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Unveiling the Paradox: Our Attraction to Food Sensitivities and Intolerances

Written by Portland Clinic of Natural Health on June 26, 2023

Food sensitivities and intolerances have become increasingly prevalent in today's society. Many individuals find themselves drawn to foods that ultimately make them feel unwell. This paradoxical attraction to substances that cause discomfort raises intriguing questions about our relationship with food and our bodies. In this evidence-based blog post, we will explore why this phenomenon occurs and highlight the importance of food sensitivity and intolerance testing. We will also discuss why seeking the guidance of a naturopathic or functional medicine doctor can be beneficial in identifying and managing these issues effectively.

Understanding the Paradox:

The human body is a complex system with intricate mechanisms for detecting and responding to different substances. However, these mechanisms can sometimes become imbalanced or dysfunctional, leading to adverse reactions to certain foods. Interestingly, our brains and bodies can create associations between the consumption of specific foods and the resulting physiological responses, leading to a pattern of attraction despite negative consequences.

One possible explanation for this paradoxical attraction lies in the brain's reward system. When we consume foods to which we are sensitive or intolerant, certain chemicals are released in the brain that can create feelings of pleasure and reward. These neurochemical responses can override the negative physical symptoms, creating a subconscious craving for the problematic food. Over time, this creates a reinforcing cycle, making it difficult to break free from the attraction to these foods. (1)

Importance of Food Sensitivity and Intolerance Testing:

Identifying and understanding our individual food sensitivities and intolerances is crucial for maintaining optimal health and well-being. Food sensitivities occur when the immune system reacts abnormally to specific components in food, while intolerances involve difficulty digesting certain substances. The symptoms associated with these conditions can vary widely and may include digestive issues, skin problems, headaches, fatigue, and more. (2)

While it is possible to track down some food sensitivities and intolerances through trial and error, this approach can be time-consuming and inconclusive. Food sensitivity and intolerance testing offer a more efficient and accurate means of identifying problematic foods. These tests typically involve blood or stool samples analyzed for immune responses or digestive markers associated with specific foods. By pinpointing the culprits, individuals can modify their diets accordingly and alleviate their symptoms effectively.

The Role of Naturopathic and Functional Medicine Doctors:

When dealing with food sensitivities and intolerances, seeking the guidance of a qualified healthcare professional, such as a naturopathic or functional medicine doctor, can be highly beneficial. These practitioners take a holistic approach, considering the interconnectedness of various bodily systems and addressing the root causes of health issues.

Naturopathic and functional medicine doctors are trained to delve deeper into an individual's health history, conduct comprehensive laboratory tests, and analyze the results in conjunction with symptoms. By adopting this integrative approach, they can identify and address imbalances, deficiencies, or dysfunctions contributing to food sensitivities and intolerances. Additionally, they can provide personalized dietary and lifestyle recommendations to support overall well-being and optimize digestion.

Our attraction to foods that make us sick is an intriguing paradox rooted in the intricate workings of our bodies and brains. Understanding and acknowledging this phenomenon is the first step towards addressing it effectively. Food sensitivity and intolerance testing, alongside the guidance of a naturopathic or functional medicine doctor, can empower individuals to identify their problematic foods and make informed dietary choices for better health.

By taking charge of our nutrition and working with healthcare professionals who specialize in a holistic approach, we can break free from the cycle of attraction to foods that cause discomfort. Ultimately, this knowledge empowers us to nourish our bodies with foods that promote optimal well-being and achieve a higher quality of life.


  1. Volkow ND, Wang GJ, Baler RD. Reward, dopamine and the control of food intake: implications for obesity. Trends Cogn Sci. 2011 Jan;15(1):37-46. doi: 10.1016/j.tics.2010.11.001. Epub 2010 Nov 24. PMID: 21109477; PMCID: PMC3124340.
  2. Herman PM, Drost LM. Evaluating the clinical relevance of food sensitivity tests: a single subject experiment. Altern Med Rev. 2004 Jun;9(2):198-207. PMID: 15253678.

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