Is lettuce good for you? How about pineapple? Chia seeds? After all, chia seeds are considered a “superfood.” The truth is: it depends. While these foods are examples of how we ought to be eating, not everyone responds to the same food the same way every time. When the immune response is compromised, it’s possible to get high levels of inflammation from such innocent (and healthy) foods as lettuce and chia seeds. This article will give an overview of the immune system, what happens when there’s an immune response to food, and what you can do about it.
What Are Allergies in General?
Allergies occur when the immune system responds to a substance the body perceives as harmful. Some of these allergens are more common than others. They may come from pollen, dust, insect bites, medications, and foods. Tree nuts, peanuts, and shellfish are well-known food allergens. While they are harmless to most people, they can wreak havoc on the person allergic to them.
Allergies can range from mild to severe; some people may be more susceptible to specific allergens than others. Common allergic conditions include hay fever (allergic rhinitis), asthma, eczema, and food allergies.
What Causes Allergies?
An allergy is an immune response. Allergies occur when the immune system sees a normally harmless substance, such as a particular food, as a threat to the body. This usually happens when a substance enters the bloodstream prematurely before being fully digested due to hyperpermeability of the intestinal lining, or “leaky gut.”
The gastrointestinal lining works like a screen for the bloodstream. It allows tiny particles to go through and blocks the larger ones. If the lining becomes “leaky,” larger particles enter the bloodstream without being broken down. That causes the immune system to see the particles as foreign, triggering the production of antibodies to fight them.
The antibodies recognize the substance during subsequent exposures and respond by triggering allergy symptoms. This allergic reaction can range from mild symptoms like stomach upset to more severe reactions like anaphylaxis. An anaphylactic response often sends people to the emergency room after consuming shellfish or peanuts.
A leaky gut can lead to a variety of immune responses, including autoimmune disease, environmental allergies, and food allergies.
The Different Kinds of Food Allergies
IgG, IgE, and IgA are antibodies the immune system produces in response to food allergens. IgE antibodies are involved in immediate allergic reactions. When an allergen enters the body, it triggers the production of IgE antibodies, which bind to mast cells and basophils (types of immune cells). This triggers the release of histamine and other responders called cytokines. These cytokines contribute to symptoms like hives, swelling, itching, and difficulty breathing.
IgE allergies are associated with a rapid onset of symptoms, occurring within minutes to hours after exposure to the allergen. These are the allergies most people know about and usually test for — if they test at all. IgE antibodies only account for 0.03% of our immune antibodies, while IgG antibodies account for about 75%.
IgG antibodies are typically involved in delayed allergic reactions, occurring hours to days after exposure to the allergen. These reactions are often called “food sensitivities” or “food intolerances;” however, by definition, they are still allergies. These antibodies activate immune cells and cause inflammation, leading to symptoms like digestive problems, skin rashes, and fatigue.
You can test IgG and IgE allergies via blood tests, and the results may be surprising. You may learn you’re allergic to “health foods.” If you eat citrus fruits for vitamin C, but the test says you’re allergic to them, you’re doing yourself more harm than good. If your results say you have an IgG reaction to lettuce or green tea, it’s just as critical to avoid those foods as it is to avoid the foods you have an IgE response to, such as cashews, dairy, or peanuts. It may not result in immediate symptoms, but a constant attack on the immune system will create problems.
However, you may not experience any noticeable symptoms from IgG or IgE. Sometimes eating foods you’re allergic to creates internal inflammation without external symptoms. That’s how it’s possible to have had your food allergies tested, yet not yet have all the information needed.
Many doctors don’t test for the IgG response because it’s not standard of care. They only test for the IgE response, which only tests for a tiny part of the immune response. This gap in understanding can leave patients without a plan for addressing their health concern(s). Unaddressed chronic inflammation can lead to disease, including autoimmune conditions (1). That’s why it’s important to test for both IgE AND IgG.
“You don’t know what you don’t know.” People who pride themselves on eating healthy may still be poisoning themselves if they haven’t been properly tested.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Food Allergies?
