Allergies and Sensitivities
Sometimes the most innocent of foods can be the root cause of chronic discomfort and poor health. Amazing changes can occur by identifying and removing the offending foods from the diet.
Some people have true food allergies, the type that can cause dangerous reactions that cause anaphylaxis. True allergies can often be identified by an allergist. Food sensitivities, the type that are not associated with immediate or life threatening reactions may be much less obvious but can cause delayed reactions that may contribute to a host of health concerns. This may include inflammation, digestive concerns, skin conditions, asthma and breathing issues, mood and behavioural problems, joint and muscle pain and stiffness, headaches/ migraines, weight gain and fatigue.
Causes of Reactions
True Allergy (IgE Reaction)
A true food allergy is triggered by IgE antibody production specific to a reactive food. IgE reactions, also known as ‘immediate’ hypersensitivity reactions, generally occur within minutes of eating a food. After the first exposure to a food allergen, the body will remember what the allergen looks like and keep a supply of IgE ready for immediate release if it sees that allergen again. Food allergies can be life-threatening (eg. anaphylactic reaction to peanuts), but these reactions are more rare, occurring in less than 1% of people. Skin reactions such as hives and eczema, plus breathing and digestive problems are common IgE reactions.
Food Sensitivity (IgG Reaction)
In an IgG reaction, the IgG antibodies attach themselves to the food antigen and create an antibody-antigen complex. These complexes are normally removed by special cells called macrophages. However, if they are present in large numbers and the reactive food is still being consumed, the macrophages can’t remove them quickly enough. The food antigen-antibody complexes accumulate and are deposited in body tissues. Once in tissue, these complexes cause inflammation causing chemicals to be released. This inflammation may play a role in numerous diseases and conditions.
Food Intolerance Due to Poor Digestion
Some people just don’t digest certain foods well. A classic example of this is lactose intolerance. Lactose intolerance is not an allergy but a condition in which the individual is unable to digest the lactose (a type of sugar) in dairy products because they lack the enzyme required to do this. Others may not digest certain foods well because the health of their digestive system is poor. There are a variety of ways of assessing and testing for these kinds of digestive concerns.
In naturopathic medicine Katherine always asks about and assess for good digestive health. It is an important foundation for good health.
Sometimes difficulty digesting certain types of foods is a lifelong problem to be managed (such as lactose intolerance or celiac disease) and sometimes it is possible to work with the body to heal the digestive system and correct the issue. The first step is always to identify the underlying cause or causes. Once identified, the digestive system is healed and nourished which assists in bringing digestion back to full function.