains of probiotics are much more anti-inflammatory than others.

These strains help to reduce distress in your intestinal immune system, while others may have a potentially pro-inflammatory effect or no effect at all.

Research shows that certain strains of good intestinal bacteria are exceptionally strong regulators of intestinal inflammation. Having high enough levels of these bacteria can help to moderate immune reactions that can cause symptoms of IBS.

Effectively utilizing probiotics is key to properly treating IBS. This is a science.

Please contact our clinic if you have questions about probiotics or would like to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians.

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Common Causes of Heartburn

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(photo: creativecommons)

In order to cure acid reflux disease, you must remove the cause of the problem and promote the healing process.

The following are the most common causes:

Food allergies: In my practice I have found that a majority of cases of heartburn are caused by food allergies. Food allergies often cause a host of other problems and can be diagnosed with a simple blood test.

Foods: certain foods cause the lower esophageal sphincter to relax, thus leading to heartburn. These include peppermint, coffee, alcohol and chocolate.

Hiatal hernia: This is a physical condition where part of the stomach protrudes through the diaphragm. It can generally be reduced without surgery, though even when present it is not necessarily the sole cause of heartburn

Low Acid Production: Ironically, low stomach acid levels can result in heartburn. This is much more common than increased acid. This problem can be assessed clinically and is readily treatable.

Medications: Many medications cause heartburn as a side-effect, including, several acid blockers. These include:

  • Acid Blockers: Prevacid, Prilosec, Zantac, etc.
  • Asthma inhalers (beclamethasone, flovent, etc).
  • Corticosteroids
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.
  • Antianxiety medications, such as diazepam (Valium) and lorazepam (Ativan).
  • Osteoporosis drugs such as alendronate (Fosamax).

Overeating: Of course. The stomach is only so big, even if the eyes and the mouth are bigger.

Pregnancy & Obesity: These are related in that both put pressure on the stomach, decreasing it’s volume and forcing food back from whence it came.


Stress: Stress is a small word with big health consequences. Stress can be the sole cause of heartburn, but often it is exacerbating other causes. Regardless, there are nutrients, herbs and therapies that will help you deal with your stress.

Smoking: Smoking also causes the lower esophageal sphincter to relax, leading to heartburn.

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Common Causes of IBS: Yeast (Candida)

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Dr. Stephen Wangen of the IBS Treatment Center.

Dr. Stephen Wangen of the IBS Treatment Center.

Yeast infections, or yeast overgrowth, are a common result of antibiotic use. Yeast is also considered normal flora at low populations, since it is often found in the digestive tract.

However, remember that normal does not necessarily mean good. Yeast, especially the most common type called Candida, invades tissue and is a general irritant. Its growth inhibits the growth of good bacteria, and its life cycle produces the toxic effects of IBS symptoms in its host – you. Candida will take advantage of every opportunity it has to flourish.

If your system has been wiped clean of friendly bacteria due to antibiotics (which do not kill yeast), Candida will likely pounce, either in your digestive tract or elsewhere in your body. Once it gets hold, it can be difficult to get rid of.

Candida can cause a huge variety of symptoms, including but not limited to all the symptoms of IBS, making it one of the most frustrating and confusing conditions to describe, not to mention endure. The average Candida sufferer reports about twenty different symptoms. Many sufferers give up trying to find out what is wrong with them because their symptoms seem unrelated.

Diet can affect Candida symptoms too. Since yeast feeds upon sugars, a diet high in sweets, alcohol, starches, and refined carbohydrates may increase its growth. As a result, some health practitioners recommend special Candida diets that are low in sugar and refined carbohydrates.

If you think you may be suffering from a Candida infestation, it is very important that you undergo proper testing as soon as possible, as it can become a chronic condition if the fungus is allowed to take hold. If your tests are positive, you will be treated with the correct antifungal agents.
The best way to treat a yeast overgrowth is, of course, by preventing it in the first place.

Make sure your friendly bacteria are well established, so that Candida has no chance to grow and spread. After using antibiotics, you should always replenish the intestines with good bacteria.

CONTACT US.

