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Food Allergies, Intolerances and Other Reactions

Food Allergy Testing Bay Area

One person’s food is another person’s poison.” Lucretius

There are many different ways that the immune system can react to food.  An IgG (Immunoglobulin type G) reaction is a delayed, systemic inflammatory response to a food, which can show up as behavior problems in children – or pain, fatigue and irritability in adults, hours or even days after eating the offending food, making it very difficult to pinpoint which food is causing the problem.

An example of this is a child in my practice that would sometimes have unexplained tantrums.  The IgG food test showed a strong reaction to pork. The mother realized that the child often had these tantrums in the afternoons on the days that she fed him bacon for breakfast.  When she stopped the bacon, the tantrums went away.  An adult example is a mom who tested strongly reactive to wheat.  She realized that if she ate wheat toast for breakfast, she developed pain in her hips and other joints later that day. Stopping the wheat toast helped to alleviate her joint pain.

An IgG reaction to food is called a food intolerance instead of a true food allergy, but it can cause many symptoms just the same.  Many chronic systemic illnesses are worsened by anything that promotes inflammation, so removing IgG reactive foods can improve inflammation in the brain and GI tract, as well as the rest of the body.  Most doctors do not bother to test for IgG food intolerances, so this problem is often overlooked.  However, chronic untreated food reactions can wear out and weaken the immune system over time, leaving the body more vulnerable to infections and eventually possibly even cancer.

A simple blood test can help identify the IgG reactive foods which are causing challenging behaviors, worsening gut, brain, and body inflammation, and making people feel bad.  When the offending foods are removed, improvements are often seen in areas such as attention, cognition, behavior, and sleep.

  • Chronic coughing
  • Gagging
  • Ear infections
  • Earaches
  • Hearing loss
  • Stuffy nose
  • Sinus problems
  • Hay fever
  • Sneezing attacks
  • Excessive mucous
  • Watery eyes
  • Itchy eyes
  • Swollen eyelids
  • Dark circles
  • Blurred vision
  • Acne
  • Hives
  • Rashes
  • Hair loss
  • Flushing/hot flashes
  • Excessive sweating
  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety, fear
  • Irritability, anger
  • Depression
  • Aggressiveness
  • Nervousness
  • Chest congestion
  • Asthma, bronchitis
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Binge eating
  • Cravings
  • Excessive weight
  • Compulsive eating
  • Water retention
  • Underweight
  • Poor memory
  • Confusion
  • Poor concentration
  • Stuttering, stammering
  • Learning disabilities
  • Pain in joints
  • Arthritis
  • Stiffness
  • Limitation of movement
  • Aches in muscles
  • Feeling of weakness
  • Headaches
  • Faintness
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Rapid heart
  • Chest pains
  • Frequent illness
  • Urgent urination
  • Genital itch

When patients have many strong IgG reactions to foods, it is often a sign of a “leaky gut.”  If a patient continues to eat a strongly reactive IgG food, it can make the leaky gut worse, causing a vicious cycle of intestinal damage and inflammation.  When we have a healthy GI tract, the food that we eat stays inside the GI tract the whole way through.  But when there is inflammation and microscopic damage to the tight junctions between cells in the GI tract, the intestines can become leaky and food particles can enter the bloodstream, where the immune system reacts to it as a foreign substance, causing the IgG immune reactions.  There are many causes of a leaky gut.  Toxins such as heavy metals, infections such as yeast overgrowth, viruses (including measles virus), Lyme spirochetes, bad bacteria or parasites, autoimmune diseases, all promote a leaky gut.  It is important to work on healing the leaky gut or else the patient will become intolerant to any food that they eat.  Taking probiotics and digestive enzymes, detoxifying, treating infections, avoiding offending foods, rotating foods in a varied diet, and anti-inflammatory treatments such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy and taking the right supplements are all helpful in healing the leaky gut.  With IgG reactions to foods, quantity often matters.  If an IgG reaction is mild, the patient may be able to eat a small amount of that food once or twice a week and not have symptoms.  For severe reactions, the food will need to be removed completely for several months to years, depending on the patient, during which time it is important to work on healing the GI tract.  If those treatments are successful, it is often possible to reintroduce some of the offending foods in small, rotating amounts in the future.  IgG reactions are not permanent or life-threatening, and they fluctuate constantly.  When an IgG positive food is removed from the diet, the immune reaction will fade over time.  This is why it is important to re-test for IgG food reactions approximately every 6-12 months. Anti-histamines do not help with this type of immune reaction, but a medicine called Chromalyn can help decrease the level of inflammation associated with IgG food reactions in some cases.

