Food allergy is a response of our immune system to a specific molecule of food.  A chemical cascade is triggered as the immune system recognizes this food particle as foreign object.  Upon ingestion of  allergens, our immune system produces major inflammation in the intestinal lining which increases permeability of the intestinal mucosa.  As our intestinal walls become weakened and more permeable, they allow more food allergens to leak across and be in contact with the cells of the immune system.  This is what’s called “Leaky gut syndrome”.   Free floating allergens will trigger production of antibodies IgE and IgG.  The binding of allergens to antibodies is the way our immune system fights these foreign food particles.  During this inflammatory process, a lot of different symptoms can be experienced.

Symptoms

Depending on the individual, you may experience different symptoms.  Some people may have rhinitis, or excessive mucus production and buildup in their sinus or nasal passages.  This mimics or exacerbates a cold, headache or ear infection in kids.

Vasodilation is also one of the major effects which can cause migraine or other headaches.

One of the major symptoms of food allergy is eczema.  With vasodilation and antibodies reaction, you get  swollen, itchy, red skin that can also crack, ooze fluid and bleed at times.

Here are some common symptoms:

  • Eczema
  • Fatigue
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Migraine or other headaches
  • Abdominal pain/ bloating/belching/flatulence
  • Dark circles around eyes

Incidence and causes of food allergy

Food allergy is very common in infants (3-5%) as their intestinal tracts are not well developed, but can occur in adults as well.

Genetic background also determines a child’s tolerance to food.  If one parent has allergies, there is a 20-40% chance the child will have it.  If both parents have allergies, the child is 40-60% more likely to have allergies.

Some other causes of food allergies include stress, antibiotic usage, frequent alcohol usage, past food poisoning, hormonal imbalance and overexposure of certain food.

Risk factors of food allergies are infants, people with family history of asthma and eczema, alcoholics, inflammatory bowel diseases (crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis), celiac disease and Irritable bowel syndrome.

Food allergy test

There are several tests out there for food allergies.  Below are two of the most common tests.

1)      Blood test: involves taking a sample of blood and screen its antibody contents against the foods in question using IgG antibodies.  “92 food panel” that checks for IgGs of those foods is my choice of test.  The results are very accurate, making treatments more specific and successful.

2)      Skin prick test: involves breaking open one’s skin and adding drops of a certain kind of food to check for reactivity of the skin.  Essentially, you are looking for any itchiness and size of swellings. This is very commonly done by dermatologists or allergy specialists.  In my opinion, it is not very practical, as the subject will be poked up to 90+ times and have pen marks on their back, not to mention the time involved in this.

Most important reason that I do not prefer this method for testing is because it is screening for IgE antibodies. Allergic reactions induced by IgE antibodies are immediate, and usually involves contact.  It is more accurate and useful for contact dermatitis, seasonal allergies or other environmental pollutants, whereas the immune reaction of food allergens in digestive tract is much slower acting and requires a buildup over time.  This delayed  immune reactions in our digestive tract is more reflective of  the level of  intestinal damage and frequency of  exposure of the same food in a leaky gut patient.

How do we treat it?

After testing and finding out the type of allergens we are dealing with, we will follow 3 steps strategy.

1)      Remove: eliminate allergens

2)      Re-inoculate: provide healthy bacterial flora for proper digestion

3)      Repair: provide nutrients to support healthy cell growth (reduce leakiness)

Depending on your progress, most people show resolved symptoms quickly.  Once the gut is healed, it is possible to reintroduce all kinds of foods that you enjoy, provided that you make the right choice of foods and eat everything  in moderation.  After all, you are what you eat!