According to many naturopathic practitioners, food allergies are extremely common in our population and may be one of the most commonly undiagnosed conditions in the United States.
Ask most people what an allergy is and they will probably conjure up images of someone having a sneezing fit around cats or ragweed. But this kind of reaction is only one of the more obvious allergic reactions. According to “Prescription for Nutritional Healing” by Linda Page, “An allergy is an inappropriate response by the body’s immune system to a substance that is not normally harmful.” In other words, an allergy is a misguided response by the immune system that perceives something harmless to be an invader. It’s the over-reaction of the immune system that we feel as an allergy.
The allergic response isn’t limited to sneezing or wheezing. Answer this allergy questionnaire to see if the symptoms you are experiencing could be the result of an allergy.
Do you suffer from unnatural fatigue? Score a 1 if the symptom is occasional (once a week). Score a 2 if the symptom occurs more regularly (twice or more per week).
Do you at times have weight fluctuations of 4 or more pounds in a day accompanied by puffiness of the face, ankles or fingers? Score a 1 if infrequently. Score a 2 if more than once a month or severe.
Do you have hot flashes (apart from menopause) or find yourself sweating for no apparent reason? Score 1 if infrequently, 2 if several times a week or more.
Does your heart race or pound for no apparent reason? Score 1 if infrequently, 2 if several times a week or more.
Do you have a history of food intolerance causing any symptoms at all? Score 2 if your answer is yes.
Do you crave bread, sugary foods, milk, chocolate, coffee or tea? Score 2 if you answer yes to any.
Do you suffer from migraine or severe headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, eczema, depression, asthma or muscle aches? Score 2 if you answer yes to any.
If you score 5 or higher, there is a strong likelihood that allergies are part of your symptom picture.
An allergic response can lead to headaches, chronic fatigue, glaucoma, kidney problems, weight gain, seizures and heart palpitations. Food allergies can cause Crohn’s Disease, low thyroid, hypoglycemia, irritability, bloated stomach, nausea, brain fog, hives, and even obesity. Common food allergens include wheat, corn, all dairy products, egg whites, tomatoes, soy, shellfish, peanuts, chocolate, food colorings and additives.
A predisposition to allergies can begin very early in life. Some researchers suggest that a baby can develop allergies in its mother’s womb. An immune mechanism called IgG that mediates allergies is passed from the mother’s blood to the baby’s, so anything a mother is having an allergic response to, the baby will. If the mom can stay away from things that trigger an allergic response in her while she is carrying her baby, she can prevent an allergy to those things in her child.
Dr. Paavo Airola in his book How to Get Well suggests that allergy can also be a function of foods that are introduced too early into a baby’s under-developed digestive system. According to Airola, cereals, cow’s milk and meat fed prior to 10-12 months can set the stage for allergies later in life. He suggests that during the first six months, the baby only has the necessary enzymes to digest its mother’s milk – no other foods will be properly digested. Any other foods, especially cow’s milk, will be indigestible and can cause an allergic reaction in the baby. When you consider that only about half of the women leaving the hospital after giving birth are breast feeding their babies, you can see why allergies are on the rise in this country.
Over time, wear and tear on the digestive system can set a person up for allergies. Leaky gut syndrome is a condition in which the mucousal lining of the small intestine has become compromised creating excess permeability in the digestive tract. A leaky gut allows partially digested food to “leak” into the blood stream, which can cause immune and /or allergic reactions. Causes of leaky gut include, candida overgrowth, excess alcohol consumption, antibiotic use, viral and bacterial infections, stress, vitamin, mineral, protein or EFA deficiencies.
Many studies show that people with low HcL in their stomachs are prone to allergies. HcL (stomach acid) is necessary to properly digest protein and minerals. When there is a deficiency, there is much more of a chance that undigested protein will find its way into the blood stream. Undigested protein is viewed by the body as an invader and can trigger an immune or allergic response. Supplementing HcL with meals and/or making sure we’re not deficient in nutrients needed by the body to manufacture HcL, like zinc, is very important. Lemon water and raw apple cider vinegar taken before meals can also help to trigger HcL production.
A diet that consists largely of overly processed, chemicalized and enzyme-deficient foods can be a cause of many allergies. When we eat foods with little or no enzyme activity, our digestive system is put under tremendous pressure. Enzymes in food are there to help us digest that food. They take a huge load off of our digestive systems. However, cooking or processing foods destroys these enzymes, putting the entire burden of digestion on our bodies. Eventually, our digestive system weakens and undigested food can enter the bloodstream. Responding to these undigested foods, the immune system releases prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and histamines into the blood, which can trigger an allergic and /or inflammatory reaction.
Adjusting the foods we eat is one of the most powerful things we can do to improve allergies. One researcher found that diets of allergy sufferers normally consist of 30 foods or less, which they eat repeatedly. When someone eats a repetitive, monotonous diet, there’s much more of a chance of developing an allergy to the few foods they eat.
Here are the sort of adjustments you should begin to make if you suspect food allergies. Determine what foods you are allergic to. – There are some new blood tests – IgG Elisa and FICA (food immune complex assay) that measure specific antibodies in the blood and can precisely determine what foods are a problem. Skin testing, which is effective for environmental allergies, like pollen, mold and dust, is not effective for food allergies
If you’re unable to have these tests, there is a pulse test you can do yourself that works well to determine if a food is causing a negative reaction.
Some practitioners believe that many people have a problem with wheat and dairy because they were relatively late additions to the human diet. Supporting this theory is the fact that it is exactly the foods that our stone-age ancestors didn’t eat, cereal, grains and dairy that most frequently provoke reactions. Some researchers have found significant improvement in allergic patients when all cereals, grains and dairy are removed.
What other foods should someone avoid?
One of the popular ways of dealing with food allergies is to go on a rotation diet.
If we are consuming small numbers of foods and those foods have begun to stress our bodies instead of nourishing them, the answer is to remove the problem foods, expand the number of foods we eat and rotate them. The main idea is to never eat a food more often than once every 4 days.
Rotation diets offer 3 main benefits:
Ideally a person’s diet would consist of as wide a variety as possible of non-allergenic fruits and vegetables, non-gluten grains (millet, quinoa, buckwheat, and amaranth. Stay away from gluten grains like wheat, rye, barley, white rice and oats). Eat lean animal protein, if not vegetarian. Vegetable proteins would include raw nuts and seeds, peas, beans, avocado.
Given the fact that poor digestion and mal-absorption underlie most allergies, supplements that improve our digestion are very important.
The nutritional suggestions in this material are not offered to treat, mitigate or cure disease, and should not be used as a substitute for sound medical advice. This information is designed to be used in conjunction with the services of a trained, licensed healthcare practitioner.