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Are the Foods You Eat Making You Sick? Identifying Food Allergies
We’ve all heard the old saying, “You are what you eat.” Unfortunately, for many people, food is a source of chronic disease. Food allergies and food intolerances can create a host of health problems – from hives and anaphylaxis, to eczema, asthma, headaches, sinus infections, celiac disease, digestive problems, depression, fibromyalgia, autoimmune diseases and many other conditions. .
More than fifty million people – that’s one in five people in the United States suffer from allergies. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, one in twenty children under the age of five and one in twenty-five adults are allergic to at least one food. The number of people affected by food intolerance is suspected to be higher.
Food allergy or food intolerance
The terms food allergy and food intolerance are often used interchangeably, although they have two different definitions. A food allergy is when the body’s immune system generates an immunological reaction when exposed to a food allergen. Symptoms of a food allergen appear quickly, such as eating a peanut and then having hives or a skin rash or even anaphylaxis minutes to hours later. The term food intolerance is used to describe reactions to foods, but the immune system is not directly involved. People with food intolerances may experience a variety of symptoms, including headaches, brain fog, fatigue, depression, upset stomach, eczema, asthma, colic, joint pain, insomnia, and many other symptoms, but symptoms are usually delayed. and can happen hours to. days after eating the irritating food.
The Top Ten Food Allergies
The list of the most common food allergens includes: wheat, eggs, dairy products, soy products, corn, citrus fruits, nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, eggplants, peppers and potatoes), peanuts, shellfish and alcohol. Babies and children are more often allergic to milk, eggs, wheat, soy products and peanuts. Older children and adults are more often allergic to peanuts, tree nuts (walnuts, almonds, cashews), fish and shellfish.
The Elimination / Rechallenge Diet
The gold standard for evaluating food allergies is the elimination/rechallenge diet which involves eating a restricted diet, avoiding any potential food allergen for four to six weeks, then reintroducing a suspected food allergen into the diet and observing any reaction. The advantages of this test method include:
• People can easily identify an adverse reaction to a food when reintroducing it to the diet
• There is no added cost or expensive tests involved with this diet
Cons of this diet include:
• Many people find it difficult to maintain a restricted diet for 4 – 6 weeks
• There is an extra effort to buy and prepare hypoallergenic meals
ELISA test (Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay).
This food allergy testing method is done through a blood test where the serum is measured for specific immune markers – IgE and IgG antibodies – to specific foods. The advantages of this test include:
• Less time consuming than the elimination/rechallenge diet
• May be safer than the skin prick test if a person has anaphylaxis reactions to foods
• The results can be very motivating for people to change their diet
Disadvantages of this test include:
• This test is not 100% accurate or reliable
• Some people show high levels of immune markers, such as IgE antibodies, but when they eat the food they have no adverse reactions.
How to heal from food allergies and intolerances
Healing food allergies or food intolerances usually involves some avoidance of foods that aggravate symptoms for a period of at least 3 to 6 months, sometimes longer. Avoiding food triggers will help reduce inflammation in the body and give the body time to heal. There are a variety of supplements used to help heal the gut lining. Probiotics are an essential component to restore bacterial balance in the digestive tract and encourage intestinal healing. The probiotic strains with the most research include lactobacillius rhamnosus GG, bifidobacteria and sacroymyces boullardi, which is actually a yeast strain that helps balance the intestinal flora. Other nutritional supplements used to heal the gut include:
• Digestive enzymes used to help break down food
• L-glutamine, an amino acid used to heal the lining of the intestine
• Milk protein powder used to strengthen the immune system in the intestine (not recommended for people with milk allergies)
• Quercetin, a bioflavonoid used to prevent histamine reactions
• Drinking green tea can reduce allergic reactions
Healing food allergies and food intolerances takes effort. It requires the will to change your diet and your lifestyle. There are many health professionals who specialize in the treatment of food allergies and food intolerances. Consider consulting with your local healthcare provider to learn more about identifying and treating food allergies.
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