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Food Allergies


Introduction

"One man's food is another man's poison"---simply put, people can have extremely different reactions to the same food. For example, eggs are a great source of protein, but if a person is allergic, then the egg may be the cause of symptoms and illness. Furthermore, the digestive tract, which is responsible for food breakdown and absorption, accounts for 70% of the immune system, thus food allergies may lead to chronic colds and infection.

A food allergy is defined as an abnormal immune reaction caused by the ingestion of a food or food additive. The most dramatic form of food allergy reaction occurs within minutes, usually in response to certain foods such as shellfish, peanuts, or strawberries. This allergy reaction is an IgE reaction and is the most classical form of food allergy response. Most allergies as we know them result from an overproduction of IgE antibodies, which results in immune system overload, thus causing an unpleasant symptom to result. The symptoms are similar to those of a bee sting allergy, involving hives, itching, swelling in the throat, and difficulty breathing; this immediate type of allergic reaction can be life-threatening.

Other food allergy reactions are more hidden or delayed causing relatively subtle symptoms over days or even weeks. This type of allergy response is known as an IgG reaction and is often referred to as food sensitivity. These antibodies are a reaction of the digestive system compared to an immune reaction of the IgE antibodies. Symptoms are widespread and may result in gastrointestinal problems, weight gain, headaches, depression, fatigue, anxiety, food cravings, arthritis and skin imbalances. About 1% of the population has food allergies, where as food sensitivities are present in 75 to 95% of people.

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Common Symptoms

Nausea and vomiting; diarrhea and/or constipation; bloating; belching or passing gas; stomach pains or cramps; heartburn; blood or mucous in stools; pains or aches in muscles; feeling weak or tired; swollen, tender joints; growing pains in legs; binge eating, drinking; excessive weight; craving certain foods; compulsive eating; water retention; apathy, lethargy; attention deficit; hyperactivity; restlessness; fatigue; frequent illness; genital itch or discharge; mood swings; anger, irritable, or aggressiveness; poor memory; frustrated; often cry; confusion; easily distracted.

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Common Causes

The cause of food allergies will differ depending upon the type of reaction. IgE allergies, for example, typically begin at birth and are often managed through complete elimination of the food for an indefinite period of time. If these food allergies develop later in life, individuals who suffer from a weak immune system and/or environmental allergies may be more susceptible. The IgG group of food allergies or sensitivities most often occurs in individuals who have compromised digestive function (IBS, GERD, Leaky Gut Syndrome, Candida), which results in a weakened gut barrier that allows foods to permeate and cross into the blood stream. In this case, the body perceives the food particle as a foreign invader and an allergic response will ensue within 24 to 72 hours. Another common cause of IgG food allergies is a very limited diet with the constant repetition of foods. This pattern may also cause an irritation/breakdown of the stomach lining allowing foods to enter the bloodstream and resulting in a food allergy response. IgG reactions may be effectively treated through dietary management.

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Natural Treatment

There are several ways of providing natural treatment for food allergies. First, the root cause of the allergy must be determined. If the food allergy is an IgE reaction and has been present since birth, the goal would be to provide immune system support through diet, lifestyle management (online or in person) and supplementation. If the reaction is determined as a possible IgG reaction, the gastrointestinal tract is often the culprit. Therefore, a thorough assessment of the digestive gut ecology is essential to explore in an effort to effectively treat the food allergy. A GI Panel will offer a comprehensive view of the gut environment by revealing levels of gut protection, digestive enzymes and bacterial balance present in the system. By addressing imbalances in the digestive tract through diet and therapeutic supplementation, many food sensitivities may be avoided. Even more comprehensive is a Food Allergy Panel to determine both IgG and IgE reactions to foods. IgG food allergies will often subside if the food is eliminated for a set period of time while providing support to the gastrointestinal system. The relief that the body receives from avoiding the food allows it to rebuild and reset its natural balance. During this time, therapeutic supplements are often used to provide additional gastrointestinal support. Note that individuals with a diagnosis or family history of bipolar disorder or depression, addiction or alcoholism, ADD or ADHD, sleep apnea or insomnia, Crohn's or ulcerative colitis are more likely to experience IgG food sensitivities and should consider exploring how food allergy testing and nutritional support may optimize their health.

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References

Bateson-Koch, Carolee. Allergies: Disease in Disguise : How to Heal Your Allergic Condition Permanently and Naturally. Canada: Alive Books. 2002.

Better Health USA. October 4, 2008. Available at: http://www.betterhealthusa.com/. Accessed on October 28, 2009.

The World's Healthiest Foods. The George Mateljan Foundation. 2009. Available at: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=faq&dbid=30. Accessed on October 28, 2009.

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