Category Archives: food intolerance

wheat gluten field

Glyphosate And Gluten

Glyphosate myths, facts and a reality check
by Sara Russell, Ph.D., NTP

I’m really glad that more and more people are learning of the dangers of glyphosate. 
Please remember that, no matter how awful glyphosate may be (and that’s a whole lot of awful), it doesn’t make everything else harmless. In this age of memes and click-bait titles, it’s easy to come to the wrong conclusion through reductive thinking processes. But for those with severe health problems, misconceptions about glyphosate may cause very grave harm.

Myth # 1: “It’s the glyphosate, not the gluten”

One common refrain that has been repeated over the past few years in various permutations is some variation on the theme of “It’s not the wheat, it’s the glyphosate” or “it’s not the gluten, it’s the glyphosate” and that because glyphosate is evil, people with celiac disease and other serious medical conditions who avoid gluten for health reasons can safely consume gluten-containing grains as long as they are organic and heirloom.

Myth #2 “Wheat in Italy and France is safe for everyone”

Another common myth is that if you’re celiac or otherwise severely gluten-sensitive, eating a croissant or baguette while on vacation in Italy or France is fine because “their gluten is different” and “they don’t use glyphosate in Europe…”

Did you know that 40% of the wheat consumed in Italy is imported from North America? And you may be surprised that glyphosate is actually pretty common in European agriculture, including Italian and French, although less widespread than in the US and of course not permitted in organic agriculture. If you digest your food better while on vacation, that’s because you’re more relaxed. Italy has an incredibly high rate of celiac disease, and while there are a few very sick celiac patients in Italy who still sneak wheat products here and there, most of them are smart enough to stick to their doctor’s orders to consume a strictly gluten-free diet. The Italian government considers this such an important issue that each diagnosed celiac in Italy is given vouchers of 100 euro per month that are valid on specific gluten-free foods.

Myth #3: “If it’s bad for me, I’ll know right away”

A lot of celiac disease is “silent” – that means that many celiac people feel no immediate stereotypical gastrointestinal reaction in many cases and a significant number of people with celiac disease struggle with mysterious fatigue, nutritional deficiencies and neurological and/or psychological symptoms for decades before getting a diagnosis. Sometimes parents or even grandparents only get a diagnosis after a child in the family gets diagnosed.

Harmful rhetoric

While it’s true that glyphosate is a poison for all of us, a lot of people are sensitive to gluten and/or allergic to gluten-containing foods, and I do think the line of thought that exaggerates the glyphosate piece is putting a lot of truly gluten-sensitive people at risk (including some celiac people who are being advised against all reason to consume gluten-containing organic and heirloom varieties of wheat). 
Yes, glyphosate (or stress, for that matter) can definitely accentuate the effect of gluten on weakened body barriers, but a body that has mounted an autoimmune or allergic response to gluten is a gluten-sensitive body in its own right.


I think that only those people with a sub-clinical gluten sensitivity (not an allergy and not an autoimmune response to gluten or its components) may fit with the picture of a possible wheat intolerance being correctable by taking care to reduce glyphosate exposure. This doesn’t mean just switching to organic, heirloom wheat. It means avoiding environmental exposure from yard chemicals in your neighborhood. It means not living in an area where glyphosate is sprayed on crops. It means avoiding crops that are sprayed with glyphosate, including – sorry, everyone – wine. It means doing the long, hard, deep work of foundational healing before re-introducing possible trigger foods into your diet.

Toxicities are synergistic, not mutually exclusive

I feel that the line of saying “it’s not the gluten, it’s the glyphosate!” is a bit like saying, “It’s not the mercury, it’s the aluminum!” or “It’s not the lead poisoning, it’s the EMFs” – these are false dichotomies, which acknowledge one danger by denying another. Yet the effects of toxic exposures, allergies, autoimmunity are compounded and synergistic, not mutually exclusive.


Sara Russell is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner who works remotely with clients worldwide, specializing in complex health conditions. Sara’s approach is client-centered, approaching each clients’ health goals from a foundationally from a root-cause-oriented, bio-individual perspective. She resides in the Tuscan countryside with her husband and seven-year-old son. You can learn more about Sara’s work and read her blog at Build, Nurture, Restore

oral allergy syndrome

Do You Have Oral Allergy Syndrome?

