Exploring Food Allergies
My Tongue Itches
Food allergies are very common in the US.
Food allergies fall into two broad categories. IgE food allergies are the more serious of the two. This type of allergy is possibly life threatening; it affects approximately 15 million Americans. Eight types of foods account for over 90 percent of IgE reactions in affected individuals: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat. Reactions to these foods can range from a tingling sensation around the mouth and lips to death due to anaphylaxis, depending on the severity of the allergy. IgE food allergies are assessed through skin prick testing. In this procedure, a sample of the offending protein is scratched into the skin; if a noticeable swelling occurs on the skin, the food should be avoided.
However, many more people suffer from of the second type of food allergy, called an IgG delayed reaction allergy, which is much harder to discern. Estimates are hard to pinpoint but it seems that between 45-60 percent of Americans suffer to some degree from this type of sensitivity.
IgG sensitivities are harder to identify because the actual consequences of consuming the food may not be evident for up to four days after consuming the food. For example, a person who suffers from eczema may have for lunch a turkey sandwich. They wake up the next day with new eczema eruptions, or perhaps they have a migraine. What caused these reactions? Was it the wheat in the bread, the yeast in the bread, the egg in the mayo, the cheese, the turkey or the corn in the chips? It’s impossible to know without doing testing from a reliable lab or by doing an extensive and prolonged elimination diet.
IgG food allergy testing is done via a standard blood draw. It’s a non-fasting test so the blood can be obtained at the end of the first office visit. The serum is then sent to a lab which can test hundreds of foods from the single blood draw. Results are available within seven business days.
Studies are available that show IgG food sensitivities to be a critical etiological factor in a wide variety of conditions including psoriasis, eczema, asthma, reflux, migraines, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic sinusitis, irritable bowel syndrome, auto-immune conditions and others. A patient who tests positive to a group of foods must avoid these foods for anywhere between six and twelve weeks. The rewards for elimination of these foods are remarkable. In most cases symptoms can be reduced by over 70 percent and many times they are eliminated altogether.
When a patient has many IgG food sensitivities come back positive on a test result, it is understood they also likely suffer from “leaky gut” or “intestinal permeability”. This condition involves the wearing down of the lining of the small intestine from having eaten problematic foods for years, causing a malfunction of tight junctions between intestinal cells, inflammation, and decreased protective mucous. The healing process again requires the removal of the food sensitivities along with judicious use of herbs that facilitate restoration of proper intestinal health. In general, once the gastrointestinal lining heals, patients can typically add in 95% of the positive foods with no trouble.
Can IgG food sensitivities be identified without a blood test? Yes they can, by embarking on the gold standard of all processes: the elimination diet. An elimination diet involves removal of all of the most likely candidates for six weeks and observance of any improvement in symptoms. After significant improvement is noted, (but not before the six weeks are completed) the foods are added back in, one at a time, at a rate no faster than one food per week. Any return of symptoms can then be associated with that food. The advantages to this approach include a financial incentive (it’s free) as well as its precision in successful identification of “bad” foods. The disadvantage lies with the fact that it is extremely time consuming and requires a high degree of patient motivation and compliance.
Should you suffer from any adverse health issues, consider consulting a physician familiar with elimination diets and food sensitivity testing. The results can truly be life changing.
Dr. Daniel Smith practices at Bear Creek Naturopathic Clinic. His office is on 2612 Barnett Rd. He specializes in naturopathic oncology, but still maintains a strong family practice, treating all manner of conditions. He can be reached at 541-770-5563 or at firstname.lastname@example.org If you would like to schedule an appointment, please ask specifically for Dr. Dan.