Food allergies have gained an increased awareness during the past few years. However, after talking to some co-workers whom are also nurses, I realized there is still a lot of education that needs to be done in the medical community, as well as the general public. Writing this blog is my way of starting small to educate others on this important topic. I believe we are only going to continue to see more and more people suffer from food allergies because of the Standard American Diet (SAD) that is filled with preservatives and chemicals. Food is no longer always just food, but we will get to that more in another blog post.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms can be different for everyone, but the common ones we think of are related to the digestive track, like bloating, constipation, diarrhea and indigestion. Although, these are the most common, symptoms can manifest in other ways, such as headaches, brain fog, fatigue, sinus problems, anxiety, itching, and acne.
What is the difference between a food allergy and food intolerance?
The main difference between the definition of a food allergy and intolerance is that with an allergy somewhere in the body an immune reaction occurs. This immune reaction can range in severity and is not limited to the digestive system. It potentially is a life-threatening reaction. Food intolerances do not elicit the immune reaction within the system and usually come on much more gradual. This is not a life threatening reaction.
What is causing the increase in food allergies?
Like I mentioned earlier, we have seen an increase in the diagnosis of food allergies in the past few years, but why? Is it that doctors are just listening more to their patient’s symptoms and ordering the right tests? Or is it due to something else? The answer is complex, but I believe it stems some from the SAD diet most people eat daily in the United States (US), especially my generation and the ones behind me. I grew up in a time period where convenience food became popular. More women were entering the work force, but still having families. Lives became busier than in years past and the need for quick food increased. I remember eating a lot of things out of the box during the week, like hamburger helper, macaroni and cheese, pop-tarts, and cereal. Have you ever look at the ingredients label on the box of one of these meals? It is filled with chemicals and things I can pronounce. Our bodies are not designed to digest all these chemicals and so it causes dis-ease within the body. This is my opinion as to why there is a generation now with digestive disorders and food allergies. I do not blame parents for feeding their children this type of food, as the health effects were not known at that time. They were doing what they thought was healthy and right for their family. It is only in retrospect that we can look back and see it was not as healthy as one thought. I do not believe this is the only reason we are seeing a rise in food allergies/intolerances, but most likely just a small contributor. Hopefully, we will find the answer in the near future with all the current research being done.
What tests should I request from my doctor?
Being proactive in your health is one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy. No one is knows you better than yourself. If your doctor says you have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), don’t just accept that diagnosis. Find out the underlying cause and treat it instead of masking the symptoms. Do your own research and asks for tests that you think would be helpful. There are some blood tests that can be done, such as an IgG or IgE allergy test or a gluten-sensitivity test from Cyrex labs. Cyrex lab is a clinical Immunology Laboratory that specializes in Functional Immunology and Autoimmunity. This is considered the “gold standard” lab by several practitioners who specialize in gluten and food allergies.
The problem with the testing is that they can be expensive and not all insurance companies cover the cost. Another great way to determine if you are experiencing a food allergy or intolerance is to do an elimination diet. This is where you eliminate the seven common allergies (gluten, wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, nuts and fish) for four weeks and keep a food diary tracking your symptoms. After four weeks, then you can introduce one food at a time. Reintroduce the food for one day and then notice your symptoms. If you do not experience any symptoms, then try it again the next day in a larger quantity. Then monitor your symptoms for the next two days. If you do not present with any symptoms, then you can try another food. Always remember though to only include one of the foods at a time so you can determine which one you might cause you to react. For more information, check out this link http://www.precisionnutrition.com/elimination-diet
The only treatment for food allergies and intolerances is avoiding the offending foods. That may sound easy, but it can be difficult when you have multiple allergies or due to all the ingredients hiding in foods. This is why I write this blog. I am here to help people who might be starting on this journey and find it overwhelming. I am here to help guide one in the right direction. Please feel free to contact me with questions at any time. If I do not know the answer, then I will find someone who does.
Look for a follow up blog soon talking specifically about gluten and wheat allergies.
Be well during this holiday season!