Food intolerance, also known as hypersensitivity, and in more serious cases, allergies, is a response triggered by the immune system. The immune system produces immunoglobulin E (IgE), a protein that is effective against a specific food, or food antibody that circulates in the blood. This specific IgE attaches to mast cells, which exist throughout the body and are found most often in the area that is the typical site of an allergic reaction (lungs, nose, throat, skin, or GI tract).
When we eat something we are intolerant of, white blood cells production is increased, making us feel temporarily comforted. We are often allergic to the foods we crave the most, and sometimes to those we don’t desire at all. The body can develop an addiction to the food that is the most problematic. When some people give up an offending food, it is not unusual to experience withdrawal that can cause symptoms such as fatigue, irritability and cravings.
Allergic reactions to food can come on immediately or be delayed for several hours. Symptoms can include acne, anxiety, arthritis, asthma, bedwetting, bladder infections, bloating, irritable bowel, canker sores, depression, diarrhea, eczema, edema, puffy and dark circles under the eyes, fatigue, flatulence, chronic infections, hyperactivity, insomnia, itching, headaches (including migraines), hypoglycemia, muscle and joint pain, rashes, rhinitis, sinus and ear infections, wheezing, and respiratory distress.
Allergies can be genetic and be aggravated during times of emotional stress. Repeated exposure to allergens can also increase one’s susceptibility. Breast-feeding can help one to be less susceptible to allergies; however nursing babies can exhibit sensitivities to foods their mothers may be eating. For someone with a serious food allergy, even ingesting a tiny amount cans a cause symptoms that can last for days. In some severe cases, food allergies can cause life threatening anaphylaxis and even death as airways constrict and breathing is impaired. Immediate medical attention is necessary if this happens or using an emergency epinephrine injection, once a person has been taught to use it, for emergencies.
It is important to identify what your body is reacting to and avoid those substances. The most common food allergies are usually protein based and can include cow’s milk products, eggs, wheat, gluten, soy, peanuts, beef, chocolate, coffee, corn, pork, oranges, potatoes, shellfish, tomatoes, and walnuts. However, one can be allergic to anything. Some people outgrow their allergies, though allergies to tree nuts, peanuts, gluten and fish are usually not outgrown.
Gluten is a naturally occurring complex protein that is water-soluble. It helps give elasticity to grain flours and is present in wheat, rye, oats, kamut, spelt, and barley. Symptoms of gluten intolerance include anemia, bleeding tendencies, bloating, diarrhea, fatigue, flatulence, headache, irritable bowel, damage to the intestinal lining and poor appetite. Gliadin, in gluten can flatten out the mucosal lining of the intestines making it difficult to assimilate nutrients. For too many people, wheat has become their main grain – in the form of pasta, bread, muffins, pancakes and so forth. When wheat is ground up months before being used, it can go rancid. The refining of wheat causes great nutritional loss. Many modern grains are so hybridized and grown with chemicals that taxes tolerance of the grain.
Because dairy products are often contaminated with hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides as well as being pasteurized and homogenized they are not tolerated by an estimated two-thirds of the world’s population.
People can be allergic to the chemicals in tap water. Aspartame sweeteners, monosodium glutamate and artificial food colorings can also be problematic for some.
Sulfites added to preserve the color of fruits and vegetables and can cause bronchial spasms in sensitive people.
Food Journal and Elimination Diet
Keep a food journal and look for patterns when reactions occur. Avoid all of the common allergenic foods and introduce them at intervals of five days to see if there is a reaction. Practicing a rotation diet where any potential allergen is consumed no more frequently than every four to seven days can be helpful. Omit suspected foods for at least three weeks to allow allergic symptoms to diminish and reintroduce them every three to seven days and see if there is any reaction. Every three days, add back another suspected food. If you’re not sure of what your allergic to even after keeping a food journal and monitoring symptoms rating them as mild, medium or severe.
Read labels and be careful of the hidden factors. You might know you’re allergic to eggs and never eat them, but what about that egg-laden salad dressing, or mayonnaise in the sandwich? When in doubt, ask. Companies might share equipment and make safe products, but still possibly contaminated with another food product processed earlier. Eating foods in simpler combinations gives one a clearer sense as to what is affecting them. Doctors can do skin teats and blood tests (such as the RAST or ELISA) to measure levels of IgE in the blood to help confirm a diagnosis. Using a pendulum and muscle testing are methods that tune into the body’s subconscious to determine if a food is an allergen or not. Weigh yourself each morning, sudden weight gain without an increase in food consumption can be a sign of an allergen causing fluid retention. The pulse test is yet another method. To do the pulse test, the person fasts for four to six days, drinking only water. They are then given a meal of only one food, taking the resting pulse before ingestion and then every 20 minutes for the next hour. If the pulse falls or rises more than 20 or more beats, this is suspicious of allergy.
Shopping at natural food stores can make dealing with food allergies easier as there are substitutes for just about every allergen – dairyless cheese, wheat free pasta and cookies, egg substitutes. Ask for help and. Read labels, look for how allergens might be hidden (such as eggs in mayonnaise), ask about ingredients when dining out and be sure to inform your food server that one has a serious allergy, inform schools and child care givers as to what food allergies are and what to do in case of ingestion. Look for cookbooks that match your needs such as dairy free, wheat, gluten and anything else you need to free yourself from. You could even go raw!
Herbs for Food Allergies
A gruel of marshmallow root or slippery elm powders can be consumed when nothing can be tolerated. Nettles tea is an excellent herb to ingest for people that have many allergies, as it supports the immune system, builds the blood and has a natural anti-histamine action. Taking an enzyme supplement with meals can also help reduce the inflammatory reactions from occasionally eating an intolerant food. Some people find going on a short cleansing fast relieves allergic reactions.
Continuing to eat something that causes a reaction in your body puts you under stress; indulging in offending substances can be a factor in autoimmune disorders where the body starts attacking itself. Letting go of foods that stress our bodies is an important factor in good health.