The signs and symptoms of food allergies can vary depending on the individual and the allergen involved. However, these are some common signs and symptoms associated with food allergies:
- Brain fog or difficulty concentrating
- Itchy or watery eyes
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Skin problems like rashes, hives, acne, or eczema
- Canker Sores or cold sores
- Digestive issues, such as abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, gas, bloating, or diarrhea
- Runny or stuffy nose, sinus problems
- Respiratory problems, such as coughing, wheezing, or asthma
- Joint pain or stiffness
- Mood Swings (anxiety, aggressiveness, or irritability)
- Swelling of the face, lips, tongue, or throat
- Anaphylaxis (a severe and potentially life-threatening reaction)
That irritating fatigue, brain fog, or canker sore could be due to an immune response triggered by food. The resulting chronic inflammation can also lead to severe illnesses like heart disease, cancer, and autoimmune conditions. There is a lot of evidence that chronic inflammation predisposes you to cancer. The longer you have that inflammation, the higher the risk. (2).
What’s The Connection Between Food Allergies and Other Conditions?
Food allergies are often associated with other conditions. There are several possible connections between allergies and other health issues.
- Asthma: People with asthma often have food allergies. This chronic respiratory disease is characterized by inflammation and narrowing of the airways. Eating food allergens may lead to increased inflammation, wheezing, coughing, and difficulty breathing.
- Eczema: Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a chronic skin condition that causes dry, itchy, and inflamed skin. It often occurs in people with a family history of allergies and can be triggered by specific allergens, including foods.
- Sinusitis: Sinusitis is an inflammation of the sinuses. When allergens irritate the nasal passages, the sinus openings can become swollen and blocked. Food allergies like dairy and wheat are also common in chronic sinusitis patients.
- Migraines: Some people with food allergies may experience migraines as a response.
- Autoimmune disorders: A leaky gut and the associated immune responses triggered by food allergies can lead to autoimmune diseases over time.
It’s important to note that having food allergies does not necessarily mean a person will develop these conditions. However, if you have food allergies (most do), knowing the potential connections is crucial. Staying away from foods on your allergy list can go a long way toward supporting health recovery.
Who Gets Allergies? What are Contributing Factors?
Anyone can develop allergies, regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity. However, some people may be more prone to developing allergies than others due to a variety of contributing factors, including:
- Lifestyle: Remember, allergies come from exposure to something your body sees as foreign. If your immune system is already triggered by chemical additives in personal care products, cleaning products, scented candles, etc., it’s more likely to be reactive to everyday foods and environmental exposures.
- Environmental factors: Exposure to environmental allergens, such as pollen, dust mites, and injected toxins, can increase the risk of an allergic response. Different allergies are more prominent in different areas of the country based on the variety of grasses, trees, and animals that live there.
- Age: Some allergies, such as food allergies, are more common in children while their immune systems are developing. Others, like seasonal allergies, may develop later in life. Scientists are calling this the “Atopic March.”
- Mental stress: Mental stress (thoughts) can weaken the immune system and make an individual more susceptible to allergies.
- Medications: Certain medications can cause allergic reactions in some people. These medications include some antibiotics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
- Occupational exposure: Exposure to certain substances in the workplace, such as chemicals, dust, and mold, can also trigger allergies in some individuals.
Many allergies are triggered due to a combination of the above. It’s important to note that while anyone can develop allergies, not everyone will have the same reaction to allergens. Some people may develop mild symptoms. Others may experience severe allergic reactions that can be life-threatening. Either way, it puts stress on your body and should be addressed.
The Fireman vs. The Carpenter in Healthcare
At The Wellness Way, we talk about the mainstream perspective on healthcare versus our perspective, as the “fireman approach” versus the “carpenter approach.”
Mainstream “fireman” doctors have two tools (treatment options) to take care of people: an axe and a hose. The axe represents cutting things out during a surgical procedure. The hose represents using medications to extinguish the “flames”: inflammation, pain, and other symptoms.
