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The 5 Most Common Food Sensitivities And How to Avoid Them

Trigger Foods

Food sensitivities result when undigested food slips through gaps in an unhealthy (leaky) gut and triggers an immune response, which can cause inflammation, pain, and swelling in the joints. Food sensitivities are extremely common, though little known, in those with arthritis, autoimmune disease, and chronic ailments.

Since food sensitivities activate the immune system they can aggravate and even cause symptoms in chronic conditions. Thus, eliminating certain foods prevents a great opportunity to reclaim wellness.

In My Practice, I’ve Identified 5 Major Culprits


You need to read food labels and look at the ingredient lists for the words wheat, barley, kamut, rye, or spelt. For example, did you know that soy sauce is made from wheat?  Or that beer is made from barley?  Probably not and you’re certainly not alone. Because it is not possible to list all the foods that contain gluten here, reading food labels is key. Oats are only okay if the label says “gluten free oats.”

What to Eat Instead: Look for grains made from quinoa, millet, buckwheat, and rice.


This includes any milk product made from cow, goat, or sheep such as yogurt, cheese, milk, kefir, and butter. Often after doing an elimination diet test, many patients realize that milk is causing other symptoms that go beyond their stomachs. These include chronic congestion and sinusitis, post nasal drip, ear infections, and more.

What to Eat Instead: almond, rice, hemp, or coconut milk.  These milk substitutes are also made into yogurt, kefir, and cheese so you can get your fill, without having to settle for dairy.


When I say corn I don’t just mean corn on the cob. It is used for other purposes, like making an ingredient called high fructose corn syrup that is used in many, many foods because it tastes sweeter and is cheaper than sugar!  Remember, you need to remove whole corn whether on the cob, in a can, or frozen, and popcorn, too. You also need to be careful about reading labels, look for the word corn, which can often be found as corn starch, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, and high fructose corn syrup.

What to Eat Instead: Look for natural sweeteners or stevia (though, keeping sugar consumption down is a good idea too!).


Soy is on the list here because it causes digestive upset and inflammation for many people, something I’ve seen in my practice over and over. Soy is also used as an additive in many foods, especially packaged processed foods so you must read labels and avoid anything that lists soy protein, soy lecithin, or soy oil in its ingredient list.  When you start reading labels looking for these words, you will be shocked at how many foods contain them!


Eggs are usually the food that people are the most upset that they have to give up!  Unfortunately, eggs have proteins that are common allergies and that’s why they are also common triggers for food sensitivities, too. Eggs are often found as ingredients in other foods, and again, you must read labels to make sure you eliminate it completely.

To read more about how to do an elimination diet see my article on conducting an elimination diet.  

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Leaky Gut and Food Sensitivities

Did you know that your biggest exposure to the outside world every day is through your mouth?  That’s why 70% of your immune system lives in your gut, lying in wait to protect you from anything that seems foreign to the body (called antigens because they stimulate the immune system), which believe it or not includes food and the toxins and microbes that ride along with the food that you ingest while eating.

Your gut, which starts in your mouth, travels through your stomach, small intestine, colon or large intestine, and ends in your rectum, is supposed to be a closed tube – with the intestinal lining creating a barrier that separates the inside of your body and immune system from these outside exposures.  When you digest your food, the intestinal lining can then selectively choose what can enter your body by opening and closing special gates called tight junctions.

In functional medicine, an intestinal barrier with damaged tight junctions that isn’t keeping antigens out of the body is known as a leaky gut.  Studies have increasingly found that a leaky gut is associated with arthritis, autoimmune disease, allergies, and food sensitivities.

Causes of leaky gut vary, but the most important is dysbiosis, which is an imbalance in the bacteria in the gut, also called the gut microbiome.  Dysbiosis can be an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, yeast or parasites, or not enough good bacteria, and is commonly caused by a poor diet, a course of antibiotics, frequent use of antacids, and stress. These gut bacteria are important because not only do they interact with your immune system to keep it healthy, they also turn the food we eat into healthy compounds, especially something called short chain fatty acids which heal the tight junctions between your cells and protect the integrity of the gut barrier.  This is why food is so important, too, because the food you eat determines which bacteria will thrive and what kinds of compounds they will make when they digest your food.  

But why is leaky gut associated with inflammatory disease like arthritis? When the contents of your gut, which includes pieces of food and gut bacteria, “leak” into your body, your immune system is activated creating inflammatory chemicals that travel throughout your body and cause system-wide inflammation, especially in the joints. And this happens non-stop until your gut microbiome and lining are repaired.  

