Are you suffering from heartburn or headaches? Just can’t get out of bed in the morning? Do you look as though you are never rested no matter how much sleep you get, or feel as bloated as the Pillsbury Doughboy because of relentless water retention? All of these symptoms can be caused by the foods you are eating.

Many of us tend to consume the same foods day after day with little variety. This may lead to our bodies becoming “sensitized” to the foods (food sensitivities are also sometimes called food allergies, although they may not be true allergies like those that may induce an anaphylactic reaction). This may result in a myriad of symptoms that are surprisingly not always digestive in nature. The trouble is we tend to go on, gradually feeling worse and worse, chronically fatigued or under-functioning. Usually it is difficult to realize how badly you are feeling until the offending foods are removed and you begin to notice improvements in subtle ways such as improvements in energy levels, moods, concentration and focus, joint pain, headaches or sinus congestion. This is why removal of the most commonly allergenic food groups is the essential first step in every one of my patient’s personalized wellness plan.

Through this process of removing certain foods from your diet will you realize that your digestive tract isn’t just about the process of digestion. There are less commonly recognized processes linked to your gastrointestinal tract and, ultimately, your foundation of health. These include:

Immunity. Approximately 60% of your immune system is clustered around your digestive tract. This makes sense because if you eat something rotten, your immune system is close by to protect you. However, because of the close association of the two, if your digestive tract is not healthy or the integrity of the gut wall is poor, your immune system may become compromised. Over time, many individuals experiencing digestive complaints tend to develop signs of weakened immunity such as allergies or frequent colds and the flu. In the same line of thinking, consuming certain foods may aggravate your allergy symptoms.

Mood. Our digestive system affects serotonin levels, which influences mood, memory, concentration and even food cravings and sleep patterns. Ever wonder why you tend to crave sweet foods or carbohydrates if you are down? Physiologically, it is not surprising, as two-thirds of the serotonin – your “happy hormone,” governing mood, anxiety, sleep and food cravings – actually are produced from cells around your digestive tract and not your brain. This may be the theory behind some of the new medications used to treat irritable bowel syndrome, many of which affect serotonin levels. People who are experiencing anxiety, depression or sleep irregularities may benefit from the removal of certain foods causing allergies as they may be affecting serotonin levels involved in these conditions.