Thursday, November 12, 2009

Empire State of Mind…for a Week

Over my break, which was the week of October 26-30th, I traveled to New York. I had the opportunity to reconnect with long time friends, listen to some great music, and learn about naturopathic medical practice.

I was able to shadow Dr. Donielle Wilson in Manhattan and Stamford, Connecticut. I saw a variety of patients with concerns ranging from infertility to halitosis, but saw a common theme in all of their treatments: nutrition.

I am not sure if and how doctors can emphasize the importance of nutrition enough. Sometimes I feel wrapped up in planning what I am going to “give to” or “do for” a patient and overlook the simple idea that re-establishing the basis for health starts with a properly nourished body. Nutrition counseling and analysis should be a top priority in a treatment plan.

One way to go about ensuring proper nutrition is to perform a food allergy test. This was one test I saw utilized with almost all patients I saw during my New York visit. This is different from testing that looks for hypersensitivity allergic reactions (like a peanut allergy that causes breathing problems, for example). Food allergy tests look for delayed sensitivity reactions. By taking a blood sample, the blood is analyzed for immune reaction to a variety of foods and a list of reactive and non reactive foods is generated. Another way to determine possible allergens is to do an elimination diet. This involves eliminating the most common sources of allergy, like wheat (and other gluten containing grains), dairy, eggs, soy, and citrus. Then after eliminating these foods, they are  reintroduced one by one. Symptoms can be evaluated as possibly related to potential foods as they are introduced in an otherwise allergy free diet. On the other hand, a food allergy test will show exactly what foods are reactive and there will be no guessing as to which foods may or many not be causing problems.

Some common symptoms of food allergy or intolerance might have an obvious association, like irritable bowel for instance. Other symptoms might range from headaches, to weight gain, to fatigue. By determining if food is the underlying cause of troubling conditions such as these, the offender can easily be removed from the diet and the body can begin to heal.

All this talk about nutrition and health makes me think of the age old adage—you are what you eat. And your body will tell you if it likes what you eat in subtle or obvious ways.