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Posted in Health & Wellness, Holistic Health Care

Food Allergies: What Everyone Should Know

Written by Jesse Richardson on April 11, 2011 with 7 Comments

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Allergies to FoodFood allergies can pose a serious risk to health, and it can be difficult to know what one is allergic until that allergy kicks in. Here’s a simple guide to understanding the critical points of food allergies: what are they? Why are they so serious? And how can we avoid them and become aware?

A Brief Run Down of What Food Allergies Are

Like all allergies, food allergies have specific connection with one’s immune system. It may be due to a hypersensitivity to certain food groups or, alternatively, “delayed T-cell mediated responses”. Doctors point to genetic predisposition as the root cause of food allergies. Because of this, people with parents who have allergies are more likely to experience allergies themselves, as are their children. Strangely, it looks as if food allergies are on the rise in the West, begging the question of its cause as a result of a changing diet or changing people.

A number of statistics are produced regarding food allergies. According to WebMD, about 5 percent of children and 4 percent of the total population have “clinically proven” food allergies. However, despite this seemingly small fragment, many more people report some sensitivity to food. For example, according to Dr. Adrian Morris, “Up to 25 percent of the population report having adverse reactions to foods.” Clearly, the problem is more pronounced that traditional clinical statistics would suggest.

The different may lie in food allergies vs. food intolerances. For example, “being allergic to milk is different from not being able to digest it properly due to lactose intolerance” as argued by WebMD. Nevertheless, the problem still exists.

Let’s hear from Dr. Berka as he describes how to identify your allergies and deal with them.

Dr. Berka’s Comment

“I have been having gastrointestinal symptoms like gas, bloating, and abdominal discomfort after eating almost every meal. I went to an Allergist and they found that I wasn’t allergic to any foods.” I hear this same type of remark time and time again from patients’ in my clinical practice. In addition to gas, bloating, and discomfort, other symptoms such as gastric pain, constipation or diarrhea, skin rashes, or even sinus congestion can lead me to a diagnosis of “Food Intolerance”.

While various diseases and/or conditions need to be ruled out before looking at the possibility of a “Food Allergy” or “Food Intolerance”, “Food Intolerances” or better known as “Food Sensitivities” are both under and over diagnosed. How can this be?

Dangers of Food Allergies and How to Find Out

For some, food allergies can be life threatening.

This is known as an anaphylactic reaction. Despite its severity, this only constitutes a small percentage of the populations’ adverse reactions to specific foods. Even if an extreme allergy to a specific food source can be ruled out, there are still sub-clinical adverse reactions that can lead to symptoms.

So what is the best way to find out if you have a food allergy or sensitivity? While there are various mechanisms that clinicians claim can test food allergies or sensitivities, the most well known and accepted testing method includes skin testing (RAST) and blood or serum testing (IgE).

RAST is a form of testing that identifies allergens by injecting a minute amount under the skin and observing the body’s immune response. IgE testing identifies a delayed onset of allergic responses by testing blood (serum) and IgG serum testing is usually ignored because it only confirms previous exposure to the allergen.

However, emerging evidence has confirmed that IgG testing can be a preliminary screen to identify the severity of the body reaction to that allergen. In either case, if you feel that you are having a reaction to a food or foods, you should consider finding a doctor whom will test you for both IgE and IgG immune responses. This can be accomplished through serum blood or a blood spot test with comparable results.

I have been doing blood spot testing (IgE/IgG) for many years and have uncovered many underlying food sensitivities that contribute to inflammatory reactions and adverse gastrointestinal symptoms that have been missed by conventional food allergy testing. While many allergists may view these testing methods as alternative or unconventional, it is vital to identify the underlying cause of symptoms to treat the root cause of dis-ease.

What about Organic?

“But what if I eat organic? Then I can avoid allergies…Right?”

