Eating sensitively By Lani Lopez
Food allergy, sensitivity and intolerance can cause all manner of health issues and really impair your qualit y of life. Often people can be suffering poor-health, pain, lowered physical and mental performance and not realise it is the result of intolerance or allergy to a food.
Perhaps the most discussed is gluten sensitivity or celiac disease (see break-out box). Without exploring food, this source of dis-ease goes undiscovered, the issues continue and even worsen.
WHAT ARE ALLERGIES?
Allergies are defined by our allergic reac tion to certain substances. The ever-vigilant immune system responds to harmful substances (toxins, bacteria, viruses) with symptoms we associate with illness.
When these symptoms occur in response to food it is an allergic response. The immune system releases antibodies and chemicals, called histamines, into the bloodstream. Creating redness, swelling itching, mucus and other common symptoms of allergy. Our immune system is active from head to toe so allergies can cause many more symptoms, from tummy-upsets to joint pain, lost sleep, impaired mental focus, memory, balance, concentration and mood. Particularly common with food allergies are fatigue and gastro-intestinal issues like tummy cramps and wind, constipation, diarrhea and bloating.
Reactions are individual, varying from mild and manageable to severe, even life threatening. Whether inconvenient or incapacitating, food allergies and intolerance require management and many allergic reac tions can be managed naturally.
Although many people have a food intolerance, which is unpleasant enough, food allergies are less common. US research puts the rate at one per cent of the population.
In a true food allergy, the immune system produces antibodies and histamine in response to the specific food. Rather than focus on true food allergies, causing anaphylaxis or toxic shock, I’ll concentrate on everyday food sensitivity, intolerance or allergies. There are two categories of food allergies:
A fixed allergy after consuming a particular food, eg shellfish or strawberries, you have a predictable reac tion, usually within 24 hours.
Non-fixed allergy comes in two types, addictive allergy, craving to prevent addictive withdrawal for a food or substance like tobacco, alcohol, wheat, sugar or caffeine.
Then there is cyclic or masked allergy, developed by repetitive eating of the same substance and symptoms of allergy may not appear for three to five days. It becomes a masked allergy, as symptoms are ongoing, so they are assumed as “normal” or not food related. Avoidance for four to six months can see symptoms disappear, until it’s consumed again. The good news is that a sensitivity or allergic response may be overcome entirely by this break and the body may later accept a gradual re-introduc tion without response.
SIMPLE ELIMINATION DIET
Week one to three, eat only Elimination Diet foods (see panel). Identif y food sensitivity with this simple elimination diet. For one week, diary everything you consume and any reac tions especially to foods on the common food allergen list (see panel). Then for three weeks discontinue all foods on the list and foods you reac ted to. Eat only Elimination Diet foods (see panel).
Week four, bring food and drinks back into your diet, one food daily. If no reac tion, add the next from your list of removed food. Start with fresh fruit, vegetables, bottled juices then processed foods, refined carbohydrates including cakes, biscuits, ice cream then alcohol. Keep a diary, record any reac tions.
WHAT IF I FIND FOOD SENSITIVITY?
You may notice a reaction when a food is reintroduced, symptoms may be dramatic.
Help clear the allergy by drinking one litre of water with an added teaspoon of baking soda and eliminate that substance from your diet for at least six months.
The good news is that not all food allergies and sensitivities are life-long. Once you've eliminated a troublesome food from your diet for a few months, tr y re-introducing it in small amounts. Often the reaction has disappeared and you can return to eating whatever you want without symptoms. This may take a few months, or up to a few years.
Although when people change their diet and experience improved health I find they are reluctant to go back!