When it comes to allergies and sensitivities I am quite lucky. However, I have noticed ever since I turned 35 years old that I have started to get a little sensitive to airborne substances. If you follow me on Instagram then you are well aware that my spouse and I have three cats, so unless I am in denial, I don’t have any issues with cat dander and to my knowledge no issues with pollen. I can’t stand being in tight places with those wearing perfume such as the lady I seemingly always ride the elevator with each morning. It isn’t that her perfume is horrid or anything, I am just irritated by it and often develop a mild headache and a dry throat by the end of the ride. We aren’t even entirely sure what type of reaction is taking place with regards to perfumes/fragrances but what I do know is for many others, my symptoms are a walk in the park compared to those who have true allergies and sensitivities to such things as pollen, dander, dust, mold and food.
Are you guilty of any of the following?
- Overly stressed
- Over eating
- Processed foods
- NSAID’s (aspirin)
- PPI’s (antacids)
- Antibiotic use
- Drug use
- Excess alcohol consumption
- Excess coffee consumption
- Poor sleep routine
- Eating on the run
- Eating the same foods every day
- Consuming water or other beverages with meals?
More than a few, right? Most people I have had the pleasure of working with have come to me with sluggish digestion and in turn very poor health. With roughly 70% of our immune system in and around our digestive system, it’s no wonder why it is said that disease starts in the gut. Therefore a clogged digestive system is a root cause for just about all of today’s avoidable modern illnesses. With regards to allergies and sensitivities from food or airborne substances, it is essential we get to the root of the cause and optimize digestion if we have any chance of living comfortably.
An allergy is a reaction that presents itself within 60-120 minutes after exposure, and can be caused by consuming certain foods such as peanuts, dairy, shell fish and gluten. Reactions can also be caused by a bee sting or penicillin. Allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) can be quite severe and even fatal and it has also been shown that these severe reactions are strongly influenced by genetics.(1,2)
On the other hand sensitivities, can sneak under the radar for days and even weeks. Allergies and sensitivities both cause the immune system to activate and if the substances (food, pollen, toxin etc) aren’t removed, the immune system is never able to shut off and chronic inflammation develops. Mast cells, part of the immune system, are located heavily around areas of the body that are exposed to the outside world, such as the skin, nasal passages, and the gastrointestinal tract. Due to where these cells are located, symptoms of sensitivities present themselves as skin issues such as psoriasis, acne and eczema, mucus in the throat as well as clogged or excessive mucus in the nasal passage and digestive discomfort like gas, bloating and constipation. Other symptoms include,
I am sure I had you at “body fat storage.”
These symptoms can be caused by nuts, dairy and gluten as well as other common foods but not limited to, soy, eggs, chocolate and citrus. Many doctors don’t acknowledge food sensitivities, and to my knowledge sensitivities is not something taught in medical school. That being said, there are “progressive” family doctors who support protocols proposed by nutritionists and Naturopathic doctors.
You may have heard the term “intolerance” before and unlike allergies and sensitivities, intolerances don’t result in an immune reaction but rather cause digestive upset, such as gas, bloating and stomach cramps and can be the result of a missing enzyme such as the case with those who can’t digest dairy. Another very common reason people are affected by intolerances is because they eat the same foods day in and day out and eventually wear out the enzymes needed to breakdown these foods.
THE DIGESTION CONNECTION
The health of the lining in the small intestine is very important as the cells in this tissue are extremely close knit creating tight junctions between one another. They are this way to keep foreign substances from ever entering the bloodstream. Alcohol, spicy foods, NSAID’s (such as aspirin), antibiotic use, non organic produce that contain high amounts of pesticides, herbicides, insecticides etc, and other health destroying chemicals can all damage of the intestinal lining potentially leading to food sensitivities. Damaged stomach lining decreases the body’s ability to absorb nutrients, therefore, and according to James C. Breneman MD author of Basics of Food Allergy, allergies and sensitivities are a form of malnutrition. (3)
A person metabolizes toxins, just as uniquely as one metabolizes different foods depending biochemical makeup. Another important determining factor, is if you had a natural birth or a cesarean delivery, as the latter exposes the baby to potential long term complications such as imbalanced gut microbiota, asthma and gut infections. (4-8) Allergies may also be influenced by genetics and if one parent has allergies, it is between a 50-58% chance their child will have allergies. If both parents suffer from allergies then the percentages go up to between 67-100%. (9) All the more reason for couples to go through a gentle three month detoxification phase and/or an elimination diet prior to trying to conceive. However before we lose all hope in the genes our parents handed down to us, let’s remember the substance (food, toxin, pollen etc) is not the cause, but rather the trigger of the reaction. The cause is over consumption, damaged intestinal lining, weakened immunity and potential leaky gut.
