Food Allergies

Food allergies and sensitivities are one of the most underdiagnosed causes of chronic disease.

What is an Allergy?

An allergy is an inflammatory immune reaction to a typically non-pathological substance, like food, pollen, pet dander or dust, though mold is a common allergy and as an infection it can cause mild to severe disease. Allergies are a derangement of the immune response and have significant health consequences and implications. An allergic response hijacks the energy and surveillance resources required to prevent infection and cancer. An inaccurate immune system is primed to attack the body itself (autoimmune disease) and the fuel meant to maintain it, reducing its focus on invaders and rogue cells. Removing food allergens allows the immune system to rearticulate its focus on pathogens and aberrant cells. Allergic inflammation alone causes non-specific damage and aging of all tissues and organs. Inflammation is the underlying biochemical process of all disease and aging.

The immune system is the guardian of our bodies: its purpose is to identify, destroy and remember invaders and unhealthy or rogue cells (cancer starts from rogue cells). The immune system is made of many organs, glands, cells and their products. One product in particular is antibodies, which are responsible for triggering allergic reactions.

Antibodies, called immunoglobulins, are proteins made by immune cells, B-cells -a type of white blood cell- that communicate to other immune cells that the attached protein is "Non-Self" or aberrant/rogue and must be destroyed. There are 5 known classes of antibodies, IgM, IgE, IgG, IgA and IgD. IgM antibodies are made when we are first exposed to a microbe, a virus for instance. These antibodies attach to the circulating virus particles, tagging it as "Non-self" so immune cells can mount a cascade of inflammatory chemicals to destroy the virus. After a few weeks or a couple months, B-cells start making IgG antibodies and stop making IgM. In some cases, blood tests can identify if a viral infection is new or old; Epstein-Barr Virus, or EBV, is the classic example of this. Like any fire, these inflammatory chemicals damage not only the target bug, but surrounding cells and tissues. Antibodies circulate in the blood, so anywhere blood goes, so does inflammation, which is why food sensitivities can affect any part of the body.

IgE antibodies to food, pollens, dander, etc, are involved in histamine reactions which can be mild- like hay fever- to severe, like anaphylactic shock or angioedema. With IgE food allergies, the reactions tend to be to 1-3 foods, are fairly immediate- within 2 hours- and are relatively intense and range from hives, asthma attacks, anaphylaxis and even death in the most severe cases. IgE allergies are often tested by pin-prick tests in an allergist's office, though they can be tested via blood tests.

IgG antibodies to foods tend to be mild to moderate, have inflammatory chemicals other than histamine involved, are chronic, take hours to days to have a reaction, involve 3-40 (that is forty, not a typo) foods and often as many or more symptoms, and an individual food is rarely associated with a specific symptom prior to testing. The range of symptoms is vast- stomach, digestive and intestinal problems, skin problems, frequent infections, fatigue, sleep problems, anxiety, depression, autoimmune disease, pain, poor recovery, migraines, fibromyalgia, inflammatory diseases, joint pain, emotional problems, and blood sugar problems are all common symptoms of IgG food sensitivities. It bears mentioning here that both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes patients of mine have seen astonishing improvements in glucose control by removing offending foods. In fact, I have seen clinical improvements in every condition listed- with the exception of traumatic injuries- on the previous page by removing food allergies. (Even repetitive motion injuries have improved by removing food allergies). IgG sensitivities are also delayed reactions- they can take up to 4 days to mount an inflammatory response and can last for days or longer. Therefore, if you have a particular symptom occurring all the time, and you only eat an offending item in small amounts a couple times a week, you could always be reacting to that food, making it difficult to identify just by trial. Many people have the same reaction to multiple foods, so simply removing wheat and dairy is insufficient.

Why and how do we get these food sensitivities?

We can inherit them

Antibodies cross the placenta and get into breast milk. If a lactating woman has food sensitivities, she can pass them to the nursing baby. The introduction of foods the mother has antibodies to can start a reaction in an infant.

We develop them

Stress suppresses digestion. Poorly digested food ferments in the gut and causes irritation. The inflammatory reaction to irritation involves vasodilation and edema, mild swelling of the gut tissue. This makes the gut lining more permeable to the gut tube contents which include food, bacteria, fungus and viruses. The abdominal cavity side of the intestinal walls is surrounded by lymph tissue- which is saturated with immune cells ready to let nutrients into the blood stream and tag everything else- bugs and poorly digested food as "Non-self" and mount an inflammatory response to them. Remember, anywhere the blood can reach, so can the inflammatory response, as fast as blood can pump there.

Also, any direct irritation of the gut lining can leave it susceptible to increased permeability. Frequently medications, infections (stomach flu, food poisoning, etc), caffeine, alcohol, drugs can start the process, or compound existing food sensitivities.

The good news about food sensitivities is that they can go away if handled appropriately. Natural treatment focuses on getting rid of the sensitivity, preventing new ones from occurring and improving tolerance for sensitivities.