Could food allergies be causing your health issues?
Do you suffer from unexplained headaches, migraines, lethargy, poor sleep, depression, anxiety or digestive issues? Does your child have learning and/or behavioural problems?
If so, the answer could be YES.
Our food has changed alarmingly over the last 40 years and has brought with it a dramatic increase in food-related health issues. I know it’s really easy to confuse the two terms so let’s start off by looking at the difference between a food intolerance and a food allergy.
• Is due to your body not being able to detoxify certain components in food.
• Doesn’t involve the immune system.
• May lead to a runny or itchy nose, skin rashes, headaches, wheezing, learning or behavioural issues or irritable bowel syndrome.
• May cause symptoms up to 24-48 hours after the consumption of the offending food.
• Is sometimes due to the absence of an enzyme to process the food, such as the enzyme lactase to digest the lactose sugar in dairy, as in lactose intolerance.
• May affect up to 25% of the Australian population.
• Is an abnormal reaction by your immune system against a normally harmless substance.
• It involves IgE antibodies. A person without allergies would have no reaction to this substance, but when a person who is allergic encounters the substance, the body reacts by releasing chemicals which cause allergy symptoms.
• May cause symptoms that vary from a runny or itchy nose to feeling feint or dizzy to having a skin rash or hives but in susceptible people, a more serious allergy reaction (anaphylaxis) may cause difficulties with breathing and/or the heart.
• Often occurs within 30 minutes. Some reactions may be life-threatening, as in the case of eating peanuts for some people.
• May affect up 1 in 20 children and 1% of adults.
It really does seem as though every second person has a food sensitivity but why is it on the increase? One theory is the Hygiene Hypothesis; the theory is that basically our clean homes and cleaner living doesn’t provide the right environment for a child’s immune system to be challenged by germs and to develop properly and so they become sensitive to the everyday foods that they eat.
Another reason may be due to the delayed introduction of allergenic foods to a toddler.
Sometimes the processing method, for example, the roasting rather than boiling of nuts can cause a reaction.
Over the last 40 years there has been a sharp increase in refined foods in children’s diets which replace real food such as fruits and veggies and other wholefoods.
Plus there is a growing tendency to have the same favourite food groups repeatedly in just one day; for example toast for breakfast, muffin or biscuit for morning tea, sandwich for lunch, crackers for afternoon tea and pasta for dinner…that’s 5-serves of wheat! Our bodies are quite simply not designed to eat such foods to that extent.
So what are the foods that we most react to? The most common food intolerances include lactose, fructose, salicylates and artificial food additives. The 9 main food allergies which account for 90% of all food allergies are: shellfish, fish, eggs, soy, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, sesame seeds and wheat.
Sometimes there may be an obvious connection between what you’ve eaten and a subsequent symptom, especially with allergies, but at other times it might be less straight-forward. It really is important to identify the offending foods and to initially eliminate them from your diet but work with a suitably-qualified health professional to avoid missing out on essential nutrients. Supporting the immune system and improving digestion are paramount too.
It’s quite tempting to overlook intolerances or allergies to foods or drinks that you enjoy. In fact, many people crave the very substances that their body has an intolerance towards. But if you ignore food sensitivities and fail to fix your gut, you may find yourself becoming intolerant or “allergic” to an increasing amount of foods, as well as environmental triggers.
Even if you don’t think you have a food sensitivity, it makes sense to lessen your dependency on specific food types. Unfortunately we can’t readily see what is going on inside us; many diseases creep up on us silently. Your body is incredibly complex and feeding it a wide range of nutrients will help it function optimally on a multitude of levels.
Australian Society of Immunology and Allergy
Food Intolerance Network
Gut and Psychology Syndrome