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You have learned new recipes, replaced a lot of foods in your pantry with gluten free (GF) ones, adjusted your tastes, and finally got settled into a new way of life eating GF. You would think that after months you would be noticing a much bigger difference in symptom relief and even weight loss, which can most certainly occur when we are not consuming things that our body sees as an invader.
As a reason you may still have symptoms, the previous article in this series (part 1 of 4) discussed the first of 4 ways that we unknowingly ingest gluten – which, as you may recall, I label as being glutenized. As a reminder, there are 4 reasons why your symptoms may still be manifesting:
- You are unknowingly ingesting gluten
- You have additional food or food additive allergies
- You have additional food or food additive sensitivities or intolerances
- There are factors other than food that are contributing
Since the first article reviewed the reason of unknowingly ingesting gluten, this article will focus on the second reason your symptoms may have not been resolved or gotten much better. Let’s review how food allergies may be contributing to your symptoms.
Food Allergy Explanation and Symptoms
Food allergies involve our immune system. A food allergy is your immune system overreacting to a substance in food or food additive as it mistakenly sees it has harmful. What the body considers a harmful substance in this case is called an antigen. Our immune system triggers release of immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies that bind to the antigen. This then activates immune cells to release histamine and other chemicals into our bloodstream, which cause allergy symptoms.
Most allergic reactions to food occur immediately to up to a couple hours after consumption. Allergy symptoms can range from being uncomfortable to life threatening. The following are the most common food allergy symptoms:
- Mouth tingling or itching
- Skin conditions such as hives, itching, or eczema
- Swelling in various areas of the body: lips, face, tongue, throat, or other areas
- Trouble breathing or nasal congestion
- Digestive problems: abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting
- Dizziness or fainting
Severe and life threatening reactions called anaphylaxis may occur and immediate emergency attention is necessary. I would think that if you have experienced these reactions, you are probably aware you have an allergy and know the trigger food. For the sake of being thorough and to provide information that would aid you in helping someone else, anaphylaxis signs and symptoms are:
- Symptoms causing the inability to breathe such as a constriction of airways or throat swelling
- Shock with a severe drop in blood pressure
- Rapid pulse
- Dizziness or loss of consciousness
Food Allergens and Determining the Triggering Food
Nearly anything we consume could be a potential allergen. Some of the most common food allergens are milk, fish and shellfish, eggs, soy, tree nuts, peanuts (this is a legume not a nut), and wheat (there are other substances in wheat besides gluten that cause allergic reactions).
Sometimes it is easier to determine the triggering food due to the immediacy of or a strongly noticeable symptom that results as an allergic reaction. If you suspect you are having allergic reactions to something you are eating, the following are methods to help confirm the triggering food:
- Food elimination. This is based on eliminating the potential triggering food(s) from your diet and reintroducing it to see if you have a reaction. Remove the food from your diet for 3 weeks. Reintroduce the food and take special note if you have any adverse reaction.
- Immunoglobulin E (IgE) Allery Test. Your doctor can order this test. It is a conventional medicine test and your doctor should be familiar.
- Oral Food Challenge Test. This is administered under the supervision of an allergist at a medical facility.
If the food elimination method is not conclusive, you can move on to having an IgE test. If this still is not conclusive, you can have an Oral Food Challenge Test. The first and third methods above can take more effort and be more time consuming but both can be accurate.
As an example, I have an allergy that would have been near impossible to determine from the food elimination method alone. I had terrible eczema on the palm of my right hand and in between my fingers. It would get so bad the areas would crack and bleed and it itched like you wouldn’t believe. Actually, there are probably some of you that can relate.
You can imagine how challenging it was. Just washing my hands made it worse and lotions or oils, even essential oils only temporarily dealt with the symptoms. Almost 100% of the time I had to wear a cotton glove all day and a waterproof glove when working in the kitchen and cleaning. I had already been gluten and dairy free and only occasional sugar (my diet now excludes all forms of sugar). I had been through elimination and rotation diets due to food sensitivities, which we will talk about in the next article.
I was at my wits end when I decided to see if I had any allergies. Lo and behold, test results showed positive for me being allergic to mercury, gold, and nickel. You say, so what, don’t wear jewelry with those metals and don’t eat them. Oh, I wish it were that easy. Well, it was for gold and mercury. I didn’t wear much jewelry and what I did wear, I ensured did not have these metals. I also had all the mercury removed from my mouth and replaced it with safer fillings. However, even after that, my eczema continued.
You see, at various amounts, nickel is present in many foods and most food groups so it is near impossible to avoid altogether.
According to the Indian Journal of Dermatology, nickel sensitivity varies from 4-13.1% of the population (depending on the country), and it is mostly females that suffer.
