By: Dr. Alan Christianson
Food allergies are pretty common and stressful. The question is, are you stuck with them? Shouldn’t you be able to live your life in this world free from fear about what you ingest? The good news is there are ways to reduce food allergies.
Let’s first make a distinction about what types of food allergies can be reduced. Anaphylactic allergies and celiac disease are currently two types of intolerances we can’t overcome. Regarding anaphylactic allergies, we’ve discovered that children who have a larger variety of healthy foods at earlier ages, have fewer anaphylactic reactions. So, encourage your little children or grandchildren to have a wider range of foods, especially peanuts, right around the weaning age. This lowers their risk for reactions later in life. Cultures where children eat the most peanuts earlier in life have the lowest rates of reactions. On the contrary, reactions have increased radically if parents have their children on a more restrictive diet for long periods of time.
We’ve been guilty of this in my profession. We had children eat very few foods until much later in their lives, avoiding exposure to dairy, eggs, nuts, and other common allergens until they were much older. Now we know the more exposure children have earlier in life, the less foods they’re severely reactive to later. (There’s also some encouraging data emerging about desensitizing for anaphylactic food reactions, which I’m watching closely.)
If you feel you’re reacting to certain foods, pursue obtaining clarity on exactly what is affecting you. Sometimes you can think a food is affecting you, and it’s really not. We all have symptoms that come and go but aren’t significant. So, it’s easy to misattribute a random symptom to something you just ate. In order to know if the reaction can be attributed to something you ate, it has to affect you the same way each time you eat it.
Some food reactions are delayed or hidden, so how do you discover which foods are the culprits?
Avoidance and Reintroduction Diets
For quite a while, the gold-standard gauge to discover food allergies has been avoidance and reintroduction diets. This is where you eat no food for two weeks, except for something like lamb or rice and a few other simple things. Then, phase foods back into your diet one at a time.
This gauge has been falling out of favor and here’s why: When you restrict your diet, you restrict your digestive capacity. The fewer foods you eat, the fewer foods you can digest. It’s the old “use it or lose it” principle. When you lose your digestive resiliency, you can have reactions to food after an elimination diet that you wouldn’t have had in normal circumstances. We call these reactions “false positives”.
Testing is good but is different from method to method and lab to lab. There are blood tests, skin tests, and electrodermal tests (where devices measure currents throughout your body).
The blood tests are good but vary widely from lab to lab. I’m not associated with any lab; however, there are two I’ve seen give the same data on the same person on a divided blood sample. They are US Bio Tek and Meridian Valley Labs. They are very good and less expensive than many others. The blood tests can check one hundred foods and rank (from low to high) how reactive you are to them.
The skin tests are reasonable but not great for airborne, dietary, or delayed-reaction allergies.
If you have taken other tests which show you’re reactive to common, healthy foods, like berries, vegetables, or greens, don’t trust them. These allergies are so rare that it doesn’t justify your stress for avoiding these foods and the benefits you’d be missing by doing so.
Once the testing is done, what steps can be taken to overcome the allergies?
Once you have the testing done and discover which foods you’re highly reactive to, the first thing you want to do is avoid these foods for three months. This will allow your immune system to stop making antibodies against them and help repair your intestinal tract.
Improve your flora.
It’s also good to take steps to improve your flora. Stool cultures can show which good bacteria you have, which ones you may have too many of and which ones may be lacking. If you don’t know the exact findings about your flora, I wouldn’t take probiotics. You may have too much of a good bacteria, just as you can likely have too little.
You can always safely consume fermented foods. There are many great ones available. I recommend looking into the fermented food products available from Donna Gates and Summer Bock.
Repair your gut.
There are safe products to raise the resiliency of your intestinal barrier. The two best-studied are glutamine and N-acetyl glucosamine (NAG). It’s very helpful to take these during the food-avoidance stage to repair your gut.
After the three months of food avoidance, have yourself rechecked to see what the data shows about the foods you were reacting to. If you see a decrease in your scores, the next phase is reinoculation.
In the tiniest amounts, add the foods you didn’t tolerate before to your diet. Maybe have only a teaspoon a day for a few months or a tablespoon every few days. Be intentional about adding them back in, as this will gradually allow your body to gain tolerance to them again.
In this phase, you want to expose yourself to a variety of healthy foods in small amounts. Notice the word, “healthy”. I’m not talking about processed food but healthy foods you can find on a farm. The more of these foods you eat, the better your flora and your immune system will be and the more nutrients you’ll have.
Along with avoiding processed foods, dairy is also fine to avoid in general. Of the natural foods, it probably has the least amount of data proving its health benefit. The one exception could be organic, nonfat, unsweetened Greek yogurt, which has both protein and good things from living bacteria.
It’s a good idea to recheck your system about six months after beginning reinoculation to make sure you still see those decreased scores.
To sum up, clearly define which foods are your culprits, based upon reliable data. Avoid these foods. Understand your flora and improve it. Consider taking supplements to heal your gut lining. When you see your reactions lower, start strategically reintroducing the good, healthy foods. After a few months of tolerating small amounts of the foods you initially had reactions to, those foods can take their place in a proper, healthy diet.
Food allergies can diminish. You can have more food options, which provides you with more nutrients and greater peace of mind.
(c) 2015- Integrative Health Care, PC
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Dr. Alan Christianson is an Arizona-based Naturopathic Physician who helps people overcome adrenal and thyroid disorders and achieve lasting fat loss. He authored the New York Times’ bestselling Adrenal Reset Diet, and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Thyroid Disease. Dr. Christianson is the founding physician behind Integrative Health.
Dr. Christianson can be reached at www.MyIntegrativeHealth.com, www.DrChristianson.com and 480-657-0003.