Chronic post nasal drip (PND) can be a particularly annoying symptom in our clients. Or sometimes they aren’t even aware of it until I point out how often they seem to need to clear their throat. Either way, it can be a receipt for digestive issues or being more prone to viral or bacterial infections over time. It’s just another opportunity to help clients o be wildly satisfied with simple solutions!
Certainly, there are many possible causes to PND. Anything to which a client’s immune system is having an ongoing negative reaction can make their symptoms chronic: a laundry detergent, a perfume, new curtains in the home, or some other food like eggs. Immune system inflammation can cause a wide variety of reactions including such disparate symptoms as headache, eczema, achy joints, depression, PND, weight gain, or acid reflux. Frankly, I have been surprised at how often in my practice we find clients have food sensitivity. And indeed in 80%+ cases of PDN, we find the true root cause is (at least in part) a reaction to dairy foods which thickens (and also perhaps increases) mucus secretions.
For these types of symptoms, I always recommend a full two-week elimination of the food in question and help my clients to understand that the elimination must be 100% “cold turkey” in order to be a valid trial. I also like to give them a Dairy Elimination Client Handout to help with avoiding hidden dairy sources. For example, I find many clients don’t understand that whey protein powder is a dairy food (and almost always contaminated with the protein casein as well). Or many soy-based protein bars include caseinate ingredients (a derivative of the dairy protein). Or perhaps even more confusing, a product labeled “lactose free” does not necessarily mean it is truly “dairy free”. If your clients are wary of trying an elimination, giving them simple food substitutions can help to increase their confidence and willingness to experiment (e.g. coconut creamer vs. cream for coffee, almond milk vs. dairy milk for making oatmeal, or a mix of hemp, flax, and chia seeds instead of a whey protein powder for a smoothie).
Most of the time, clients will experience palpable or complete relief and be readily convinced of the need to avoid these foods long-term. If they are resistant and need more validation, however, then I recommend suggesting a formal reintroduction trial of the foods. That is, consuming two moderately-sized servings of dairy foods twice a day for three days in a row. This is actually the gold standard of testing for food sensitivities (vs. any type of labwork). Make sure they know that slowly and gradually adding back the foods is not a valid assessment! In the presence of a sensitivity, the repeated, short-term consumption will trigger significant immune system reactions, including PND and likely other inflammatory symptoms as well. The three full days is required because IgG-mediated immune reactions specifically can take more than 12 or even as much as 48 hours to manifest as symptoms. If your clients is assessing their sensitivity to more than one food, make sure they only reintroduce one food at a time and take a ~3 day break in between each trial in order to ensure reliable results.
This article focuses on annoying, chronic post nasal drip, but food sensitivities in general can cause a very wide array of symptoms and frustrations or even debilitating disease. If you need information collateral to help your clients to buy in to the notion of food sensitivities, this is a simple write-up from Dr. Mark Hyman (on Dr. Oz) which might help. This video is also a quick explanation about food sensitivities. Even conventional medical research is beginning to acknowledge the role of IgG-mediated food sensitivities in various illnesses such as IBS, ADHD, and rheumatoid arthritis.
The old adage “Disease begins in the gut” is often completely true! If you wish to learn more about food sensitivities in depth, as well as digestive dysfunction and how the GI tract works and affects the rest of the body, you will get great value from the SAFM Disease Begins in the Gut 101 course. If you target supporting clients who wrestle with chronic inflammatory conditions and disease, then this is a particularly great fit for you. This course is only available as part of our Core 101 Semester program.
P.S. If you know that healthcare must be transformed to be sustainable and effective, and you believe strongly that Functional Medicine is key to making that happen, we urge you to learn about our semester program.
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