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Science News Report: Separating Wheat From Chaff in Gluten Sensitivity

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(photo: commons.wikimedia)

(photo: commons.wikimedia)

A recent article from ScienceNews.org provides a better overview of the challenges related to gluten sensitivity.

Excerpt from ScienceNews.org:

There are two well-established conditions that require people to avoid gluten. Celiac disease, an immune response to gluten that produces severe inflammation of the small intestine, afflicts about 0.75 percent of the population.  A wheat allergy, sometimes called baker’s asthma, affects about 0.4 percent of the population and is usually characterized by symptoms like breathing problems and a runny nose.

But gluten sensitivity in people who don’t have celiac disease or a wheat allergy is fuzzier. Some websites suggest that 18 million people are sensitive to gluten. Most patients complain of stomach problems and gas. Some add in fatigue, brain fog and depressed mood. There are no confirmed tests for the condition. Many people who say they are gluten sensitive never receive a test for celiac disease, wheat allergy or other sensitivities. They cut out gluten and they feel better. This is often the case for people with irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS, a condition characterized by stomach pain, bloating, gas and diarrhea or constipation.

Also worth noting:

But Reiner Ullrich, an immunologist at Charite University Medicine in Berlin, Germany, says that Gibson lab studies are useful “as pilot studies in need of confirmation. We should consider FODMAP content when examining the gluten-free diet.” But he is also concerned that the studies tested the diets for only a few weeks (at most) at a time. Ullrich would like to see the diets tested for at least eight weeks. “I fear there is no shortcut to establish dietary or drug effect in IBS,” he notes.

and

“People with IBS are a very heterogeneous population,” he [Peter Green] explains. “It’s a complex issue, and this study adds to the confusion.”

Read the complete article at ScienceNews.org.

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Food Allergies As Triggers for Ear Infections and Other Upper Respiratory Problems

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(img thanks to commons.wikimedia.org)

(img thanks to commons.wikimedia.org)

Here at the IBS Treatment Center, we are experts at diagnosing food allergies and sensitivities associated with digestive symptoms. But did you know that these same food allergies can also be the cause of symptoms that occur in your ears, nose, and throat?

What does ‘upper respiratory’ include?

The phrase ‘upper respiratory’ refers to the parts of your breathing system that reside in your head and neck (as opposed to the parts that are in your chest, like your lungs). Ear symptoms, such as plugged ears, ringing in the ears, and—most commonly—recurrent ear infections, are complaints suffered by many patients. Nose symptoms can include chronic sinusitis, recurrent sinus infections, stuffy nose, and the development of nasal polyps; these symptoms, when caused by food allergies, frequently do not resolve with surgery or other treatments.

Other upper respiratory symptoms include tonsillitis, chronic swollen lymph nodes, seasonal allergies, and frequent throat clearing. All of these symptoms can have strong associations with food allergies and can often be successfully treated with appropriate elimination of allergenic foods from the diet.

How do food allergies cause upper respiratory symptoms?

Food allergies cause inflammation. And where is the first place that food touches your body? In your mouth. Since the back of your mouth is directly connected to your ears and your upper respiratory tract, consuming allergenic foods can cause inflammation in the Eustachian tubes (which are located at the back of your throat, and help to drain the ears into the throat) and nasal passages.

This type of inflammation is similar to the digestive distress experienced by many patients when they ingest foods to which they are allergic or sensitive. Reducing this inflammation through strict allergen avoidance can help to eliminate or greatly reduce the severity of associated upper respiratory symptoms.
Continue reading →

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Addressing Non-Celiac Gluten Illness

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Dr. Stephen Wangen of the IBS Treatment Center.

Dr. Stephen Wangen of the IBS Treatment Center.

There have been several articles and blogs published lately that claim that gluten sensitivity non-celiac gluten issues are a fad and have no medical validity.

This is an unfortunately common response. It is easy to make fun of the gluten-sensitive population. They are different.  They are setting a new standard.

While some people avoiding gluten have no legitimate reason for doing so, and don’t know what gluten is, there are many people who have measurable immune system reactions to gluten and/or other chemicals in wheat – Non-celiac gluten sensitivity: literature review.

