Food Allergies- Part 1
So very often I hear a patient say that they have a gluten allergy or a milk allergy. Their answer to solve their problem is to eat gluten free products (if one truly can escape it) or to drink LactAid. The thought is that these might be a panacea and quickly find out the symptoms eventually recur. Why would this be the case? Let’s first distinguish between a food allergy, food intolerance, and food sensitivity.
Food intolerance is indicated by some degree of difficulty digesting certain foods. This can occur for a variety of reasons such as low bacterial diversity in the gut, reactions to food additives or preservatives, lacking appropriate nutrients to break it down, decreased production of stomach acid or even lacking the enzymes required to break down or metabolize certain foods. In addition, genetics plays a large role also. Hence, the reason I usually recommend doing a 23&me test. The symptoms of food intolerances are so varied that it is difficult to diagnose. We do not know that it does not involve the immune system by way of IgE antibodies, so testing is highly beneficial.
Food sensitivities involve a combination of non-immunologic symptoms such as we see with food intolerances as well as immune responses by way of IgG and IgA delayed immune responses. This differs from the faster IgE immune response that we see in true allergies. Testing for food sensitivities is beneficial because the possibility of long-term damage is real while the symptoms are not as obvious as in a true allergy. We see this in Celiac Disease where the consumption of gluten damages the intestinal lining causing intestinal permeability (leaky gut) which can lead to other autoimmune diseases.
A Food Allergy is a life threatening response and is immediate. One that many people are very aware of and is more common in recent years is that of peanuts.
The types of reactions are as follows:
1.) IgG -delayed food reactions
2.) IgA -mucosally related
3.) IgM -short lived inflammatory marker
4.) IgE -immediate reactions
5.) Cellular reaction-delayed reaction which leads to inflammation or antibody production
The key foods creating negative responses are dairy, wheat, soy, and corn. If you are feeling poorly after eating, it would be wise to have this assessed from a functional perspective. Many times I will require the patient to track a food diary over a 3 week period to note the extent to which their symptoms might be related to their diet. Specialized testing is also available through Cyrex Laboratories (www.cyrexlabs.com) such as the comprehensive Array #10 which tests for 180 foods (raw, modified, and cooked states) Array #3 would assess gluten proteomes to detect if you are mounting an immune response. These tests are beneficial in focusing on specific food-related issues that can ultimately lead to greater health issues in the long-term and digestive discomfort in the short-term. It is highly recommended that most people have this testing done to assess foods that are causing immune responses before they truly become ill. Beware…..don’t chase after the symptoms. Find the causative factors!