Walk into any bookstore or browse online for a new cookbook and you will find an endless number of recipes that are focused on allergy- free eating. Gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan: many people are making different choices in the foods they eat. For many people, the simple joy of eating has a dark side as some foods can cause the body to react negatively and may promote undue inflammation and damage.
Millions of people are affected by food allergies, defined by the European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology as an immune mediated, clinically evident reaction to food. These immune reactions trigger antibodies to the food and start inflammatory processes and allergy symptoms. The most commonly discussed immune reaction is an Immediate Onset Hypersensitivity Reaction (IgE) that presents with hives, swelling, asthma or distressing digestive symptoms. These reactions are often severe and easier to connect to the food culprit. Skin scratch tests are useful for eliciting these reactions.
Other immune reactions to food can be delayed by hours or even days after exposure to the offending food. These are considered Delayed Onset Hypersensitivity Reactions (IgG and IgA). These reactions tag foods as being foreign and mount an attack against the food. Symptoms may be low-grade and chronic and can involve any site or organ system in the body. Because of the delay in symptoms, these types of reactions go unrecognized and may not be easily connected back to a food. Many people who are gluten sensitive have this delayed reaction and may not present with a positive test on a scratch test or with a biopsy.
Many people have food reactions and may not correlate them to something in their diet due to the delay in reaction time. Conditions such as IBS, migraines, arthritis, asthma, fatigue, and “brain fog” are just a few of the problems people often suffer from when there is a food allergy involved.
Discovering food allergies can be done with a blood test that is evaluated for the level of antibodies to each food. Typically we test for 95 common foods with either a blood draw for adults or a finger prick for children. These tests are simple, effective, accurate and have given many people answers to common health issues. Finding out your food allergies can be the first step in discovering the cause of many health problems.
Dr. Shelby Entner is a naturopathic physician at Okanagan Natural Medicine in Vernon.