The world of food is getting larger with line extensions, the abundance of new exotic fruits, vegetables and grains—and more people are developing food sensitivities and allergies. Here’s how to help.
“I love [name food here], but it doesn’t love me” is an increasingly common statement uttered with equal parts levity and lament.
There are many culprits that instigate numerous symptoms after they are masticated, swallowed, and enter the processing center for distribution into the bloodstream. Food allergies, sensitivities and intolerances are being identified in all types of individuals, and some, such as peanut allergies, can be deadly.
Natural practitioners are seeing a widening array of such cases. Practitioner Rosia Parrish, ND of Boulder, CO observed that the most prevalent food allergies and intolerances today are dairy, corn, eggs, fish, soy, tree nuts (eg. almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, macadamia nuts, but not peanuts, which are legumes), shellfish (eg. shrimp, crab, lobster and oysters), plus gluten that contains the whole roster of grains including rye, wheat, secale, spelt, faro, durum, bulgur, kamut, barley, rye, semolina, among others.
The most common food allergies (mentioned above) “account for over 90 percent of food reactions,” said Jaquel Patterson, ND, MBA, medical director, of the Fairfield, CT-based Fairfield Family Health. “Food allergies typically begin in childhood, however food sensitivities often can occur over time as we age,” she emphasized. Adults commonly have food allergies to peanuts and tree nuts, fish and shellfish in addition to fruit and vegetable pollen.
Some theories, she added, include genetic predispositions from a parent with an allergy; this factor presents the greatest risk. Canned food consumption has also been shown to contribute to allergens. Additionally, environmental factors including hygiene, lifestyle, diet and nutrition have been connected. Food sensitivity has been shown to stem from enzyme deficiencies and reactions to foods with high contents of sulfur dioxide, tyramine and histamine.
Dr. Parrish has observed that people are developing food allergies at “alarming” rates and it surprises many people that they can be fine for years only to develop food allergies in adulthood. There are many theories about why food allergies have sudden onset in adulthood, and from a naturopathic standpoint, “we always look to the gut microbiome. If there is any disruption of the integrity of the health of the digestive system then allergies can arise because a large portion of our immune system resides in our gut.”
Causative factors, she said, include overuse of antibiotics and other medications including Tylenol, eating foods that are high in preservatives, additives, artificial sweeteners, chemicals including pesticides and heavy metals. Additionally, a diet deficient in fiber can also contribute to allergies, as friendly microflora relies on fiber to flourish. When fiber is in low supply, the ratio of beneficial to harmful bacteria changes in favor of the latter, which will exacerbate an inflammatory response, and thus, a host of symptoms. Some probiotic bacteria create butyrate (from fiber consumption) and a lack of butyrate can increase allergy/intolerance onset and intensity.
According to Dr. Patterson, common symptoms of food allergy are hives, eczema, swelling of lips, face or tongue; difficulty breathing, severe abdominal distress or dizziness. “Food sensitivity symptoms are more delayed and common symptoms include migraines, bloating, headaches, runny nose, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and overall just not feeling well,” she described. “The food sensitivities can develop over time particularly if GI (gastrointestinal) function is compromised.”
There are differences between food allergies and food intolerances, which Dr. Parrish asserted are “quite different.” The former stem from an IgE antibody-mediated food response that creates an immediate reaction, such as hives or anaphylactic shock.
IgG immunoglobulin is most the common antibody and is found in all bodily fluids. The allergic response it creates is a slower response over the following 72 hours to foods and other antigens; therefore, it is difficult to relate the symptoms back to the causative food. “The symptoms are numerous and can be rashes from eczema to psoriasis, headaches and migraines, anxiety, asthma and allergies, IBS, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal cramps, acne, chronic ear infections, bronchitis, chronic coughing, joint pain, water retention, depression, mood issues, weight gain, weight loss, chronic infections, chronic fatigue and many other symptoms,” she explained.
According to Chad Larson, NMD, DC, clinical education advisor, Cyrex Laboratories in California and Arizona, the term “allergy” (like peanut allergy) is mediated by an IgE immune reaction, whereas the term “sensitivity” (like gluten sensitivity) is mediated by IgG or IgA immune reactivity. The term “intolerance” (like lactose intolerance) is associated with an enzyme deficiency, as in the case of lactose intolerance being a deficiency of the enzyme lactase. An intolerance, he stated, is not mediated by an immune reaction.
You can confidently help your patient identify what foods may be unfriendly via several tests.
IgG food allergy testing is comprehensive as a blood test and is one that is gaining favor. According to Dr. Parrish, IgG food testing is controversial in the conventional medical community because the research in the past has not always been scientifically sound. “However, Yale University and other medical institutions have shown in their research that if foods that patients react to in an IgG food test are removed, there is dramatic symptom relief and often a complete amelioration of symptoms, which is proof enough to me and the thousands of other doctors who order these tests that they are worth it,” she asserted.
The Great Plains Laboratory of Kansas specializes in the IgG food allergy test, which Lab Director William Shaw, PhD, said has been found to be very useful in the treatment of virtually every chronic illness and condition. In many published studies, he noted, clinical symptoms were improved after an elimination diet based on serum IgG food allergy testing compared to a sham diet. Elevated IgG antibodies are found in:
• Bowel disorders such as celiac disease, IBS, Crohn’s disease and colitis
• Many neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, tic disorders, Tourette’s syndrome, ataxia, neuropathies and seizure disorders
• Autoimmune diseases like lupus erythematosus and arthritis
• Chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia
• Psychiatric diseases like autism, attention deficit, schizophrenia, depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder
• Cardiovascular diseases
The IgG food allergy test is very easy to interpret, he said. “I always advise clients to eliminate any foods that are in the moderate or severe category but to ignore borderline or slightly positive results,” he related. “The results of such diets can be spectacular improvement in symptoms.”
