When we think of food allergies, we often picture the kid with the peanut allergy. Around food, his parents are freaked out and they have to control everything. Depending on how long he’s been dealing with the allergy, the kiddo’s nervous about food, and can’t confidently participate in potlucks. It’s intense just imagining this kid’s life. It’s almost like if he merely smells someone’s breath post-PB&J he will likely croak unless injected with life-saving epinephrine.
Now, let’s talk about reality.
Yes, we still have peanut boy, but that’s only one type of food allergy: a true, IgE-mediated, anaphylactic reaction. You know, like when someone is allergic to bee stings. This basically means that chemical messengers, known as IgE antibodies see the peanuts and help release signals like histamine from his cells, causing the boy to swell up, even to the point at which he can no longer breathe. This happens rapidly, within hours. Our bodies mean for this to be helpful, but with these kinds of allergies, things can get way out of hand. And this is definitely scary, especially the first time it happens in a child.
What are some other types of allergies?
Well, have you ever felt bloated after a meal? Do some foods give you diarrhoea or constipation? Are there foods that cause acne breakouts? And what about some of us who just never feel awake, alive, and vibrant? Many of these things can be from food sensitivities!
We know that peanut boy has IgE and histamine going wild when he comes in contact with anything peanut-related. But there are other cell messengers and signals that can cause a negative response, albeit less dramatic. Fatigue, brain fog, gas and bloating, cramping, nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation, weight gain, sneezing, coughing, runny nose, acne, eczema, psoriasis, autoimmune disease flare-ups, headaches, migraine, chronic pain, and so much more can be associated with food sensitivities.
How do we find out what our food sensitivities are so we can get rid of them?
There are a few ways to work on this. Some are better and more accurate, and some are simple practices that we can work on to improve how we feel. Some foods are able to be added back in after a period of time and some foods must be permanently eliminated. The key is to find these sensitivities and eliminate the offending foods, known as allergens. This can be especially life-changing for young kids who don’t know how to tell you that their food is making them sick. Let’s look at a few ways to deal with food sensitivities.
Blood and skin testing
There are tests that your doctor can do to check your skin and blood for reactions to common food allergens. These tests are best for finding the scary, life-threatening allergies that cause immediate reactions from IgE. They aren’t very good at finding the slower responses that can cause some of the stuff on the long list of symptoms above. You can get a food allergy panel as well that tells you more of what you may be sensitive to, but these panels can be very expensive and not terribly accurate.
An elimination diet is one in which only certain foods are eaten, instead of what the person is used to eating all the time. Note that this diet is NOT for determining IgE allergens! This is only for the subtle and sporadic sensitivities.
The elimination diet menu is gentle and unusual. For example, not many people eat lamb on a daily basis so instead of beef or chicken, the only meat consumed will be lamb. After a period of time on the diet, the person will challenge, or try foods, one at a time, until they find which ones cause a reaction (like diarrhoea or headaches) and eliminate those foods.
It’s cheaper than getting the food allergy panel and it is more accurate. It can be harder to accomplish because it requires more planning and discipline, but it is well worth it to feel better. There are many types of elimination diets, and if you want to try one, you can talk to your doctor about doing so.
While it isn’t true for all people to be allergic or sensitive to all of these foods, these are the most common offenders:
- Wheat/gluten and grains
- Tree nuts
- Fish and shellfish
Some dietary strategies, though not specifically called elimination diets, are set up so that the person using them will still eliminate many common allergens! Here are a few that I like:
- Ketogenic diet
- Paleo or primal
- Autoimmune protocol (AIP)
- Gut and psychology syndrome nutritional protocol (GAPS)
- Mediterranean diet
Remember, making small changes day to day can lead to long term results and vibrant health. Everyone is a little different and our DNA does play a role in all of this, as do our life experiences, so be sure to give yourself enough room to find what works well with your own body.
TLDR: Talk to your doctor about any symptoms that you or your kids are having that make your lives less-than-awesome (fatigue, headaches, vomiting, diarrhoea, etc.) and see if allergy testing and/or elimination diets could help.
IMPORTANT: If you have a life-threatening food allergy, DON’T MESS AROUND! Never ever try to test the offending food out! If you suspect a life-threatening food allergy, get it checked out ASAP.
The views stated here are opinions of the author and are not affiliated with SCNM, its faculty, or staff. Information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended to treat, cure, or diagnose any disease or condition and is not a replacement for medical advice or a doctor-patient relationship. Be sure to talk to your doctor before embarking on any new health or dietary strategy.
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