You wake up in the morning and you brush your teeth then wash your face with your all natural face wash.  You’re in a hurry to get out the door for work but know you need to at least try to eat something, so you grab a ripe peach, or my favorite a crisp apple, to eat on the way to work.  You take a few bites and then it starts, your mouth gets itchy and your tongue starts to burn.  You start to think, “Was there something in my toothpaste?  Maybe I got some of the facewash in my mouth?  I think I would have known that.” While there are real concerns with the products we use for our oral hygiene, there is another concern that may not have crossed your mind, pollen food syndrome, also known as PFS. 

What is PFS?

PFS is an allergic response marked by severe itching of the skin of the lips and mouth that can come with swelling or tenderness in and around the mouth or lips.  PFS, also known as oral allergy syndrome, OAS, is distinct from another condition affecting the lips and mouth, burning mouth syndrome, or BMS.  The difference between the two conditions is the cause of the itching and burning.  In BMS, the symptoms can be caused by a variety of things such as a systemic issue like diabetic nerve damage, nutritional deficiencies, hormonal changes, psychological disorders or from other causes like chemotherapy, neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s, simple mouth infections like cold sores, or a candida infection. When the condition is BMS the issue can sometimes be resolved by removal of the causative factor, such as changing to a different brand of toothpaste if the is caused by a specific chemical in it, such as sodium lauryl sulfate. In the case of systemic causes, dietary changes and treating any nutritional deficiencies can help to solve the overarching issue.  In PFS the cause is from an antibody cross-reaction with proteins in the problem food. 

For our immune system to work properly a protein on a bacteria needs to be recognized by our immune system.  Once recognized, our immune system can then identify and go to work attacking the problem organism.  The issue in PFS, like all allergies, comes when your body starts to recognize proteins as problematic when it shouldn’t.  Fortunately, unlike other food allergies, PFS is rarely life-threatening, though this fact won’t comfort someone who suffers from PFS.  A diagnosis of PFS is typically done on a case by case basis and those with PFS often have a history of hay fever with skin tests to the pollens or foods in question.  Due to the need to rule out other causative factors, people typically don’t get diagnosed until they have a medical history documenting issue. This explains why children are often undiagnosed. Some doctors will look at total or specific IgE antibodies to try and confirm an immune response and to rule out other factors.

How is PFS different?

While the itching, pain, and discomfort from PFS may seem like BMS, there are important differences.  One of these differences is that those who suffer from PFS often have an allergy to something else such as a classic food allergy, or an allergy to pollen.  Another factor is that in people with PFS, the trigger foods typically come when raw food is consumed, and sufferers don’t have the same reaction when the food is cooked.  If you reacted to a raw apple or peach, you typically don’t get the same reaction to a cooked fruit dessert such as an apple or peach pie. This is because the proteins that cause the reaction in the food are not heat tolerant.  When these foods are cooked, the proteins will start to break down and thus won’t result in an immune response because our body is no longer able to recognize these proteins it thinks are harmful. 

PFS is often seen in people who have cross-reactions to birch, grass, or ragweed pollens.  People who are sensitized to birch pollen often cross-react with apple, pears, carrots, or celery and those sensitized with grass pollen will often cross-react with celery and carrots. There is concern that pesticides applied to plants may increase the expression of cross-reactive proteins in plants.  This means that eating clean foods and minimizing the chemicals in our environment can go a long way in terms of prevention PFS prevention.   


The Cross Reactors
Environmental AllergenFruitsVegetables>NutsSpicesOther Foods
Tree Pollen (typically birch and alder) Apple, apricot, cherry, fig, kiwi, lychee, nectarine, pear, plum, peach, prune, persimmon, strawberry Beans, carrot, celery, green pepper, potato, parsnip, peas Almond, hazelnut, walnut Anise, basil, dill, caraway, chicory, coriander, cumin, fennel, marjoram, oregano, parsley, paprika, pepper, tarragon, thyme Lentils, peanut, soybean, sunflower seeds
Grass Date, fig, kiwi, melons, orange, tomato, watermelon Peas, potato     Peanut
(More common in Europe and Asia)
Apple, melons, orange, peach, tomato, watermelon Carrot, celery, green pepper, onion, parsnip     Chamomile, sunflower seeds
(pollinates in autumn)
Banana, melons (e.g. cantaloupe, honeydew), watermelons Cucumbers, zuchhini      

What to do if you have PFS?

