Food Allergies or Food Intolerances?


 The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that food allergies are a growing concern.  Almost six million children are reported to have food allergies.  The most common allergens are peanuts, milk, shellfish, tree nuts, egg, wheat, and soy.  Food allergies have become so common that even major brand names like Duncan Hines are producing gluten-free products.  The difficulty is not in finding foods you can eat.  The difficulty seems to be in diagnosing food allergies or intolerances and making sure you eliminate all sources of the problem until healing occurs.

Food Allergies

Are food allergies making you sick?


The food industry has become a master of disguise when it comes to food labeling.  Most people who are gluten intolerant know to look for wheat or wheat starch on a label.  They may not know that Seitan and cellulose are also wheat.  The same thing happens for products that say, “dairy- free.”  It may be free of lactose (to be classified as dairy-free) but it still contains the milk protein casein. Most people who have lactose (milk sugar) allergies are also allergic to the casein (milk protein).  Soy is considered to be the healthy alternative to dairy.  However, due to the fact it contains a protein very similar to casein, it too can cause allergic responses when ingested.  Soy contains protein amino acid sequences that have been shown to cause allergies.  Additionally, when foods like soy are genetically modified (GMO, GM), bacteria, pesticides, and other genes have been artificially inserted into the DNA of the plants.  These foods carry the risk of triggering life-threatening allergic reactions.  Most people are unaware that soy, corn, and many other foods are no longer what they used to be.  These foods are basically foreign substances entering the body under common names.  Buyer, beware!

What is an intolerance?  At some point most everyone will suffer a mild intolerance to a food.  Bloating, gas, or cramping after eating a specific food can be considered a mild intolerance.  For many people, this is a daily occurrence after eating trigger foods.  This is even considered by some as normal.  If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, this may be normal for you.  This is your body’s way of trying to tell you something is amiss.  You are either eating a food you do not digest well, or you are eating too much of it.  Usually, it is both!

What is a food allergy?  The body responds to food allergies in a few ways.  One is with the production of Immunoglobulin E (IgE), a type of protein called an antibody that circulates through the blood. The mast cell is the other response.  This is a specific cell that occurs in all body tissues, but most commonly in areas of the body that are typical allergy sites.  These areas are the nose, throat, lungs, skin, and gastrointestinal tract.  The body usually produces IgE against food because of an inherited predisposition or response to a broken-down system.  Allergies to foods and airborne substances typically run in families.  This is why good naturopathic practitioners ask patients for a lot of history. History tells us where your weakness came from, and many times where they will take you, if you do not address them.

An allergic reaction may not happen the first time you eat a particular food.  This is the way it usually goes: You eat the food for the first time and as it is digested, it triggers cells to produce specific IgE in large amounts.  The IgE attaches to mast cells.  The second time the food is eaten, it interacts with the IgE on the surface of the mast cells and triggers the cells to release chemicals such as histamine. This causes the food allergy symptoms. If mast cells cause histamine release in the ear, nose, and throat, itching in the mouth, difficulty breathing, or difficulty swallowing may occur. If the mast cells are in the gastrointestinal tract, abdominal pain, diarrhea, or vomiting may be the result.  When the skin takes the brunt of the mast cell release, then the result will be hives.  Memory cells are another part of the immune system.  The B cells are responsible for remembering every single immune reaction you have ever had. It keeps an iron-clad memory file of these reactions so that your body can aggressively, efficiently, and quickly launch the immune response upon future exposure to the same protein. The B cell is also a part of the autoimmune cycle.

These are the basics of food intolerances and allergies.  If you suspect this is your problem, you can go on a simple and inexpensive elimination diet to determine which foods may be your problem.  The foods that I see cause the greatest reactions across the board are the following: gluten, dairy, casein, soy, sugar, corn, grains, and eggs.  You can start by eliminating these for 30 days.  Add them back in one at a time (except for refined sugar—kiss it goodbye) for three days in a row. You will know soon enough which ones are the sources of the problem.  I have had so many moms whose kids have suffered with asthma, migraines, and bowel disease tell me that their kids beg to go back on the recommended diet if they have gone off.  They are so happy to be symptom free that they like feeling good over eating junk!  As you move forward in discerning the intolerances or allergies you may have, keep in mind that not everyone is reactive to the same allergy-producing proteins.  If you reintroduce a particular food and have no reaction at first, it does not necessarily mean you will not become reactive in the future.  The hope—and goal—is not to be reactive. But, if you are reactive, be thankful that you know the source of the problem.  Many years of pain and misery can be avoided by shutting down autoimmune responses due to food allergies.  This is also the reason we cannot put everyone on the planet on the same diet.  People may share some common weaknesses, but at the end of the day, the source of the problem can vary and the degrees of healing can vary as well.  So, I just say be systematic and diligent in your approach.  Because you will find a plethora of opinions about the best approach, I recommend using a natural practitioner to help you decide what will work best for you.



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