The Great Plains Laboratory tests all types of IgG food antibodies including IgG1, IgG2, IgG3 and IgG4. Dr. Shaw explained that Immunoglobulin G (IgG) is classified into several subclasses termed 1, 2, 3 and 4. IgG4 antibodies usually represent less than 6 percent of the total IgG antibodies, and they differ functionally from other IgG subclasses, as they do not exert inflammatory activity. “IgG4 antibodies not only block IgE-mediated food allergies but also block the reactions of food antigens with other IgG subclasses, reducing inflammatory reactions caused by the other IgG subclasses of antibodies to food antigens,” he said.
The goal of IgG-mediated food allergy testing, said Dr. Shaw, is to identify foods that can cause inflammation that can trigger numerous adverse reactions. Testing only for IgG4 antibodies in foods limits the ability of the practitioner to determine those foods that are causing significant clinical reactions that are affecting their patients. For example, he provided, one study found that IgG1 antibodies to gluten were elevated in all 20 patients with celiac disease, but none of the patients had elevated IgG4 antibodies to gluten. “The patient who only receives an IgG4 food allergy test would completely miss his/her wheat sensitivity,” he warned.
Cyrex Laboratories, according to Dr. Larson, provides three main food arrays: Array 3X, Array 4 and Array10. Array 3X is the most comprehensive gluten and wheat evaluation that is available by any lab. Array 4 looks at foods that can cross-react with gluten, like dairy, which can worsen a gluten-related disorder, even while following a gluten-free diet. Array 10 evaluates 180 foods, including raw, cooked and mixed-ingredient foods. “Array 10 is the first, and so far only, test of its kind to look at this combination of food antigens,” he commented.
Food antibody testing should be considered “any time a patient presents with chronic symptoms, and especially when those symptoms appear to be chronically activating the immune system, as in autoimmunity,” he advised.
Another issue many patients may have is intolerance or malabsorption of various common sugars such as fructose, sucrose and lactose, according to Eric Hamilton, president and CEO of the Wisconsin-based QuinTron Instrument Company, Inc., which offers non-invasive breath testing for this, which can be performed in the patient’s home and mailed to your office or a laboratory for analysis. “These tests are helpful to aid practitioners in the quest to determine more specifically what type of sugar may be causing digestive issues with patients,” he noted.
Patients who remain symptomatic after the removal of the foods in their diets can find safe, effective and longer-term improvement via naturopathic treatment, according to Dr. Parrish. “This is because we continue to treat digestion, enhance liver detoxification, further modify the diet, add supplements for added support, mitigate environmental toxin exposure, and so much more in order for someone to be less inflamed, less reactive to their outside world, and more tolerant of the world around them including the foods that they eat.”
Labs are seeing an increase in individuals with various food sensitivities and allergies. “There definitely appears to be an uptick in people suffering from food immune reactions,” Dr. Larson emphasized. “The more that food is processed—the more that food is being distanced from its natural form—and the greater the chance that the immune system will not recognize it as something that should be tolerated in the body,” he explained.
Hamilton observed that globally, more people are experiencing some sort of sugar intolerance. This can be caused by multiple factors such as more readily available and affordable testing, food preparations and over consumption. “Additionally, there are other digestive issues that mimic sugar/food intolerances such as small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), which studies have suggested that up to 80 percent of patients with irritable bowel syndrome have SIBO,” he said.
There are several supplements that you can incorporate into your protocol for your patient once the food allergy or sensitivity has been identified and tested (beyond the obvious of eliminating the foods).
For example, Nevada-based Klaire Labs’ (manufactured by SFI) VITAL-ZYMES Complete and VITAL-ZYMES Chewable, which, described Leah Linder, ND, science and education manager, “deliver a full complement of high-activity enzymes that supports the breakdown, absorption and utilization of macronutrients from a wide spectrum of foods, including proteins and protein peptides, complex carbohydrates, disaccharides and sugars, lipids/fats and vegetable fibers.”
As people become more food-adventurous (and it becomes easier to eat via food delivery apps), you may see an increase in patients who are dealing with discomforts. The only way people can learn they are sensitive, intolerant or allergic to foods is to find themselves symptomatic—and when the foods are finally identified as being combative.
Healthy Take Aways
• The most prevalent food allergies and intolerances today are dairy, corn, eggs, fish, soy, tree nuts, shellfish and gluten.
• Food allergies/intolerances account for more than 90 percent of food reactions.
• Common symptoms of food allergy are hives, eczema, swelling of lips, face or tongue; difficulty breathing, severe abdominal distress or dizziness.
• Food allergies stem from an IgE antibody-mediated food response that creates an immediate reaction.
• The term “intolerance” (like lactose intolerance) is associated with an enzyme deficiency.
• IgG food allergy testing is comprehensive as a blood test and is one that is gaining favor.
• IgG4 antibodies usually represent less than 6 percent of the total IgG antibodies and they differ functionally from other IgG subclasses, as they do not exert inflammatory activity.
For More Information:
Cyrex Laboratories, www.joincyrex.com
Great Plains Laboratory, www.greatplainslaboratory.com
Klaire Labs, https://klaire.com
QuinTron Instrument Company, Inc., www.breathtests.com