Are food allergies causing your symptoms?

Discovering your food allergies may be an important element in uncovering the reasons for your chronic symptoms.

by Dr. Tara Peyman — 

You may be allergic to one or more foods and not even know it. We can develop an inflammatory, allergic response to the foods we eat — even healthy foods can cause symptoms. This inflammatory response can lead to headaches, fatigue, digestive problems, skin rashes, mood disorders, autoimmune conditions and other symptoms.

There are different types of food allergies or intolerances: IgE food allergies, IgG food allergies and food intolerances.

Immediate food allergies, also called IgE (immunoglobulin E) allergies, occur within seconds to minutes of eating the food to which you are allergic. Therefore, because of this quick response, people with IgE food allergies are usually very aware of the foods to which they are allergic.

IgG (immunoglobulin G) food allergies are delayed in their effects. You can eat a food to which you have an IgG food allergy and have a negative response up to 72 hours later. This makes it very difficult to determine which foods are causing your symptoms. For this type of allergy, testing is helpful to determine the foods to which you are reacting.

A food intolerance is the inability to digest a certain food because of a deficiency of the enzymes necessary to do so. Lactose intolerance is an example of this. Another example is gluten intolerance, an aspect of celiac disease. Celiac disease is a condition in which the person is incapable of breaking down gluten (found in wheat and several other grains). This is different from a gluten allergy, in which a person can break down gluten, but has an allergic response to the gluten proteins once they are digested.

More than 50 percent of our immune system is affected by the digestive tract. The immune cells can overreact to certain foods, causing an inflammatory response. Food allergies can be genetic or begin as a result of stress or damage in the digestive tract, the overeating of a certain food, by a food being introduced too early in infancy.

In a healthy digestive tract, the cells of the intestinal lining are linked closely together, allowing only small, digested food particles into the bloodstream. Alcohol, sugar, antibiotics, processed food, and emotional or physical stress can cause irritation to the intestinal lining.

When the lining becomes irritated, the linkages between the cells of the intestinal wall can break and larger food particles can leak into the blood. Because only small food proteins are supposed to be allowed through, the immune system will target these larger food particles as if they were a virus or other foreign body. When you eat that food again, your immune system will have developed antibodies against it, and will attack these food particles as you digest them, causing an inflammatory response.

Discovering your food allergies may be an important element in uncovering the reasons for your chronic symptoms. Food allergies can be tested in several ways. Keeping a diary of the foods you eat at each meal, and noting the timing and intensity of your symptoms can be helpful.

The gold standard for food allergy testing is an allergy elimination and challenge, in which you completely eliminate a specific set of foods from your diet, then reintroduce them one at a time, and watch for symptoms. Your blood also can be tested against multiple food allergens to check for IgG or IgE immune reactions. With the results of this test, you can avoid the foods to which you react, and later reintroduce them into your diet after your symptoms have resolved.

With proper nutrition, natural supplements to heal the intestinal lining and homeopathic medicine to correct the underlying immune imbalance, you can treat food allergies and improve your overall health, mood and energy.

 

Tara Peyman is a licensed naturopathic doctor who specializes in treating depression and anxiety with natural medicine. She practices at East Valley Naturopathic Doctors in Mesa, Ariz. 480-985-0000, and at Naturopathic Health Associates in Tempe, Ariz. 480-456-0402. www.DrTaraPeyman.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 28, Number 1, Feb/Mar 2009.

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