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Food Allergies - testing and treatment

Food allargiesFood allergies are an increasingly hot topic among patients. Many people wonder why there is such an increase in food allergies lately. I believe there are several reasons why we are seeing such an influx of food allergy complaints.

  1. We now have better diagnostic testing to detect food sensitivities properly.
  2. Many of our foods are now genetically modified, so that our body has a tougher time digesting them.
  3. Many foods that aren't certified organic have chemicals and pesticides added to help cut the losses by farmers. Our bodies can react to these chemicals.
  4. Our heightened awareness of this problem focuses more attention to the detection of food sensitivities.
  5. The Standard American Diet (SAD) has deteriorated to the point that we see many problems with our digestive system. Since most of your immune system is located in your gut, and this is where the food absorption takes place, we are seeing an increasing amount of reactions to food. Leaky gut syndrome (gut permeability) allows the larger proteins from foods to be absorbed by our bodies, which then treat these large molecules as a foreign entity and attack it (which can lead to an autoimmune disease where your body attacks itself as in MS, Hashimotos, Grave's, Addison's, Celiac, Type I Diabetes, Lupus, Sjogren's, etc...).

Allow me to warn you about some of the confusing terminology surrounding food allergies. Many people, including healthcare practitioners, use all of the following terms loosely to describe a similar problem - food allergies, food sensitivities, food intolerances, and food toxicity.

You should understand that the body has many ways of dealing with an allergen. The three major pathways are through one of the following immunoglobulin responses (which can be classified into two categories):

1. Immediate Allergic Response:

IgE - this is the traditional "food allergy" where a person may have an anaphylactic reaction requiring immediate attention. An example of this might be a peanut allergy. The response by your immune system is typically immediate and severe.

2. Delayed Immune Response:

IgG - this is the delayed response by your body's immune system in response to particles of food that your body sees as an allergen. Because of the delay, you probably aren't even aware of this reaction.

IgA - this is another delayed immune response. The difference between this response and that of IgG is that this is mediated by the areas of your body with mucous membranes - lungs, mouth, gastrointestinal and urinary tracts, and breast milk.

To be more technically correct, I would classify an IgE mediated response as an "allergy" and the IgG/IgA responses as a food sensitivity or intolerance. However, both of these are a stress on your body and an insult to the immune system.

Because of the immediate response to an IgE reaction, most people are aware of their allergy. The IgG and IgA responses on the other hand, often go undiagnosed and can lead to many chronic symptoms. It is for this reason that I highly recommend a quality IgG and IgA food allergy profile for my patients suffering from related symptoms.

In addition, many people have had allergy testing for environmental sources, but not food sources. The problem with this is that you can't control what's in the environment here in Boise, but you can control what you take into your body. Doesn't it make sense to know what foods your body is reacting to, so you can avoid them or at least eat them in moderation?

Another type of testing exists that measures the quantitative reaction of your white blood cells (immune cells) to the foods that it is exposed to. This is my preferred method, as it casts the net wider than just the antibodies mentioned above to anything that leads to an immune response.

When these white blood cells react to a food, they release chemicals that signal the body something is wrong. By measuring these, we can get a really good idea of what your body is reacting to. If you have any questions about this process, please call me at 208-629-5374.

What symptoms might indicate an underlying chronic food sensitivity?

Here is a short list - autoimmune conditions, constipation, nausea, diarrhea, bloating, gas, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) asthma, itchy eyes, chronic ear infections, chronic sinus infections, cough, skin rashes, urticaria (hives), eczema, headaches, sinusitis, bedwetting, ADD, ADHD, anxiety, depression, joint pain, nasal polyps, psoriasis, migraines, pharyngeal irritations, post nasal drip, and more...

The next question becomes - what are the common culprits for food sensitivities?

There are many foods, chemicals, additives, and microbes contaminating food that can all lead to a food sensitivity. The list is enormous, but let me try to list the big players here - dairy (casein, lactose), gluten (wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt, kamut, triticale...), corn, soy, chocolate, tree nuts, citrus fruits, vegetables from nightshade family, monosodium glutamate (MSG), food additives, preservatives, colorings, flavorings, plasticizers, sulfites, dyes, prescription medications, etc...

To recap, if you have some of the symptoms mentioned on this page, you should seriously consider having a food allergy laboratory test performed. Since you are in control of what you take into your body, this is a wonderful form of preventative medicine to safeguard yourself against the possibility of further health complications.

Many patients see a serious improvement in health just by avoiding their most severe allergens.

If you suspect food allergies in your self or someone you love, please call Dr. Noah today to 208-629-5374 to schedule a free consultation.