Your Symptom: Food Allergies, Intolerance…or?

Welcome to the land of food allergies. It’s a confusing, frustrating, unfair, maddening and complicated place. Life can be a real bummer when you have to watch what you eat all the time. I know because I also have food allergies (read my story below). The good news is that once you navigate your way through and know what to eat and what not to eat, things get better really fast. Taking certain foods out of your diet and enjoying life is way better than being sick, feeling bad and not knowing why.

Who is at risk? I’ve seen a higher risk of food allergies and intolerances after trauma, illness or surgery, after extensive antibiotics, with hormonal changes, in people who move to a new country, in pregnant women and also after very stressful periods, either physically through extreme sport or spiritually/emotionally. I’ve also worked with infants reacting to certain foods that were being passed through breast milk and I’ve also had cases of babies reacting to formulas, even organic. If your newborn is crying all the time and never sleeps, I highly and seriously recommend that you make some changes to their food. I’ve had mothers tell me that they have a different child after working with me. This stuff can truly be life-changing, for the better.

My Food Intolerances

I started with a classic latex allergy which began while working as an Environmental Engineer for the US EPA almost 20 years ago. As part of the job, I had to wear latex booties and gloves and before long, I got contact dermatitis from the latex. No big deal; changed to nitrile gloves and all was fine. (Latex is a very common allergy for workers like nurses and lab techs who are required to wear gloves.)

A few years later, I noticed having a severe reaction after eating avocado. Eventually, I just avoided avocado to prevent further projectile vomiting. Then, a few years later, I started having intense cramping, nausea and stomach pains after eating mango. Later I discovered that both avocado and mango are cross-reactive with latex since they all contain a similar protein in the oils from the tree.

The worst part for me was when I started to develop a severely itchy rash. For 2.5 years I suffered. I went through the ringer with doctors and got no answers. I could not leave the house without calamine lotion and antihistamines. Eventually, I developed an elimination diet and traced the cause of my reaction to certain flavor enhancers in food. I then discovered the whole world of chemical food additives and learned how much damage they’re causing to many people’s health.

Improving my gut health with detox, probiotics and digestive enzymes has helped immensely but mostly I simply avoid certain foods. Admittedly it’s difficult for me to eat out and when I travel, I have to be very careful. I’ve long since gotten over the social stigma and I don’t really care if people think I’m orthorexic or if it’s in my head. Science is just starting to catch up with the reality of what we are living in: a world full of toxic chemicals in the air, water and food that eventually can start to make you sick. It’s a real life experiment, and we’re the mice!

10 Symptoms of Food Allergy or Intolerance

Puffiness in the eyes, face or hands

Swollen tongue or itchy mouth

Headaches, dizziness and even vertigo

Itchy rash – hands, elbows, legs, torso, face, back, neck, anywhere

Gas pain, bloating, vomiting or diarrhea

Acid reflux or constant clearing of the throat

Joint pain

Mucous or catarrh

Foggy brain, trouble concentrating, mood swings, irritability

Fatigue, depression, heart palpitations, anxiety

Don't worry. I'll teach you how to read food labels and know exactly what to look for! (Photo from AARD)

Don’t worry. I’ll teach you how to read food labels and know exactly what to look for! (Photo from AARD)

Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance

Food Allergies

An allergic reaction occurs when the immune system abnormally overreacts to a foreign, otherwise harmless substance. Whether it’s eaten, inhaled through the lungs, injected, or simply touched, the immune system recognizes it as a red flag danger. In an attempt to protect the body, the immune system produces antibodies that cause histamines to release into the bloodstream. The histamines trigger allergic reactions such as coughing, sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose, rashes, and scratchy throats. Severe cases, known as anaphylaxis, can cause difficulty breathing, asthma attacks, and even death. There is no cure for allergies, although new research linking the bacterial microbiome in the gut with higher risk of certain allergies is making a promising link that some allergies may be connected to lack of certain species of gut microbes. The future of food allergy treatment could very well be all about gut health.

If you have an allergic reaction you may notice a red skin rash, swelling, difficulty breathing or even a drop in blood pressure. Most people know what their allergies are at a young age, but some can develop later in life. The best way to get allergy tested is to go to an allergist and have either a skin prick test or a blood test. Both the blood test and the skin prick tests detect IgE antibodies to specific foods. (IgE is “immunoglobulin E,” the antibody that triggers food allergy symptoms.)

The most common food allergies diagnosed today are: Eggs, fish, milk, tree nuts (including hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, and Brazil nuts), peanuts, shellfish (including shrimps, mussels, and crab), soy, and wheat.

