Tag Archives: food sensitivities

Is it a food allergy or a reaction to a food component? – Why many food allergy tests don’t always solve the problem

We often associate food allergies and sensitivities to foods like dairy or wheat creating problems with gas/bloating, fatigue, eczema/rashes, asthma etc… However, did you know that your unwanted symptoms could also be occurring due to a reaction to a certain component in your food rather that the food itself?  This is one of the reasons that  food sensitivity test results may not show significant food intolerance even though a patient is symptomatic or people may not see improvement in symptoms even after strictly following a food sensitivity test. Our immune system can actually build a reaction to various components found in food and by identifying and reducing the load of these components, unwanted symptoms can Voila… be relieved!

Some of the most common triggers include sulfites, salicylates, histamines and amines but may also include nitrates, glutamates and oxalates.  These substances are present in our food and our body has the capacity to eliminate them, however when imbalances begin to occur, these foods can produce a food chemical overload that can send someone into tizzy causing headaches, brain fog, rashes, itching, joint pain and digestive issues just to name a few.

We become reactive to these substances partially because of our genetics but mostly because of our over exposure to these substances.   Reactions to sulfites and salicylates are actually quite common because we can get into a dietary groove where we eat more of these substances than our body can get rid of and so our immune system reacts with a histamine response. This can be further compounded because many healthy foods such as avocados, cashews and fermented foods are high in histamine, therefore people can often overload just by trying to eat healthy. Spinach, eggs and broccoli are healthy but too many sulfur rich foods with certain genetic tendencies can produce unwanted symptoms such as skin and GI issues in some!

It isn’t uncommon for someone to embark on what they consider to be a super healthy plant based diet and then all of a sudden find themselves feeling worse and actually feeling more stuffy and allergic.  This is because each one of us has a metabolic balance that needs to occur and what works for one person and makes them feel terrific isn’t necessarily going to work for someone else.

our very own Beth Mosher has been on the front lines of this, assessing patients and figuring out the root causes of stubborn symptoms, even when nothing else seems to work. If you are still dealing with ailments such as migraines, digestive discomfort, skin issues and fatigue, even after following a food sensitivity test result please contact us at 201-238-2720 or email us and we would be thrilled to help!

Gluten Intolerance

Do you suffer from fatigue, digestive problems, depression or weight gain but can’t seem to find the cause? It is very possible that you may be sensitive to gluten. Gluten intolerance has been found to be most common among people of Irish, English, Scottish, Scandinavian, and Eastern European. Often times it is assumed that gluten intolerance is a food allergy, but it is not. It is actually an autoimmune process, which affects an alarming percentage of the population.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. A person with gluten intolerance cannot digest the protein portion of these commonly eaten grains. When this protein is ingested it combines with the enzyme transglutaminase to form an immune complex that deposits on the lining of the intestines. The body recognizes this as a foreign substance, and begins an immune reaction to the complex. Immune cells come into the area and release a series of toxins to try to “kill” this unidentified immune complex. These toxins from the immune system cause inflammation in the digestive system and damage the lining tissue. This is what causes the unexplained digestive symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, constipation, gas, and cramping. The toxins are also responsible for feelings of fatigue and malaise after a meal containing these foods.

The walls of the digestive tract are lined with immune cells that form a protective barrier called Secretory IgA. This lining protects against infectious agents such as bacteria, parasites, and funguses. If a person with gluten intolerance continues to eat the gluten, in time the constant inflammation and irritation in the digestive tract wears away the Secretory IgA. This depletion of immune cells makes a person very susceptible to infectious agents it would normally be able to fight off. The inflammation also begins to damage the small intestine. This affects the person’s ability to absorb the nutrients they need. You quite literally are what you eat and if your body isn’t able to properly absorb your food, you will suffer a myriad of symptoms.

