Christina Carreau, BA, ND
There is an increasing amount of hype and confusion surrounding food allergies. Let me provide some clarity on the issue by explaining the two different types of allergic reactions that can occur. With food allergies, the body reacts by releasing cells called antibodies. Foods that cause antibodies to be released are called allergens. Two types of antibodies are produced in response to allergenic foods, IgE (immunoglobulin E) and IgG (immunoglobulin G) antibodies.
IgE Reactions – Immediate Hypersensitivity Reactions
IgE reactions are the type of food allergies that cause immediate reactions (within minutes of consumption) and are responsible for anaphylactic reactions, hives, eczema, itchy eyes, difficulty breathing and digestive upset. These are usually much easier to pinpoint than IgG food reactions because the occur immediately after consumption. These types of allergies are often determined by a “skin scratch test” whereby the skin is pricked with a needle or pin containing a small amount of the allergen. If an immuno-response is seen in the form of a rash, hives, or (worse) anaphylaxis, it is concluded that you have a allergy or hypersensitivity to that allergen (be it peanuts, other nuts, shellfish, eggs, dairy, etc).
IgG Reactions – Delayed Onset Reactions
IgG reactions can take hours or days to develop, making them much more difficult to identify. In these types of reactions the IgG immunoglobulins attach themselves to the allergen and create an antibody-allergen complex. The immune system is responsible for keeping these complexes from causing harm. However, if these complexes are present in large numbers, the immune system can’t keep up and they start accumulating within the body and are deposited in tissue causing inflammation.
These types of reactions are becoming increasing more prevalent because we have a diet that is high in allergenic foods. The problem is that most people, eat foods they are allergic to several times a day. Meaning every time that food enters the body, the immune system is sent into overdrive. But because symptoms are delayed up to 72 hours after eating, a low-grade food allergy is near improssible to pinpoint. Without diagnosis or awareness, the damage is repeated over and over, meal after meal. Eventually, the body is overcome by inflammation, creating an environment ripe for weight gain and chronic disease.
Top 10 Food Allergens
gluten (wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt, triticale, and kamut)
dairy (milk, cheese, butter, and yogurt)
corn and corn syrup (the list of foods containing corn is too extensive to list here)
nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, bell peppers, potatoes, and eggplant)
yeast (baker’s, brewer’s yeast, and fermented products like vinegar)
Conditions Associated With IgG Food Reactions
Weight gain: Antibody-allergen food complexes in tissue cause inflammation, which causes fluid retention and weight gain. To fight inflammation, the body relsease a chemical called ghrelin, which also happens to be an appetite stimulant. So IgG fod reactions cause weight gain in two different ways, through fluid retention and increased appetite.
Digestive Disorders: Conditions like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastritis, diarrhea, constipation, canker sores, ulcers, colitis, and malabsorption can all be caused by IgG food sensitivities.
Mood/Attention Deficit Disorders: Deposition of antibody-allergen complexes in nervous system tissue may contribute to hyperactivity, depression, anxiety, insominia, irritability, inability to concentrate and other mood disorders.
Other Conditions: Antibody-allergen complexes can be deposited in any tissue and cause symptoms over time. If deposited in lung tissue they can cause asthma, wheezing, or other respiratory problems; in skin tissue, eczema, hives, itching or acne; in blood vessels, hypertension, or edema; in joints, joint pain; bursitis, low back pain, etc.
If you are experiencing any of the above mentioned symptoms, you should consider doing one of three things:
1) Cut out gluten and dairy for a period of two weeks to see if you notice an improvement in symptoms.
2) Get a blood test done to determine food sensitivites (Rocky Mountain Analytical is a Calgary-based lab that processes these tests. I am now offering these IgG test kits through Degen’s Health Group)
3) Cut out all allergenic foods listed above if you don’t notice any improvement in symptoms after cutting out gluten and dairy alone. Eat a hypoallergenic diet for 3 weeks and then begin systematically re-introducing allergenic foods to pinpoint what foods you are allergic to. This is known as an elimination diet.
Food is the foundation upon which our health is built therefore be sure that your food isn’t causing you more harm than good.