Follow Your Gut Reaction: Allergies & Digestion

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We have all experienced stomach pains at one time or another: a bad meal, or worse, a case of food-poisoning. However, if abdominal pain is a regular thing for you, a more thorough evaluation is warranted.

I typically see a patient with chronic abdominal pain after they have been evaluated by a gastroenterologist. If necessary, the gastroenterologist will perform an upper endoscopy, or a lower colonoscopy to rule out inflammatory bowel disease, which can lead to serious complications if untreated. If the gastroenterologist doesn’t find an answer, then I do my detective work.

MASKED INGREDIENTS IN RESTAURANT FOOD

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Food allergies can be the cause chronic abdominal pain and vomiting. I once had a mother tell me her daughter was nauseated every time they ate Chinese restaurant food (the mother thought it was the MSG). But she then requested, NO MSG the next time they ordered, and still her daughter fell sick and vomited. They swore off this restaurant, and planned to go to another Chinese restaurant in another town, with no better luck! It turned out when I tested the daughter, she was allergic to peanut protein. Where was the peanut protein? In the egg-roll paste! Chinese restaurants are a potentially dangerous place for peanut allergic patients because peanut paste or oil can be masked in the food. The mother was surprised as well, since she thought that when someone had peanut allergy their throat closed and they got skin rashes. I’ve had many similar cases involving shrimp and shellfish allergy patients. The stomach often knows when something is wrong!

GLUTEN SENSITIVITY AND CELIAC DISEASE

Gluten-free

These are 2 other conditions where patients can experience chronic stomach pain and not realize they are eating food that is making them sick every day! Gluten sensitivity is much more common than we ever realized: 1 in every 300 people are gluten sensitive. We have grown up in a society where bread and pasta are on every street corner. Perhaps we are incredulous that our body wouldn’t tolerate this wholesome, delicious food. The secret is out: gluten is not for everyone. In fact, more and more patients say their stomach pain and health is much better after they start avoiding gluten. I do a simple test in the office to see if you are gluten intolerant by swabbing the inside of the cheek with a Q-tip and sending it for genetic analysis. The good news is that many supermarkets and restaurants are now catering to gluten-free consumers. You can get great products and delicious meals without scouring around to find an out-of-the-way health food or specialty store.

CANDIDA & YEAST

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Candida, or yeast allergy is another common cause I find in my practice for patients with chronic abdominal pain who have been labeled Irritable Bowel patients. The Western diet is high in sugar and refined carbohydrates, and because of the liberal use of antibiotics for many conditions–from acne to sinusitis–the balance and quantity of microbes in our guts have changed. An overgrowth of yeast leads to localized pain in the stomach or intestines, and can also lead to rashes and chronic fatigue. I can test patients for immediate sensitivity to Candida with a simple skin test, which can be helpful, although the diagnosis is mainly clinical. Patients who follow a diet of avoiding sugar, wheat, alcohol, and milk products greatly improve. Yes, there are other foods that exist that don’t contain sugar, wheat or milk!

Having limits on what you eat does not mean you can’t enjoy delicious meals. We have lots of creative menus here at MMG to make the transition easier and to help you build new eating habits. You can eat healthy, be satisfied, and most importantly, feel energized, vital and well. We’re here to help.

And remember the saying:

“Follow Your Gut Reaction”

Your stomach is a lot smarter than you realize.

Dr. Dean Mitchell
Mitchell Medical Group, NYC & Long Island

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