If you suspect you have, or have been diagnosed with, PFS one of the first things you may be told is that there is no treatment available and to simply avoid the food that is causing the reaction.  As mentioned above, cooked foods don’t result in the same reaction most of the time. When the food is from a fruit like an apple, you can also remove the skin as a way to weaken or remove the reaction.  The reason removing the skin works for some foods is because the skin often contains more protein than the rest of the food.  When you remove the skin, you also take the problem causing proteins with it.  This should be done with caution though because fruits and vegetables can contain different amounts of the problematic protein depending on the conditions the food was grown in or how ripe it is.  This means that removing the skin of one type of apple might not work while it may for another.  It’s been estimated that 47-70% of people who suffer from allergic rhinitis also have PFS.  So if you have seasonal allergies it may be worth finding out if you have minor PFS symptoms that have gone unnoticed.


Allergic Living. (2010). Oral Allergy: Plants, Foods That Cross-React.  Retrieved from:

Coculescu, E. C., Ţovaru, Ş., & Coculescu, B. I. (2014). Epidemiological and etiological aspects of burning mouth syndrome. Journal of Medicine & Life, 7(3), 305-309Hofmann, A., & Burks, A. W. (2008). Pollen food syndrome: update on the allergens. Current Allergy and Asthma Reports, 8(5), 413-417.

Ludman, S., et al. (2016). Pollen food syndrome amongst children with seasonal allergic rhinitis attending allergy clinic. Pediatric Allergy & Immunology, 27(2), 134-140. doi:10.1111/pai.12504

Ivković-Jureković, I. (2015). Oral allergy syndrome in children. International Dental Journal, 65(3), 164-168. doi:10.1111/idj.12164

Portnoy, J. (2015). IgE in clinical allergy and allergy diagnosis. World Allergy Organization. Retrieved from:

Rivinius, C. (2009). Burning mouth syndrome: Identification, diagnosis, and treatment. Journal of The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners, 21(8), 423-429. doi:10.1111/j.1745-7599.2009.00424.x

Seto, C. (2010) OAS- When raw food is forbidden.  Allergic Living. Retrieved from:


What Is Leaky Gut?

You may never see the term “leaky gut” on a hospital chart, but that’s not because it isn’t real or acknowledged by the functional medical community. Leaky Gut Syndrome, sometimes referred to as Intestinal Permeability, is a colloquial term used to describe a set of symptoms that have an undiagnosed cause. It can be challenging to get your doctor on board when you have the symptoms, primarily due to the fact that there are no specific diagnostic criteria for leaky gut. In addition, identifying the cause is not always easy. That can leave you struggling to find answers, much less a solution. The good news is that there are ways to combat leaky gut syndrome.

Symptoms of Leaky Gut Syndrome

Leaky gut syndrome can have a myriad of symptoms, though all of them are a result of the digestive organs. The most common symptoms include:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Cramps
  • Aches and pains
  • Food sensitivities

In fact, the first four symptoms often point toward a food sensitivity that may be triggering the other symptoms. Many doctors fail to find the reason why. Why do you have these symptoms after eating gluten, large amounts of fat, red meat or whatever your triggering food or ingredient happens to be? Research hasn’t caught up to the symptoms, but many doctors acknowledge that there must be some underlying cause for food sensitivities. Until mainstream medical care catches up, you can still mitigate your symptoms by avoiding foods that trigger a negative response.

Identify Your Food Sensitivities

If you want to say goodbye to the worst of your leaky gut symptoms, you need to know what is causing the reaction. One common starting point is to implement an Elimination Diet. Eliminations diets usually remove the seven most common food allergens–corn, eggs, soy, wheat/gluten, nuts, fish, and dairy. You’ll also avoid added sugars and processed foods where possible and follow this dietary plan for approximately 6-8 weeks.  One issue with an elimination diet, however, is that you might not find everything. As you start adding foods back in on a weekly basis, you could be missing delayed reactions or attributing them to the wrong foods. An elimination diet also does not easily incorporation or identify additives or environmental exposures that can be contributing to the issue.

Another, often simpler, way to identify food sensitivities is through the use of an LRA by Elisa ACT. Through blood draw and analysis, the LRA test identifies all three of the different reactions to food sensitivities on as many as 505 distinct items, including foods, food additives, toxic metals, molds, and environmental chemicals. That means that even if you don’t notice a reaction, the test will. That’s really good news when you have delayed reactions that can be easily overlooked or attributed to a different cause.

Control Your Symptoms Through Diet

Once you know which foods trigger your sensitivities, you can just avoid them, right? Unfortunately, it’s not really that easy. Simply knocking food items off of your grocery list can leave you with an increased risk of developing new sensitivities. This is because you often wind up substituting something you’re sensitive to for a new food and then eating large amounts of that food.  A common example is people who choose a gluten-free diet and then start to consume large amounts of corn or rice starch.  They then find out six months down the road, when they retest, that they have now developed a sensitivity to corn or rice.

