what is a food allergy?

(photo: commons.wikimedia)
(photo: commons.wikimedia)

The immune system functions like a sentinel standing guard against foreign invaders.

In the case of an allergy, the invaders are called allergens.

The primary weapon that it uses against invaders is the production of antibodies. The antibodies cause reactions that result in the offending allergens being removed from the body. In many people, foods act as allergens rather than nutrition. This can result in the symptoms of IBS.

The immune system produces numerous kinds of antibodies, called immunoglobulins. IgE and IgG are acronyms for the two different kinds of antibodies produced by the immune system in allergic reactions to food. You might be asking why you need to know this…

Conventional allergy testing looks for IgE reactions only. These types of reactions typically occur immediately after contact with or ingestion of the allergen, and in some cases can cause serious, even fatal, health problems. Potential IgE reactions include swelling of the lips and tongue, hives, bloating, abdominal pain, or sudden diarrhea. These are the reactions that people usually think of when they hear the word allergy. However, IgE reactions can also lead to many other symptoms not traditionally recognized as being caused by food allergies.

The problem with this type of testing is that most food allergies are not IgE reactions, but are rather IgG reactions, which usually show up hours or even days after ingestion of the allergen. They are generally not nearly as dramatic as the more severe IgE reactions, and usually result in “mere” constipation, diarrhea, bloating, gas and abdominal pain. Both antibodies are important, and food allergy testing should include both or the cause of IBS may be missed.

For more information about this subject refer to The Irritable Bowel Syndrome Solution.

(photo: commons.wikimedia)

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drwangenA quick Q&A with Dr. Stephen Wangen from the IBS Treatment Center.

What Causes a Food Allergy?

It is most likely that food allergies are genetically predetermined. In the big picture, humans have only recently introduced many current day foods into the diet, so it’s not surprising that the immune system doesn’t recognize every food as a friendly substance.

Undoubtedly we do not understand everything there is to know about food or food allergies.

Why Is It So Difficult to Recognize One’s Own Food Allergy?

This is problematic because of the often delayed nature of food allergies. Allergy symptoms may show up hours or even a day later, after a food is well absorbed into your system.

This difficulty is compounded by the fact that certain foods, such as dairy and wheat, are so prevalent in our diet that many people eat them nearly every day. Therefore connecting your symptoms with your eating habits often nearly impossible.

How Do I Determine if I Have a Food Allergy?

The only sure way to determine if you have a food allergy is to have your blood tested for antibodies to a variety of foods. This is done with an ELISA Food Allergy Panel, which measure your immune response to approximately 100 different foods.

If you think you have a food allergy, contact our office at Info@IBSTreatmentCenter.com or toll-free at 1.888.546.6283.

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In our two previous posts, we discussed what exactly is meant by a food allergy as well as a food intolerance. Today, we’re going to discuss food sensitivities.

Food Sensitivity

Now with the word sensitivity, things are starting to look up. It’s not being misused as much as the other words; however, it has even less scientific meaning than intolerance, if that’s possible.

Sensitivity is often used by the average Jane to indicate that she knows that she just doesn’t do well with a particular food, but she doesn’t quite know what to call it. The medical community has picked up on this and run with it in the form of gluten sensitivity. They don’t know what to call non-celiac gluten reactions, so now we are starting to hear them called gluten sensitivities.

Fortunately, in this context, the proper word is being used. However, that is only because the word sensitivity is so broad that it covers absolutely everything. In fact, it also covers celiac disease, which is logically a type of sensitivity to gluten. There’s nothing wrong with that, but we need to be clear about what the word sensitivity means.

Making sense of it all

At this point you have a much better idea about the confusion behind the words allergy, intolerance, and sensitivity. That’s helpful, but if we’re going to educate the world about our reactions to food then we need a consistent, scientific, and meaningful language with which to converse about it. We need a foundation on which we can build. Otherwise these topics are going to continue to dwell in the cellar of our medical system.
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Let’s start with the word allergy. When people hear the words food allergy, some people think that they have a pretty good idea about what that means.

