Food Intolerance vs Allergy
A food intolerance is a digestive imbalance whereby the gut flora (the friendly bacteria that reside in the intestines) have been compromised. An intolerance can cause mild discomfort and take a while to manifest, appearing hours or days later.
An allergy is a powerful and fairly immediate immune response to an allergen. The allergen is usually harmless, it is the immune response that causes damage to the body.
Food intolerances (acquired immune reactions) and food allergies (generic immune reactions) are common sources of inflammation that spread from the gut to the rest of the body. The detox systems become overwhelmed when the small intestine has a reaction to the absorbed food. Symptoms can range from mild such as a running nose and itchy eyes to anaphylaxis which can be fatal.
Examples of allergens:
Chemicals/ detergents/ perfumes/ soaps
In the case of food allergies, the usual suspects are wheat, cow’s milk and all dairy, sugar, yeast, pork, beef, corn, coffee and oranges.
The number of children diagnosed with coeliac disease (auto immune reaction to gluten from wheat, barley and rye) has trebled in the UK over the past 20 years. It’s reckoned around 1% of all children in the UK have the disorder, say researchers from the University of Nottingham.
Dairy can also be a problem for many as we lose the enzyme lactase to breakdown lactose. Not digesting lactose causes bloating, gas, diarrhoea and long term inflammation in the digestive system. Casein a milk protein can also be a problem to digest, too much and it can stress the body and immune system compromising gut flora. Much of the processing that dairy goes through such as pasteurisation and homogenisation changes the milk structurally and destroys good bacteria, digestive enzymes and important nutrients that it’s not surprising that many people have difficulty metabolising this white liquid. Consumed raw direct from the farmer or farmers market, many people are surprised to discover that raw dairy suits them quite well. An allergy of course is more permanent and serious reaction to the milk proteins which are present regardless.
Are we as a nation growing more sensitive to food and developing allergies?
If you eat too much of one food group the body develops an unhealthy relationship with that food; wheat sensitivities and allergies are a growing concern as processed wheat is so frequently available and over consumed in our modern society. It has been noted by renowned Paleo Diet Researcher Dr Lorain Cordain that gluten, the protein in many grains and human synovial tissue, which lines and lubricates the joints, share common gene sequences. This can result in a person’s immune system attacking its own synovial tissue.
The immune system is our defence against diseases and as a means to maintain health and well-being but we need to respect and support it with a healthy diet and lifestyle. Much of the immune system resides in the gut.
If you have taken antibiotics at any point, systemic antibiotics not only kill bacteria causing an infection…[they] are also distributed to other parts of our body where they can kill susceptible bacteria that are part of our normal flora , the consequence can be increased reactivity to food antigens – or food allergy.
American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology annual meeting has shown a credible causation link between antibiotics and allergy1
In their retrospective case–control study, presented as a late-breaking abstract at the meeting, Dr. Love and colleagues found an almost 2-fold increase in food allergy in children exposed to 3 or more courses of antibiotics between the ages of 7 and 12 months.
Causation is not proven here, but indications based on this study and countless discussions with parents who note increased incidences of eczema and food allergy after antibiotics suggest that a relationship does exist.
It’s also wise to avoid junk food: now proven to quadruple your chances of inflammatory gut disease, even if you indulge twice a week. With these factors in mind, healing and repairing the gut in the allergy picture is always a good place to start.
Gut Healing Approaches
The aim of most IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) treatment, whether conventional or holistic, is to suppress the inflammation that is leading to the damaging symptoms, and exposure to environmental pollutants is only one contributing factor.
Some of the most significant contributors to chronic inflammation are lifestyle factors like smoking, a diet high in sugar, fried foods and synthetic trans-fats, inadequate exercise, stress, and vitamin D deficiency.
So if you have IBD, the first place to start to address the disease lies in addressing these underlying factors.
Consider the following lifestyle tips:
Take a high-quality, animal-based omega-3 fat supplement such as Tom Oliver Nutrition2 for the anti-inflammatory benefits. If you’re already taking a plant-based omega-3 such as flax, it may not work as well, as your body needs the preformed omega-3 fat DHA to have a significant impact on this disease — not the omega-3 ALA found in flax. But if you prefer a plant based solution try Viridian joint oil3 which is a natural plant based anti-inflammatory or Udo’s Choice4.
Avoid all types of sugars and processed foods, particularly fructose, as these will increase inflammation by increasing your insulin levels. Here’s an introduction to sweeteners.
Watch out for and avoid these added sugars in foods and your diet:
High fructose corn syrup
Pasteurised honey (most honey is pasteurised unless it states that it is raw)
Artificial sweeteners (they all stimulate sweet receptors in the body and can still cause weight gain) such as aspartame and sucrose have now been linked to insulin resistance and diabetes, although they are not counted as a sugar in many ‘diet’ foods.
Reduce or avoid grains until your symptoms have settled down. Many with inflammatory bowel disease have gluten sensitivities. Additionally, grains tend to increase insulin levels, promoting inflammation.
Avoid artificial sweeteners. Inflammation in the bowel may be caused or exacerbated by the regular consumption of the popular artificial sweetener Splenda, as it inactivates digestive enzymes and alters gut barrier function.
