"Food Incompatibility and Abnormal Bowel Response"

Submitted by Miss Danielle on Mon, 05/21/2007 - 7:13pm.

"Food Incompatibility and Abnormal Bowel Response"

Written by and re-published here with the kind permission of Majid Ali, M.D.

No discussion of the relationship of food on the human condition can be complete without some comments about food incompatibility and abnormal bowel responses to food. I make some essential points about this subject before outlining some steps for limbic eating.

When the nose weeps, allergy is evident to everyone. When the bowel cries out with cramps, we do not think of bowel allergy or food reactions. We try to simply smother the bowel with drugs. When the eyes burn, we look for toxic pollutants in the air. When the heart hurts (and palpitates), we do not think of chemical sensitivity but try to simply suppress the symptoms with drugs.

The single most important cause of fatigue in my experience is food and mold allergy. Every one of my patients with chronic fatigue syndrome has food incompatibilities. Problems of mood, memory and mentation can often be relieved by proper management of food incompatibilities. I have never seen a patient with chronic colitis who could not be proven to have food allergy with appropriate food allergy tests. Most patients with asthma and the vast majority of young patients with arthritis have food allergy.

I do not recall ever seeing a patient with autoimmune disease who was not food or mold allergic. All practitioners of environmental medicine and physician-nutritionists will readily agree to all this. Regrettably, there are physicians who dismiss the problem of food incompatibility and allergy as problems in the head. Indeed, some textbooks of pediatrics still consider the incidence of food allergy among children as quite low. There is another paradox here. Food incompatibilities and abnormal bowel responses to food are simple problems for some professionals and exceedingly complex for others. Those who look for allergy find it and know that it is an extremely common problem. Those who do not, tend to think food allergy is very rare. They continue to treat with drugs many cases of food incompatibility that they regard as diseases of idiopathic origin. The term idiopathic is an elegant expression. It means we do not know its cause. The problem here is that after we call something idiopathic, we stop looking for the real cause. The term idiopathic does not tell anything to us physicians and it hides much from our patients.

Food incompatibility reactions are usually excitatory in nature initially, but can pass into an inhibitory phase as the problem becomes deeper. This phenomenon is observed in a reverse order during recovery. I believe these phenomena led the ancients to observe that on the way out of a chronic illness, a patient often suffers from the problems he faced on his way into the disease. These responses do not fit into our blessed double-blind cross-over methods of research in drug medicine; hence, the confusion of practitioners of such medicine about these essential aspects of healing.

Are we condemned to keep food diaries forever? Remembering what we ate yesterday so we can rotate our food today?

Physicians who practice molecular medicine, as described here, know such responses well. They also know that these reactions do not occur after successful management of food incompatibilities.

Cortical Habits, Limbic Habits:

Is eating well always a struggle? How long do we need to closely follow our food plans? Are we condemned to keep food diaries forever? Remember what we ate yesterday so we can rotate our foods today? Will we always offend our senses by reading food labels? Will denial be the way of life? Punishment at each meal time?

Eat what is best for you; habit will make it agreeable:

Children with hyperactivity syndrome and attention deficit disorders caused by food incompatibilities give eloquent answers to these questions. They paraphrase Aristotle's words in heir down-to-earth answers to my questions during my follow-up visits with them. Food craving is the flip-side of the coin of food incompatibility. Preaching to a child with sugar addiction t stay from sugar, in many ways, is akin to asking a cocaine addict to say 'No' to his daily fix. Still, I see this every day. Sometimes it takes weeks, sometimes months, but it does happen. With proper professional support and gentle persistent parental guidance, children do learn the relationship between their food and their condition. They learn to know the signals from their tissues, cells and molecules. With time, eating what they like to eat becomes the same thing as eating what they need to eat. This is limbic eating. There is no more any need to keep food diaries, the hassle of choosing alternative foods, fretting, about rotation. All this is done effortlessly and naturally, at some higher visceral-intuitive level. The cortical monkey relinquishes its hold. Limbic habits replace cortical habits.

Decisions! Decisions! Decisions!:

Some new patients arrive for consultation with me armed heavily with notions of food families, cross-reactivities among foods, food elimination and rotation, yeast-free diets and no-sugar diets. I do not know how much stress they were under before they put themselves on special diets, but I readily recognize the stress caused by restrictive diets. It often reminds me of a story my brother used to tell.

A man was about to retire after thirty years of service in a fruit-packing plant.

His job required him to pick damaged apples from a conveyor belt before they were packed into boxes. Some years before he was to retire, he started calling his day of retirement a day of deliverance. As his retirement day neared, his talk about his deliverance day became incessant and annoying. His family and friends bore all that with good grace. The day before retirement, his excitement peaked and his words became unbearable for everyone around him. A friend got very irritated and said, "I know this is a big day for you. But you should really calm down."

"But you don't understand," he beamed.

"I understand," the friend responded, "you have been looking forward to this day for a long time."

"No! No! you don't understand," he answered excitedly. "Calm down. Such excitement is not healthy," the friend admonished. "No! No! you don't understand."

"Understand what? What is there to understand anyway? You are retiring and you will have a lot of free time," the friend replied with irritation.

It's not about leisure time. You don't understand at all," the man grinned broadly.

"If it is not leisure, what else is it? You will not have to go to work."


"You will travel?"


"So then what is it? All you did was pick damaged apples from the conveyor belt."

"That's it! It is about decisions!"

"Decisions?" The friend was incredulous.

"Yes! Decisions! Decisions! Decisions!"

Pursuit of perfection can be paralyzing. It is truer in matters of nutrition and health, it seems to me, than in any other area. What is required is an intuitive-visceral sense of what should be eaten and what may be declined among foods. Such a sense follows a true understanding of the sound scientific knowledge of nutrients, naturally and effortlessly.

Once we know something about the effects of our foods on our condition, we cannot not know it.

Majid Ali, M.D.

Past President and Professor of Medicine of Capital University of Integrative Medicine, Washington, D.C.

Formerly, Associate Professor of Pathology (Adj.) Columbia University, New York, College of Physicians and Surgeons

Fellow, Royal College of Surgeons of England

Editor, The Journal of Integrative Medicine

Authored or co-authored over 110 scientific and medical articles in peer review journals.