A food allergy is where ingestion of a protein, carbohydrate, preservative, additive, or other chemicals or foods cause an allergic reaction. Food allergies have been linked with a number of diseases including those affecting the GI tract such as heartburn, indigestion, gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s, and ulcer. Several foods and chemicals can cause signs and symptoms outside the gastrointestinal tract including fatigue, eczema, depression, allergies, and inflammatory arthritis. Studies show that children are the most sensitive to food allergies with some reports of ten to twenty percent of all children affected. Early weaning seems to be adding to this problem. Data on food allergies in adult population ranges up to thirty percent of individuals are intolerable to certain foods.
There are four types of allergic reactions that are controlled by different antibodies. Some of these responses happen immediately while others may take up to three days to show up. Antibodies IgE and IgG are the antibodies responsible for most food allergies. IgE are responsible for the immediate or quick response to food allergies while IgG is responsible for the delayed response reaction that takes one to three days to develop. There are two ways of testing for food allergies. In some cases, lab tests can be run for food allergies. Tests can be run on over ninety different food groups, testing both IgE and IgG. Results show levels ranging from zero response to three, or highly responsive. This gives us indications of food groups to avoid.
Another method is to put the patient on a nonallergenic diet. These are foods known to be handled well by the general population without allergic reactions. Some of these foods are lamb, chicken, potatoes, rice, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts.
Once the elimination diet has started, it may take up to three weeks for signs and symptoms to improve. Generally, though, we like to see improvement in seven to ten days. Once improvement in signs and symptoms are noticed, foods are reintroduced one category at a time to see if the food initiates symptoms. The down side of the elimination diet is that it could take several months to totally analyze the diet. That is why we usually recommend lab work. It tends to give us a jump start.
Some foods that cause food allergies need to be eliminated from the diet completely. They cause reaction whenever consumed. They will have to be totally eliminated. Some foods are not being totally digested. By assisting the body with digestive enzymes, these foods then are tolerable. Other foods only cause allergic response if eaten in large quantities or frequently. Here we will rotate these foods every two to six days and not consume large quantities in one setting. Sometimes before the elimination diet is started, a detoxification program for one to five days is done. This helps clean the system of antigens and allergic foods and makes reintroduction of allergic foods more reactive.