The number one symptom associated with mal-absorption resulting from gluten intolerance is a combination of fatigue and weight gain. If you are not properly absorbing your food you will not be getting any of the nutrients from the food you eat. This will leave you constantly hungry and endlessly tired. Without proper absorption of nutrients, mineral and vitamin deficiencies can develop. Muscle cramping is a common symptom that can arise. The lack of magnesium impairs muscle contraction. Magnesium deficiency has also been linked to cardiovascular disease. An inability to absorb calcium can lead to osteoporosis. Mineral deficiency can also create feelings of restlessness and an inability to relax. It can also make sleep difficult and create insomnia. If you cannot absorb your B vitamins you will develop weakness, fatigue, and malaise. If you cannot absorb fats then you cannot control inflammation and since most hormones are made from cholesterol, you will not have the building blocks to synthesize hormones. This among other things can create hormone imbalances, interfering with your ability to handle stress and maintain a balanced emotional state. This also contributes to weight gain in a substantial way. Your hormones have a large effect on your metabolism and your ability to process fat and carbohydrates.

There is also a phenomenon that causes people to crave things that they are allergic to. There are many theories as to why this happens and the exact mechanism is not yet fully understood. But this is the reason why many people crave carbohydrates or become “addicted” to them much the way an alcoholic becomes addicted to alcohol.

Lining your intestinal tract are cells that create enzymes to digest food, unfortunately they too are damaged in this process. Lack of enzymes causes many digestive disturbances. For example, if the body cannot secrete the enzyme lactase, lactose can no longer be digested and the person becomes intolerant to dairy. They may also lose their ability to digest protein which can lead to a deficiency in amino acids, the building blocks for neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Low levels of serotonin have been medically linked to problems with depression and insomnia.

Eventually the digestive tract develops gaps in areas of constant inflammation which is referred to as leaky gut syndrome. When this occurs, food particles, parasites, bacteria, viruses, fungi and any other invaders can exit the GI tract and enter the blood stream and increase the body’s susceptibility to illness. This is also the origin of many food allergies as explained in previous newsletters. Food is meant to be fully digested, broken down and filtered through the liver before it ever enters the blood stream. As undigested food particles slip through the gaps into the blood stream, the body’s immune system sees them as foreign invaders and creates immune cells to them. Then next time you eat these foods the body remembers them as a potentially threatening invaders and creates a reaction to them resulting in a food allergy

Do any of the below symptoms apply to you?

Weight gain
Unexplained fatigue
Difficulty relaxing, feel tense frequently
Unexplained digestive problems
Female hormone imbalances, (PMS, menopausal symptoms)
Muscle or joint pain or stiffness of unknown cause Migraine like headaches
Food allergies/sensitivities
Difficulty digesting dairy products
Tendency to over consume alcohol
Overly sensitive to physical and emotional pain, cry easily
Cravings for sweets, bread, carbohydrates
Tendency to overeat sweets, bread, carbohydrates
Abdominal pain or cramping
Abdominal bloating or distention
Intestinal gas
“Love” specific foods
Eat when upset, eat to relax
Constipation or diarrhea of no known cause
Unexplained skin problems/rashes
Difficulty gaining weight
Osteoporosis/bone loss
Iron deficiency/anemia
Chronic fatigue

Count the number of yes answers in the above quiz. If you scored 4 or less it is very unlikely that you have a gluten sensitivity. If you scored between 5 and 8 there may be a reason to suspect it. If you scored 9 or higher there can be a good chance that you are gluten sensitive.

If you scored 5 or higher on the questionnaire, you have a few choices. You can confirm this by getting an Alcat or Stool Test from our office which will accurately show if you are sensitive to gluten. Some conventional doctors may also offer the test, but be careful and make sure it is the correct test as many allergists only offer skin prick tests which are not accurate for gluten sensitivity. If you prefer to do it yourself, you can just eliminate all gluten-containing foods from your diet for two months. At the end of the two months you will notice significant relief (if not elimination) from your symptoms if you are in fact gluten intolerant. If you identify yourself as gluten intolerant via the test or food elimination you will need to remain gluten-free to avoid the unwanted and harmful effects of gluten on your body.

Gluten-free means avoiding all foods containing gluten, including wheat, rye, spelt, bulgar, semolina, couscous, kamut and some oats. Gluten can be hidden in processed foods and thickened products such as sauces and soups so read labels carefully. While this can be an adjustment at first, eating gluten free if you are sensitive will make a huge difference in your health. It is also much easier now because more and more people are finding out they are sensitive and thus manufacturers are making many more gluten-free items.

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.