Unfortunately, this is a common misconception. In fact, the structural composites of the foods in organic foods may be just as reactive to the immune system as non-organic sources. It is becoming more common to find disclaimers and/or warning labels informing consumers that production was in a facility that processes nuts, or they may have labels identifying themselves as “dairy free” or “gluten free”. In any event, you are what you eat. So be aware of what and when you are putting things in your mouth.

The Bottom Line

If you are concerned that you may have a food allergy, ask your doctor for a food allergy test via blood (serum) and not skin. If your child has any skin condition such as acne, eczema, or psoriasis, and/or continued sinus, ear, nose throat infections, I usually find one or more foods to be culprit in the inflammatory process.

Embrace food to be your medicine!

7 Comments

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  1. I have been wondering if a component in the rise in food allergies, isn’t so much dietary changes that are being made, but rather external elements (pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, nuclear radiation and/or fall out for example) that have polluted our soil, water and air. Even if you do your best to grow ‘organic’, you can’t control what elements have gotten into the air, and into the water droplets, whether it is from “acid rain”, or simply atomic sized particles of pollutants that may even be in such innocuous things such as the morning dew.

    I do see a lot of genetic “connections” with allergies within my own family. However, it is also interesting that we do NOT seem to be allergic to the same foods, or “products”.

    Another thing I have experienced first hand, is that a doctors office will ask you before you even see them if you have any allergies. If you tell them “yes”, then they want you to list everything you are allergic to. This is recorded in your medical chart. At each appointment, you are asked (again) if you have any allergies. And, in too many cases, the doctor or medical facility will then prescribe KNOWN allergens! I even had one doctor tell me, that if I “ever changed my mind about an allergy of mine, to let him know”!

    I could go on and on about how people will enquire about allergies, then proceed to expose the allergic person to the exact things they are allergic to.

  2. Thank you for this article and detailing the difference between a food allergy and intolerance.

    About four years ago I ate blackberry cobbler and had a horrible reaction to it later that night and the next day (gastronomical problems, sleep problems, minor throat irritation). I gave it a few months and tried to eat blackberries again with the same reaction. Since then, I have avoided blackberries. I never had problems with any other berries except for about a month ago. I bought a bunch of organic raspberries that were on sale and ate about 10. The next day, same reaction as I had with the blackberry issues. It took me a few days to figure out that my problems were actually due to the raspberries but now I have been avoiding those also.

    My intolerance to berries, as of yet, doesn’t extend any farther than blackberries and raspberries. I really, really, hope that it doesn’t go any farther than that. The intolerance already makes me avoid a LOT of things I would normally consume (i.e. packaged tea often has blackberry leaves). Makes me really sad because I love blackberries and raspberries, my body doesn’t though.

  3. If you have an allergy, your body is reacting to something you inhaled, touched or ate. The substances that trigger an allergic reaction are called allergens. Reactions to these allergens range from annoying to life-threatening.Many people with untreated allergy symptoms aren’t aware of how much better they can feel once their symptoms are properly diagnosed and managed by an allergist / immunologist, often referred to as an allergist.

  4. An allergist/immunologist can provide expert medical advice and treatment in the evaluation and management of people with allergic diseases, asthma and immune problems (see above for types of patients seen). This includes the ability to perform and interpret allergy testing, expertise in treating complex allergic diseases and asthma, as well as the ability to prescribe allergen immunotherapy (allergy shots).

  5. Shots might seem like an unusual way to treat allergies, but they’re effective at decreasing sensitivity to triggers. The substances in the shots are chosen according to the allergens identified from a person’s medical history and by the allergist during the initial testing. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees the standards used in preparing the materials for allergy shots given in the United States.

  6. Effective management of allergic diseases relies on the ability to make an accurate diagnosis. Allergy testing can help confirm or rule out allergies.Correct diagnosis, counseling and avoidance advice based on valid allergy test results will help reduce the incidence of symptoms, medications and improve quality of life.’-;`

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