What is food intolerance?
Food intolerance is a non-allergic hypersensitivity to food that leads to certain negative physiological repsonses. Such as intolerence to lactose(dairy), fructose, wheat and sulfite sensitivity.
How is it different from food allergy?
Food allergy is known as a true allergy, one where the body produces elevated IgE levels in response to a certain foods eg.peanuts, seafood, shellfish, tree nuts, soya etc. Generally, allergic responses can include but are not limited to the skin, digestive system, respiratory distress, and life-threatening anaphylactic reactions.
The most common and well known example is an allergy to peanuts. This type of allergy may result in severe anaphylaxis which can lead to death. Anaphylaxis is life threatening allergic reaction that can progress quickly and requires immediate emergency intervention. Therefore it is recommended that people who have these types of severe allergies carry an epi-pen. An epi-pen is an easy to use epinephrine injection that opens the air passages and allows people to breathe when the develop anaphylaxis.
Food intolerances (such as lactose or milk intolerance), food poisoning, and toxic reactions are abnormal responses to food that produce symptoms similar to food allergy. But food intolerance may be more common, and can be a hidden cause of many different diseases. The main difference between food intolerance and food allergy is the difference in the immune response.
To prevent serious complications and negative consequences due to food, it is important to know if you have a true food allergy or a food intolerance.
How does it develop?
First a person has to be exposed and then sensitized to a certain food. In food allergy this means that lymphocytes will release allergen-specific IgE (antibodies) in response to a certain food. These IgE antibodies attach to mast cells, that release histamine. This histamine release produces the symptoms of food allergies. The next time the repsonse can be amplified and the symptoms can become stronger over time. Some food intolerances, such as lactose intolerance, develop when the person doesn’t have enzymes needed to properly digest certain proteins in food.
Which symptoms can be caused by food sensitivites?
Food intolerance can cause a wide range of insidious symptoms that may affect you constantly or with ups-and-downs over time, including:
General: Fatigue, anxiety, depression, insomnia, food cravings, obesity.
Infections: Recurrent colds, urinary tract infections, sore throats, ear infections, yeast infections.
Ear, Nose and Throat: Chronic nasal congestion, postnasal drip, fluid in the ears, Meniere’s syndrome.
Gastrointestinal: Irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, gallbladder disease.
Cardiovascular: High blood pressure, arrhythmia, angina.
Dermatologic: Acne, eczema, psoriasis, canker sores (aphthous ulcers), hives.
Rheumatologic: Muscle aches, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis.
Neurologic: Migraines and other headaches, numbness.
Miscellaneous: Asthma, frequent urination, teeth grinding, bedwetting, infantile colic.
How to test for food intolerance? What is elimination diet?
There are many different tests that can be done to determine if you have a food sensitivity. The main test we use is called an Elisa Food Test. From my experience, the testing has provided good clinical results for my patients. Meaning that when we eliminate the foods that the patients are sensitivie to, they feel better, their symptoms improve and we are able to eliminate the underlying cause of their problem .They generally notice an improvement in migraines, eczema, digestive problems etc. The other option is to do a food elimination diet. First, the patients remove the most common allergenic foods from their diet. Then they wait from 5 to about 21 days for a resolution of symptoms that are bothering them. Later comes the challenge phase when the patient is told to reintroduce those foods one by one and see which one causes the return of symptoms. It is a simple and effective way to test for foods if the patients are committed to the restricted diet and taught how to challenge the foods.
How to treat?
We start the treatment with the primary focus on digestive system. Food allergies can lead to dysbiosis(imbalance of the good and bad bacteria in the gut) and leaky gut syndrome ( increased intestinal permeability). By eliminating the foods that a person is sensitive to, the digestive system gets a chance to repair. Our body has an amazing ability to heal itself, but just needs the obstacle to be removed that prevents it from healing. Then we use specific herbs, probiotics, and nutrients to heal the intestinal lining.
Once you correctly identify which of the foods you are intolerant to (gluten, dairy, fructose or yeast etc) , and discover how to eat correctly to control your intolerance and repair your gut with guidance from your naturopath; your sensitivities may diminish or even disappear.
Reference: Dr. Gaby’s Allergy Elimination Diet “A”