These people can have a wide variety of symptoms, or no noticeable symptoms. This is not different than celiac disease, where many people do not have noticeable symptoms. Let me state that again – many people with celiac disease don’t report having symptoms. Celiac disease: risk assessment, diagnosis, and monitoring.

Either way, avoiding gluten still has benefits that are important: Benefits of a Gluten-free diet for Asymptomatic Patients with Serologic Markers of Celiac Disease.

Don’t let these comments about it being a fad go unchallenged. Running was once a fad too. That didn’t make it bad.

Just because some people are avoiding gluten for the wrong reasons does not mean that others can’t have real health problems caused by eating gluten grains. They do. We’ve seen it hundreds of times.

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Article Discusses Increasing Number of Celiac Diagnoses in the UK

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celiacAn article from the BBC discusses a recent study which estimates that doctors are diagnosing about 25% of all celiac cases.

While this is up from 1999, it still leaves roughly 75% of all cases undiagnosed.

Excerpt from BBC:

The number of people diagnosed in the UK with coeliac disease has increased fourfold between 1990 and 2011, a study suggests.

The autoimmune disease, triggered by a reaction to gluten – found in wheat, barley and rye – can cause severe symptoms.

It is treated by following a lifelong gluten-free diet.

Experts say they believe the increase is due to better diagnosis, rather than more people developing the condition.

Left untreated, coeliac disease can lead to infertility, osteoporosis and bowel cancer.

The classic article on the prevalence of celiac in the USA is (here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22850429) determined that a little under 1% of the population has it, but that most are undiagnosed.

Celiac disease is a relatively common disease with a relatively simple blood test available.  But these studies show that most patients with this disease are not being diagnosed.

Celiac disease is just one of many different conditions that can cause IBS and related digestive disorders. The IBS Treatment Center has been using the best information available about these conditions to ensure patients are correctly diagnosed and treated.

QUESTIONS? Contact us or leave a comment below.

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IBS and Gall Bladder Issues

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(commons.wikipedia)

(commons.wikipedia)

Patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and other digestive problems such as constipation, diarrhea or abdominal pain often wonder if they have a problem with their gallbladder. Problems with the gallbladder can indeed cause these symptoms. However, many people find that having their gallbladder removed did little or nothing to help their IBS, or even made it worse.

What does the gallbladder do?


The gallbladder does exactly what its name describes; it is a small bladder that stores gall. Gall is more commonly known as bile. Bile is produced by the liver and piped over to the gallbladder via the bile duct.

What is bile?


Bile is a highly concentrated yellow green fluid that contains bile acids. Bile acids are important for digesting fats. When you eat, your gallbladder contracts and secretes bile into the small intestine to help you digest your food. If your gallbladder has been removed then it will be more difficult for you to digest fats. In such cases, eating too much fat may cause loose stools.

When does that gallbladder need to be removed?


In some people, stones develop inside of the gallbladder. These stones, when small, can become lodged in the bile duct, which can cause severe pain and be very dangerous if they also clog the pancreatic duct. Larger stones are not able to pass into the bile duct, but their presence can cause severe pain. Sometimes this is worse when the gallbladder is contracting. In either case, removing the gallbladder usually relieves the pain and you feel much better. Continue reading →

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Who We Are: The Innate Health Group

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Innate Health GroupThe Innate Health Group was designed and created to reintroduce something that has been missing in medicine, a belief that you are capable of being healthier if given a better understanding of your body.

We subscribe to the scientific method and the theory of evolution. We know that in most cases health is something that comes from the capacity of your body to perform according to its genetic design, with which you were born.

Health, excepting traumatic damage to the body, is usually not most effectively achieved by drugs or surgical procedures. Although these have their place, they are grossly overused. And frequently drugs and surgical procedures cause other significant problems that could be avoided by other techniques that not only solve the underlying problem, but avoid additional risk.

As a society we have lost touch with our innate health. We are confused by a medical system and a culture that prioritizes business over health, and by generic mass marketed treatments and fads that treat people as statistics and customers rather than as unique individuals with unique health care needs.

Our primary goal is to help you maximize your innate health. This is easier said than done, and the choices that will lead to improved health aren’t necessarily obvious, nor are they the same for everyone. As each individual is unique, so are the requirements for your body to be healthy.

