Food allergies are the body’s toxic reaction to substances the body is unable to break down.
Allergy simply means, an abnormal and individual hypersensitivity to substances that are normally harmless. An allergic reaction is when the immune system reacts to a food or substance causing inflammation of the body tissue which can range from mild, to life threatening.
The most common immune system reaction occurs when the body creates immunoglobulin E antibodies to the food. Symptoms of an allergic reaction occur when this food is introduced to the body again and these immunoglobulin E antibodies react with the food releasing histamine and other chemicals, producing symptoms like hives, cough or sneeze, runny nose, congestion, red and/or weepy eyes and fatigue.
People suffering with food allergies may not have a weak immune system, what they have is an immune system that is very protective. When a normally harmless food is introduced that the immune system mistakenly identifies as a dangerous invader the immune system develops antibodies to fight these “ invaders”. The body remembers these “invaders” and each time we expose our body to this substance the body releases antibodies to fight off the perceived “invader”, and so begins the symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Often with each exposure the reaction will become more pronounced, and certainly during periods of stress or times when the immune system is already compromised by illness, lack of sleep or poor dietary choices one can expect more pronounced symptoms.
You may wonder how this relates to overall health.
Although these allergic reactions may not be life threatening, or for you may not seem bothersome enough to cause you to eliminate this food from your diet, what you must remember is that during each exposure to an offending food the bodies reaction, fighting off this invader diverts some of the immune system’s resources away from the job of “preventing and dealing with illness”.
Also, remember that each introduction of a food may increase the intensity of the reaction.
The continuous introduction of offending foods will lead to a weakened immune system that could allow disease to set in.
A food intolerance, or sensitivity to certain foods may present with similar symptoms as an allergic reaction, however, a food intolerance does not cause the immune system to develop antibodies to fight of this offending food.
Sensitivity to certain foods, or food intolerance is simply an inability to fully or property digest certain foods. This inability of the body to digest foods can lead to damage to the intestinal tract which can lead to chronic symptoms and disease affecting the entire body.
A food intolerance is often more difficult to diagnose than an allergy because the body may not respond to the offending food immediately, or it may be a combination of substances causing the reaction. Reaction time can range from 30 minutes to 48 hours after ingesting the offending food.
Because of this delayed reaction it can be difficult to associate a food we ate 2 days ago with the symptoms we are suffering today.
Sensitivity to foods can develop over the years with symptoms gradually increasing leading a person to doubt that they have any food intolerances. The symptoms are simply what this person has grown used to through this gradual decline.
WHAT COULD CAUSE A FOOD INTOLERANCE
The body can be lacking the digestive enzymes required to properly digest the food being presented.
Because of storage prior to purchasing foods, the over processing of foods and cooking, our foods today are often devoid of the digestive enzymes that natural, raw foods contain that aid in the digestive process.
Dairy is an excellent example of over processing foods, stripping the food of the digestive enzymes required for the body to utilize the goodness naturally occurring in the food. Often people who are intolerant to pasteurized dairy products are able to enjoy natural whole dairy products as the enzymes are intact, allowing the body to digest the raw product.
Eating the same food every day can lead to a sensitivity to this food because the body becomes low on the enzymes required to digest this food. Rotating the food you eat is an important part of maintaining a healthy digestive system.
Celiac disease is an exaggerated gluten intolerance being found more common today due to the high levels of gluten being introduced to the average diet. Often with a gluten intolerance one will also suffer from lactose intolerance making it difficult to diagnose because removing just one of the offending foods will not create the desired results.
Chemicals in foods can be the cause of the sensitivity. An example of this would be a salicylate sensitivity. Salicylate sensitivity can cause the body to react negatively to medications such as aspirin and NSAID along with food which contain salicylates naturally, such as cherries.
Other chemicals commonly found in foods that cause sensitivity and the cross reactivity include amines, nitrates, sulphites and some antioxidants.
It is not uncommon to be sensitive to multiple food chemicals making a reaction more likely to occur when foods containing the triggering substance are eaten in a combined quantity that exceeds the persons sensitivity thresholds. Again this makes diagnosing intolerances tricky but over time, with persistence, can be done.
As in allergic reactions, reacting to foods we are sensitive to will, over time weaken the immune system allowing disease to set in.
THE FOUR MAIN FOOD INTOLERANCES
Although there are others as I’ve mentioned above, these four stand out as the most common.
SYMPTOMS OF A FOOD INTOLERANCE
Gastroinestingal symptoms may include, vomiting, bloating, cramps, nausea, feeling of fullness, chronic constipation, diarrhea, colic, irritable bowel syndrome, digestive disorders, proctoccolitis and crohn’s disease, hemorrhagic ulcers and celiac disease.
Respiratory symptoms may include throat pain, cough, hoarseness, mucous build up, respiratory disorders, rhinitis, sinusitis, asthma and ear infections.
Central Nervous System disorders presenting as headaches, migraine, dizziness, trouble concentrating, drowsiness, depression and hyperactivity.
Skin disorders may range from red, dry, itching skin to hives, eczemia, or infantile eczema, acne and psoriasis.
Musculeskeletal. symptoms include Arthritis, fibromyalgia pain, joint and muscular pain, back pain and overall weakness.
Eyes can appear, dry, watery, red, swollen eyelids, stuck together.
Endocrine system effects could present as type 1 and type 11 diabetes, obesity, thyroiditis.
Cardiovascular challenges include high blood pressure and atheroscierosis.
HOW TO FIND IF YOU HAVE A FOOD INTOLERANCE
Unlike allergies there is no quick test to show you what foods you may be over sensitive to. It is through practice and listening to your body that you can learn of these foods and make changes to eliminate these foods from your diet.
Three things that stand out as the most beneficial are:
Keeping a diary for yourself, recording everything that you eat, drink or put on your body each day along with the stress level, how you slept and how you feel each day. Keep this as honest as possible because it is for you, not as a judgement but a tool.
In the coming weeks or months you will review this and find clues in the similarity of what you have done each day compared to how you feel. During a flare you can go through and see what is common for the periods when you flare.
Try an elimination diet for 30 days,. During this time the diary is very important.
After the 30 days you can begin reintroducing foods, slowly, recording how it goes. Allow a few days between the introduction of each food because you want to be careful of a delayed reaction to the food.
Take digestive enzymes prior to each meal to help the body digest the foods you eat. Remember, if you are cooking your food, or eating anything that has been altered from it’s natural state it will lack the enzymes required by the body to digest the food properly.
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This information is not designed as or intended to be used as medical diagnosis or advice. Patients should consult their physicians about diagnosis and treatment.