I was consuming the culprit in nearly everything I ate and didn’t realize it. I already had a restricted diet and knew there wasn’t much more that I could eliminate so I did my research. I discovered that vitamin C absorbs nickel in the food we consume so I take a dose of vitamin C with every meal. That did it! Within a couple months, my eczema was gone and you couldn’t even tell I had ever had it.
You can see from my own personal example that it may not always be simple to determine a food allergy and to know whether it is an allergy or a sensitivity. Some allergy symptoms are similar to the same symptoms we can get from having food sensitivity but allergies and sensitivities are very different. This will be more apparent in the next article about food sensitivities.
How To Avoid Food Allergy Symptoms
There is not a cure for food allergies although some children outgrow them and even adults have had them disappear. Research is taking place to determine therapies to support someone being less sensitive to a food allergen.
To avoid allergic reactions to food you can either avoid ingesting the item or you can manage the symptoms. You should permanently avoid consuming any food that results in severe or life threatening reactions. For symptoms that are only bothersome, there are a couple ways for you to manage them:
- Rotation diet: You can rotate when you consume the food; eating the triggering food no more often than every 4 or 5 days. This, however, may not necessarily keep you from having adverse symptoms as you are still consuming the offending item.
- Natural remedies: Many doctors who treat people naturally or based on functional medicine, recommend specific nutritional supplements, digestive support, and other natural therapies to aid in reducing allergy symptoms. Some natural remedies to food allergies that many have found useful are:
- Digestive Enzymes: Helps to improve our ability to breakdown food particles and avoid the incomplete digestion of proteins that can be linked to allergies.
- Probiotics: Probiotics are essential for optimal digestion of food and having a healthy balance of good bacteria can help support digestion of allergenic foods.
- L-glutamine: L-glutamine has been shown to improve intestinal permeability (IP). Because allergies are associated with increased intestinal permeability, reducing IP by supplementing with L-glutamine is a natural food allergy remedy.
- MSM (Methylsulfonylmethane): MSM can help heal the digestive tract lining and reduce inflammation and allergic reactions to certain foods.
- Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid): Pantothenic acid strongly supports the adrenal glands, which secrete hormones (e.g., cortisone) during an immune response to an allergen. Cortisone prevents the release of histamine that causes allergic reactions. Insufficient amounts of vitamin B reduce cortisone release so by taking additional amounts of this nutrient, allergic reactions may be reduced.
- Quercetin: As a natural antihistamine and an anti-inflammatory, it lowers the effects of food allergies.
- Nettle Leaf/Stinging Nettle: This medicinal plant is an anti-inflammatory and reduces histamine levels, decreasing our reactions to allergens.
- Activated Charcoal (AC): Taking AC after ingesting an allergen may reduce allergic or sensitivity responses. A study on peanut consumption showed that taking AC might be useful in slowing or preventing further absorption of peanut protein, which would reduce or avoid allergy or sensitivity reactions. Note that AC can impede the absorption of medications and nutrients so it is best to take 2 hours away from medications and nutritional supplements.
- Essential Oils: Many essential oils fight inflammation, detoxify the body, and boost the immune system. Peppermint, lemon, and basil essential oils are various essential oils you can take internally (i.e., food grade versions) at 1 – 2 drops to reduce allergen effects.
It is important to understand that even though you may only have bothersome symptoms from a food allergy, it still causes stress on the body. The best solution is to avoid the food altogether.
TIP: Be very aware of what you are eating and reading food labels. You could unknowingly be ingesting a food you are allergic and you have eliminated. It could be in a recipe when eating out (whether at someone’s house or a restaurant). It could also be an ingredient in a processed/packaged food. Be diligent at reading labels and asking questions if you are eating something you did not make yourself.
The next article of this series will focus on food or food additive sensitivities and intolerances. This is a strong contributor for many adverse symptoms, especially for those who have had cancer or other serious illness or have been diagnosed with an autoimmune or other chronic condition.
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- Colley, L. Healing allergy inflammation with stinging nettle. Organic Lifestyle Magazine website. 2016. http://www.organiclifestylemagazine.com/healing-allergy-inflammation-with-stinging-nettle
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- My Natural Treatments and Remedies for Food Allergies or Food Intolerances. Dr. David Williams website. https://www.drdavidwilliams.com/food-allergies-natural-treatments.
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- Sharma A. Low nickel diet in dermatology. Indian J. Dermatol. 2013;58(3):240. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3667300/.
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- Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) overview. Diagnose Me.com website. https://www.diagnose-me.com/treatment/vitamin-B5-pantothenic-acid.php.