Wellness Way doctors are more like carpenters: They assess the body’s current state with testing and then create a personalized plan to rebuild using nutrients from foods and supplements. Sunshine, rest, and positive relationships are some common natural therapies that support the body in healing.
While these things are considered “complementary medicine” or “alternative medicine,” scientific research backs up their effectiveness in supporting the healing process.
Mainstream Medicine’s Approach to Allergies
Medications for Allergies
Here are some common treatments offered at your local clinic or hospital:
- Antihistamines: These medications block the release of histamine. As stated above, histamine is the responder responsible for many allergy symptoms, such as sneezing, itching, and a runny nose.
- Nasal corticosteroids: These medications reduce inflammation in the nasal passages, which can relieve symptoms such as congestion, runny nose, and sneezing.
- Decongestants: These medications can relieve nasal congestion by narrowing the blood vessels in the nasal passages.
- Epinephrine: This medication is used to treat severe allergic reactions (anaphylaxis). Epinephrine is administered via injection (EpiPen).
Other Therapies For Allergies
Doctors may also try strategies that don’t involve medications, including the following:
- Immunotherapy. This treatment involves exposing the person to gradually increasing amounts of the allergen over time. Immunotherapy can help the immune system become less sensitive to the allergen.
- Avoidance. Avoiding allergens prevents allergic reactions, but it may not always be possible.
It’s important to note that these treatments are not cures for allergies. Instead, they are ways to manage symptoms and reduce the severity of allergic reactions. Still, avoiding the known allergens certainly helps reduce allergy-produced inflammation.
Your Body Doesn’t Make Mistakes
Most believe the immune system makes mistakes when things like autoimmune disease and allergies come up. People often describe allergies as the body “mistakenly” attacking harmless substances. That’s what we learn from doctors, books, and articles. Unfortunately, we’ve been misled. Allergies develop when a foreign substance interacts with the immune system. This “invasion” triggers the body to make antibodies against that substance. This reaction stems from the body’s recalibration to traumas, toxins, and stressful thoughts. An allergic reaction doesn’t mean your body is malfunctioning; it means the body is protecting itself.
What Causes Allergies? Traumas, Toxins, and Thoughts
The Wellness Way thinks differently about health conditions, including allergies. The body doesn’t make a mistake, and your genetics aren’t your destiny. Any condition someone develops is due to an accumulation of factors throughout life. The good news is that food allergies aren’t necessarily permanent. It all depends on the stress put on your nervous system and your ability to adapt to stressors from three different categories: —traumas, toxins, and thoughts.
- Traumas–Traumas are physical stresses your body encounters. When you experience a bodily injury, your immune system reacts with inflammation. Think of when you slam a finger in a door—it gets red, warm, and tender to the touch. That’s inflammation. Inflammation in the gut can impact its tight junctions. (3) Inflammation increases gut permeability, allowing substances to leak into the bloodstream. The informal term for this is “leaky gut.”
- Toxins–Toxins are chemical stresses on your body. Studies have found that exposure to environmental toxins increases the risk of allergies. These toxins may include air pollution (4), pesticides (5), and heavy metals. (6)
- Thoughts—Evidence suggests stress can be a risk factor for developing allergies. (7) Stress can also affect the immune system, which affects allergic reactions (8).
Allergies are a 3 T’s (trauma, toxins, or thoughts) problem–not your body overreacting to something harmless. Lower your overall stress to help your body heal and allergies go away. Your allergies can and do change, so we suggest getting them tested as your Wellness Way practitioner recommends.
The Wellness Way Approach to Food Allergies
Important Tests for Food Allergies
You can only know how to support your body and heal when you know what’s wrong. This is why one of the first things we do at The Wellness Way is testing.
The recommended testing will depend on which your Wellness Way clinic considers most relevant for your symptoms, concerns, and health history. The test results help determine where to start with dietary changes and supplement recommendations.
