You’re so Sensitive!

You’re so Sensitive!

An insight into allergies and intolerances

By Sonja Johnson, RNC, CHN

I have an ongoing, intimate relationship with food and environmental intolerances. We are not friends, but we are definitely in each others lives whether I like it or not. I think the intolerances are having way more fun with me than I am with them, but c’est la vie!

Every substance on earth that can be eaten, inhaled or touched is a potential allergen. A little scary to think about, I know, but there are a number of contributing factors to actually developing allergies to certain substances (we are not all doomed) and a number of ways to avoid them. Let me take you on a short trip back in time…

Seven years ago I started competing in bodybuilding shows. I absolutely loved everything about them. I embraced the mandatory lifestyle changes (restrictive eating, gruelling workouts) and the wonderful side effects (weekly physical changes, increases in strength and endurance) and dove head first into this new challenge. It felt amazing! For three years I competed in a category called figure, and unlike most other competitors, had come into it as a vegetarian.

Having been one for 15 years, I wasn’t ready to take on animal flesh as of yet, so I lived on a diet that consisted of whey protein and eggs as my protein sources. After three years of eating these foods daily, coupled with the stress of competition, my body started to react. It felt as if it happened overnight. Suddenly I was bloated all of the time. At first I chalked it up to having always had a mildly sensitive stomach, but then the gas started, and I started developing hives in obscure, weird areas on my body. Finding itchy spots on sensitive areas can really send a girl into a frenzy! I also stopped being able to lose weight and, in the competition world, this can be a big issue.

Biting the bullet, I decided to have two allergy tests done. One with “Rocky Mountain Analytical” where I sent my blood to get tested for allergens ( and one with our acupuncturist using Traditional Chinese medicine Vega testing ( They both came back with severe intolerances to whey, eggs and the nut butter I had been using for the last three years, as well as intolerances to other foods, beverages (alcohol and coffee…I was not pleased) environmental allergies like mould, and even cleaning and household products. I was a mess!

So how did this happen? Let me explain…

Our bodies become more susceptible to sensitivities and intolerances when they are under stress. These can be emotionally motivated, lifestyle habits, diet, physical environment and digestive issues.

First, let’s talk about diet. Eating a healthy one has incredible benefits, but if you’re eating the same thing over and over again, your body may develop a sensitivity to that food. This happens primarily with proteins but can also be seen in all food groups.

Secondly, when our bodies are under stress through exercise, lifestyle, relationships, work etc…it can weaken the immune system leaving us more susceptible to allergies and hypersensitivity of the immune system. In fact, these are common disorders that effect almost 1/4 of the whole population. The number of people who suffer from an over reactivity of their immune systems to relatively harmless substances is on the rise, says Dr. Anaya Mandal, MD, and unless we address the underlying problem (stress), it will continue to increase.

What happens next is that our body starts to see the food or substance as an intruder, much like a virus. Your immune system kicks in to high gear, creating inflammatory conditions to kill the intruder. The same can be said about stress, which also creates an inflammatory response in the body. If the sensitivity is not removed, a cascade effect occurs and the body starts to become sensitive to more things, increasing the inflammatory response and leaving the body primed for chronic inflammation and the diseases associated with it.

My symptoms began with a little belly bloat, but there are a huge array of what sensitivities can look like ranging from headaches to muscle tension to skin irritations like eczema and psoriasis. None of these symptoms are “normal”, and all can be fixed if you take a deeper look into what is causing them.

So next time you have a little gas and bloating after meal or notice a little rash breakout, make a conscious effort to be aware of what you might have eaten, as well at take note of your stress levels, and make the change to keep the cascade at bay. Your body will love you for it <3

Yours in health & happiness,

Sonja Johnson


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