Food allergy and food intolerances are becoming more widely recognised amongst nutritional and conventional medical practitioners. Food allergies can be quite a serious condition, such as a child having an allergy to nuts and when consuming them they could go in to anaphylactic shock that could be life threatening. Less seriously they could suffer from a runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing or wheezing.
A food allergen causes an immune response whereby IgE antibodies attack the allergen and release histamine which causes the symptoms described above. These IgE mediated food allergies could manifest themselves in conditions such as asthma, eczema or hay fever as well as recurrent colds and infections.
Another food mediated immune response is known as a food intolerance. This happens when there is an IgG or IgA response to food associated with degranulation of basophils and mast cells that create inflammation. Considered to be less severe than a food allergy, food intolerances can manifest as low grade “silent inflammation” with sub clinical symptoms such as brain fog, irritable bowel, headaches or low energy. These IgG mediated food intolerances may also create no outward symptoms at all but can be creating havoc on the inside. Research from the Clinical Institute of Medical and Chemical Laboratory Diagnostics in Austria have shown that obese children have significantly higher IgG antibodies against certain foods than normal weight children. These IgG antibodies are associated with thickening of the common carotid arteries. The authors state that these findings raise the possibility that IgG mediated food antigens are pathogenetically involved in the development of obesity and atherosclerosis.
Unfortunately, many conventional doctors and dieticians may tell you there is no such thing as food intolerances; however you can easily test yourself with a reliable home test kit called a York Test. You can also see that food manufacturers are now embracing the idea of food intolerances and are providing foods that are gluten, wheat or dairy free.
The most common food intolerances are wheat, gluten, cow’s milk, eggs, soy and yeast. These foods are found in bread, pasta, bakery products, dairy products and soy products. If you can’t afford a food intolerance test (as they can be between £170 and £265) then you can do an elimination diet. London nutritionist Steve Hines elimination diet consists of the following:
For 2 weeks eliminate all potential food intolerances and just eat the following foods – all meat, seafood, poultry and fish (except tuna, and swordfish) as your source of protein. Chicken, turkey, seafood and white fish are generally lower in calories and fat, however you should still eat oily fish a couple times a week and can occasionally have dark meats such as lamb or beef. Combine these protein sources with unlimited amounts of vegetables such as artichokes, avocado (1 a day), asparagus, aubergine, bamboo shoots, beetroot greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, raw carrots, celery, chard, collards, courgette, cucumber, fennel, green beans, kale, lettuce leaves (all types), mushrooms, olives (3 a day), onions, parsley, peas, peppers, radishes, sauerkraut, spinach, tomatoes, turnips, water chestnuts and watercress. During this 2 weeks don’t eat grains, fruits, dairy, starchy vegetables or drink alcohol. This will help your immune system to calm down, it will allow your gut to heal and you will also lose a little weight.
After the initial 2 weeks of food elimination you should follow what is known as a Palaeolithic diet for a further 2 to 4 weeks. This will further allow your immune system and gut to heal and still excludes many common food intolerances. This part of the elimination diet includes:
- All the meat, fish, seafood and poultry you can eat
- Unlimited vegetables
- All fruits
- All nuts
- Olive oil, coconut oil, coconut milk, herbs and spices.
- No grains, dairy or legumes
- If you suffer from or have a family history of autoimmune disease then no eggs, nuts and seeds, tomatoes, potatoes, aubergine or peppers.
You can also eat ginger, garlic, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, turmeric, basil, thyme, oregano, black pepper, sage, cardamom, as well as lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, horseradish and pickles to add flavour and variety to your food. After this time of food elimination it’s time to start reintroducing some of the foods you have been avoiding, one at a time, to see if you start getting some of your old symptoms back again. For example continue eating the Paleo way but add back to your diet some dairy for a week, re-evaluate how you feel, if some of your symptoms return remove dairy again and try adding back grains for a week. Keep either removing offending foods or adding back non-offending foods until you feel you are happy with how you look and feel.
Here are some good resources:
How to Cook for Food Allergies: Understand Ingredients, Adapt Recipes with Confidence and Cook for an Exciting Allergy-Free Diet – by Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne
Wilders-Truschnig M, Mangge H, Lieners C, Gruber H, Mayer C, März W. (2008) IgG antibodies against food antigens are correlated with inflammation and intima media thickness in obese juveniles. Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes. 116(4): 241-5.