Do you suffer from gas, bloating, or heartburn? Do you have unexplained skin rashes, fatigue, mental fogginess, or poor concentration? Do people tell you have dark circles under your eyes, or a puffy face? If you have answered yes to any of these questions you may be suffering from food allergies or food sensitivities. Unfortunately, many individuals remain undiagnosed and will endure an often endless list of symptoms. It is important that you work with a qualified health care practitioner, like a Naturopathic Doctor, to reach a correct diagnosis and get the proper treatment. A Naturopathic Doctor can help you be free of your painful and troubling symptoms.
What are the symptoms of food allergies or sensitivities?
The symptoms of food allergies or sensitivities can occur anywhere in your body, not just in the digestive system. Some symptoms may seem unrelated to food, such as dizziness or headaches, and for this reason food allergies or sensitivities can affect you for many years before you receive a correct diagnosis. The symptoms vary with each individual but can include: constant runny nose, watery eyes, sinus congestion, headache, dizziness, fatigue, low stamina, gas, bloating, diarrhea, itchy ears or throat, weight gain, or puffy face and eyes.
What is a food allergy?
An allergy is your body’s response to a substance that is deemed unfamiliar. In this case, the unfamiliar substance is food. During an allergic reaction, your body identifies the food as foreign and tries to remove it through various symptoms (e.g. diarrhea, sneezing, skin rash, runny nose). Foods that commonly cause allergic reactions include: wheat, dairy, corn, soy, sugar, coffee, and chocolate. There are two types of food allergy.
What are the types of food allergy I may be suffering from?
The first type is the classic immediate or anaphylactic reaction. This reaction takes place immediately after eating. The symptoms may include difficulty breathing, a sensation of choking, swelling of the face, lips, or in the mouth. This allergy requires immediate emergency care or administration of an Epi-pen. Shellfish and peanuts are the most common foods causing this type of food allergy. Anaphylactic allergies are commonly diagnosed in childhood.
Delayed onset, or cell mediated, allergy can cause symptoms up to 3-5 days after eating the offending food, making it difficult to properly diagnose. Symptoms may include headaches, migraines, dizziness, watery eyes, stuffy nose, sinus congestion, itchy eyes, ears, and throat, gas, bloating, water retention, diarrhea, low energy, fatigue, insomnia, poor memory, concentration, or focus.
How do I know which type of food allergy I have?
Immediate food reactions are detected through routine blood work ordered by your family doctor. S/he will order a test to measureIgE levels. Delayed food reactions are also diagnosed using blood work, but this requires a test to measure IgG levels. IgG tests are not routinely available through Medical Doctors. However, many Naturopathic Doctors offer this option and the test is a quick pinprick on the end of your finger.
What is the difference between food allergy and food sensitivity?
Food allergies involve an immune system reaction. Food sensitivities lack this reaction, but your body still recognizes food as foreign and will cause symptoms to appear. Food sensitivities are not detectable in blood work, but can be diagnosed by a skilled health care practitioner or tests including Meridian Stress Assessment (or MSA) testing.
What causes food allergies or sensitivities?
A hyperactive immune system may be the cause. You can work with your health care practitioner to balance the immune system and decrease its harmful over-activity. An unhealthy digestive system may also be at the root of your problem. Working towards restoring the gut lining and repopulating the beneficial flora in your gut should be within your treatment plan. Generalized whole body toxicity may also be contributing to your health problems.
How do I treat food allergies or sensitivities?
Once the troublesome food(s) have been identified, you should remove them from your diet. Your health care practitioner will be able to provide you with a dietary prescription and alternatives to the foods you must avoid. Supplementation with nutrients may be necessary in addition to dietary changes. Soothing and healing the gut are important steps in resolving your allergies or sensitivities; licorice root, marshmallow, and slippery elm are great herbs for soothing inflammation. L-glutamine is an amino acid and is the primary source of energy for intestinal cell re-growth. Plant based digestive enzymes are key to helping you regain the ability to properly break down your food.
Keep in mind there is no magic bullet for treating food allergies or sensitivities. Each individual has a unique set of nutritional and lifestyle requirements, and these should be taken into consideration when attempting to treat any health care concern. Work with your Naturopathic Doctor to create a treatment plan that will rid you of your food intolerances and lead to whole body wellness.
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