Food Allergies: Is Your Food Making You Sick?
Allergies are hypersensitivity disorders of the immune system. Allergic reactions occur to normally harmless environmental substances. These substances can range from pet hair, pollen, grass, trees, insect stings or bites, medication, chemical substances, and even FOOD. The most exposure that we get in any given day to any potential allergen(s) is normally the foods we eat.
When certain foods are able to illicit an immune response they are known as food allergens. These reactions are often acquired over time and can range from predictable if it is an immediate allergic reaction (IgE antibody response), to unpredictable and often unidentifiable if it is a delayed allergic reaction (IgG antibody response). Most people are able to identify the cause to their immediate allergic reactions due to the instantaneous response they get within seconds or minutes of exposure. However, delayed reactions do not cause a response until hours or sometimes days or weeks after the individual was exposed to the allergen in which case it can be nearly impossible to detect the allergen. With food allergies, the most common type of reaction is a delayed reaction (IgG antibody response). These are often over looked as many practitioners will focus on the immediate reactions in which these are the least common type of food allergy and the most obvious.
Mild allergies like hay fever and seasonal allergies are highly prevalent in the general population and cause symptoms such as itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, and runny nose. Other common allergic reaction symptoms can include skin rashes, itchy skin, hives, and asthma attacks. Gastrointestinal symptoms such as constipation, diarrhea, mucus in stools, pain after eating, heartburn, indigestion, gas, and bloating are often due to food allergies. Most people who are diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are actually suffering from unidentified food allergies. People who have Crohn’s disease or Celiac’s disease can also benefit tremendously from identifying food allergies as avoiding them would significantly decrease inflammation in their intestinal tracts, possibly decreasing or eliminating the need for palliative medications. Food allergies are also commonly an unidentified underlying factor in seasonal allergies, skin rashes, asthma attacks, and sometimes even weight gain due to the constant inflammation and immune activation it causes in the body. Many patients who successfully identify their food allergies not only find improvements in gastrointestinal symptoms, but also find that their seasonal allergy symptoms improve, their eczema or psoriasis clears up, their energy increases, they have fewer or no asthma attacks, and/or they are finally able to shed the weight they were unable to lose despite rigorous dieting and exercise.
Autoimmune disease is often strongly related to food allergies because one’s immune system is constantly being activated if an individual is eating foods he/she is allergic to on a daily basis. This constant activation of the immune system can lead to immune dysregulation in which the immune system is unable to recognize it’s own healthy tissues from foreign invaders (bacteria, viruses, etc.) like it should, and thus starts attacking its own tissues, leading to autoimmune disease. An example of this is Hashimoto’s thyroid disease. With Hashimoto’s thyroid disease the immune system starts attacking the thyroid gland, causing destruction to the thyroid gland resulting in slowed thyroid function/slowed metabolism. Symptoms normally include weight gain, fatigue, hair loss, constipation, feeling cold, and fluid retention/bloating. This is one example, however other autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, lupus, and Grave’s disease can all have food allergies as an underlying contributing factor. Identifying and treating the food allergies can lead to a significant decrease in the total amount of inflammation in the body and improvement of disease symptoms.
Common conditions frequently associated with food allergies include:
- ADD, ADHD
- Chronic fatigue
- Chronic sinus problems
- Craving of sugar or sweets
- Craving of most any food
- Depression or anxiety
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Intestinal yeast infections
- Skin rashes
- Yeast infection symptoms
As many as 15 million Americans have food allergies, including approximately 6 million children. (The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network- FAAN; http://www.foodallergy.org/
According to a study conducted by Dr. Andrew H. Liu, National Jewish Health Associate Professor of Pediatrics, and his colleagues in 2005-2006, food allergies are more common among people with asthma and may be a contributing factor to asthma attacks. Food allergies were twice as common in those participants who had been diagnosed with asthma at some point in their life compared to those who had never been diagnosed with asthma. (http://www.news-medical.net/
In the late 1920s and the early 1930s scientists showed that undigested proteins from foods were able to cross the gastrointestinal tract’s mucosal barrier and cause an inflammatory response in tissue located in different parts of the body. (Wilson SJ, Walzer M. Absorption of undigested proteins in human beings. IV. Absorption of unaltered egg protein in infants. Awm J Dis Child. 1935;50:49-54.)
In the 1936 Journal of Kansas Medical Society, HJ rinkel first described reactions to foods that took hours or days to occur, unlike the immediate allergic response of an anaphylactic reaction. (Rinkel HJ. Food allergy. J Kansas Med Soc. 1936;37:177.)
Treatment for allergies involves identifying underlying food allergies with a blood test and then avoiding or limiting those allergenic foods for a period of 6 months while healing the gut lining with a treatment regimen prescribed by the physician. The test looks for both immediate (IgE) and delayed (IgG) antibodies to 96 different foods. Delayed food allergies are the most common reaction and are nearly impossible to detect without a blood test due to the late response they cause hours to days after eating the food(s). Identifying food allergies can be the 1st step in a lifetime of relief from seasonal allergies, gastrointestinal upset/Irritable Bowel Syndrome, or autoimmune disease flares. Contrary to popular belief, food allergies can be eliminated or reduced with proper treatment.
Is your food making you ill? Find out today.