Are food allergies and intolerances getting you down?
By Leisa Blanch
Allergies are considered one of the fastest growing chronic diseases in Australia. More than 20% of the population in industrialised countries suffer from food intolerance or food allergy.
Symptoms range from hay fever, digestive disorders to eczema and asthma, or life-threatening anaphylaxis.
Allergies occur when a persons immune system reacts to proteins in the environment that are harmless for most people, such as house dust mites, pets, pollen, other insects, moulds and foods.
An intolerance is considered a 'chemical reaction' to a substance, commonly food, and does not show up on a traditional allergy test yet affects so many people.
The possible manifestations of a food reaction are widespread and also non-specific. They have been linked to gastrointestinal symptoms, skin complaints, respiratory issues, fatigue, headache, migraine, cognitive issues, anxiety, depression, joint pain, muscle pain and endocrine/hormonal disturbances.
A healthy digestive system is key
There is no doubt that the digestive tract plays a crucial role in the development of allergies and intolerances due to 70% of the immune system residing here. Research over the past decade has highlighted the close connection between the immune system and the integrity of the digestive tract. The exposure to food antigens can trigger rapid gut inflammation leading to what is termed 'leaky gut.'
Cut out food temporarily whilst healing the gut
When it comes to addressing food sensitivities, avoidance of the allergen/food and effective symptomatic relief is important in order to relieve allergy symptoms and minimise the resulting local and systemic inflammation. However it is also imperative that the underlying factors causing the allergic response be addressed.
When you consider why one person reacts to a potential allergen and another doesn't, it centres firmly on a failure of the immune system to determine friend or foe, resulting in a loss of immune tolerance and subsequent reactivity. So, the goal is not just to aid in symptom relief but to focus on correcting the underlying processes - for example, immune, gut microbiome (gut bacteria), digestion. If this is not addressed, there is the potential to just go around in circles and is in fact worse when foods are re-introduced as by now, the immune system, without knowing any better has really ramped up its army of reactivity. Just like the reaction is individual, so too can the treatment be. But generally a specific probiotic combined with nutrients to heal inflammation and leaky gut and herbs or nutrients to reduce the reactivity of the immune system are required.
Also, there may be emotional/stress impacting both the immune system and gut health. Let me give you an example. My husband and son recently went to the UK for 4 weeks. The first 2 weeks I was in a single life heaven. It was fantastic, I socialised, the house was tidy without me having to hardly lift a finger, I was loving life! But the second 2 weeks, I missed them more than i thought I would. The consequence of this......I started to get a patch of eczema over my stomach. Now my diet is pretty good, I know what to do, what to eat. I started on probiotics, Omega 3 and gut powder I had made specifically for myself. However I had to combine this with yoga and relaxation before this patch of eczema would disappear. So this was a signal to me that I needed to take better care of myself and my needs. We are complex beings and will often find that it is when we are under additional stress, the physical body will bare the consequences. (Lack of sleep can be one of these stressors too that will cause the body to dysregulate itself - a huge topic for another day perhaps!)
Remember, its not the food that is the issue, it's your bodies reaction to it. This is why sometimes we find over time if it isn't addressed, we are less tolerable to more and more foods.
So, in summary, by addressing the factors that influence tolerance combined with elimination and gradual re-introduction of strategically chosen diet, there is potential to get on with our lives without worrying about bloating, pain, headaches, sneezing, diarrhoea or constipation ruining our special weekend away or just generally our quality of life!
Come and have a chat to us if you're unsure of what you need to address your specific immune symptoms and reactions. There is always a Naturopath or Nutritionist in store ready to help. Or you can book a consult via the website.