May is National Asthma and Allergy Awareness month.When you think of a food allergy, you might picture a child in anaphylactic shock after unexpected exposure to peanuts. Food allergies can be pretty frightening, and non-profits like the AAFA are helping to create awareness about the seriousness of these types of allergies. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America (AAFA), more than 50 million Americans suffer from all types of allergies, including food allergies, allergies to medications, and insect stings. In these cases, the individual is usually aware of their allergy and can work toward eliminating and avoiding those allergens in their diet. But did you know that food sensitivities are actually much more prevalent than food allergies? They may not be life threatening; however, the ill effects can greatly reduce a person’s quality of life. Actually, many people experience the negative health effects of food sensitivities on a daily basis, and never connect the symptoms with the foods they’re eating.
What’s the difference between a food allergy, food sensitivity, and food intolerance?
These terms are often used interchangeably. However, they are very different. A food allergy is a response by the immune system to a particular protein in food. Peanut is the most common allergen, followed by shellfish, and then sulfites. A food allergy can cause an extreme reaction, such as anaphylactic shock, where the body is triggered to release large quantities of histamine mediators.
Food intolerance, on the other hand, does not involve the immune system, but can produce symptoms similar to a food allergy. The most common food intolerance is lactose intolerance. A person who is lactose intolerant lacks the enzyme, lactase, which is needed to break down lactose. When food is not properly broken down, it is left to ferment in the small intestine. This fermentation results in symptoms such as bloating, loose stools, diarrhea, and gas. Supplementing with specific enzymes can help individuals break down foods properly, and avoid these uncomfortable and even painful effects.
Food sensitivities – sometimes referred to as delayed food allergies – are much more common, and can be more clinically challenging, since symptoms of food sensitivities can lay dormant, appearing up to 72 hours after ingestion. Additionally, the adverse reaction does not necessarily have to come from a food protein. Any food – even the “healthy” ones – or chemical, can cause a reaction depending on the person.
It is believed that food sensitivities can be a major source of inflammation, contributing to conditions such as IBS, migraines, fibromyalgia, arthritis, obesity, metabolic syndrome, ADD/ADHD, and even autism.
What’s more challenging is the fact that these delayed adverse reactions can be dose dependent, meaning people eating only one offending food may not produce a strong reaction, but a combination of trigger foods can produce a series of reactions including, but not limited to: gas, bloating, constipation, heartburn, mental fog, fatigue, skin eruptions, headaches, acne, rosacea, and dark circles. Some of the most common culprits involved in food sensitivity reactions include: gluten, found in grains such as wheat, barley, oats, etc; dairy, corn, soy, eggs, and peanuts.
But what causes a food sensitivity in the first place?
A growing number of medical practitioners suspect that intestinal permeability, or, “leaky gut,” may be the reason food sensitivities are on the rise. The stomach lining can be compared to a net with tiny holes that only allow certain substances through. Undigested foods, medications, bad bacteria, and even stress can cause this net to become damaged and torn, or permeable. As the holes in the net (stomach lining) get bigger, food particles, as well as bacteria, viruses, and toxins are allowed to pass through and enter the bloodstream. The body does not recognize these particles and sees them as “foreign invaders.” The immune system is triggered and attacks these invaders, producing an immune response otherwise known as inflammation. The effects of these inflammatory responses can manifest not just in the digestive tract, but also all over the body, from the skin, to the arteries, and even the brain.
It is very important to identify if you may have intestinal permeability and be suffering inflammation brought on by food sensitivities. The Oxford Biomedical lab in Florida specializes in food sensitivity testing. They offer the patented Mediator Release Test (MRT), a blood test which quantifies the body’s inflammatory response, or, the uncomfortable symptoms typical of food sensitivity reactions. Knowing which foods produce an inflammatory response means you can avoid trigger foods, reduce inflammation, and heal your body from the inside out.
As a Nutritional Therapist, my goal is to customize a nutrition program that takes into account each person’s bio-individuality. By facilitating Oxford Biomedical’s MRT food sensitivity test to clients, it allows me to determine which foods need to be removed in order to allow the body to heal itself. Visit my website, melissaguanantp.com, to schedule a free consultation today.