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Like many of my patients, Kate came to see me searching for answers to her sleep disturbances and chronic migraines. The initial fix was an intraoral appliance to realign her jaw. That helped open her airway, allowing her to breathe better while she slept. And it eliminated her migraines, which were caused by clenching and grinding in her sleep.

But Kate needed more. After a consult with Renee Belz, M.S., our certified nutritional consultant, Kate saw significant improvement. That’s because Renee helped Kate identify and manage her food sensitivities, intolerances, and allergies.

While allergies can cause immediate and significant reactions, they are less common than food sensitivities and intolerances. Still, sensitivities and intolerances can wreak havoc on the body, if not managed well.

Kate’s journey to eliminate and manage problem foods from her diet started with a blood test by a medical physician. The results of that test revealed which foods Kate needed to avoid, and which she should eat in moderation.

Sensitivities to certain foods can cause reactions in the body, such as a headache or rash. While these types of reactions are a little more apparent, one reaction that’s harder to identify—and yet can cause serious problems—is mucous buildup in the nasal cavity. When the nostrils are inflamed, it’s difficult to breathe, and that can create a lot of problems. For one, it can cause a person to breathe through their mouth, which in children can cause crooked teeth and a malformed facial structure. In adults, mouth breathing can cause gum disease and bad breath. When it’s difficult to breathe through the nose, a person may also have sleep problems, including potentially sleep apnea.

Food sensitivities can also cause inflammation in the gut, which can actually affect the brain. That happens because the body’s neurotransmitters—chemical messengers from the brain—are created in the gut. The neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and GABA, which regulate your emotions and your sense of calm, can be negatively impacted if the gut is inflamed. And all of that can disrupt sleep.

Gut inflammation occurs because the immune system is activated as a way of defending against an invader. Depending on the individual, that can show up as brain fog, poor memory, gas, bloating, constipation, eczema, psoriasis, dry skin, low energy, or fatigue. That’s what makes it so difficult to identify food sensitivities versus intolerances, because the symptoms can show up in so many different ways depending on the individual.

Controlling inflammation is done, in part, by better management of diet. People often think they are eating healthy, when in reality the foods they are consuming are causing negative reactions in their body. White flour, white sugar, and processed foods can cause inflammation and can even change the jaw structure and affect dental health, leading to teeth crowding, dental decay, and narrowing jaw structures. Smaller jaws and smaller airways can lead to obstructive sleep apnea and other sleep issues.

Organic whole foods can help reduce inflammation. These are foods that are not genetically modified (non-GMO) and have been grown without the use of pesticides or insecticides. Foods labeled “certified organic” are grown and processed by farms or facilities that have obtained specific certification and accreditation.

By eliminating certain foods and being more mindful of those she ate, Kate was able to rid her body of pain and get a great night’s sleep.