Food Sensitivity and Allergies
If you have ever had a negative reaction to a food you’ve eaten, you may have suffered – or may still be dealing with a food sensitivity or food allergy. First, it is important that we define the difference between food sensitivity/allergy and why you would need food allergy treatment as soon as you can.
Food allergies occur when your immune system has a specific type of reaction to a particular food you eat. This type of reaction occurs when your body misidentifies a component of the food you are eating as a dangerous foreign invader. Your immune system then creates a specific type of antibody called IgE that attaches to the food component in your blood and marks it for destruction by other very powerful immune cells. These immune cells, when activated by an IgE antibody complex, create a rapid cascade of events including a potentially devastating release of histamine which can cause significant collateral damage within your body. This process is supposed to combat parasitic infections so it is no surprise the ramifications can be significant. Even so, the process can spiral out of control and in severe cases cause a potentially deadly condition known as anaphylactic shock. We have all heard stories of children dying from allergies to foods such as peanuts and these events are examples of anaphylactic shock. Not all reactions are this severe however and some allergies may even go undiagnosed for long periods of time. Other symptoms of food allergies include hives, rashes, swelling, itching, wheezing, runny nose, sinus congestion, ear congestion, ringing of the ears, dizziness, diarrhea, and fatigue. The most common food allergies are tree nuts, peanuts, soy, eggs, dairy, shellfish, fish, and wheat. These are sometimes referred to as the Big 8.
Food sensitivities are related to one of two mechanisms. The first is another form of immune sensitivity but not an allergic one. Under a variety of circumstances, the lining of the gut becomes more permeable to large molecules (see our discussion of leaky gut) and the immune system may overproduce another immunoglobulin, IgG rather than IgE. While the creation of some IgG antibodies that match to the foods you eat is a normal regulatory activity of the immune system, this process may also spiral out of control. We use an IgG food antibody assay to determine if you are over-producing these kinds of antibodies to foods and as a measure of an upregulated immune state that is associated with risk for auto-immune illness. We also know that when individuals are placed on an elimination diet specified in part by the results of this test, they are likely to have a significant reduction in many symptoms – not only those associated with the gut but headaches and body aches as well.
Some sensitivities also occur when your digestive system is unable to properly process a particular food. A common example is lactose intolerance. Lactose is a naturally occurring sugar found in dairy products that requires a specific enzyme to digest that many adults stop producing. If you lack this enzyme, your intestines will not properly absorb this sugar. When the sugar reaches the lower parts of your intestine it draws water into the intestines and causes damage to the gut flora leading to gas, bloating, diarrhea, cramping, or nausea. Other foods that commonly cause a similar type of sensitivity such as beans, grains, cruciferous vegetables, and onions require help from bacteria to digest properly. If your gut flora is out of balance or lacks specific crucial species, you will not be able to properly break down and absorb these foods leading to gas; bloating; abdominal pain; and constipation, diarrhea or both. These are the main reasons why you will need food allergy treatment as soon as possible so you can eliminate the symptoms.
Why Might I be Having a Food Allergy or Sensitivity?
Food allergies and food sensitivities can be caused by a number of outside factors. The issue may be that your digestive system lacks the necessary enzymes to properly break down these foods. You may also have a sensitivity, not to the foods themselves, but a certain component within the food. Extra additives and preservatives, chemicals like caffeine, and even naturally occurring sugars can all be contributing factors to your negative reactions to food.
What Can Be Done?
It is not uncommon for people to suffer from the same food allergy or sensitivity for their whole lives. It’s also quite common for people to develop new food allergies and sensitivities later in life. The first step is identifying what these trigger foods are. Testing can be helpful in identifying many but not all of the foods that your body may be reacting to. The good news is that we don’t need to have certainty about all of the offending foods to help heal and repair. Based on your history and testing we will recommend an elimination diet. As the name suggests, this diet involves eliminating all potential foods that may be causing the problem. Over time, we slowly reintroduce the eliminated foods to determine the culprit.
Once we’ve determined which foods are causing negative reactions, we can begin to dig into the “why”, and discover the root causes of your illness. The next step is determining what specific component of your food is causing your reaction like proteins, chemicals, or natural sugars. In the meantime, we suggest a diet of allergy and sensitivity-safe foods. These foods are the least likely to cause any kind of allergic reaction or reaction caused by a food sensitivity. It is also important to avoid foods that can cause inflammation.
It is essential that during the elimination diet, supplements and nutrients are provided to help with symptom relief and to support the healing of the gut. Many people find temporary relief from food eliminations only to experience the return of symptoms weeks later. This is why the other support to permit healing during the elimination period is so critical. To learn more about our holistic food allergy treatment & approach, contact us today.