However, at the Innate Health Group we are able to achieve great success with our patients by focusing on them as individuals and customizing each patient’s treatment plan. We utilize proven medical care and cutting-edge testing, and combine it with common sense to provide you with information about how your body works and what it needs to function optimally. Our promise to you is that we will not only try to solve your problem, but improve your overall health for the rest of your life.

The Innate Health Group includes the IBS Treatment Center, the Center for Food Allergies, the Food Allergy and Intolerance Foundation, and Innate Health Publishing.

Contact us or feel free to leave a comment below.

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Study: Many People With Gluten Sensitivity Haven’t Had Proper Tests

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celiacA study in Australia found that people are not getting tested for celiac disease.  They looked at a group or mostly women in Melbourne who responded to an ad asking for participants in a study for people who believed that they had non-cecliac gluten intolerance.

72% of those studied had not been tested for celiac disease.  24% still had symptoms despite avoiding gluten.  27% were not truly avoiding gluten.

Many of these patients had attempted self-diagnosis without any testing.

Excerpt:

(Reuters Health) – People who believe they are sensitive to gluten have often not been adequately tested to rule out celiac disease, reports a new study.

Jessica R. Biesiekierski told Reuters Health that people with trouble digesting gluten who are not tested for celiac disease may not get proper treatment, which could lead to health problems down the line.

She led the new study at Eastern Health Clinical School at Monash University and Alfred Hospital in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition in which eating gluten – a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye – damages the lining of the intestines, resulting in digestive symptoms and potential complications.

Some people who don’t have celiac disease or haven’t been tested have similar symptoms they believe are triggered by gluten.

While we support patients taking responsibility for their health, getting proper testing can be a big factor in successful treatment.  This study shows that without testing and help from a medical professional who really understands the range of conditions that can be causing their symptoms, patients often fail to solve their problems.  The data seem to indicate that even if they need to be avoiding gluten, not having the test results and professional guidance makes it more likely that they will not be diligent about avoiding gluten.

Some of the comments in the news article about this research indicated that it is dangerous for patients to give up gluten on their own, without testing.

Getting testing is very valuable.  But if you can’t find a doctor who actually understands celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivities going gluten free on your own may be your best choice.

However, readers of our blogs do have a choice – they can come see some of the world’s best experts on these issues at the IBS Treatment Center.

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Can Your Diet Cause Arthritis?

Posted on by IBSTC

(img thanks to commons.wikimedia.org)

(img thanks to commons.wikimedia.org)

Rheumatoid arthritis is considered by conventional medicine to be an autoimmune condition of unknown cause.

This belief ignores a large volume of scientific evidence pointing to food allergies as a major cause of arthritis. The medical community has focused almost solely on treating arthritis with anti-inflammatory medications, either prescription or over-the-counter. These medications offer temporary relief of the pain and swelling, but they never cure arthritis. Over the long term this type of treatment also comes with a host of side-effects.

The body can be allergic to any food, therefore any food allergy is capable of causing inflammation and arthritis. This includes RA, juvenile arthritis, and undefined joint pains.

This is why it can be so difficult for one to recognize the relationship between their diet and their symptoms.

Let’s use a dairy allergy as an example. If you eat any form of dairy, be it milk, butter, cheese, yogurt, or even dairy in the form of casein or whey in another food product, such as bread or milk chocolate, then you can potentially trigger the symptoms of your food allergy, in this case arthritis. You should also know that allergy symptoms may show up hours or even a day later, well after a food is absorbed into your system.

QUESTIONS? Contact us or comment below.

(photo: commons.wikimedia)

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Gluten Sensitivity – What is it?

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Dr. Stephen Wangen of the IBS Treatment Center.

Dr. Stephen Wangen of the IBS Treatment Center.

Do you know what gluten sensitivity is? Do you know how it differs from Celiac Disease? Maybe you don’t even know what gluten is.

Here is a gluten definition refresher: Gluten is a protein that is found in many different grains, including wheat, spelt, rye, and barley.

If you are sensitive to gluten, then you are sensitive to all of these grains, and to anything made from any of these grains.

