Digestive Health Series: A Natural Approach to Food Allergies and Food Sensitivities

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food-allergiesA food allergy is an adverse reaction that occurs from the ingestion of food or a food ingredient such as a coloring or preservative. When an allergenic food (antigen) triggers an antibody immunoglobulin E (IgE) response, IgE binds to white blood cells (mast cells and basophils) and causes the release of histamine, which leads to swelling and inflammation.

Most symptoms of food allergies occur within a few minutes to an hour of consuming food. A food allergy can initially be experienced as an itching in the mouth or difficulty swallowing and breathing. Then, during digestion of the food in the stomach and intestines, symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain can arise.

When allergens are absorbed and enter the bloodstream they can reach the skin and induce hives or eczema, and when they reach the airways, they can cause asthma. As the allergens travel through the blood vessels, they can cause lightheadedness, weakness, and a sudden drop in blood pressure. Anaphylactic reactions can occur and can be severe even if they start off with mild symptoms, such as a tingling in the mouth and throat or discomfort in the abdomen. They can be fatal if not treated quickly. Known food allergens should always be avoided. 

Other types of food reactions include food intolerances and food sensitivities. These types of reactions are less severe than food allergies, but can still trigger uncomfortable symptoms and problems for individuals. A food intolerance occurs when the body lacks the ability to digest a particular food, such as a lactose intolerance. A food sensitivity is a delayed immune response involving immunoglobulin G (IgG). Avoiding foods you are sensitive to or rotating them in your diet can be beneficial. Taking a natural approach to food allergies can also include dietary supplements that can be helpful in aiding the body’s ability to digest or handle food intolerances and sensitivities. Digestive enzymes, probiotics, and gut healing nutrients are often recommended.

Village Green offers a variety of tests to find out whether you have food allergies, food intolerances, or food sensitivities. Call for further details.

What are the Symptoms of Food Allergies?

  • Headaches, migraines, difficulty sleeping, dizziness
  • Coughing, hoarseness, sore throat
  • Sores on gums, lips, tongue
  • Dark circles under eyes
  • Ear infections
  • Runny/stuffy nose
  • Sinus problems, congestion, post-nasal drip
  • Asthma
  • Bloating, constipation, diarrhea, gas, nausea, irritable bowel syndrome
  • Acne, eczema, hives, psoriasis, rashes
  • Joint aches and pains, stiffness
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Restlessness
  • Aggressive behavior, anger, fear, poor concentration, tension, nervousness, mood swings
  • Food cravings
  • Attention deficit disorder
  • Learning problems

What are Some Causes of Food Allergies?

  • Genetics
  • Early weaning/earlier introduction to solid foods
  • Genetic manipulation of foods
  • Impaired digestion/leaky gut
  • Stress

What are the Most Common Food Allergens?

  • Shellfish, such as shrimp, crayfish, lobster, and crab
  • Tree nuts
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Wheat
  • Peanuts
  • Soy
  • Citrus fruits
  • Dairy

In highly allergic people, even minuscule amounts of a food allergen (for example, 1/44,000 of a peanut kernel) can evoke an allergic reaction. Less sensitive people, however, may be able to tolerate small amounts of a food to which they are allergic.

Natural Remedies for Food Allergies

Known food allergens should always be avoided, especially if your reactions are severe. However, food sensitivities or intolerances may be helped by natural remedies. In addition, eliminating and rotating foods in one’s diet can help the body’s digestive system heal.

A natural approach to food allergies may include digestive enzymes, which are vital to the proper digestion and absorption of nutrients. Enzymes can be particularly helpful to certain food intolerances like dairy. Many people lack the enzyme lactase in their diet, and therefore taking a supplement that contains lactase can help digest lactose (a sugar found in dairy). Pathway DIGASE contains powerful digestive enzymes such as amylase, protease, lipase, and lactase for the breakdown of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.

Another common food sensitivity is gluten. Millions of Americans suffer from celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. When gluten is not completely digested, protein fragments called peptides can trigger an autoimmune response that can lead to conditions that can damage the lining of the small intestine. Pathway GLUTEN-ADE is a comprehensive gluten digestive enzyme formula with both pre- and probiotics. This formula contains high potency DPP-IV enzyme activity for optimal digestion of gluten peptides.

There are many different food sensitivities and food allergies, and finding the right supplement for your particular situation is what Village Green can help you with. We believe in using a holistic approach that includes natural remedies to reduce symptoms of food allergies and food sensitivities. Contact a nutritionist or naturopath at Village Green to help you with your food allergy or sensitivity.

Photo from here, with thanks.

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  • Paula Gallagher
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    Paula is a highly qualified and experienced nutrition counselor on the staff at Village Green.
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