Must’ve been something I ate (conquering food allergies)

Ugh, some foods just don’t feel so good once inside. Clients ask me all the time if they should go ‘gluten-free, ‘white-free’ (foods made with white flour and sugar), or give up fruit because of low energy, weight gain, upset tummies, constipation or chronic diarrhea.

Food sensitivities, intolerances and allergies are mysterious beings of trouble. It’s only fair we should question certain foods related to ill health. Food is medicine, after all. But, to give up a food or entire food group may be unnecessary. Many folks who were allergic to a food as a toddler often have outgrown it by the time they are adults. Others may be intolerant to a food over a period of time but find if they limit the amount they consume, they can indeed enjoy it.

What’s the difference in these maladies?

Food intolerances erupt in the GI tract largely because our system can’t break down certain foods. Symptoms are excess gas (we all have gas, let’s be real here – passing 2 quarts a day is normal) and bloating, cramping, and diarrhea. Causes typically are lactose (naturally occurring milk sugar), and fructose, the sugar in fruit and honey and added sweeteners in beverages (HFCS = High Fructose Corn Syrup = ubiquitous). Eliminating the offenders can prove viable but remember, elimination diets usually yield the results you expect. Our human nature expects those results. Bummer. Once you’ve eliminated a food, add it back in full force. If symptoms reappear, you’re intolerant.

Other foods that create migraine havoc:

  • Aged cheese (blue, brie, cheddar, parmesan, Swiss)
  • Pickles and olives
  • Alcohol (especially red wine)
  • MSG (soy sauce, packaged foods, seasoned salts)
  • Smoked foods
  • Food additives (nitrates and some food colorings)
  • Excessive caffeine (more than two to three cups of coffee daily)
Food allergies* is an immune system response to a food (targeting the protein molecule of the food) your body thinks is an enemy. Symptoms of food allergies include tummy stuff (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea), hives and itchy skin, and upper respiratory yuks like sneezing, coughing, wheezing, runny and itchy nose.
What to take home is that food allergies can be severe to fatal while intolerances don’t have that same effect. Intolerances leave you with a not-so-good-feeling but you’ll live.
Food allergies are rarer than intolerances. ‘Out of 100 people tested for milk allergy, about 10 will have a positive skin-prick test but only 3-5 of them actually have the allergy,’ says Todd Rambasek, MD, an allergy specialist in Cleveland. Consumer Reports on Health, Dec 2011.
Because it’s so challenging to correctly identify a food allergy, many testing modalities should be done, like keeping detailed food records, lab tests, skin-prick tests, along with a physical exam and the gold-star – placebo-controlled food challenge. Now, this last test should only be done in a medical center because you’ll be given foods (and placebos) that could trigger a severe reaction. Nice to have docs around to administer epinephrine if you have an anaphylactic reaction (throat swelling impairing breath).
So, gluten-free? No white sugar or flour? That’s up to you. For those truly allergic to wheat, it’s a must. No way around it. Intolerant? Try it in small doses. Trying to change your body by going ‘free’ – not so much.
*Food allergies are usually limited to eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts and wheat.
‘How can I be real?’ asked the Velveteen Rabbit
Marvelous Mighty Magnificent Muesli

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