Celiac disease is a very specific kind of gluten sensitivity. Celiac disease occurs when there is a very specific kind of damage that occurs to the villi in the small intestine. This damage is called villous atrophy.

This damage may be seen on a biopsy of the small intestine, which is taken during an upper endoscopy performed by a gastroenterologist. It can also be diagnosed with a blood test.

However, other than the villous atrophy, there is often very little difference between celiac disease and other forms of (non-celiac) gluten sensitivity in terms of symptoms or reactions to the ingestion of gluten. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity can cause just as many problems as celiac disease, and be just as severe. Continue reading →

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Discussing Celiac Disease Awareness

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(img from facebook.com)

(img from facebook.com)

A recent article from the Huffington Post (“Why You Need Celiac Disease Awareness”) mostly gets that for millions of Americans (and many more people across the globe) living gluten free is not a fad, but is in fact a necessary health preservation diet.

For people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten intolerance eating gluten results in health problems that can be slow and outwardly subtle but severe enough to shorten lives and require hospitalization; or can be dramatically damaging immediately after exposure.

We would contend however that the article is inaccurate in saying that experimenting with gluten free is risky.

It is true that tests for celiac disease and non-celiac gluten intolerance require that the patient has been eating gluten. But going gluten free to see how it feels can be one way of deciding to eliminate gluten forever.

We have seen many patients who decided to go gluten free even after a negative celiac disease test because they knew it helped.  Some of these patients have later resumed eating gluten, gotten tested for non-celiac gluten intolerance and found that they were right all along.  Most doctors do not test for non-celiac gluten intolerance so patients need to be their own advocate.

Excerpt from the Huffington Post article:

Many factors play into the low diagnosis rate of celiac disease, but this could very well be one of them. The gluten-free diet has taken on a life of its own. It’s often portrayed as a weight loss diet, and endless athletes and celebrities tout the perceived health benefits of “going gluten-free.” You’ve probably heard all the buzz. You can lose weight fast on a gluten-free diet. Your skin will look so much better if you cut out gluten. Your overall health will improve without gluten.

But those statements are nothing more than just myths.

We are constantly inundated with messages from the media about the “magic” of a gluten-free diet. While some share accurate information with the masses, many irresponsibly perpetuate a cycle of misinformation, leading to the amplification of the gluten-free diet and the silencing of celiac disease.

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What Exactly is an Allergy?

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(photo: commons.wikimedia)

(photo: commons.wikimedia)

An allergy is what results when your immune system is inappropriately activated.

Your immune system is designed to attack bacteria, viruses and parasites. It is not intended to attack the food you eat. But this is exactly what happens with some people. This is called a “food allergy.”

When your immune system is activated, antibodies (also called immunoglobulins) are produced. Antibodies in turn trigger an inflammatory response. Inflammation causes pain and tissue damage, leading to further symptoms. Increased mucous production is another aspect of an immune response.

When a food is broken down and absorbed, it is distributed through your bloodstream to all of your tissues. Therefore an allergic reaction can occur just about anywhere in your body.

We don’t really understand why a food allergy can exhibit itself so differently in different people. However, every individual is unique and seems to have a unique weak point where symptoms of a food allergy show up first.

Most allergists rely on skin prick testing. It is by far the most common type of allergy testing performed in the United States and many allergists do not offer any other types of testing.

Skin prick testing can very effectively determine if the patient will develop a skin rash when challenged with a particular allergen (material). Unfortunately not all allergic responses occur as skin reactions. Inflammation can occur in other parts of the body, and can sometimes occur long after the exposure to the material.
Continue reading →

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Do Elimination Diets Work?

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(img thanks to commons.wikimedia.org)

(img thanks to commons.wikimedia.org)

Ideally, to create an optimal IBS diet, all you’d have to do is avoid a certain food or food group to discover whether it was triggering your IBS. Unfortunately this is usually easier said than done.

It takes a great deal of time, persistence, and education to properly construct a diet that will adequately treat IBS. Additionally, proper lab testing can help you avoid all of this.

