If you often feel bloated, tired, or not so good after a meal; if you gave frequent have stomach pains, cramps, or bowel problems; if you have strong food cravings or food dislikes; if you experience a collection of symptoms that you just cannot explain, or sometimes become more anxious, irritable, or depressed f you may be suffering from food allergy.
Allergy has reached epidemic, proportions, and it has been estimated that at this rate, half of Europe will have allergies in a few years. Food allergies are of particular concern, as they are now being recognized as a factor in many health problems and diseases, especially in children.
Many scientists and health practitioners believe that a poor diet and the sheer quantity of toxins that are now present in our food are major factors in this unprecedented rise in the number and severity of allergies over the last decades.
When Food Harms Instead of Helping
Much of our food is over-processes and treated with toxins all the way from production to sale. Instead of being a major source of true health and resilience, therefore, the food we eat can actually undermine our body’s ability to deal effectively with daily stresses, and to clear out the toxins that assault us from all sides. No wonder that more and more of our bodies are reacting with food allergies.
Food allergies not only harm our bodies (and our minds), they also prevent us from deriving the full nutritional benefits from the healthful foods we do eat. By causing damage to our digestive systems, they can prevent complete breakdown of foods into essential nutrients, and interfere with the body’s ability to properly absorb what nutrients are available. This can lead to nutrient deficiencies and malnutrition, even though you might be eating lots of good food.
Another problem is that food allergies can restrict your ability to eat the foods you need. A diverse diet offers maximum assurance that you are getting the nutrients you need, but if you live in fear of a reaction, you might find yourself limiting your diet more than you need to. For instance, a person with an allergy to swiss chard or silverbeet might eliminate all greens from their diet, when really, they might only be reacting to a particular chemical found in plants of the ‘beet’ genus. By eliminating all greens, this person is losing many health-giving properties of greens, which are outstanding sources of chlorophyll, calcium and magnesium.
An allergenic or reactive food is one that causes an allergic reaction, such as hives, wheezing, stomach cramps or stuffy nose. The foods that tend to be most highly allergenic (especially to children) are: milk wheat corn sugar soy nuts eggs.
Other highly reactive foods are: oats, yeasts, chocolate, seafood, beef and citrus.
However, you can develop an intolerance, sensitivity or allergy to any food. The degree of sensitivity to a food depends on your tolerance ‘threshold’ for that food. You might be able to eat small amounts of a food, but react to larger amounts. Or some foods may be eaten without reaction once in a while, but not more frequently.
In fact, you may not be reacting to the specific food, but to one of more of the components of that food. It might surprise you to learn that the most common problematic substances are the vitamins and minerals in foods. They can cause us to have allergic reactions to many foods we eat on a daily basis. Other major causes of food allergy are food additives, sulphur, pesticides, biotechnology and genetic engineering.
Symptoms of Food Allergy
There are many warning signs that indicate that you might have a food allergy: dark circles under the eyes, frequent sniffing or throat-clearing, irritability, moodiness, hyperactivity, or frequent fatigue. Other signs may include headaches, stomach aches, bowel problems, muscle pain, coughing or wheezing, and frequent digestive or respiratory problems. Symptoms vary from person to person. Common signs of food allergy include the following:
Digestive problems – Reactions to food allergens can damage to walls lining the digestive tract, and also disrupt the balance of hormones and chemicals needed for proper digestion and elimination. This can lead to problems such as Leaky Gut syndrome, where the walls of the small intestine leak partially-digested food into the blood stream. This can lead to bloating, stomach cramps and inflammation, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, autoimmune and immune deficiency diseases, and many other problems.
Blocked airways – Food allergens are responsible for excess mucus in many allergic people, leading to chronic blocked noses, and mucuosy throats – as well as ear infections. Babies have very small upper airways and it takes very little to block them. When the allergens are removed from the diet, the mucus dries up.
Middle Ear infections – Over 70% of children suffer from middle ear infection at some time or other, and it believed by many researchers to arise from food allergies, particularly to milk and wheat. One study reported that 78% of the children with otitis showed allergies milk, wheat, egg white, peanuts, and soy, and when these foods were eliminated from their diet, 86% experienced significant improvement.
Psychological or emotional problems – Food allergies have been clearly linked to a range of psychological and behavior disorders such as autism and hyperactivity in children, anxiety, depression, inability to concentrate, mood swings, and ‘fogginess’.