Dietary Changes for Food Allergies
- Cut sugar from your diet: Excess sugar contributes to inflammation. Sugar is also a favorite food of all infections and imbalances—especially in your gut.
- Cut out your food allergies as outlined in your food allergy test results.
- Focus on organic, non-inflammatory whole foods.
- Add specific nutrient-dense foods: Try Liver/organ meats, sauerkraut, and microgreens.
Remember to be aware of your allergies to healthy foods. Eating sauerkraut will do more harm than good if you’re allergic to cabbage. Consult with your Wellness Way practitioner on further suggested dietary changes.
Supplementation for Food Allergies
- Albizia—Albizia is an anti-inflammatory and has antihistamine properties. It also helps regulate cytokine expression (9).
- Nettle Leaf — Nettle leaf is a natural way to lower histamine and other inflammatory messengers related to allergies. (10)
- Immune Glandular—The Wellness Way’s Immune glandular supplement contains organ meats. Organ meats have many health benefits and supply your body with the materials needed for maintaining its processes. These processes include the immune response (11).
- Mushroom Immune—Mushroom Immune is a synergistic blend of 14 powerful organic mushroom mycelia. The formula can be used as a preventative to maintain a robust immune system and to protect one from immune breakdown. (12)
- Megabiotic Formula — Optimizing your gut bacteria by adding a broad-spectrum probiotic may help lower the inflammatory response and heal the gut lining.
Be sure to check with your Wellness Way practitioner before you start taking any herbs or supplements.
Lifestyle Modifications For Food Allergies
- Release the physical stress on your body. Contact a Wellness Way clinic today.
- Start somewhere! While waiting for your test results, eliminate sugar, the dirty dozen, dyes, and GMOs.
- Minimize your toxic exposure through Beauty Products, Cleaning Products, Drinking Water, and Air.
- Upgrade your thinking: Healthy Thoughts and Gratitude.
Looking at your life and changing habits for the better can be daunting. The good news is you can start somewhere, and any stress taken away will ease the stress on your nervous system and support your immune response.
Educational Resources for Allergies
Videos and Webinars for Food Allergies
- Doc’s Food Allergy Test | A Different Perspective
- Secrets Revealed: Allergies | TWW Quick Tips
- Handling Kids Food Allergies | The DPF Show
Articles to Support Food Allergies
- Allergies: An Uncommon Solution to a Common Health Issue
- Allergies are at an Epidemic Level! – Are we Overreacting?
- What’s the Big Deal with Allergies?
CONNECT WITH US!
Connecting with people makes a commitment stronger, so connect with us! Find events at a clinic near you. Follow us on social media. Tune into Dr. Patrick Flynn’s show A Different Perspective when it goes LIVE each Saturday morning to get cutting-edge training. Get a health consultation with one of our doctors to start your health journey. The best is yet to come! Think differently – and THRIVE. We are here to help! Contact a Wellness Way clinic today and set yourself firmly on the path to wellness!
- NIH scientists find link between allergic and autoimmune diseases in mouse study: NIH
- Chronic Inflammation and Cancer: PubMed
- Zonulin, regulation of tight junctions, and autoimmune diseases: PubMed
- Early-life exposure to air pollution and childhood allergic diseases: an update on the link and its implications: Taylor & Francis Online
- Association between exposure to pesticides and allergic diseases in children and adolescents: a systematic review with meta-analysis: ScienceDirect
- Allergic Response May Be Caused by Heavy Metal Food Pollutant: Technology Networks Applied Sciences
- Is stress making your allergy symptoms worse?: Harvard Health Publishing
- Stress and food allergy: mechanistic considerations: PubMed
- Anti-allergic activity of standardized extract of Albizia lebbeck with reference to catechin as a phytomarker: PubMed
- Nettle extract (Urtica dioica) affects key receptors and enzymes associated with allergic rhinitis – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Are There Health Benefits to Eating Organ Meat?: WebMD
- 7 Impressive Reasons To Eat Mushrooms: Cleveland Clinic