Allergy versus intolerance
Allergies and hypersensitivities are when your body's immune system has a response to an allergin (trigger). In the case of an allergy, antibodies (IgE) are produced by your immune system. With a hypersensitivity, there are no antibodies.
Food intolerance, on the other hand, does not involve the immune system. Food intolerances are the most common cause of digestive problems, and can also cause other symptoms such as headaches and fatigue. Some people are also intolerant to specific chemicals such as salicylates, caffeine, amines, glutamate, and food additives, colourings and preservatives.
More and more people are getting chronic allergies. An allergic reaction is your body's response to what it thinks is an invader. The most common allergens (triggers) are certain foods, dusts, mould, chemicals, pollens and animal danders.
Upset of gut flora, particularly the probiotic microbes in the digestive tract. (1) A healthy balance of bacteria, fungi and viruses in the gut is an essential part of the proper functioning of our entire immune system. A single course of antibiotics can devastate the microbes in your digestive tract that have taken a lifetime to build up. Pollution, pharmaceutical drugs, processed food and other toxins also attack these good bacteria. Your immune system becomes hyperactive, responding to many substances in your environment in an allergic manner, with hay fever, food allergies and other allergies to dust, mites, animals and so on.
In particular, candida is associated with the rise in food allergies today. People suffering from chronic candidiasis often have a "leaky gut". Partially digested food is able to pass into the bloodstream, and your immune system thinks it is under attack from that particular food. Insufficient stomach acidity is a similar cause - again, your immune system is triggered by partially-digested food.
The symptoms below can range from mild to severe. In the worst case, people develop life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis with difficult breathing, rapid swelling of the throat or tongue, a sudden drop in blood pressure, and loss of consciousness.
- skin rash.
- stuffy or runny nose.
- gastrointestinal upset, diarrhoea, abdominal cramps.
- shortness of breath.
- itching, burning or swelling of the mouth.
- nausea, vomiting.
Common food allergens
Food allergies are particularly common today, with a wide range of foods affecting different people. The allergic reaction can sometimes occur within minutes, but other foods only show their affect after a day or several days.
- food additives.
- wheat products.
- milk and other dairy products.
- soy and soy products (soy oil, tofu, soy milk, soy protein etc).
- citrus fruit.
Often, if you have a food allergy caused by one of the above reasons, it will heal itself after six months or a year if you completely avoid the food during that time. Re-establishing a good range of probiotic bacteria in your gut is the other key.
Testing for allergies
Your doctor can test for specific allergies. You can also do an elimination test, where you eat nothing but safe vegetables and other safe foods for ten days. You then gradually re-introduce suspect foods, one-by-one at subsequent meals. Eat a large quantity of the suspect food, and measure your pulse before and after, and each half hour after. Try to ensure all other conditions remain the same. If your pulse goes up significantly, or you suffer other allergic reactions, you are probably allergic to that food. Of course, you can be allergic to several foods.
1. Bill Hesselmar, Fei Sjoberg, Robert Saalman, Nils Aberg, Ingegerd Adlerberth, Agnes E. Wold.
Pacifier Cleaning Practices and Risk of Allergy Development.
Pediatrics. Published online May 6, 2013. doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-3345.