A 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 is called “leaky gut syndrome”. Free floating allergens will trigger the production of antibodies IgE and IgG. The binding of allergens to antibodies is the way our immune system fighting these foreign food particles. During this inflammatory process, a lot of different symptoms can be experienced.
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.
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 reacting, you get swollen, itchy, red skin that can also crack, ooze fluid, and bleed at times.
Here are some common symptoms:
- 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 to 40% chance the child will have it. If both parents have allergies, the child is 40 to 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 groups 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.
- Blood test: This involves taking a sample of blood and screening its antibody contents against the foods in question using IgG antibodies. The “92 food panel” checks for IgGs of those food is the choice of test at Revive Naturopathic Health Clinic. The results are very accurate, making treatments more specific and successful.
- Skin prick test: This 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 and allergy specialists. At Revive, we feel 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.
The most important reason we 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 the 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 a 3-step 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 food and eat everything in moderation. After all, you are what you eat!