First let's talk about what food sensitivities are. Food sensitivities are the body’s reactions to a food it has identified as a threat (there are many reasons for this!). Food sensitivities are slightly different than allergies because a different part of the immune system is reacting to the food in the body.
Allergies are IgE antibodies that the body lets loose to deal with the ‘threat’.
Food sensitivities are IgG antibodies.
So, if you have traditional allergy testing you might turn up negative for everything but if you have food sensitivity testing done you will see that some of the foods that you eat every day are causing inflammation and immune reactions in your body.
One thing that makes it really difficult to tell if we have a food sensitivity is that the reaction can be delayed up to a full 24 hours. If you are allergic to something, your body usually lets you know right away!
Another factor that can make it different for each person is that food intolerance reactions sometimes depend on the amount of the food consumed (1).
If you are struggling with brain fog, tummy troubles, anxiety, acne, migraines, weight gain, diarrhea, or bloating you might be struggling with food sensitivities. Symptoms can be very different from person to person (1).
Additionally, all of this can be confusing because there are other types of food intolerances as well: pharmacological (e.g. caffeine), enzyme deficiency (e.g. lactose intolerance, the most common and known food intolerance) and nonspecific gut and non-gut reactions (e.g Irritable Bowel Syndrome) (2). These impact many metabolic pathways and involve different consequences and symptoms for each individual. There is still a lot of research needed in this field to further solidify current understanding. No one solution fits for all individuals.
Food Sensitivities and Trying to Conceive
How does this relate to fertility? When we are trying to conceive it’s really important to look at all kinds of factors such as stress, smoking, alcohol consumption, and how the immune system is behaving (3).
We know that inflammation is a huge factor (4) and is driven by all those things we just listed. Food sensitivities, food intolerances, gluten sensitivity (which is a little different as well) and celiac disease can all be triggers of immune responses, cell damage and inflammation. Food sensitivities and intolerances and associated inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS) have been found to be linked to decreased fertility (3) Scientists theorize that the impact to male and female fertility from that damage and inflammation due to food sensitivities or IBS is likely related to increased oxidative stress. The increased production of reactive oxygen species (ROS), which can generate cell damage and cell death impacts fertilization and early embryonic growth (5).
We want our bodies to work as well as possible, and factors such as food sensitivities can be addressed to begin to optimize our fertility. It just makes sense. Remove triggers and inflammation, eat the best foods to nourish our sperm and eggs, and we will have a greater chance of conceiving (6).
If you continue to accept those ‘minor’ symptoms such as fatigue, joint pain, acne, hormonal imbalances, PMS, and sleep problems that the doctor says are signs of aging or just ‘normal’ then your body will continue to feel the ill effects of the foods that you're eating and over time this will lead to other health issues (6).
So what can you do?
There is a solution! You can figure out what is causing your body harm and what foods heal it. There is simple food sensitivity testing available and there are other options that don’t even involve testing (see towards the end of this article for options). For example, balancing your nutrients, making sure you're nourishing your body and getting the right foods or supplements to do so.
Thursall Cellé shares her story about how food sensitivities were affecting her
I know what it's like to unknowingly perpetuate food sensitivity reactions. I was struggling to get pregnant with my first child and was having some of those ‘common’ health complaints, fatigue, acne, weight gain, and brain fog. We tried to conceive for three and a half years and nothing seemed to make a difference. I had surgery for endometriosis. I worked on my thyroid levels. We even did IVF. But the IVF doctor told us that my body was not reacting well with the medications and that we would need to use donor eggs if we tried the IVF procedure again. I was quite frankly devastated and decided I didn’t want to put myself through that again right away or maybe ever!
After that first and only failed traumatic IVF, I went to see a different kind of doctor. I saw a functional medicine doctor and I paid out of pocket to see this doctor because I had heard good things. For the first time someone ran a food sensitivity panel for me. I was surprised at what came up, but I cut those foods out and within three months my whole body changed. I no longer had acne all over my chin, I had lost 15 pounds without doing anything different, and my menstrual cycles were pain free for the first time in my life.
This was the changing point in my life: a simple food sensitivity test
Nine months after that failed IVF, I became pregnant with my son with no doctor visits and no special treatments! He’s now 10. I can’t even describe the shock that I felt on seeing that pregnancy test when the doctors had told us it would NEVER happen naturally.
