Some comments about problems with food

I talked to someone the other day who can’t eat chicken, it gives them bad indigestion. If it’s JUST the meat, nothing else, they can handle it. But any broth, gravy or grease, and their gut is unhappy. But anything from a turkey is fine — meat, skin, gravy, they love it all. No problems.

I’ve never heard of that.

And then I saw a recipe for something-or-other with pears, and the writer of the recipe commented that they can’t eat raw pears, but any type of cooked pears are fine.

I’d never heard of that either.

I’ve found over time that some of my sensitivities are all over the place. I love black tea, but there is some type of black tea (haven’t tracked it down, it was in a blend I used to get, haven’t run into it since then) that would give me dull headaches. Kung Pao sauce in Asian restaurants is another gamble for me, some restaurant’s Kung Pao sauce will almost give me a migraine a couple hours after eating, but not other restaurants. And I can’t eat raw sweet cherries anymore, they make the inside of my mouth itch, but canned or dried sour cherries are fine.

The article “The Great Gluten-Free Scam” (Julian Llewellyn Smith, The Telegraph, Nov 7 2013) quotes one campaigner who thinks it is yeast and other additives that cause digestive problems for some of the people who claim gluten problems.

What Young certainly isn’t saying is that we should avoid all bread. He stresses that traditionally proven loaves – especially sourdough with its naturally occurring yeasts – appear to suit our digestive systems much better. “People tell us all the time I can’t eat factory bread, but when I go to France or Italy and shop at the little bakers, I have no problem.”

I think food sensitivities vary a lot more by person than is generally acknowledged. Like other things in life, it’s a matter of paying attention to the world around you and noticing patterns.

2 thoughts on “Some comments about problems with food

  1. I’ve often wondered if the seemingly exponential increase in food allergies across the spectrum was due to either (from my worldview) a continued worsening of the human condition and our environment in general, or the fact that we have access to a vastly broader variety of different foods. Do you know if there have been any studies on people groups and the food allergies particular to them?

    • Well Rob, there are actual multiple answers to your questions.

      Yes, there have been some studies on demographic groups and their allergies.

      In particular, lactose intolerance is actually an allergy. It’s one that is bred into most mammals by evolution, making the animal have an allergy to milk sugars and dislike milk after a certain age so the older siblings do not starve out the younger siblings by hogging all of mother’s milk. Humans are one of the very few mammal species that can tolerate milk sugars in adulthood, and it’s a genetic variation that arose in at least three different places (northern Europe, western Africa, and somewhere on Arabian peninsula, I think) because for humans, being able to digest milk sugars meant more protein sources over the course of the year.

      If I remember right, Celiac disease is also fairly closely associated with one branch of European ethnicity, somewhere in the Scandinavian countries, I think?

      Other studies have been less conclusive. And one study of peanut allergies in both Israeli and American Jews who had very similar genetic / ethnic backgrounds seemed to show that exposure to peanuts and peanut butter early in childhood significantly reduced the incidence of peanut allergy. There was an article about it a few years back in New Scientist magazine.

      There’s been a theory around for about 10 or 20 years now that part of what is increasing allergies is increased cleanliness. The first time I saw this mentioned was in Discover magazine about 15-20 years ago, a doctor who specialized in helping very poor tropical islanders found that as he helped the populations get rid of parasites (hookworm, roundworm, tapeworm, etc.), those same groups which had been almost allergy-free began to develop allergies. There are now quite a few scientists who think that many allergies are from an immune system that evolved over millennia of very dirty conditions and now, confronted with much cleaner (and in some cases of very germophobic people, almost sterile) conditions doesn’t really know what to do with itself and there tends to react to foreign substances that normally it would ignore.

      So I don’t really know if it’s a worsening of the human condition and environment, or if it’s that we’re modifying our environment faster than our genes can sometimes easily cope with.
      – Cleanliness is one example, as is the tendency to stay inside more than we used to, and to sit longer in both childhood and adulthood than has been typical for the last several thousand years. Within the last couple years, 6+ hours spent sitting a day is starting to be viewed as almost as great a risk factor in long-term health as obesity or smoking.
      – There was an article in Salon, which in turn was based off a book titled “Leaders Eat Last”, where the author argued that text-based social media, which creates the illusion of closeness and personal interaction without the actual non-word-based signals that come from voice-to-voice or face-to-face communication, may contribute to a sense of isolation or expulsion in people.
      – In my own experience, there are a lot of people (myself included) who seem to have an inherent amount of aggression. I found that martial arts helps me deal with a lot, giving me a place to get rid of that aggression, but for people who have that inborn excess energy and temper — which in previous generations would have been very needed at times — now, if they don’t grow up somewhere where there is someplace to blow off steam, or don’t grow up around people who even acknowledge such facilities are necessary, they have a hard time dealing that.

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