Food addictions – If you are addicted to a food, you are probably allergic to it. This is because allergic reactions in the body trigger the release of certain chemicals, among them, opioids, which make you feel good. If you feel happier when you eat that food, you can develop a craving for it.
Types of Food Allergies
If you are allergic to a food, you can experience either an immediate or a delayed reaction to food. The immediate reaction pattern is referred to as Type l food allergy. Immediately or within a short time after eating the food, you show clear and often dramatic symptoms. If you are allergic to fungus, you might develop abdominal cramps within an hour of eating a ragout containing mushrooms. A child with a type 1 reaction to kiwi fruit might experience severe itching in the mouth or vomiting within 15 minutes of eating a kiwi fruit.
The most dangerous Type l reaction is called anaphylaxis – a severe reaction that can be fatal within minutes. If you or your child experiences light-headedness), swollen tongue or throat, difficulty breathing, fainting or facial swelling immediately after eating food, seek immediate emergency care.
Type l food allergies are easy to diagnose. They respond to allergy skin tests, and show up on blood tests because they result in an excess of IgE antibodies. For many doctors, this is the only kind of real food allergy. Recent estimates show that that Type l food allergies occur in between 3-5 % (sometimes to 8%) of children, and in 1-2 % of adults.
Type ll food allergy does not involve IgE antibodies. Instead, IgA, IgG and IgM antibodies may be produced. This reaction pattern is associated with the release of inflammatory substances by the immune system. Many food allergies are of this type, therefore, they are not detected by standard allergy tests, which usually only test for the IgE antibodies.
Some reactive patterns are ‘hidden’. Delayed patterns of food allergy (referred to as Type lll food allergy) often go unrecognized because the symptoms are not usually obvious, and may occur days after the food is eaten. Also, since they do not involve the production of excess IgE antibodies, delayed allergy reactions to not show up on skin tests or IgE antibody tests. Rather, they tend to show up as clusters of physical, behavioral and learning problems affecting several body systems at once.
You may experience Type lll allergy as a combination of recurring or persistent symptoms such as breathlessness, frequent clearing of throat, episodes of hyperactivity and emotional hypersensitivity, chronic stuffy nose, and frequent flu-like symptoms. Another person may experience recurring headaches, frequent itching of the eyes, abdominal pains, fatigue, bouts of depression, sleep problems, and swelling of the lymph nodes. These delayed reaction patterns of food allergy are difficult to diagnose. Yet according to many health practitioners, they account for the majority of food allergies, especially in children.
In fact, food allergies are so common – and still so frequently undiagnosed – that you should take any undefined pattern of illness that involves different symptoms and different body symptoms as a sign of food allergy until proven otherwise.
It used to be accepted that children outgrew food allergies, and adults sometime report the same, but we now that allergies just evolve and change over time. For instance, allergies to milk or eggs can evolve into respiratory or other allergies, or as various health problems. For true healing to occur, the underlying allergies must be addressed.
The most common treatment for food allergies is avoidance. This will relieved the symptoms and prevent further damage; however, it can mean a lifetime of restrictive diets.
There is some evidence that eating organic foods can decrease the incidence or severity of allergic reactions to food, and may even help protect against allergic reactions. Organic foods provide more of the quality nutrients needed to build up the immune system, which is always weak in those with allergies. Certainly, a diet high in organic foods decreases the chances of developing allergies to food additives and pesticides, and can reduce the incidence of allergies.
However, if you already have food allergies, the damage they have already caused still needs to be corrected.
The best solution to food allergies is desensitization. There are different treatment options available, some of them immunizing the body to allergens with extracts taken under the tongue or injections. Acupuncture has also been shown effective in treating some allergies. The problem is that these therapies may not address the underlying health issues, such as nutrient deficiencies, toxin overload or stress, that caused food allergies in the first place.
For a real solution to food allergies, choose a program that involves detoxification to clear the body of toxins that contribute to allergies, corrects other underlying health problems, and desensitizes you to the allergens that are affecting you.
Once the food allergies are under control or eliminated, it is important that you obtain solid nutritional advice to help you maintain and build the health of your immune system. If you don’t eat enough of the right foods, or eat too much of the wrong foods, you are at risk of developing new allergies or other problems. A good diet is still your best protection.