The purpose of an elimination diet is to identify whether or not specific food groups trigger your IBS symptoms. Essentially, during an elimination diet you stop eating the foods you normally eat until your symptoms improve. If you feel better after you’ve eliminated a food or stopped eating altogether, then you might strongly suspect that your diet is involved. You may have gone on a fast or a cleansing diet, or simply avoided food for a day or two and discovered that your IBS was much better. Of course, eventually you have to eat, and the trick is figuring out exactly what you can eat.

If, when you reintroduce a food, your symptoms return, then it’s likely that the food or one of its ingredients is an IBS trigger for you. It’s sounds simple enough, but it can be a very slow process and very time consuming. And even after going through this process you may still not see a pattern or you may still be confused about which foods are causing your problems.

—-

(photo: commons wikimedia)

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Discussion on “The molecular heart of celiac disease”

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High magnification micrograph of celiac disease. (img: commons.wikimedia)

High magnification micrograph of celiac disease. (img: commons.wikimedia)

A recent article from MedicalXpress.com titled, “The molecular heart of celiac disease revealed” has many folks discussing and debating the various approaches to disease treatment.

I classify this in the realm of “Really cool science and even better marketing, but very little practical significance.” You can’t shut down even part of the immune system without major consequences. Any drug created to treat celiac disease will not change the fact that you will still need to avoid gluten. And avoiding gluten will still be the core component of your treatment plan if you want to be healthy. Otherwise it will essentially be like what we’ve created for treating diabetes. You can take drugs for diabetes, but that isn’t a substitute for a healthy diet. If you don’t eat right, then you still won’t be very healthy.

However, on the up side, they have admitted that celiac disease always first involves an immune reaction to gluten. This is what I’ve been saying all along. Celiac disease is a symptom (consequence) of gluten intolerance/sensitivity.  If you don’t eat gluten, then you don’t get the symptom. But where is the drug profit in that?

-Dr. Stephen Wangen

Excerpt from the MedicalXpress article:

Australian, US and Dutch researchers have determined the molecular details of the interaction between the immune system and gluten that triggers celiac disease. Their work opens the way to potential treatments and diagnostics.

Monash, Melbourne and Leiden university researchers, in collaboration with colleagues from a Boston-based company, have described the molecular basis of how most of the immune cells (T cells) that induce celiac disease lock onto gliadin, a component of gluten, thereby triggering inflammation of the lining of the small intestine. This is what gives many celiac sufferers symptoms similar to food poisoning after eating a slice of toast.

“We studied how different T cells bind to gliadin, a component of gluten. And when we looked closely we found the docking mechanism was similar. This provides us with a way to develop drugs that might reduce or turn off the immune response,” says Dr Hugh Reid of Monash University. Dr Reid and fellow Australian-based researchers collaborated in the study with Prof Frits Koning from the Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands and with US company, ImmusanT.

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Patient Success Story: Food Reaction Not Always a Food Allergy

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Dr. Stephen Wangen of the IBS Treatment Center.

Dr. Stephen Wangen of the IBS Treatment Center.

Laura is a 35-year-old mother of two who had been experiencing fatigue, headaches, bouts of constipation and diarrhea, and obnoxious bloating. At times she looked and felt six months pregnant due to the bloating.

When Laura first came to see us, she was certain she must have a food allergy or intolerance. She knew she reacted to food, so she assumed food caused the problem, although she couldn’t put her finger on which food or foods were the trigger.

In fact, she told us it didn’t matter what she ate—everything she ate caused problems and she never really felt good. She further noted that fatty foods, sugary foods and raw foods seemed especially problematic, and with those she would feel even worse.

Laura was very frustrated. She wasn’t able to do the things that she wanted.

Her job was being affected because she couldn’t attend meetings as needed. And her social life was just as compromised, because everywhere she went she had to know where the bathroom was located.

Laura said that we were her last hope. She had seen lots doctors, had many tests done, and even had two different colonoscopies, but nothing had helped.

She was told that she would just have to live with her symptoms. Laura found this unacceptable. She knew that there had to be a cause for her symptoms and she was determined to find out what it was.

When we met with Laura, we agreed that there had to be a cause. First we had to narrow down the possibilities.

