Food sensitivities and the allergic connection

A great place to start in identifying the source of your environmental responses is to have a look to see if you have any reactions to foods. Food reactions can be immune mediated or non-immune mediated. Immune mediated food sensitivities are a response to ingestion of an offending food, the body mounts a response with its weapons, otherwise known as antibodies. Two types of antibodies can be involved in our body’s reactions to foods: IgE antibodies and IgG antibodies.

IgE antibodies are involved in food allergies. These are immediate hypersensitivity reactions capable of producing anaphylactic reactions. These can be identified using the skin scratch test commonly performed by allergists. Much more common but less immediately severe are food sensitivities (FS). They are trickier to diagnose but are associated with a great many of our modern day illnesses and are extremely important to identify. In response to FS the body mounts an IgG antibody response that produces a delayed-type hypersensitivity reaction. Reactions are delayed by hours or days, they can be more subtle and are harder to connect with the offending food. Estimates suggest that 60-70 percent of the population has one or more FS. Of course, when continually eating a food you are sensitive to, digestive function decreases which can heighten existing sensitivities and create others.

Why are FS so common?! When considering this, it is important to remember that factors which compromise our digestive function will increase our susceptibility to FS. These factors include: over-consumption of artificial food, over-consumption of refined carbohydrates, stress, increasing higher levels of exposure to environmental toxicity (over-vaccination, occupational, pollution) and continually eating the same type of foods over and over again. Of course, antibiotics and other medications (notably the birth control pill and steroid medications) compromise healthy intestinal microflora. Yes, the challenges are many for the gut these days.

To identify food sensitivities, blood testing can be done to identify IgG antibody responses for up to 96 foods. The elimination/challenge diet is also a wonderful tool to not only identify food sensitivities but to give your digestive system a chance to relax and repair. The most common foods people are sensitive to are Wheat (and sometimes other gluten containing grains), Cow dairy, soy, corn and eggs. Almost all processed food products will contain various forms of these foods so it is important to remove all processed food during the elimination diet. Keep in mind that the purpose of this diet is not only to identify food sensitivities but to rest and repair your digestive system. Accordingly, it is important to eliminate foods that slow the function of liver detoxification such as refined sugar, coffee, pop and other unnatural foods. A good time to challenge the eliminated food back into your diet is 2 weeks. The general clean eating can of course be continued for as long as you like! The benefits will continue to be realized. To challenge a food, have a good sized serving 2 times a day for 2 days and be observant for any symptoms that may develop. Stop eating the food if you notice a reaction before that time. Once reactions have subsided, continue challenging each of the foods you have eliminated in the same fashion.

Food sensitivities can be greatly reduced or eliminate if the digestive mucosa has a chance to heal. The appropriate supplementation therapy can greatly aid in this process as well as certain foods. One of the most effective foods to heal the gut is good ol’ fashioned Bone Broth. Boiling your favorite bones with lots of veggies, salt, herbs and garlic for at least a few hours will produce a very effective (and tasty) gut healing elixir. Bone Broth contains collagen, gelatin, glycine, proline and glutamine; all very effective healers of intestinal mucosa. It is also packed full of minerals which is also an essential ingredient for gut repair.

So what better way to bring in spring than to nourish and rejuvenate the organ system that works ceaselessly on our behalf to digest and assimilate one of the most pleasurable things in life: food! Happy vernal equinox!

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saskatchewan association of naturopathic practitioners
canadian association of naturopathic doctors