Eliminating Food Allergies A Simple, Two-Part Process
Hippocrates was one of the first to recognize and record food sensitivity reactions after observing that milk could cause gastric upset and urticaria (hives). He wrote, "to many this has been the commencement of a serious disease when they have merely taken twice in a day the same food which they have been accustomed of taking once."
Food allergies can be immediate or delayed adverse reactions to specific foods. They commonly result in chronic symptoms for which no satisfactory explanation can be found. Some common signs and symptoms of food allergies include dark circles and puffiness under the eyes, chronic diarrhea, malabsorption of nutrients, chronic infections and chronic inflammation.
Since food allergies place an extra load on the immune system, many people develop nonspecific symptoms that can mimic or exacerbate conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome. In many cases eliminating the offending foods, while simultaneously supporting the immune system, will result in resolution of the problems.
The definition of what constitutes a true allergic reaction has raised much controversy between allopathic doctors and clinical ecologists/nutritionally-oriented physicians. The former group recognizes allergic reactions as those involving an immune protein known as Ige, which is only one of several proteins via which the immune system reacts. This type of reaction is characterized as being fast in onset and is classically known as an anaphylactic reaction (e.g., breaking out into hives after ingesting shellfish.) The latter group recognizes two basic types of food allergies:
Cyclic (80 to 90 percent). This sensitivity slowly develops after repetitive consumption of a given food.
Fixed Sensitivities. This occurs when a food is eaten no matter what the length of time between subsequent ingestions.
These last two reactions involve other aspects of the immune system that respond in a delayed fashion to the foods we eat such as headaches, joint pain and bloating that can occur hours or even days after we ingest the provocative substance. These types of reactions usually are dependent on our immune system's ability to handle stressors at any given time. Once these stressors become too great, the load on the immune system becomes overwhelming, thus it reacts.
These reactions are unique and depend on one's biochemical individuality, genetics, health history, etc. This is a further source of confusion for many physicians whose training is mechanistic/reductionistic rather than holistic.
To add even more confusion, there also are non-immune mediated food reactions. These reactions work by triggering inflammation and may result from histamine releasing foods or foods containing vasoactive amines. Examples of such foods include processed meats, wine, chocolate, alcohol, bananas, citrus fruits and seafood.
Treating food allergies is actually quite simple. Furthermore, patients often find that their environmental allergies also subside during the course of treatment. The mechanism behind this is based on the total load hypothesis. Our immune systems are able to handle a certain load of environmental stressors (physical, psychological, environmental, chemical, etc.). Once this load is exceeded our bodies react by developing symptoms. Again, these symptoms are different for everyone based on genetics, health history and level of conditioning.
Part of the reason that allergies are so poorly understood is that lab testing is expensive, inconvenient and often inaccurate. But, much of the evidence supporting the above theory is based on clinical experience rather than lab results. Unfortunately, this does not satisfy many in the allopathic medical community. Naturopathic physicians are among the few types of doctors who are trained to recognize, access and effectively treat food allergies using nutritional and other natural means.
Both simple and cost effective, food allergy treatment typically involves a two-part process. First, patients are instructed to complete a detailed food/environment questionnaire that will be evaluated by the physician. Based on the answers, a diet will be devised eliminating provocative foods in addition to those foods most frequently eaten. The new diet will contain foods known to be hypoallergenic, and these foods will be rotated on a regular basis in order to avoid creating new allergies.
The second part of the protocol involves boosting the immune system. This is achieved through a combination of supplementation including antioxidants, minerals, amino acids, vitamins, herbs, exercise, light and sometimes acupuncture. Typically, patients feel significantly better after three to four weeks on a treatment regime. Once the total load has been lowered and the immune system strengthened, patients learn how to balance their eating and lifestyle habits in order to maintain a pleasant quality of life.
The Holistic Health Network.
By Geoff M. Lecovin and Lucinda Y. Messer