Food Allergies and Sensitivities

Food Allergies has been a controversial topic for many years and there is a lot of confusion and misinformation over its diagnosis and its management so I wanted to devote some time to bring clarity to this hot topic.

Let’s start with what is an actual food allergy because it has become a very misapplied term. The word allergy in medicine means that there is an antigenic protein that is generating an immunologic reaction and this reaction has to be protein mediated. So saying food allergy to sugar or a certain fat is technically not possible in immunology. However that does not mean you can not have negative reaction or symptoms when you eat certain foods, whether they are protein containing or not. There are other reactions that occur when you eat foods that are not allergies. For instance, lactose intolerance is when someone can not digest milk properly, but it is not correct to say that person has a milk allergy, because technically it is not an allergy, but an intolerance, and means that this person does not make the proper amounts of enzymes that are needed to digest milk sugars, which then lays in the stomach and starts causing problems.

Once foods are ingested, they are broken down to different intermediaries. Some of those intermediaries can actually be somewhat toxic and would need to be cleared through detoxification pathways (Phase I and II as we talked about in last month’s newsletter). If people are deficient in relevant liver enzymes or have any other detoxification issues, they may get a buildup of a toxic intermediate and produce symptoms such as a headache or other negative reactions every time they eat a certain foods. This is not an allergy, but a sensitivity.

True protein mediated food allergies can be divided into 2 groups, fixed and cyclical. Fixed allergies are when someone eats a certain food, such as shrimp or peanuts and they get an immediate anaphylactic shock type reaction called IgE mediated reaction. People are usually born with this type of allergy and the only way to avoid it is to eliminate that food from the diet. This amounts to about 10% of food allergies.

The other 90% are cyclic allergies, so they come and go depending on exposure. These types of allergies are usually developed by overexposure to certain proteins combined with bad digestion of that protein and poor intestinal health. So they are more like learned allergies.

Symptoms of food allergies are all over the board. Some of the most common are dermatological symptoms, like rashes and dermatitis, gastrointestinal problems, loss of appetite, mal-absorption syndrome created by inflammatory bowel reactions to the offending protein, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis, ulcerations, auto immunes phenomenon like arthritis, lupus, MS, autoimmune thyroiditis, neurological degenerations, migraines, anxiety, seizures, asthma and other respiratory disorders, as well as fatigue and obesity.

The above delayed reactions are called IgG reactions and those are on the rise today due to the increase of immune dysfunctions. There are a lot of the same proteins in our food because of convenience and processed foods. If you read labels, you will find there is wheat, corn, soy and dairy in almost every packaged food. We tend to develop delayed allergies to foods that we are overexposed to day in and day out and processed foods are the perfect vehicle to deliver these proteins all the time. There is less variability in our diet because of transportation and while that is very convenient, we do not have seasonal foods. If you go to the grocery store, doesn’t matter if is January or June, we have the same foods to select from and most Americans eat the same foods over and over again. When you combine that with declining gastrointestinal health, impaired detoxification, and high stress, the allergies become more and more widespread.

Conventional allergists use skin prick testing. Those are great for contact allergies like dust, dander and the like; however it is not great for food allergies. First off, we do not stick our food under our skin; it goes in our stomach which is a completely different environment. But even if we did stick our food under our skin, the only reaction you would see is an immediate IGe reaction and it would not show the more prevalent IgG delayed reactions. So when people come in and say they have already been tested and have no allergies, if they only had the skin prick, their allergist did not evaluate 80+ % of reactions.

When testing for IGg reactions, if the patient comes back to with allergies to things they eat all the time it is because they are overexposed to those foods. However that does not mean they can never have that food again. With the combination of fixing the digestive system and GI barrier, and taking that food out of the diet for long enough for the immune system to come down, fixing the gut and then reintroducing that food slowly, it is possible to get over that allergy and be able to eat that food again. We can retrain the immunological response to many of these delayed food reactions because these reactions (IGg) antibodies are usually developed as a protective mechanism to coat the antigen so more aggressive pathways would not be affected. So it is not that these IgG’s when detected are inherently a bad thing, they are not a disease or disorder, they are just down stream things from bad digestion and stress. We would then need to focus on gut restoration and healing. Once the body is able to digest better and absorb, it can then render those proteins less antigenic.

Currently, the best ways to test for delayed reactions is through E.L.I.S.A, A.C.T or ALCAT tests, which are simple blood tests (finger prick or blood draw) available at our office.

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