It is important to realize that patients have many different branches to their immune system, and many of them can react to foods differently.

Some patients will also have an IgE, or immediate, histamine-mediated reaction to foods.  Anti-histamines can help with this kind of reaction, if it is mild.  This is often called a “true” food allergy, because the word “allergy” was initially defined as being mediated via IgE alone.  This is the kind of allergy that can be caused by inhalants such as pollens or pet dander, causing itchy, watery eyes, sneezing and coughing, and may worsen asthma.  The most well-known type of  IgE food allergy is a severe peanut allergy, where the patient cannot ingest or often even touch or inhale any product made with peanuts.  This type of allergy is called “anaphylactic” and can be life-threatening, and patients may need to carry an epi-pen to treat unexpected exposures.   Patients can become anaphylactic to other foods or products such as latex as well.  IgE reactions are often tested for by skin tests, but skin testing is not very accurate for food allergies.  A simple blood test can also identify IgE food allergies.  Often these patients will have high levels of IgE in their blood, and have lots of  Eosinophils (a type of allergic blood cell) on a CBC test.  Milder forms of IgE reactions to foods can cause symptoms such as hyperactivity, rashes, phlegm, etc.  This also causes inflammation in the body.  It is important to avoid IgE reactive foods.  These reactions tend to be more permanent.  At this time, it is not possible to recover from an anaphylactic food allergy, but with treatments that work to help balance the immune system, it is often possible to decrease the IgE reactivity of many patients.

In addition, some patients have IgA reactions to foods.  This is usually a direct, intestinal reaction to the food.  IgA lines the intestines and mucous membranes of the body like a protective layer, where it can trap and kill invading organisms that enter our GI tract or nose and sinuses before they have a chance to make us sick.  Think of it like fly paper – sticky stuff to trap and kill bugs.  But if IgA becomes reactive to certain foods, it can cause an intestinal reaction, such as abdominal pain or diarrhea when that food is eaten.  IgA is also a delayed reaction to foods, which is also hard to detect clinically without a blood test, and IgA reactions can lead to IgG reactions over time.  If a patient has GI symptoms, it is important to test this food reaction as well.

Gluten intolerance is much more common that people realize.  Many unexplained health problems can disappear when gluten is eliminated from the diet.  For example, many children who exhibit ADD symptoms have a gluten and dairy reaction, and when they eliminate those foods the “ADD” disappears.  Another example from my practice is a highly successful business man who suddenly developed severe pain throughout his entire body.  It became so bad that at times he could hardly move and it made it almost impossible for him to work.  He had already had the million dollar medical work-up before he came to see me.  Nothing had worked.  I did some tests, started him on some supplements, and told him to eliminate gluten.  Within a month, all of his pain was gone and he was back to normal. Most of the standard blood tests and even intestinal biopsies that are done to diagnose gluten intolerance are inaccurate, and will only show positive when the reaction is very advanced and a lot of intestinal damage has been done. However, there is a new blood test available that we can do at this office that is much more accurate, and tests approximately 20 different markers for gluten reactions. The most extreme gluten reaction is Celiac Disease, which is quite serious and requires a very strict adherence to a gluten-free diet.

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