Rotation diets can help you handle this issue. Following a four day plan, you eat foods on a strictly controlled schedule. By limiting exposure to proteins so you only consume them once every four days, you reduce the likelihood of developing new sensitivities or intolerances. This is one of the biggest benefits to the rotation diet since the last thing you want is to develop an endless cycle of additional allergies.

Additionally adding in functional foods, where allowable, such as bone broth and lacto-ferments can help support good gut health. Lacto-ferments can include kombucha, kefir, and lacto-fermented vegetables such as kimchi.  Increasing collagen peptides in the diet is also supportive as this is very healing for the gut.

Get On Board With Treatment

There is no cure for leaky gut syndrome, primarily because there is no single cause. Those with celiac, Crohn’s, IBS or several other autoimmune disorders can have many of the same symptoms. Your gut is the heart of your immune system. When it isn’t working properly, you are more vulnerable to disease and other illnesses. A leaky gut can leave you feeling generally worn down, and causes can range from poor stress management to diagnosable diseases. When you can’t find the cause, you should still work toward mitigating your symptoms. Run the tests and come up with a nutrition plan and rotation diet that works for you.

Our suggestion is to run an LRA test and come up with a nutrition plan and rotation diet that works for you. It’s important to remember that the more compliant you are with your new nutrition plan, the more effective these changes are going to be when it comes to improving your gut health. Strict elimination, combined with good nutrition and gut support, can often be very helpful in reducing or removing the uncomfortable symptoms that lead you to test in the first place.


milk - food allergies

Got Milked?

The Got Milk Campaign

Developed for the California Milk Processor Board in 1993, Got Milk? was a campaign to help sell more milk.  It was apparently successful in California but not so much in the rest of the country.  It was a cute campaign with a lot of celebrities painted in milk mustaches among other visuals. It appeared both as magazine ads and television commercials.

Allergic to dairy?

The concept of “got milk?” takes on a different connotation when you can’t have milk or dairy products.  Similar to those who can’t have gluten and have significant health problems when they get “glutened,” for those who are sensitive to dairy or any of its parts consumption can be very dangerous. 

Lactose intolerance

There are different issues related to consuming dairy products. One is Lactose intolerance. This is where the body does not produce enough of a particular digestive enzyme, lactase, to break down the lactose (milk sugar). Most people lose their ability to produce lactose in early childhood. That leaves a lot of people who struggle with the symptoms of lactose intolerance when they eat yogurt, milk, cheese, ice cream, or any other dairy product. Symptoms can include

  • bloating
  • diarrhea
  • farting
  • gas
  • stomach cramping or upset

Milk protein allergy

Another issue with dairy consumption is the protein in the milk. There are two different types of protein, whey and casein.  Whey is made by removing the milk protein solids. It’s often found in protein beverages or athletic recovery formulas and may be listed as either whey protein, whey protein concentrate, or whey protein isolate. Whey is rapidly absorbed into the system. Depending on how lactose intolerant you are, when consuming whey you may also have lactose intolerance issues going on as there is a small amount of lactose in whey.

The other protein, casein, is also sometimes found in protein beverages. The body responds more slowly to casein and because of this slower breakdown tends to promote fullness longer. Some people are allergic to either casein or whey, some people are allergic to both.   

Some of the symptoms of lactose intolerance and milk protein allergy are the same. However, over time the milk protein allergy can worsen. For those who are allergic to whey or casein, it can even be fatal.  Because these allergies can pose significant health problems it is important to work with an allergist for testing and support if you suspect there is a problem. Allergy symptoms include:

  • Abdominal cramps
  • Anaphylaxis
  • Behavioral health changes
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Hives or rash
  • Joint Pain
  • Wheezing or difficulty breathing

Know your dairy ingredients

It’s important to note that just because a product is labeled lactose free that does not mean that it is dairy-free.  When there’s an allergy it is a matter of concern about whether or not there is dairy in what you are eating.  On packaged food labels there are a lot of ingredients to watch out for that are derived from milk. If there is a lactose intolerance or a milk protein allergy, these need to be avoided:

  • milk
  • butter
  • casein
  • casinate
  • cheese
  • cream
  • curds
  • whey
  • lactalbumin
  • lactoferrin
  • lactose
  • lactulose
  • yogurt