Optimize your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D appears to be nearly as effective as animal-based omega-3 fats in countering IBD. One of the reasons that vitamin D may work is that it helps your body produce over 200 antimicrobial peptides that help fight all sorts of infections, and there are many experts who believe inflammatory bowel disease has an infectious component.
Natural food sources of vitamin D include fish oils, fatty fish, mushrooms, beef, cheese and eggs yolks. Vitamin D is also naturally made by your body when you expose your skin to the sun, (for a short period without sun cream protection) and is called the sunshine vitamin.
Get plenty of beneficial bacteria either through fermented foods or probiotics in your diet, as this will help to heal your intestinal tract.
Probiotics are important to replace what has been lost. It’s important to be discriminating about probiotics: they ideally need to be in the billions, not the millions, and they should have fermented pre-biotics (food) with them plus no added extras such as FOS, maltrodextrin, sucrose or polyunsaturated vegetable oils. Avoid the massed produced functional food probiotic drinks; they are highly processed and full of sugar which is counterproductive and a waste of money.
Prebiotics food for the flora are also useful again just a few:
I highly recommend a probiotic designed for this condition called Kef-Flamex by Livingnutrition.co.uk6. A fermented whole food probiotic with immune modulating Chinese mushrooms and a living food matrix of fermented foods such as kefir and kombucha, it has highly energetic and bio available nutrients, which are optimally used by the body and far more supportive in allowing the body to function. Consider consuming these kinds of fermented foods regularly in your diet too.
Fermented foods to choose from:
Consider using an herbal anti-inflammatory. A solid body of clinical research indicates that the spice turmeric, and its primary golden-hued polyphenol known as curcumin, as well as the Ayurvedic herb boswellia, may provide far superior therapeutic outcomes and safety profiles, as compared to conventional drugs, in the treatment of IBD7. Pukkaherbs.com may provide good quality organic sources of these herbs.
Aloe Vera is a natural anti inflammatory8 that heals and repairs the gut, as well as optimising the uptake of other food supplements and nutrients. Aloe Vera and EFAs work very well together to balance out the astringent qualities of aloe Vera. Aloe also seems to be excellent at regulating the immune system (an immunomodulator) it can also calm the immune system where less immune reaction is of benefit8. My personal preference is Lily of The Desert9 which I have been using for years, which has a high amount of the beneficial polysaccharides. Again it’s important to be discriminating; avoid aloes that have been concentrated or have synthetic preservatives added to them. Be suspicious of network marketing companies claims in this area and choose organic if you can obtain it.
Bone broths heal and seal the gut10. You ideally need free range bones from a butcher (usually obtained for free) boiled for around 8 hours. You can find recipes on Google search very easily.
Mushrooms share 30% of their DNA with us and have numerous health benefits. Chinese mushrooms in particular have been widely used throughout China and within Chinese medicine for centuries and have been extensively studied.
Research shows the polysaccharides (beta glucans and proteoglycans) in mushrooms to be of importance in modulating and supporting the immune system and some have been shown to have anti-allergic properties11.
Chaga contains high levels of betulinic acid and has been popular in Russia and Eastern Europe to heal the gut and moderate the immune system response.
Chaga is highly revered because of its ability to work with the body to support the immune system, eliminate toxins, stimulate the central nervous system, maintain skin colour and elasticity, and promote a youthful look. Chaga is also an important adaptogen, which means its compounds increase the body’s ability to adapt to stress, fatigue, anxiety, inflammation, and changing situations. Chaga is also naturally high in antioxidants.
Mushrooms are best taken as hot water extractions to retain and maximise potency.
My preferred brand choices are: Myco Nutri and Diet Horizon13 formulas which are hot water extractions. Myco Nutri combines the mushroom fruiting body with mycelial biomass for optimal results. Four Sigma Foods14 also offer mushroom teas that are in accessible easy-to-use pouches which taste okay.
Cruciferous vegetables – broccoli, cabbage, red cabbage, kale and cauliflower all contain helpful compounds like sulforaphane15
Sustainable red palm oil – a stable fat, it is safe for cooking, rich in antioxidants, Vitamin E and CoQ10, Vitamin A and Vitamin K which are all important in maintaining antioxidant status.
Pastured Animal fat – Organic free range eggs, free range grass fed animals and their products have a higher anti-inflammatory omega 3 ratio over farmed animals, which are higher in Omega 6 which is easily damaged, oxidised and inflammatory.
Astaxanthin is a red microalgae – the red pigment is also found in wild Alaskan salmon, lobsters and shellfish such as prawns and krill. Astaxanthin is an antioxidant rich carotenoid and a powerful anti-inflammatory, particularity protective for joints and eyes plus protects the skin from sun damage.
“Astaxanthin crosses the blood-brain barrier AND the blood-retinal barrier (beta carotene and lycopene do not), which brings antioxidant and anti-inflammatory protection to your eyes, brain and central nervous system and reduces your risk of cataracts, macular degeneration, blindness, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”
If you are seeking to reduce stress on your body and dampen down the immune response consider slowly introducing these suggestions over a period of weeks to see how your body responds. No one size fits all we all have different metabolisms and needs, so there’s going to be an element of trial and error to find out what is right for you.
 Bryan L. Love, Joshua Mann, James W. Hardin, David Amrol, Antibiotic Exposure and the Risk of Food Allergy in Young Children. View Abstract
7.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9121170 / http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16899957