Recently, I had the pleasure of talking with Dr. Amanda Tracy of Advanced Health & Wellness in Andover, MA. Dr. Tracy has had a tremendous amount of experience helping patients with food allergies, intolerance, and sensitivities.
1. How did you become interested in the field of naturopathic medicine?
Growing up as a dancer, I was always interested in nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. I first became interested in science as a career path in 9th grade while researching a project on Genetics, I enjoyed the investigation work and problem-solving that science involves. As a Biochemistry major at BC and preparing for a career in medicine, I became more intrigued by the process of health rather than disease. Conventional medical thought has such an emphasis on disease that I was temporarily disinterested in medicine until I found Naturopathic Medicine: a field that combines scientific medical diagnosis with natural treatments to achieve optimal health.
2. What has been your experience treating patients with food allergies, intolerance, and sensitivities?
In my experience, there is a strong connection between adverse food reactions and the development of many chronic illnesses such as MSG with migraines, synthetic food dyes with ADHD, cow’s dairy with sinus infections, sulfites with asthma and gluten with depression and anxiety. My naturopathic approach for many chronic illnesses includes identifying and treating adverse food reactions.
I have also found that many individuals have been tested for adverse food reactions in the past and even though they have been avoiding those foods, are still experiencing some digestive symptoms. Often, to really heal the damage done by these foods in the digestive tract and elsewhere in the body, a treatment regimen including nutritional supplements and herbal medicines is needed in addition to avoiding the offending foods. Avoiding food allergens does prevent new damage from being done but in most cases does not repair the damage done in the past. This is why it is important to approach your food allergies with a qualified medical professional.
3. What special training do you have regarding the role of nutrition and our health?
All licensed Naturopathic Doctors have an undergraduate degree in pre-med and graduated from a four -year naturopathic medical school which includes over 3,000 hours of coursework and 1,000 hours clinical training and passed national licensing exams called the NPLEX. As part of the naturopathic medical school curriculum, we have over 180 hours of training specifically in nutrition versus conventional medical school where nutrition training may be only one course or an elective.
Our food is our medicine and nature has provided for us well. The farther we stray from nature, the more likely we are to develop a chronic health issue. Naturopathic Doctors learn not only what vitamins are essential for life, but how to optimize the function of the body and prevent disease with non-toxic foods, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals.
4. I notice that you have a page on your website dedicated to educating people about candida. What is important for people to know about candida? Who should be concerned with this? Do you use tests to make the candida diagnosis?
With the increasing presence of refined flour and sugars in our food supply, chronic stress depleting our immune systems and the over-prescription of antibiotics and oral contraceptives (birth control pills), more and more people are susceptible to developing chronic Candidiasis. Candida is often implicated in many common health conditions such as Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, food allergies, constipation, Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Autism. Candida can also contribute to the development of acne, skin rashes, PMS, memory problems, and frequent urinary tract infections.
If I suspect Candida may be a problem for a patient, I often start with a “Candida Questionnaire” to discuss their symptoms and other health conditions. The presence of the yeast Candida albicans and others can be cultured for in stool and in a throat or vaginal swab. Anti-bodies to Candida can also be tested for in blood to identify and past or current overgrowth. While testing for Candida is not absolutely necessary, it is extremely helpful for me to track a patient’s progress and helping me decide on a treatment regimen.
5.How do you keep up with the latest research?
To keep up on the latest research I subscribe to medical journals such as Alternative Medicine Review, complete continuing medical education exercises in the New England Journal of Medicine, and attend conferences such as the Integrative Medicine Conference. I am an avid reader and I try to read at least six scholarly books in the alternative medicine field per year in addition to any research I may do for workshops or classes that I teach.
6. What are your thoughts on some of the most recent studies being conducted concerning food allergies, intolerance, and sensitivities?
I am particularly interested in the field of Psycho-neuro-endocrine-immunology (PNEI) which looks at the communications between our brains, hormones, gut and immune system and how our bodies perceive the outside world (i.e. food). Dairy and wheat in particular create compounds called caseomorphins and gliadomorphins that can later brain function. I am interested to learn further how these compounds are implicated in conditions like anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s, dementia, Autism and ADHD to help me approach my patients with these health issues.
7. What is the most useful advice you have for people new to dietary restrictions due to food allergy, intolerance, and/or sensitivities?
My advice for those facing new food restrictions is to view it as an opportunity to heal and experience a level of wellness you may have never felt before, as well as try new foods. For practicality, it’s best to have some “old standby” recipes for dishes you can bring to social events and holiday gatherings so that you can enjoy each occasion. Also become really familiar with your local restaurants that offer gluten-free, vegan, and other special menu items.