After testing, we discovered that she did not actually have any food reactions, even though she suffered symptoms from consuming most foods. So there had to be a different cause behind the reactions to the foods she ate.

This may sound confusing, but when a patient says they react to a food, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the food is the original cause of the problem. There are many reasons you can react to foods. Some of them are due to an actual immune reaction, and some are because of other problems that result in feeling reactive to foods. (A glaring example is food poisoning. If you have food poisoning, it’s not the food that is the problem.)

The next step for Laura was to determine why she still felt reactive to foods. After mapping out the ecosystem of her digestive tract, we discovered she had a yeast overgrowth.

There are few issues in medicine as controversial and as misunderstood as yeast. Yeast, commonly referred to as Candida, is usually associated with vaginal yeast infections; occasionally a patient may also contract oral thrush, or Candida of the tongue and mouth.

However, yeast can also over-colonize the digestive tract, such as in Laura’s case, with disastrous results.

Yeast is a common part of the digestive ecosystem, but only in very small amounts. The more territory yeast acquires, the more problematic it becomes. Yeast doesn’t ferment foods in the same way that healthy bacteria does, and this can result in a variety of digestive problems and bloating. Yeast overgrowth can also cause fatigue, headaches and many other ailments.

Once we began to treat Laura for her yeast she immediately noticed a difference. However, yeast is not easy to treat, and it took Laura four months to recover. Each month was better than the last, and now that she has gotten control of her yeast problem she is ecstatic.

Laura no longer has bloating, constipation, or diarrhea. Her headaches went away after the first month, and her energy is unbelievable. With her treatment Laura was able to get her life back, and we couldn’t be happier for her!

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Does Skin Testing for Food Allergies Work?

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Dr. Stephen Wangen of the IBS Treatment Center.

Dr. Stephen Wangen of the IBS Treatment Center.

For several decades skin testing has been the standard way to test for allergies. The potential allergen is injected under or scratched into the skin, and any resulting inflammation (also known as wheal) is measured. The size of the wheal supposedly determines whether or not an allergy is diagnosed.

This technique leaves a lot to be desired because we don’t inject food into our skin when we eat, nor do we necessarily get a red bump when we have a food allergy. This is also a subjective test. There is no scientific standard for the amount of swelling required for a positive result.

Equally important, this test can measure only an IgE antibody reaction. And even so, it often is negative, missing elevated IgE levels that are evident with a blood test. The IgG antibody is not tested for at all.

Many people are incorrectly told after skin testing that they do not have a particular food allergy. Others seem to react to everything that is tested.

Skin testing is probably relevant only for life threatening (anaphylactic) types of food allergies, but in these cases the patient often already knows that he or she has the food allergy.

A more accurate way to detect most food allergies is through ELISA (ee-LIE-za) testing of the blood. This test measures the actual amount of both IgE and IgG in the blood. ELISA stands for Enzyme Linked Immunosorbent Assay, a big fancy phrase for a laboratory procedure in which antibodies are detected and measured.

This very specialized procedure is performed only by doctors trained in recognizing and treating food allergies. It is run only by specialized labs equipped to handle such sophisticated testing.

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STAND UP FOR YOUR HEALTH BY DR. STEPHEN WANGEN (PART 2)

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Dr. Stephen Wangen of the IBS Treatment Center.

Dr. Stephen Wangen of the IBS Treatment Center.

(This article is continued from Part 1, found HERE.)

You might think that it’s easy for me, because everyone knows that I don’t eat
the things to which I’m allergic. Yes, it is much easier. Now. But there was a time when people didn’t know. And guess what? I looked and acted like one of those people.

I told everyone that gluten and dairy made me sick. And I never compromised on that stance. I asked lots of questions when I ate out or ate at someone else’s house. Lots of people questioned my sincerity, even family members. Lots of people suggested that I could eat just a little bit or that it wouldn’t really hurt me.

But I kept telling them week after week, month after month, and year after year. And more than that, they saw me not eating those things. They noticed that I wasn’t going to sacrifice my health. And you know what? The longer that I stuck to my guns, the more others began to understand, and the more they made the effort to help me.