The first thought is often of anaphylaxis, which is swelling of the tongue or throat that could be life threatening. This is typically the assumption when we are discussing, for example, a peanut allergy.

Of course there are other foods that can trigger an anaphylactic reaction, such as other nuts, shellfish, strawberries, milk, and eggs. And just about any other food has the potential to trigger an anaphylactic reaction. But thankfully, anaphylactic reactions to most foods are relatively rare, so you don’t often hear about them.

Based on this information, you might assume that food allergies are always severe or life-threatening. But then you might remember that sometimes a food allergy merely causes hives. Hives are irritating, itchy, and unsightly, but they aren’t life-threatening. Lots of different foods can cause hives, including peanuts. So a food allergy doesn’t have to be life-threatening, nor does an allergy to one particular food, such as peanuts, lead to the same symptoms in everyone.

Confused yet? If not, we’re just getting started.

Other people believe that food allergies are defined by the mechanism underlying the reaction. Different parts of the immune system can cause inflammation and thus symptoms. With most food allergies, it is assumed that an IgE antibody reaction is involved. IgE antibodies are produced by the immune system and can lead to histamine release, which causes inflammation.
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An allergy is what results when your immune system is inappropriately activated.

Your immune system is designed to attack bacteria, viruses and parasites. It is not intended to attack the food you eat. But this is exactly what happens with some people. This is called a “food allergy” or “food intolerance.”

When your immune system is activated, antibodies (also called immunoglobulins) are produced. Antibodies in turn trigger an inflammatory response. Inflammation causes pain and tissue damage, leading to further symptoms. Increased mucous production is another aspect of an immune response.

When a food is broken down and absorbed, it is distributed through your bloodstream to all of your tissues. Therefore an allergic reaction can occur just about anywhere in your body.

We don’t really understand why a food allergy can exhibit itself so differently in different people.

However, every individual is unique and seems to have a unique weak point where symptoms of a food allergy show up first.

Food Allergies

Food allergies may be one of the most prevalent health problems in our country and are certainly the biggest problem that I see in my clinic. But if you’re like most of my patients, you’re probably thinking, “Not me, I don’t have a food allergy.”

Most people think they have a pretty good idea about food allergies. They may know someone who has one and think, “My problem isn’t like theirs.” Or they may just think that food allergies normally result in hives, a rash, or some kind of medical emergency.

In fact, food allergies can be the cause of many chronic health problems.

 

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Getting the proper testing for food allergies is the key to getting better. (img thanks to parents.com)

Food allergies may be one of the most prevalent health problems in our country and are certainly the biggest problem that I see in my clinic. But if you’re like most of my patients, you’re probably thinking, “Not me, I don’t have a food allergy.”

Most people think they have a pretty good idea about food allergies. They may know someone who has one and think, “My problem isn’t like theirs.” Or they may just think that food allergies normally result in hives, a rash, or some kind of medical emergency. 
In fact, food allergies can be the cause of many chronic health problems.

What Is An Allergy?

An allergy is what results when your immune system is inappropriately activated. Your immune system is designed to attack bacteria, viruses and parasites. It is not intended to attack the food you eat. But this is exactly what happens with some people. This is called a “food allergy” or “food intolerance.”

When your immune system is activated, antibodies (also called immunoglobulins) are produced. Antibodies in turn trigger an inflammatory response. Inflammation causes pain and tissue damage, leading to further symptoms. Increased mucous production is another aspect of an immune response.

When a food is broken down and absorbed, it is distributed through your bloodstream to all of your tissues. Therefore an allergic reaction can occur just about anywhere in your body.
We don’t really understand why a food allergy can exhibit itself so differently in different people. However, every individual is unique and seems to have a unique weak point where symptoms of a food allergy show up first.

 

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