We don’t have to look very far these days for some of the biggest offenders with the state of our food industry, as corn, wheat, dairy (whey and/or casein) and soy are found in the majority of our processed foods. Leaky Gut syndrome, which is when the tight junctions of the intestinal lining become permeable and allows larger undigested food particles (proteins), toxins, medications etc through to the blood stream, also causes food sensitivities. However, as mentioned above, food sensitivities are a huge factor in leaky gut syndrome so it becomes a question of what came first, the chicken or the egg?
WHAT TO DO NOW
Unfortunately, correcting digestive issues won’t allow you to consume foods that caused anaphylactic reactions but after a period of time many of the foods that caused sensitivities may be re-introduced into one’s diet. For example, if you had a sensitivity to bananas or strawberries before improving digestion, you may be able to handle these foods after completing an elimination protocol, but this time with a more balanced approach.
Food sensitivity testing is available but much controversy surrounds which test is best, and their accuracy is often debated. I have indirectly used genetic testing in the past, as it was useful in identifying sensitivities and allergies but these tests are still quite expensive.
I prefer to have clients follow my version of the elimination diet for a few months and then slowly and strategically reintroduce foods back into the diet building a nutrition plan 100% unique to them, the individual. If you suspect you suffer from food sensitivities, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up for one of my coaching packages and we will throw on our Deerstalker’s and get to work.
Have you received your FREE Digestion Report which offers many tips on improving the function of your digestive system? Sign up for my newsletter in the top corner of the sidebar to the right and not only will I send you the FREE Digestion Report that can potentially save you thousands of dollars in over the counter medications, prescription drugs and hospital visits but you will also receive monthly updates, articles, exercise videos, recipes and life hacking tips to optimize your life.
Do you have a friend or family member who suffers from airborne, chemical or food sensitivities/allergies? I have given you some tips to boost immune function and the FREE Digestion Report will help optimize digestion, be sure to share this information with them and help them regain control of their body.
1. Sicherer SH, Furlong TJ, Maes HH, Desnick RJ, Sampson HA, Gelb BD. Genetics of peanut allergy: a twin study. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2000 Jul;106(1 Pt 1):153-6.
2. Frischmeyer-Guerrerio PA, Guerrerio AL, Oswald G. et al. TGFß receptor mutations impose a strong predisposition for human allergic disease. Sci Transl Med. 2013 Jul 24;5(195):195ra94. doi 10.1126/scitranslmed.3006448
3. Breneman, James C., MD. Basics of Food Allergy. Second addition. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C Thomas, Publisher, 1984.
4. Eggesbo M, et al. Is delivery by cesarean section a risk factor for food allergy? J Allergy Clin Immunol 2003; 112:420-426
5. Gronlund MM, Lehtonen OP, Eerola E, Kero P. Fecal microflora in healthy infants born by different methods of delivery: permanent changes in intestinal flora after cesarean delivery. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 1999 Jan;28(1):19-25.
6. Hallstrom M, Eerola E, Vuento R, Jana M, Tammela O. Effects of mode of delivery and necrotising enterocolitis on the intestinal microflora in preterm infants. Eur J Clin Microbiol INfect Dis. 2004 Jun;23(6):463-70. Epub 2004 May 27.
7. Kero J, Gissler M, Gronlund MM, Kero P, Koskinen P, Hemminiki E, Isolauri E. Mode of delivery and asthma — is there a connection? Pediatr Res. 2002 Jul;52(1):6-11
8. B Laubereau, B Filipiak-Pittroff, A von Berg, A Grubl, D Reinhardt, H Wichmann, S Koletzko and t for. Cesarean section and gastrointestinal symptoms, atopic dermatitis, and sensitisation during the first year of life. Arch Dis Child. 2004 Nov;89(11):993-997. doi 10.1136/adc.2003.043265 PMCID: PMC 1719727.
9. Bateson-Koch, Carolee. Allergies, disease in disguise. Summertown, TN. Books Alive, 1994.
Photo (wheat) by Kevin Lallier
Photo (peanuts) by Daniella Segura
Photo (banana & strawberry) by Ralph Daily