Food Intolerances

Food intolerance symptoms are not life-threatening and usually have a more delayed reaction time, anywhere from 1 to 36 hours depending on the level of sensitivity. They can cause a cocktail of symptoms including rashes, puffiness, migraine headaches, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, stomach pains, cramping, difficulty concentrating, irritability, etc. Food intolerances can be misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia, ADHD, chronic fatigue syndrome, auto-immune disease, Lyme’s disease, eczema, psoriasis and other chronic health conditions. Infertility can even be related to food intolerances. Like allergies, an intolerance can develop at any age.

I see a lot of clients with both food allergies and food intolerances. Food intolerances are much more tricky to figure out because you won’t get a positive IgE test like you would with a classic allergy. But, you can still feel like you got hit by a truck even if you only have an intolerance. Doing an elimination diet is key; that means taking out certain foods or groups of food for a period of time. With food allergies, we often have to look at cross-reactive foods to successfully eliminate all of your triggers and get you feeling human again. I will never tell you to stop antihistamines or steroids but I hope that one day you may be able to abandon them on your own. Believe me when I say I know your pain. I think no matter what, you have to work with someone who’s been there.

Many of my clients have already tried eliminating wheat, gluten and dairy by the time they find me; however they are still have flare-ups and can’t figure out why.

Why are Food Allergies on the Rise?

This is the million dollar, or if you add in the pharmaceutical industry + Monsanto’s profits, the trillion dollar question. I am not a medical doctor and I can only speak from personal experience, but in my non-medical opinion, I think there are 3 major reasons why food allergies have been on the rise, especially in the last 20 years:

  1. More genetically modified foods (GMO) in the food chain containing unnatural proteins in high amounts, making the body over-reactive to all types of natural proteins found in normal food;
  2. Years of over-prescribed antibiotics that have disturbed natural gut flora and eliminated many good bacteria needed to digest proteins in food;
  3. Massive overuse of pesticides and chemical food additives that simply put the body into toxic overdrive.

Sadly, most research is combined with trials of new drugs and does not look for natural “cures.” If you don’t believe me, check out this announcement from John Hopkins researchers where they’ve a “made the connection” between restless leg syndrome and high levels of glutamate in the brain…and guess what? They’re going to make a new drug for it! Of course, no doctor will tell you to simply stop eating foods high in Monosodium Glutamate to reduce your high glutamate levels naturally! Do you see what we are really up against here?

Release Date: May 7, 2013 Johns Hopkins researchers believe they may have discovered an explanation for the sleepless nights associated with restless legs syndrome (RLS), a symptom that persists even when the disruptive, overwhelming nocturnal urge to move the legs is treated successfully with medication. The small new study, headed by Richard P. Allen, Ph.D., an associate professor of neurology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, used MRI to image the brain and found glutamate — a neurotransmitter involved in arousal — in abnormally high levels in people with RLS. The more glutamate the researchers found in the brains of those with RLS, the worse their sleep. If confirmed, the study’s results may change the way RLS is treated. Allen says there are already drugs on the market, such as the anticonvulsive gabapentin enacarbil, that can reduce glutamate levels in the brain, but they have not been given as a first-line treatment for RLS patients.

How to Find Relief

When you work with me, I start by asking about your symptoms. Do you have headaches, are you sensitive to light? Do you have trouble concentrating? Hot feet at night? Sticky eyes? It’s like a maze; when I get a YES, I know which way to turn and ask again. After that, I ask a series of questions in great detail about what you eat. If you use tomato sauce, I might ask to read me the ingredients. If you use supplements, I ask which ones and what brands. If you eat yogurt or rice pasta or get vegan soup from your local veggie restaurant, I may ask to track down the ingredients. I ask what kind of oil, vinegar, spices, and even what type of salt you use. I want to know what you order when you go out and what your favorites foods are. I know what patterns to look for with your symptoms because I’ve worked with over 4,000 clients and I’ve learned the patterns.

I can save you years of misery by personalizing an elimination diet for you. Once we identify your high allergen foods, I help you understand how to order at restaurants, what to do when traveling, how to deal with social situations and essentially how to live a safe and healthy life even with food sensitivities. I may also advise some type of detox program and added steps to rebuild your gut health, depending on the case.

I explain the reasoning for every change so you understand and learn what to look out for in the future. You do NOT have to go on a raw food or even vegan diet to get results.

Two things you will need to succeed in overcoming food allergies and intolerances:
1) Patience.
2) Perseverance.

That’s the reality. Take a deep breathe, accept that it will take time but know that you CAN find relief.

For these cases, it is essential to book a Skype session so we can discuss your situation in detail. Usually there is a progression of steps and it takes time in between to see what’s working. In my experience, the 2-month program is best for real results.

Everything starts with personal choice,
realizing that you can make choices and changes in your diet and lifestyle.