Surprising places for dairy

In addition to these ingredients, there are a number of surprising items that are derived from dairy or that may contain dairy.  It’s not always clear and you may not be aware of what to watch out for:

  • artificial sweeteners
  • baked goods (many of these are unlabeled)
  • bath products
  • breath mints
  • candy
  • canned tuna fish (may contain hydrolyzed caseinate)
  • caramel
  • chewing gum (may contain milk protein)
  • medications (if this is a concern talk with your pharmacist)
  • hot dogs
  • lunch meat (cross-contamination may also be an issue)
  • margarine (while these are not butter, they may not be dairy-free)
  • potato chips
  • soy cheese (some of them still include dairy)
  • spice mixes (may contain whey powder)
  • whipped topping (these are marketed as “non-dairy” but often contain casein)

Food allergy labeling

While that’s a lot to keep track of, for those who have a significant, life-threatening allergy to dairy it is critical that they are aware of what’s in what they are eating.  Because dairy is one of the seven top allergens in this country it does need to appear on the label as an allergy statement like the example below where the allergens are listed in bold

Food allergy label






Another labeling example is when foods do not necessarily have dairy (or other top food allergen) products in them but are made in a facility that also processes a food allergen such as the example below. This statement is also in bold type.

Food label allergen





Eating away from home

While labeling might show if there’s dairy in packaged foods, this all goes out the window when eating out at a restaurant or at someone else’s home.  

It is possible to ask if there’s dairy in a product and be told no but to discover that it’s finished with butter. Or to have someone not be aware of what’s in a dish.

Even for those who are not allergic but have a food intolerance or delayed hypersensitivity, accidental exposure may cause a heightened reaction as the body reacts more strongly to the substance it’s trying to clear.

For those with life-threatening allergies to dairy any exposure poses a dangerous situation.  Be aware of your setting and the possibility of exposure.  It’s important to ask if your food allergen is in the meal that you are being served.  It can also be helpful to use a Food Allergy Buddy Card (available for free download).

Giving Up Dairy

Dairy Collage

Food Intolerance Journal – Week One
With my recent discovery of food intolerance issues I’ve had to make some changes to my nutritional plan.   Honey is a little tricky and I do need to read the label to make sure that it’s not part of the sometimes cascading list of sweeteners found in some foods.  Berries, and melon are fairly easy to avoid and since they aren’t in season right now I’m telling myself that by avoiding the frozen ones I’m on a journey to heal my gut in time for them to be back in season again and hopefully back on my plate.

Dairy on the other hand?  Well that’s proving to be more challenging.  In my first week I’ve had less than stellar success with my new dairy-free lifestyle.  This is in part due to the need to travel and in part due to all the places that dairy hides in the diet.  When looking at labels remember to also look for casein, lactose, and whey or variants of those since they are a part of the milk product.

I should clarify, I need to avoid cow’s milk dairy products.  Goat’s milk is fine and sheep’s milk (if I could source it here in Texas) would also be fine.  Luckily I like goat’s milk cheese and goat’s milk yogurt is available at my grocery store.  But I’m also looking to alternative dairy (coconut, almond, rice, hemp, oat, or flax milk-based products) to help replace any dairy in baking or drinking as a less expensive and easier sourced option.  The biggest challenge with the alternative dairy is that most products come with added carrageenan.  Made from a red seaweed it’s not a healthy option for anyone, but especially for someone with a challenged digestive tract.  Found in products that come in those convenient containers in the dairy case, in the tetra-pack versions, in frozen confections made with alternative dairy, it’s really hard to get away from carrageenan.  My options are to find brands that don’t have it or to make my own.  Feeling squeezed for time I’m really not interested in making my own at the moment so my current favorite option is to purchase coconut milk in BPA free cans.

For other dairy options I am definitely looking in a more vegan direction.   I’m not switching to a vegan diet, but it does offer some great substitutions for dairy.  One that I was recently introduced to is a fabulous dish called RawFredo.  A raw vegan version of spaghetti alfredo made with spiraled zucchini and a cashew based “alfredo” sauce.  This sauce was so delicious that I can’t wait to make it again.  I’m not ashamed to confess that not only did I lick my bowl, I grabbed my spatula and, ahem, “cleaned” the blender jar.  I’m grateful to my friend and colleague, Primitive Diva, for introducing me to this delicious dish.

While it takes time and effort to make these changes the end result is definitely worth it.  In order to be successful when accommodating any shift in nutritional plans, the key is to find delicious alternatives to what you are used to eating,


photo credits:  MaxStraeten, wax115