Believe it or not most of us have varying degrees of health problems caused by the foods we eat. Food intolerances or allergies can lead to many common symptoms and diseases, and surprisingly many foods we think of as healthy are common culprits. Moreover, these foods are often ones we frequently eat. When I say "allergies," most people, including doctors, think of the originally described hypersensitivity reaction that involves the "immediate" immune reaction. This is an obvious reaction such as getting stung by a bee and noting immediate swelling and redness or eating something that causes immediate swelling in the throat or generalized itching.This reaction is mediated by an antibody called IgE and the release of histamine, which causes blood vessels to swell and leak, leading to the familiar symptoms such as hives or hayfever. Common skin tests or serum RAST testing for allergies will test for this reaction.In actuality there are three other immune reactions, one of which takes 12-72 hours to really get going after a trigger is encountered. The main antibody in this immune reaction is called IgG and it can be tested in a blood sample. We refer to these food allergies as "intolerances" or "sensitivities" but this is semantics - they are in fact hypersensitivity reactions that stimulate an abnormal immune system response. I call them "delayed food allergies."
The most common symptoms caused by delayed food allergies are brain fog, fatigue, nasal congestion, indigestion, gas, bloating, diarrhea, rashes and joint aches. We also see mood changes such as depression, anxiety or attention-deficit or hyperactivity. Even weight gain is caused by food allergies - patients commonly lose 10-20 pounds within a few months of removing certain foods from their diet.Another amazing result of food allergies is their connection to diseases, particularly autoimmune diseases. We now know that in order to get certain autoimmune diseases, such as Hashimoto's Thyroiditis, Type-1 diabetes or lupus, you pretty much have to have the right genetics. But not everyone with the right genetics will get these diseases. You must also have a "trigger" that causes an abnormal immune response, which will then overwhelm and confuse the regulating part of your immune system, allowing the appearance of antibodies that begin attacking your own body.Probably most of the time the trigger for autoimmune disease begins in the gut, and most of that is food allergy-related. Other known triggers for autoimmune disease include "leaky" gut, bacterial imbalances in the gut, chronic infections, chemical toxins or heavy metal build-up, hormone imbalances and stress. If you can find and remove the trigger in time, you can reverse the disease!Some foods can literally cause holes in gut lining, known as "leaky gut," which will allow large proteins and toxins to leak from the gut into the bloodstream causing an immune reaction. Foods such as the nightshade family (e.g. tomatoes, peppers, potatoes) can cause "leaky gut" due to breakdown of the proteins that hold gut cells together. Other food families such as chickpeas (Cicer arietinum), soya beans (Glycine max), lucerne (alfalfa) sprouts (Medicago sativa) and varieties of Phaseolus vulgaris (navy beans, haricot beans, kidney beans) contain "saponins" which can also cause leaky gut by literally punching holes in the gut wall.The most common delayed food allergies are to wheat, dairy, egg, corn, soy, sugar and yeast. Any food can be an allergen, but these top the list. One can simply eliminate these foods from their diet and see if they feel better. This is called an "elimination diet." After a month or two of eliminating possible allergic foods, a "food challenge" is then done by reintroducing the foods, one at a time, for several days to see if any symptoms return. Careful tracking of symptoms during the challenge phase is critical in sorting out which foods are really causing problems.Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that is triggered by gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. With exposure to gluten, the immune system begins making antibodies that attack and destroy the muscle lining in the gut, leading to serious problems with malabsorption and leaky gut. Celiac disease is the most well known food allergy syndrome.
The best way to determine if you have food allergies is to get a blood test for IgG antibodies to foods. But don't bother using just any old lab for food allergy testing. At last count I have used 12 labs during two decades of doing food allergy testing and I've come to the conclusion that not all labs can do delayed food allergy testing!I've spent thousands of dollars out of my pocket to do "blinded" testing of various labs and I've busted many with lack of reproducible results. My favorite lab for food allergy testing is Immunolabs (www.immunolabs.com). They have been doing only food allergy tests for over 35 years, are the most accurate, and their follow-up literature and technical help are unsurpassed. You can go online and take a symptom questionnaire to see if you might have food allergies. The cost is $175 for the basic 88-food panel, $355 for the 154-food panel, and we often add specific reflex tests for gluten allergy, celiac disease and Candida overgrowth.Having provided food allergy testing for over almost 20 years I continue to be amazed at the outcomes with the elimination of food allergens. In recent years we test 3 to 4 people each and every week, and I'd estimate 70-80% of all patients tested report positive results, with at least 20 to 30% reporting "amazing" results. For many it was the key to helping them lose weight, cure a chronic illness or markedly improve how they feel.Food allergy testing is easy and I recommend it to everyone. We've seen hundreds of patients undergo amazing recoveries after years of struggling to find an answer to their health problems. Our special food allergy program involves testing with follow up medical and nutritional counseling. Call the clinic at 970-245-6911 if you would like more information or to get tested.Scott Rollins, M.D., is board certified with the American Board of Family Practice and the American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative Medicine. He specializes in bioidentical hormone replacement, thyroid and adrenal disorders, fibromyalgia and other complex medical conditions. He is founder and medical director of the Integrative Medicine Center of Western Colorado (www.imcwc.com) and Bellezza Laser Aesthetics (www.bellezzalaser.com). Call 970-245-6911 for appointments or more information.