Solutions for the three most common food allergies

Studies suggest that dairy, wheat and eggs are the three biggest sources of food sensitivities.

by Dr. Philip Wazny — 

Mention the words “food allergies” and most of us probably imagine those kids who get near a peanut butter sandwich only to have massive swelling around the eyes and throat, followed by difficulty breathing and hives.

The constellation of these symptoms make up what is known as an anaphylactic reaction, which, unfortunately, has become more frequent in the general population during recent years. In fact, some newer studies suggest that approximately 3 to 8 percent of Americans run the risk of anaphylaxis when exposed to any number of foods, although tree nuts, milk and shellfish are at the top of the anaphylactic list.

More often, we see a less severe variation of these dangerous food allergies, called “allergy sensitivities,” which do not typically cause life-threatening symptoms but can be quite uncomfortable, nonetheless. If you have symptoms of indigestion, gastritis, eczema, asthma, celiac disease, arthritis, unexplained weight gain or even depression, anxiety or chronic fatigue, it could be the result of a food sensitivity. Additional reports suggest that at least 60 percent of Americans suffer from symptoms due to adverse food reactions as a result of food sensitivities.

Food allergies/sensitivities can be a reaction to a protein, a starch, a contaminant found in the food (e.g., pesticide residues) or a food additive (e.g., colorings, preservatives, flavor enhancers, etc). Once the body decides it is uneasy with a food, a complex cascade of events takes place that can result in either a life-threatening situation (anaphylaxis) or simply the aforementioned unpleasant symptoms.

Driving this reaction is the immune system’s production of multiple types of antibodies. For example, during an anaphylaxis response, IgE antibodies are produced within two hours of exposure. These antibodies then bind to specific cells called mast cells and basophils, which release their inner contents — histamine. This is why anti-histamines, like Benadryl® or Quercetin, are often prescribed for allergies.

Yet, it is the more delayed allergic response found in food sensitivities (one that can take up to 72 hours after exposure) that causes the uncomfortable symptoms. That response is usually driven by IgG antibodies, and although it can stimulate the release of some histamine, it usually recruits many more players of the immune system, further complicating the reaction in the body.

Studies suggest that dairy, wheat and eggs are the three biggest sources of food sensitivities. How is this determined? In the past, the skin prick test was used, where small amounts of foods were injected into the skin on either the back or forearm. Now, simple blood work does away with the need for this antiquated test. These blood tests can measure for both IgG and IgE antibodies, and help guide you and your health care provider in a direction for food avoidance, which is the mainstay of treatment.

So if you suffer from indigestion, asthma, eczema, etc., simply avoiding problematic foods could be your ticket to feeling well. In addition to elimination, I recommend the rotation of food families (e.g., veggies, fruits, meats, etc.), as well as assisting the body with its normal digestive processes through the use of pancreatic and stomach enzymes. Probiotics can be quite helpful also.

Living in fear of foods because of their potential to make you sick is unnecessary when you recognize that there are easy ways to identify possible sources of food allergies/sensitivities. Combined with practical and realistic interventions to calm the reaction and subsequent symptoms, you can alleviate a multitude of health conditions.

 

Dr. Philip Wazny is a naturopathic physician whose focus includes natural hormone balancing, pediatrics and pain management. He is in practice at Integrative Health in Scottsdale, Ariz., along with Drs. Alan Christianson and Ann Lovick. 480-657-0003 or www.integrativehealthcare.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 31, Number 1, Feb/Mar 2012.

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