Food Sensitivities Self Help

Two types of allergies cause reactions: acute or immediate hypersensitivity reactions (Type I) and delayed hypersensitivity reactions (Type II–IV). True food allergies (Type I) are rare. They affect from 0.3 to 7.5 percent of children and 1 to 2 percent of adults.

Type IgE antibodies bind to the offending food antigens and cause the release of cytokines and histamines, which results in hives, skin rashes, closing of the throat, respiratory distress, runny nose, itching, and sometimes severe reactions of asthma and anaphylactic shock.

These symptoms can occur within minutes to hours after the food is eaten. Foods that most often trigger these reactions are eggs, cow’s milk, nuts, wheat, soy, white fish, and shellfish. Physicians diagnose food allergies through the use of patch skin tests and RAST blood testing, but these tests do not accurately determine food or environmental sensitivities.

Type II–IV reactions are the result of food or environmental factors and cause symptoms that are delayed, taking several hours to several days to appear. This makes tracking them down very difficult. They are more common than true food allergies, affecting 24 percent of American adults.

Food sensitivities cause a wide number of symptoms resulting from a typical leaky gut reaction. Food molecules enter the bloodstream through damaged mucosal membranes, the body recognizes them as foreign substances (antigens), and triggers an immune reaction to get rid of them.

Prolonged antibody response overwhelms the liver’s ability to eliminate the antigens, so the toxins enter the bloodstream and trigger delayed hypersensitivity response, inflammation, cell damage, and disease. Almost any food can cause a reaction, although the foods that provoke 80 percent of food sensitivity reactions are wheat, beef, dairy products, egg, pork, and citrus.

It’s important to discover the underlying cause of this gut leakiness, which may be parasites, candida infection, bacterial or viral infection, pancreatic insufficiency, medications, or poor lifestyle habits. See Chapter 6 for more information on food allergies and sensitivities.

Doctors of preventive medicine and clinical ecology recognize two types of food sensitivities: cyclic and fixed. Cyclic account for 80 to 90 percent of food sensitivities. These reactions occur after a specific food has been eaten over and over, causing a reaction.

If you avoid eating the food for four to six months, your body will most likely tolerate it again. However, you must correct the underlying leaky gut syndrome, or the problem will reoccur with that or other foods. With the fixed type, sensitivities don’t go away, even if you have avoided eating the foods for periods of time.

Occasionally, you can eat it after years of avoidance without provoking symptoms. These reactions happen when antibodies are triggered in response to foods, chemicals, and bacterial toxins. They damage cells and inflammation occurs because of the damage.

Many people are aware of which foods and chemicals bother them, but just as often the cause is hidden. With repeated exposure to these foods, our bodies slowly adapt to the irritants and the symptoms that are provoked. Usually, we learn to live with the symptoms.

Remember your first cigarette or glass of beer? It was probably distasteful to you. You probably didn’t like the feeling of the smoke in your throat and lungs and didn’t like the taste of beer. With continual use of beer or cigarettes, those initial reactions disappear, and eventually we like and even crave them.

They still have a negative effect on our system, but our body has adapted to it. This model works for our relation to foods and chemicals as well. Habitual use dulls our ability to recognize their negative health effects. Because of this phenomenon, we can make use of the elimination-provocation challenge.

The idea behind the elimination-provocation challenge is simple—only eat foods that you are unlikely to be sensitive to for a week or two, and then add back the foods you normally eat to “challenge” your system. Removal of offending foods calms down symptoms.

Challenging yourself with these foods allows you to determine which foods trigger symptoms. Careful addition of only one food every two days makes it easier to determine which foods caused the reaction. While the elimination-provocation challenge sounds simple, the administration of it can be tricky.

In general, people have no problem with the elimination part—a restricted food plan for a week can be accomplished with a bit of planning and discipline. Adding foods back into your diet slowly is more difficult. Symptoms are delayed and recipes contain a combination of foods, so that you can’t easily tell which ones cause the reaction.

Eating simple or single foods is helpful for determining which foods you may be sensitive to. You may feel bad after eating something, but you might not be certain which ingredient caused the distress. It then becomes necessary to remove all suspected foods for four days, and try them again one at a time.

If you have the same reaction each time you add the food, you’ve found the culprit. If you have a food sensitivity to one food, you are often sensitive to all foods in the same food family. For example, some people who are sensitive to wheat are sensitive to all grains in the grass family.

People who are sensitive to milk are often sensitive to cheese and yogurt. It is common to be sensitive to more than one food or food family. Environmental illness, also called multiple chemical sensitivities, is becoming more and more common. In fact, two subspecialties of medicine are now devoted to it: environmental medicine and clinical ecology.

