Ahh, Spring! The weather gets warmer, the flowers are in bloom, and seasonal allergies start to act up. You may or may not experience seasonal allergies, but what about adverse reactions to food? Food sensitivities are on the rise. The CDC reported in 2008 that there has been an 18% increase in food allergies from 1997-2007. In the last few years there has been an explosion of gluten free, soy free, dairy free products on the market, and for good reason. Food sensitivities are the result of toxic responses to food and are divided into two categories: allergic reactions and food intolerances. Both categories can increase inflammatory processes within the body and prevent weight loss.
A food allergy is an immune reaction to certain foods. The 8 most common food allergens are: milk, eggs, fish, Crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soybeans. Although these are the most common there are over 160 foods that can cause allergic reactions in people. Food can cause pretty severe reactions in people who are highly allergic. Food allergies are a concern, but if you don’t have one there is still a possibility of having a food intolerance (or sensitivity).
Symptoms of food sensitivities include: vomiting, diarrhea, eczema, hives, skin rashes, wheezing and runny noses. These symptoms are commonly associated with an allergic reaction, but there are other symptoms (non-immune) that make food intolerances harder to diagnose. Intolerance to food can cause fatigue, mood swings, nervousness, gas, bloating, and migraines. Food sensitivities on a whole can also contribute to other chronic health conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, headaches, autism, ADD/ADHD, eczema, chronic ear infections, irritable bowl syndrome, insomnia and many others.
Your Immune System
Food allergies occur when certain foods react with our immune system, which is the system that helps the body rid itself of foreign and harmful materials. The majority of harmful matter enters through the digestive tract, making it the place where 60-70% of immune reactions take place. Food antigens are molecules that the body identifies as harmful. Histamine is released from the immune cells, which alerts “scavenger” type cells to come and destroy the “harmful” antigens.
Histamine also brings blood and lymph fluid to the site of the reaction. As histamine is produced, the body reacts by sneezing, coughing, producing hives, causing the nose to run, and forming tears. The immune system makes things called antibodies, which attach themselves to the antigens so the scavenger cells will know what cells to attack and expel from the body. An allergic reaction happens when excessive histamine is released, which can sometimes cause anaphylactic reactions in people. That is a very serious reaction and requires immediate medical attention. Most people know if they have a severe reaction to food, but what about less severe and less identifiable reactions to food?
Food intolerances do not involve the immune system, so the symptoms of intolerance may be more difficult to notice. There are many reasons food intolerance occurs: you may have difficulty breaking down a component in a food or you may just be sensitive to certain foods, spices, or food additives. By eating the food you are intolerant of, you are compromising the health of the entire gastrointestinal (GI) tract. A compromised GI tract can make you even more susceptible to food allergies and other sensitivities.
Complete Clinics is now offering food allergy/sensitivity testing. So if you feel like your weight loss efforts have slowed or stopped, food allergy testing may be the next step in your weight loss program. Food intolerances and allergies can negatively affect your weight loss by increasing gut inflammation and promoting weight gain. Please talk to one of our clinicians about food allergy testing and how it may help you reach your weight loss goals.