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Food Allergies -- Do You Have Unexplained Symptoms?

August 04, 2007 | 95,116 views

Food allergies, which claim the lives of 100 to 200 people and send another 30,000 to the emergency room each year, are on the rise in the United States.

In fact, they’ve doubled in the last 15 years, according to this Washington Post article, and now affect 4 percent of adults, and 8 percent of children aged 2 and under.

There are many theories about why food allergies are now classified as a public health problem. Among them is the hygiene hypothesis, which contends that growing up in an overly sterile environment can cause our immune systems to overreact when they’re confronted with harmless substances.

Some also blame changes in the way food is processed, genetically engineered foods, or the age when solid foods are first given to infants.

Just eight common foods—milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (like cashews), fish, shellfish, soy and wheat (gluten)—account for about 90 percent of all allergy reactions in the United States. However, you can also be allergic or sensitive to food additives like artificial colors or preservatives.

The Washington Post July 10, 2007


Dr. Mercola's Comments:

While some food allergy reactions are dramatic (like anaphylactic shock), others -- like dizziness, fatigue, headaches, or panic attacks -- can be stealthy, and much harder to link to an actual food or food additive.

If you suspect you may have a food allergy, or are having unexplained symptoms, it’s worthwhile to find out if you may have an underlying food sensitivity.

Allergies VS. Sensitivities: Is There a Difference?

The terms allergy and sensitivity are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference. Some sensitivities are not true allergies.

Allergies occur when your immune system overreacts to environmental triggers, causing tissue inflammation, organ dysfunction and an array of other symptoms. Sensitivities may include both true allergies, or reactions that do not affect your immune system.

Both allergies and sensitivities can invoke an immune system response, but allergies typically trigger immediate antibody reactions in your bloodstream, whereas sensitivities trigger slower responses within your cells.

What Causes Food and Chemical Sensitivities?

Your body is a complex system that can easily be thrown out of balance by environmental influences like foods and chemicals. Your body's ability to compensate and recover from the daily onslaught of toxic substances, chemicals and processed foods determines whether you experience sensitivity symptoms.

For instance, most all of us are exposed to exhaust fumes, pesticides, paint or carpet vapors and other environmental chemicals, and many of us eat foods like sugar and grains despite being sensitive to them. As I said above, the symptoms can be very subtle. You might not see the immediate connection between your foggy head and fatigue, and the bread you eat or the fumes you inhale while sitting in traffic, unless you are aware that these substances might play a role.

The best way to find out if you have a food or chemical sensitivity is to keep a food diary. By keeping careful and detailed records, it is possible to sort many allergies out without having to undergo expensive testing.

Tips to Resolve Your Symptoms

In terms of food sensitivities, a comprehensive nutritional approach is vital, as most people's sensitivities dramatically improve when they follow my nutrition plan. This includes avoiding sugar, fruit juices, most grains, and pasteurized dairy products. Replacing commercial milk with raw milk from grass-fed cows is usually well tolerated and highly health promoting.

Another important principle is to avoid all gluten for a few weeks. That would mean absolutely no wheat products. We are starting this approach with all of our new patients in my clinic and getting really great results. It is quite shocking how many people are actually gluten sensitive; their condition radically improves once the wheat is removed from their diet.

Studies show that genetically modified (GM) foods contribute to food allergies and cause other health problems. This Non-GMO Shopping Guide is a great tool to help you determine which brands and products contain GM organisms, Print it out and take it with you every time you go to the grocery store.

Making certain that enough long-chain animal based omega-3 fats (DHA and EPA) from fish or krill oils are included in your diet is also helpful.

Chemical sensitivity is a very real affliction, and those who suffer from it are not making their symptoms up. However, the causes of chemical sensitivity can extend beyond just the physical -- there are often emotional traumas, sometimes not readily apparent to the sufferer, that have set the stage for the major disruptions in the detoxification and immune systems. In these cases, emotional treatments like the psychological acupressure method known as the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) can be extremely helpful.

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