It has become the norm for people to avoid certain ingredients for health reasons. However, there are differences in the type of reactions they experience as well as the appropriate treatment protocol.
Our immune systems exists to defend the body against bacteria, viruses and any other potentially harmful organisms. It can do this in many ways, one of which is by producing cells called antibodies. There are five major antibodies: IgA, IgD, IgE, IgG, and IgM. Sometimes our immune systems produce antibodies to certain foods by mistaking these particles (known as antigens) as harmful. Although our bodies believe they are protecting us, these reactions lead to a range of negative symptoms.
There are two types of antibodies commonly produced in these reactions: IgE & IgG. The difference between food allergies and food sensitivities depends on the type of antibody produced and the speed of the reaction.
Classic Food Allergy
These immediate reactions include IgE antibodies and are considered “true allergies”. They typically occur within minutes of exposure to, or ingestion of, the food antigen and can be life threatening. Symptoms generally include: itchy watery eyes, skin eruptions (i.e. hives) and trouble breathing. After the initial exposure to the food, the body remembers this allergen and has IgE antibodies ready for instant release if it ever comes into the body again. Testing for these types of food allergies is generally done by an allergist, and may involve skin prick tests. This is commonly seen with peanuts.
This refers to a delayed immune food reaction to foods that involves IgG antibodies, which can take hours or days to develop, making it difficult to determine the true source of the symptoms unless testing is done. In these reactions, IgG antibodies attach themselves to the food allergen and create a complex. These are normally removed by special immune cells. However, if there is a large amount and they are frequently ingested, these cells are unable to remove them all, leading to an accumulation that deposits into body tissues. This leads to a release of inflammatory chemicals which cause multiple symptoms that may include: weight gain, fatigue, weakness, itching, swelling, rashes, mood swings, memory problems, behavioral difficulties, asthmatic tendencies, joint pain and stiffness, fever, chills, nausea, diarrhea, bloating and abdominal pain. Conditions associated with food sensitivities can include digestive disorders (Crohn’s, IBS), migraines and mood/attention disorders! In children, food sensitivities may potentially be an underlying factors in colic, ear infections, bedwetting, eczema, asthma and hyperactivity. The most common foods that provoke IgG reactions include dairy, wheat, eggs, yeast, pork and soy. These types of food reactions can be tested by a food sensitivity test. Note that any symptom can be a sensitivity symptom.
These reactions have no immune involvement. They are generally linked to digestive difficulties due to enzyme deficiencies, low stomach acid, added chemicals or artificial ingredients in food. For example, lactose intolerance is characterized by people who lack the enzyme lactase and then have trouble digesting milk. Other triggers include histamine, MSG, etc.
The Leaky Gut/Food Sensitivity Connection
Essentially, leaky gut syndrome is increased intestinal permeability. The gut becomes “leaky” because of inflammation. When it becomes irritated, the intestinal membrane inflames and normally tight cell junctions loosen up and allow large molecules (toxins, microorganisms, food particles and pathogens) to squeeze through into the bloodstream. The immune system sees these particles as invaders, and stimulates an antibody reaction, leading to silent inflammation, auto-immune disorders, more tissue damage and food sensitivities. This irritation can be caused by multiple factors including incomplete digestion, stress, poor diet, candida overgrowth, drugs, chemicals, bad eating habits, alcohol, etc.
Seek out a health care practitioner who can administer a food sensitivity test if you feel you may be struggling with this issue. These professionals can set you up on an appropriate elimination diet based on your results and offer additional supplement and lifestyle suggestions!
Allergy-Friendly Ingredient Tips!
- Instead of peanut butter, try using sunflower, almond, cashew, sesame (tahini) or coconut butter in baked goods, on bread/crackers or served with fruit.
- Gluten- free grains & pseudo grains include: rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth, buckwheat.
- Instead of dairy products, try coconut, cashew and almond alternatives (i.e. milk, yogurt). Coconut & almond flours can also be used in gluten-free baking!
- Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast that is high in protein, fibre, B vitamins and various minerals! It can be used to add a nutty, cheesy taste to dips, sauces, salads, casseroles, cooked vegetables or on popcorn.
- Ghee is clarified butter, in which casein, whey and lactose have been removed. It stimulates healthy digestion and is rich in fat soluble vitamins. It can be used like butter on toast or to cook your favorite foods because it has a high smoke point!
- Focus on foods such as hemp, chia, flax, organic fruits & vegetables, wild-caught or naturally-raised meats & fish, cold-pressed virgin oils, avocado, water, herbal teas, etc.
This column is sponsored by Good 'n' Natural in Steinbach.