Are food allergies becoming very common today?
Predisposing factors to allergies include being born via c-section, not being breastfed as a baby, being hyper clean, excess use of antibiotics that impact the microbiome, and eating a highly inflammatory diet long term.
Food allergies are becoming more common among people, and monsoons can be a time where this is seen even more. But food allergies are tricky. You can run expensive food allergy tests and be told that you are allergic to several foods. There are people who have found themselves allergic to as many as thirty foods.
Is the answer to just remove all those foods or dig deeper? There is a lot of intricacy and layers to this area. A food allergy is when your body produces elevated levels of immunoglobulin IgE and subsequently histamine, in response to eating a specific food. This is the same immunoglobulin, an immune system antibody, that becomes active in non-food allergies like hay fever.
In a person who is allergic, there is an overproduction of these antibodies. If at some point your body tagged a food as a danger, then it can leave behind this memory in your immune system, where each time you eat this food, your body launches an immune system attack.
Symptoms of a food allergy
Symptoms of food allergies can range from mild to severe. These include itching, swelling in the mouth and tongue, eczema, urticaria, red skin, coughing, wheezing, runny nose, soreness in the throat, itchy eyes, anxiety, sleeplessness, acne, sinus congestion, and cravings for the allergic foods.
Severe symptoms can include swelling of the tongue, restriction in the throat, swelling throughout your body, and breathing problems. It can also present as very individualised symptoms based on any system of your body, which is generally more vulnerable.
Food intolerances can involve immunoglobulin IgG, and symptoms can be delayed as compared to food allergies. These can also be caused by a deficiency in certain enzymes, such as a lactase deficiency causing lactose intolerance. They can also be caused by an overall inflammation of the gut, causing leaky gut, where the inflammation triggers a high sensitivity reaction to several foods, which may not necessarily be a problem forever. These areas are tricky but having some basic foundations in place can help to understand individual reactions and preventing them.
Understanding food allergies
It is a complex area and not as clear cut as always just removing every food that shows up on an allergy test. An allergy test represents a snapshot of that moment in time, where your body may be in a heightened state of inflammation. It may require working through the whole system before tagging all those foods as allergic. These can also vary when you repeat the test six months later.
1. Allergic reactions to food can be immediate or delayed. Therefore, people miss discovering which foods they are allergic to. If you have a reaction and look back to just that day of what you ate, chances are sometimes you will not connect a food with your reaction. It is also important to be honest with yourself about foods that trigger reactions.
Since craving the allergic food is a common symptom, many people convince themselves that the food is not a problem. Another common mindset can also be one where someone would rather take antihistamines long term than work through an elimination diet to give the body a chance to recover.
2. Predisposing factors to allergies include being born via c-section, not being breastfed as a baby, being hyper clean and overusing hand sanitisers, excess use of antibiotics that impact the microbiome, non-exposure to beneficial bacteria, and eating a highly inflammatory diet long term. Farm children have been found to have much lower levels of allergies because they are exposed to a variety of beneficial bacteria from the soil.
3. The gold standard, when it comes to allergies and sensitivities is still an elimination diet, where you remove top allergic foods, or specific ones that trigger reactions, while supporting the overall immune system, and then reintroducing them one by one, after six to eight weeks. This is still profoundly superior to running expensive tests as a first step and simply removing all the foods forever.
Helping your body navigate through food allergies
1. The top allergens include gluten, dairy, sugar, corn, soy, eggs, peanuts, and nightshades. If you are considering an elimination diet, begin with the top three, which are gluten, dairy, and sugar. Often, just the removal of these three calms down the immune system. You might not even need to look further. Sugar suppresses the immune system and can increase allergies.
If you have severe symptoms, consider also running an IgG test, and eliminating the foods that you have reactions to. Give yourself eight weeks, and then gently reintroduce them one by one, observing reactions. If you still show a reaction to some of them, they might need to be kept away. Eating foods that you are truly allergic to, after you have understood this through an elimination and reintroduction protocol, can damage the intestinal mucosa.
2. When you are trying an elimination diet, always support your body’s immune system with good sleep and stress reduction, which are critical. Support your body through this process with good probiotics to rebuild a healthy microbiome.
3. Vitamin D is critical to the immune system. Deficiency can impact the immune system. When you have sufficient levels, it can arm your body’s immune system and decrease severity of allergies.
4. Other nutrients that are key to the immune system are omega-3, zinc, vitamin A, selenium, and vitamin C. Omega-3 calms down the immune system and helps to quell inflammation. In women, progesterone also plays a key role, as low levels of progesterone can be responsible for increased food allergies and vice versa. Stress is the biggest reason for low progesterone. Bringing a lot of focus to mindfulness and meditation is a very powerful way to support your immune system.
5. When you are helping your body with an elimination diet, adding one food that helps to heal the gut mucosa is very supportive. This can include aloevera on an empty stomach. Make sure you find one which is without preservatives. The best version is fresh aloe.
Finally, avoid stressing your immune system with foods that affect you. Consider a short-term removal while helping your body with other aspects. Take away the mindset that you are fine to take antihistamines and that you would rather eat all the foods that you are allergic to. Think of it at least as a short-term approach where you are supporting your body to calm down an overactive immune system response. It is only when you attempt to eliminate, heal, and reintroduce, will you truly understand how wonderful you feel later.
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Edited by Megha Reddy