This will happen to you, too. But that is the long story. The short one is that you will also be surprised at the number of amazing people out there who are excited to accommodate you right from the beginning. It’s wonderful how it can bring people together when you might least expect it.

You are not alone. I estimate that at least half the population has a food allergy. Unfortunately, most of them don’t know it yet. That makes you a leader. You get to set the example.

And I’ll bet you that just by doing what you need to do to optimize your health you’ll help others become healthier, too. Because they’ll see your example and they’ll wonder, “Do I have a food allergy?”

Don’t sacrifice your health. There is nothing more important than your health, because if you don’t have it, then you can’t help others either. Be one of those people.

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’m still one of them, too.

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Causes of IBS Include Intestinal Microorganisms and Parasites

Posted on by IBSTC

(photo: creativecommons)

(photo: creativecommons)

Our intestines are a rich and thriving ecosystem…when we are healthy.

The massive surface of our intestines (about the same as a tennis court) provides everything needed for life – space, moisture, and nutrients. Given the ubiquity of anti-bacterial products in our society, many people are surprised to learn that they have about 10 trillion bacteria living in their intestines. But not only do we have bacteria lining our digestive tract, we desperately need them.

There are basically three types of micro-organisms living in our intestines:

  • Good bacteria;
  • Bad bacteria/microorganisms; and
  • Disease organisms

The good bacteria include species and strains that we evolved with, like acidopholus and bifidobacterium. These are an essential part of our digestive systems and we would not survive without them. They help us to digest food by producing enzymes, manufacture some of the essential nutrients that we need to live, assist in the development of our immune system, and prevent infection by occupying the space in the intestines that unwelcome organisms would thrive in, if they could.
Continue reading →

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Stand Up For Your Health by Dr. Stephen Wangen (part 1)

Posted on by IBSTC

(photo: Simply Gluten Free Magazine)

(photo: Simply Gluten Free Magazine)

As a physician and one who specializes in food allergies and sensitivities, many times I’ve heard patients say, “I don’t want to be one of those people.”

Even a friend of mine said that to me recently. She has food allergies. She really likes how she feels when she doesn’t eat those foods, but she feels terrible when she does eat them.

She is fairly committed to not eating them, but she confided to me that when she was at someone else’s house recently she ate something that she knew she shouldn’t eat. And then what happened? She felt lousy for the next few days. The next words out of her mouth were, “Of course, I had to eat it. I don’t want to be one of those people.”

I said, “You mean one of those people who care about their health enough not to sacrifice it?”

That gave her cause to pause a bit.

If you haven’t looked at it like that yet, then you should. You are punishing yourself.

This begs the question, why do people do this? First, we have to state the obvious: if you do this, it is a clear demonstration that you are afraid to express your needs and to tell people what you feel. That seems strange, but it’s true. Many people are afraid to express to others even simple things like, “I can’t eat that.”

Why can’t people tell their friends that something is hurting them? What is it that makes many people such martyrs?

Are we really willing to do something as dumb as make ourselves sick just to fit in? Unfortunately, the answer is often yes.

It may be that we think that there is shame in being different. Ironically, your real friends really want to know if something is hurting you or if it is not what you want. And if they aren’t your real friends, then you should want to know that information. But maybe that is what people are afraid of: learning that someone doesn’t really care about them as much as they had hoped.

When you stop to think about it, do you really want those people around you anyway? It’s a tough decision, but it’s an important one if you want to take your health seriously and have others take it seriously, too.

It’s also representative of a larger problem. If you can’t even tell your friends, then you probably aren’t going to inform the wait staff at the restaurant, ask the questions that you should be asking whenever you eat out or check the ingredients every time you look at an unknown food item. It’s a slippery slope and all it leads to is you feeling worse and worse.

So how can you get this turned around? Be aware that just because you avoid certain foods doesn’t mean that you’re annoying or that you have to be a jerk about it. It’s simply a statement of fact.

“I can’t eat this.” “It makes me sick.”

“Even a little tiny bit of it will make me sick.”

That is all you have to say. Or you don’t have to say anything. You can simply not eat it. How someone else takes it is a separate issue that gives you insight into their issues, not yours.


Click HERE for Part 2 of this article.

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