Sunday, December 29, 2013

Food Intolerance

One hears a lot about the topic recently.  My wife has found that eliminating wheat has made her intestines more comfortable and allowed her to lose 10 lbs with no additional effort.  Yet she never had the deeply intolerant, allergic reaction to wheat that some report.  There are those whose bodies react very badly to lactose, others who can digest a little, and some who do fine unless they have large amounts of it, in which case lactaid is required.

People talk about food intolerances as if they are either-or problems.  For some, I am sure they are.  A brazil nut sends me to the ER for a shot, for example, and even trace amounts seem to require a couple of benadryl.  Yet I wonder if many of these supposed allergies are better described as things-your-body-just-doesn't-digest-well-anymore. We ask our digestive systems to provide a rather impressive array of enzymes to get through a year, and perhaps some of them are simply in shorter supply as we age. Just an off-the-cuff theory.  Does anyone actually know about this?

BTW, even though wheat avoidance has resulted in significant sacrifices in the area of desserts, any constraint forces creativity. We hadn't had warm indian pudding with whipped cream for a long time, but we did tonight.  And you didn't.  So we're ahead of you there, because it was quite lovely.


james said...

We're omnivores, so I suppose a fair bit of the genome is devoted to figuring out how to digest things. Little mutations here or there could leave some gaps in the cornucopia.

It wouldn't necessarily have anything to do with age, except insofar as we have less resilience and heal less quickly internally as well as externally.

Or some disease can cause permanent changes. I can trace a change in my digestion (for the worse) to a rip-roaring bug I got when I was about 35.

Christopher B said...

Have you read Gary Taubes? I'd been meaning to for around two years when there were diet discussions going on blogs I read (Megan Mcardle and Tom McGuire specifically) and my own experience with the diet/exercise program I started back then. "Good Calories, Bad Calories" was one of the first purchases on my new Kindle. It's a quick read (a less technical version of his "Why we get fat") and I think insightful, based on my own observations and experiences. I don't know that I buy into his theories 100% but his opinion on how high-carb diets are very likely to promote weight gain is well-argued. He would have predicted your wife's experience.