There’s more to the story though. For me, it wasn’t just healing and recovering from food sensitivities, it was gluten sensitivity. I once again cut foods out and figured out that it was gluten. As soon as I cut it out, the NEXT cycle, we conceived our daughter, who is now 8!
During that second pregnancy, I was finally officially diagnosed with gluten sensitivity. I had done Celiac testing before and they all came back negative but the gluten sensitivity test came back positive when my new doctor tested for it.
It still seems like a miracle to me but in hindsight I know that it was all because of what I was putting into my body. Making those changes allowed me to heal and live a full life.
Through this experience and what followed I was led to my calling of helping others improve their health and optimize their fertility through diet and lifestyle changes.
There is hope! You can find relief by figuring out what YOUR body needs
If you are looking for those other solutions like food sensitivity testing or a deep dive into your functional nutritional needs for fertility, then this is exactly what I do. I turned my pain and suffering around. I was so inspired that it led me to find my passion, which is helping others with the same type of issues.
The number one impact I felt and that many others feel when they apply diet and lifestyle changes is that their infertility just goes away and they find themselves pregnant. Their cycles start to regulate. They feel better. They lose weight. Their skin looks better. They feel happier.
I've heard from so many women who have been through the wringer and not been able to find the right help with issues like suspected food sensitivities, inflammation (think headaches, joint pain) and fatigue.
Through our 1 on1 or group services, we coach women like you all the time with what to eat to nourish the body and to optimize your fertility. These changes can help reverse PCOS symptoms, and get cycles back on track, and we can help you figure how. We help you find a balance for your nutrients so that your body has what it needs to produce hormones, to build high quality eggs and sperm, and to improve your fertility to the point that you can get pregnant naturally. We use many tools to help our clients including cycle tracking or testing hormones (like Pearl).
We do a deep dive into your health history and your current symptoms, and we really look at what's going on with your unique situation. We look at all of your fertility factors and we come up with a plan together to achieve your goals whether they are just feeling better, regulating your hormones, or getting pregnant and starting your family.
It’s a game change when you can find a thorough and caring practitioner to support you through these changes.
Set up your discovery call today. https://focusingonfertility.com/services/
Or just dive in! We are currently running a program for PCOS & Fertility that offers a full solution for optimizing fertility. Check it out here: https://focusingonfertility.com/pcos-fertility-transformation/
More in depth article on gluten sensitivity found here: https://focusingonfertility.com/gluten-and-your-fertility/
Thursall Cellé, FNTP
Thursall is one of the dynamic duo at Focusing on Fertility. Kimberly and Thursall are Functional Nutrition Therapy Practitioners (FNTP). As an FNTP they look at health from a holistic approach and perform a deep dive to really get to the root of your health or fertility issues. Thursall practices virtually from North Carolina. She has her 2 beautiful miracles and has recently added a dog to the family! Thursall has additional training in Fertility/Infertility, Gluten + Autoimmunity, and Diabetes. Don’t wait another minute to realize your dreams!
- Ruiz Sánchez JG, Palma Milla S, Pelegrina Cortés B, López Plaza B, Bermejo López LM, Gómez-Candela C. Una visión global de las reacciones adversas a alimentos: alergia e intolerancia alimentaria [A global vision of adverse reactions to foods: food allergy and food intolerance]. Nutr Hosp. 2018, 35(Spec No4):102-108. doi: 10.20960/nh.2134. PMID: 30070131.
- Turnbull J.L, Adams H.N, Gorard, D.A. Review article: the diagnosis and management of food allergy and food intolerances. Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, 2015, 41: 3–25 https://doi.org/10.1111/apt.12984
- Wasilewska, E., & Małgorzewicz, S. (2019). Impact of allergic diseases on fertility. Postepy dermatologii i alergologii, 36(5), 507–512. https://doi.org/10.5114/ada.2019.89501
- Brazdova, A., Senechal, H., Peltre, G., & Poncet, P. (2016). Immune Aspects of Female Infertility. International journal of fertility & sterility, 10(1), 1–10. https://doi.org/10.22074/ijfs.2016.4762.
- Anton, C., Ciobica, A., Doroftei, B., Maftei, R., Ilea, C., Darii Plopa, N., Bolota, M., & Anton, E. (2020). A Review of the Complex Relationship between Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Infertility. Medicina (Kaunas, Lithuania), 56(11), 592. https://doi.org/10.3390/medicina56110592
- Ward, N, & Eaton, K. (2009). Preconceptional Care and Pregnancy Outcome. Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine. 5(2): 205-208.