Chronic exposure to food additives, household chemicals, building materials, recirculating air, and impure water can so depress and weaken our immune systems that even a small amount of toxic exposure makes us ill. To test for food allergies, run a RAST or modified RAST test, which checks for elevation of IgE antibodies.

To test for food and environmental sensitivities, check levels of IgG and, if possible, IgM and IgA antibodies. You can also do an elimination-provocation test at home. Though highly accurate, it can be frustrating. I prefer to use it along with a blood test, which helps reinforce and simplify the program.

If you have cyclic food or environmental sensitivities, you’ll do best with a holistic approach. By avoiding substances you’re sensitive to for a period of six months, your body will gradually stop reacting to most of them. It really helps the process if you also detoxify the body and the liver.

Natural foods, organically grown and nutrient rich, also help repair the body. For people who are highly sensitive to foods, a four-day food rotation may be helpful in addition to complete avoidance of foods you are highly sensitive to. The theory behind the rotation diet is that when you eat a food, your body begins to produce antibodies against it.

If you don’t eat it again for several days, the antibodies are no longer present. When you eat the food on day five, the process begins again, but you never develop symptoms because the antibodies are never prepared at the correct moment.

There are many good books on the four-day food rotation diet. My favorite is Dr. Sally’s Allergy Recipes by Sally Rockwell, Ph.D. To set up the rotation, make four lists, dividing all foods into four groups, with a quarter of your fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, oils, nuts, seeds, and beverages in each group.

Keep all foods from the same family in the same group. For example, all grains are in one family because of the similarity of their makeup. Follow these food lists in order and then begin again with the first list on the fifth day. A comprehensive program of nutritional supplements will also help the cells regenerate and generally aid the healing process.

People with food sensitivities have a heightened need for supplementation because their metabolism isn’t functioning optimally. Exercise programs and stress-management tools also play a part in recovery. If you follow a holistic program, you’ll find that over time, you will become less and less sensitive to foods and the environment.

Healing Options

  • Avoid the culprits. Eliminate all foods and chemicals that you are sensitive to for four to six months. Health-food stores specialize in wheat-free breads, rice noodles, and a plethora of foods for people with food allergies. If you are sensitive to chemicals, use natural household cleaning products.

Some people are sensitive to mattresses, gas stoves, carpeting, and upholstery, which can make elimination tricky. Work with a health professional who can help you with the details.

  • Neutralize reactions. You can find many ways to help minimize the effects of food sensitivities. Clinical ecologists can provide neutralization drops to desensitize you to reactive foods. These drops work like allergy shots—a small amount of what you are sensitive to stimulates your body’s natural immune response. Malic acid is also useful to neutralize sensitivity reactions.
  • Use glutamine. The most abundant amino acid in our bodies, glutamine is effective for healing the intestinal tract. Take 8 grams daily for a trial period of four weeks.
  • Try quercetin. Quercetin, the most effective bioflavonoid thanks to its anti-inflammatory effects, can help heal a leaky gut. Take 500 to 1,000 milligrams three to four times daily.
  • Try N-acetylglucosamine (NAG). NAG helps promote good flora and protects against some microbes. It is high in mucopolysaccharides, which are critical to intestinal health.
  • Take vitamin C. Vitamin C helps flush toxins from our bodies and helps minimize allergic responses, so be sure to get plenty of vitamin C. Take 1,000 to 3,000 milligrams mineral ascorbates or Ester-C daily. Do a vitamin C flush once every week or two.
  • Try probiotics. Probiotic supplements, such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, protect the mucous lining of the digestive tract. Take 2 to 6 capsules daily or ¼ to ½ teaspoon twice daily.
  • Take tri-salts or malic acid. Alkalizing mineral salts that generally contain calcium, magnesium, and/or potassium bicarbonates help minimize reactions to foods. Alka-Seltzer Gold can be used in this capacity because it contains sodium and potassium salts. Malic acid is also useful for stopping or slowing reactions to foods
  • Try gamma oryzanol. Gamma oryzanol is found in rice bran oil and products that help heal leaky gut syndrome. Take 100 milligrams three times daily for a trial period of three to six weeks.
  • Try digestive enzymes. If the pancreas cannot make or recirculate enough digestive enzymes, we don’t digest foods sufficiently. Use of either vegetable or pancreatic enzymes helps you break down foods more completely. Take 1 to 2 capsules or tablets with meals.
  • Take a multivitamin with minerals. To cure problems with leaky gut syndrome, it is wise to add a good quality, allergen-free multivitamin with minerals to a daily routine. Look for a supplement that has at least 100 micrograms chromium, 100 micrograms selenium, 5 to 10 milligrams manganese, 500 milligrams calcium, 250 milligrams magnesium, and 15 milligrams zinc.

It is best to buy a supplement that does not contain a lot of foods and herbs because you may be sensitive to one or more of the ingredients in the supplement itse