Food Allergy Action Month - What You Need to Know

Photo credit: Kristen McElveen, ND

Photo credit: Kristen McElveen, ND

Food Allergies affect up to 15 million people here in the US and numbers are continuing to increase. Why this is happening? Many of us have our theories – genetically modified foods, increased chemical exposure, plastics exposure, etc.

The young children of today are exposed to so much more than our grandparents were, literally from the time of conception on.

Glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup herbicide) has been found in cord blood and breast milk and is one of the suspected reasons for an increase in food allergies, celiac disease, autism, cancer and more, which is why so many are rising up against Monsanto in trying to get glyphosate off the market.

Not only that, but genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have also shown to affect gut permeability, which can cause damage to the gut lining (also known as “leaky gut syndrome”).

This damage makes the normally tight cell junctions in the stomach lining loosen up, thereby causing food and microbes other digested items to “leak” through the gut lining and get into the blood stream.

This is what triggers a hyperactive immune response causing an allergic reaction (IgE antibodies) or a sensitivity reaction (IgG antibodies).

Symptoms and Causes

Symptoms of food allergies can be life-threatening such as anaphylaxis (difficulty breathing with low blood pressure and likely swelling, skin reaction or GI upset). However, they can also be less severe and even sometimes be considered vague, ranging from hives to eczema to a tickle in the throat. 

The most common food allergies are caused by: 

  • peanuts
  • tree nuts
  • fish
  • shellfish
  • milk/dairy
  • wheat
  • soy
  • eggs

However, I have seen (and many other naturopathic physicians and functional medicine doctors will agree) an increased rise in allergy/sensitivity to potato and corn as well (corn also happens to be one of the most genetically modified foods in the US). 

Testing

Testing can vary, but typically consists of skin prick testing, blood tests or an elimination diet. Skin prick testing can show a full allergy (IgE), but elimination diets are often the best choice in finding food sensitivities as blood tests (IgE and IgG) represent only a snapshot of the blood at that moment and depends on what foods you have been exposed to, especially in the last week. For example, if you haven't been eating wheat or gluten in 6 months, you won't get an immune response to wheat or gluten on a blood test (unless you've been getting an exposure that you're unaware of).

Treatment

Most people with moderate to severe food allergies should carry an epi-pen and/or Benadryl with them at all times just in case of a surprise exposure.

Other than that, the only real treatment is to avoid the allergen as much as possible, including the use of personal products like lotions and cosmetics, which many people don't think to look for. 

Interested in doing an elimination diet? Check out our article on it here.

Much of this info can also be found at Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) - please click here for their full info and for more resources.