The good news is that you can rebuild your microbiome and repair your gut. Food has the most influence on the diversity of the microbiome, and that’s why you should always start with changing your diet by increasing fruits and veggies, especially those rich in polyphenols, bioflavonoids, and fiber because these tend to increase the good bacteria that make short-chain fatty acids and heal the gut. Also, you need to remove foods from your diet that feed the bad bacteria like sugar, processed flour products, alcohol, and too many animal products.  You also need to test yourself for food sensitivities and remove sensitive foods such as gluten, dairy, soy, corn, eggs and the nightshade vegetables. Our elimination diet explainer shows how to do this.

The next step is to treat your dysbiosis. At Blum Center for Health we start with cleansing herbs like berberine, grape seed extract, black walnut, and oregano that can clear out bad bacteria and yeast. In fact, we created our own custom herbal antibiotic mix called Gut Cleanse. Once you have eliminated the bad bacteria and yeast, probiotics and the right food can help you rebuild the good stuff, repair the gut lining, reduce inflammation, and eliminate food sensitivities.

For more, please review the video above.

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Eliminating Food Sensitivities To Treat Arthritis


Having just finished a book on arthritis, arthritis is really on my mind! There’s a lot of confusion around arthritis, so let’s start with a definition. To have arthritis you must have evidence of inflammation with redness, pain, swelling, and heat in at least one of your joints. Typically if you have arthritis you can see it.  If you have pain in a joint but no swelling, we call that an arthralgia.

To begin to understand arthritis, the first step is to realize that there are a number of categories.  As I explain in detail in my book, Healing Arthritis, it is important to know what kind of arthritis you have so that you can target your treatment.  This is especially true if you have arthritis from an infection (for example lyme, a virus like parvovirus, or a bacteria like mycoplasma and prevotella), because treating the infection is always the first place to start.  It’s a good idea to ask your doctor to test you for these infections and treat what you find.

Most people with chronic, painful arthritis fall into one of these two categories:

  • Inflammatory Arthritis – which includes rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, and arthritis from autoimmune conditions.
  • Osteoarthritis –  also known as degenerative joint disease

Although they seem to be different on the surface, both are inflammatory in nature, and that’s why the foundational approach to both is to seek out and treat all the triggers of inflammation in your body, typically these are food, stress, and gut health. The first two factors (food and stress) have a direct effect on inflammation, and they are also the biggest influences on your gut health, too. There is an enormous amount of evidence and research now proving the gut-arthritis connection, and this research also shows that healing the gut to heal the joints is a valid and successful approach. That’s why we always start our treatment programs with eating an anti-inflammatory diet.  And the first step for this is to identify and remove foods that are triggering arthritis symptoms, often referred to as food sensitivities.  

How does food trigger joint pain?  Those with arthritis tend to have damage to the tight junctions in their intestinal lining, causing holes or gaps that allow foreign looking food particles and pieces of gut bacteria (collectively called antigens) to slip through the lining and enter the body (a condition called leaky gut).

Once these antigens enter the body they start an immediate immune reaction, which ends up in your joints leading to inflammation and pain. This is also a process that can lead to food sensitivities! Often, the food you eat isn’t really the problem, instead, the problem is the leaky gut is allowing food particles to pass through. This is why you will continue to have food triggers and symptom flares if you eat sensitive foods while the gut is still damaged.  The good news? After you heal the gut you can often eat these foods again.

To get started treating your arthritis with food, the first step is to identify your food triggers and remove them from your diet.  Then you can focus on healing your gut.  Sadly the standard American diet is abundant in foods that can damage the gut and also cause food sensitivities like:

  • Gluten
  • Dairy
  • Soy
  • Corn
  • Eggs
  • Sugar
  • Processed foods
  • and especially for arthritis sufferers, the Nightshade Vegetables (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers)

Try removing these foods for 3 weeks, and then reintroduce each one separately for a few days, one at a time, to see if you experience any symptoms.  If you do, then remove the food for 3-6 months while you work on healing your gut.  

Removing food sensitivities is the first part of an anti-inflammatory diet.  The second part is to follow a sensible, basic, food plan, and my recommendation is a Mediterranean Diet.  I have dedicated an entire section of my book to reviewing the different diets and explaining exactly what foods you should eat for reducing inflammation and promoting good gut health and why.

For more please review the full Facebook Live video above, or reserve your copy of Healing Arthritis. But the takeaway is, the first step to treating arthritis is healing the gut, and to get started doing this, we begin with food!