Dr. Michael Smith
Dr. Michael Smith Talks Food Sensitivities
by Kimberly Lawson
We all have food sensitivities—even the healthiest among us. The problem is that most people don’t even realize they’re living with them.
“It tends to be the things we’re eating every single day, so we’re always reacting,” says Dr. Michael Smith, a naturopathic physician who’s been practicing in the Charlotte area for 11 years. “It becomes our baseline. There are so many symptoms people have every day that they chalk it up as normal: ‘Oh, it’s just my age’ or ‘it’s because I work out,’ or ‘that’s just the way my body feels when I wake up in the morning.’”
Smith is the founder of Carolinas Natural Health Center in Matthews, where he works with patients who have digestive disorders and immune dysfunctions, including eczema, asthma and auto-immune diseases. Oftentimes, when people see him for whatever condition they may be dealing with, he first takes a look at the food they eat. “Food is so foundational to our health,” he says. “Most of our immune system is regulated through our digestive tract, and so when I work with someone with … an immune dysfunction, I’m trying to identify what is triggering their immune system inappropriately.”
Food allergies and food sensitivities are tested for differently, Smith says. Conventional allergists use a prick test or sometimes a blood test to check for the antibody Immunoglobulin E (IeG), which reacts immediately after being exposed to an adverse food. Symptoms may include hives or, more seriously, anaphylaxis. Smith, however, takes blood to send to a lab to check for Immunoglobulin G (IgG). These antibodies typically don’t show up right away; it may be hours or even a day before a person experiences symptoms, and they aren’t as severe. In addition to inflammation in the digestive system, other symptoms may range from eczema, asthma, bloating and headaches to disruptions in sleep and/or mood, acne, feeling foggy and even anxiety.
“People can react to anything, even things we consider healthy, like fruits or vegetables,” Smith says. “It’s not that the food is bad, it just means that right now our immune system has been triggered by it.”
After identifying which foods cause adverse reactions—the most common food triggers are wheat and dairy—Smith and his team help a patient remove them from their diet for about three months. “We work with them at all levels of that, everything from helping them to meal plan, put together recipes, we even take them shopping to help them find different foods to teach them how to cook different things. Our process is pretty hands on and comprehensive to really support people all around so they can be successful in making those changes.”
During the time a patient is avoiding those foods, Smith works to help heal their digestive tract in a couple of ways, including using some specific strains of probiotics that are designed to support immune function. After the 90-day period is over, those foods are reintroduced to see if they’re still reacting to them or not.
“Our goal is to heal from them,” Smith says,” but you’re not going to heal from all of them.” By better understanding what your body can comfortably process, a patient gains a sense of freedom, he says. “You can choose to eat [an adverse food] and deal with the consequences of the symptoms it produces or you can choose not to eat it and continue to feel well. In the past, you didn’t have a choice; you didn’t feel well and you didn’t know why.”
Overall, Smith says, “people become way more in tune with their body and how things impact it.”
Carolinas Natural Health Center is located at 1114 Sam Newell Rd., Ste. A in Matthews. For more information call 704-708-4404 or visit CarolinasNaturalHealth.com.
Kimberly Lawson is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Augusta, Georgia. Visit her website at Kim-Lawson.com.