First let’s look for a moment at some common symptoms of “food allergies”. There’s a wide variety of symptoms, from no noticeable symptoms at all to anaphylactic shock (serious and uncommon). Some others are: diarrhea, excessive gas and bloating, fatigue, weakness, constipation, joint pain, muscle pain, abdominal pain and cramps, low desire to eat, foul smelling floating bowel movements, gloomy feeling, poor concentration, anemia, low mental energy, nausea, headaches, irritability, uncontrolled weight gain or weight loss, lactose intolerance, skin rash.
In brief, the immune system has a variety of ways in which it may react to antigenic (foreign) substances in the body. I’ve heard the terms “allergy”, “intolerance” and “sensitivity” (A/I/S) used interchangeably, without a lot of definition. My experience tells me these are not interchangeable terms, that instead they should be differentiated by their various responses in the body.
o Allergy – Immune response to a substance that can be confirmed with some form of medical testing i.e. blood, skin, urine, stool testing, etc. These tests look at different parts of the immune system to see if their activity is heightened when exposed to specific antigens (IgA, IgG, IgE, IgM). Each of these immunoglobulins (Ig’s) react in different ways producing different symptoms AND different reaction times. Very important to note here is, someone may be allergic to a particular food or chemical and react almost immediately or they may not react for 2-3 DAYS! That makes it even tougher to figure out what the offending substance is.
o Intolerance – Bodily symptoms that result from overexposure to a substance and/or an immune system that is weakened and is having a more difficult time than normal dealing with a particular substance. The substance may or may not be antigenic. This is a “grey” area and is very hard to evaluate. Medical lab testing is VERY confusing here because test results may waver between positive and negative, contingent upon the quantity of the offending substance consumed and the overall integrity of a person’s immune system.
o Sensitivity – This area is even more subtle. I feel this is more of an “energetic” sensitivity. I believe this is what Applied Kinesiologists find when no other method has detected a problem. Kinesiologists such as myself use muscle testing (or Vega testing) to find subtle sensitivities; if a strong muscle goes weak in the presence of an offending substance it is confirmed to be a sensitivity. If it’s a true sensitivity, it cannot be detected with lab tests, however if it’s picked up more than once, lab testing should be done. Sensitivities may or may not produce obvious symptoms.
At this point, my years of experience lead me to believe that all of these may exist simultaneously and may waver with natural (homeostatic) rhythms in the body, and that these categories can be placed on a continuum from least to most severe. I maintain that food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities are an important link in the degenerative disease process. This means that someone may develop a sensitivity to a substance (for example, wheat), and over time, without correcting the sensitivity, may develop into an intolerance and eventually a full blown allergy. If the offending substance is not avoided, there are long term consequences of physical degeneration.
There are many ways in which a sensitivity, intolerance, or full blown allergy may develop. I look at this problem as an “outside-in” AND “inside-out” problem. When educating my patients and clients, I stress that things outside the body such as overexposure to an offending substance, poor diet, environmental toxicity, previous illness, antibiotic therapy, and vaccinations or immunizations, to name a few, may play a role in starting the breakdown of the immune system; that internal dysfunction such as blood sugar regulation, emotional stress, genetic composition, and overall constitution of the person’s immune system may also make people more susceptible to these types of problems.
Something else really worth mentioning and something that really puzzled me for quite some time is the commonly asked question “why are we so attracted to the foods that we’re most sensitive to?” In fact, the problem foods are usually not “attractions”, they’re CRAVINGS! A good friend of mine, and a lifetime medical pediatric allergist explained it to me this way: When we consume a food or beverage we’re allergic or intolerant to, the body produces immunoglobulins and other immune system components to combat the offending proteins. Well, the body doesn’t make EXACTLY the right amount of immune “compliment” to ward off the antigens. It works more on a negative feedback loop much like insulin…when one of the invaders is reduced or eliminated, the immune system begins to slow and eventually stop its reaction. As consequence to the whole event, there may be excess compliment throughout the body with no antigen to fight. What this means is now the excess immune compliment can make us feel sick and we begin to crave the offending food… the offending food actually becomes a MEDICINE, in that eating it can reduce the immune compliment and make us less symptomatic.
Perhaps this also explains why when kicking an addictive drug such as alcohol, tobacco or heroin, going “cold turkey” can produce a lot more symptoms but works quicker than a gradual cutback of the addictive chemical. I have had patients that I’ve found to be A/I/S to certain food(s), removed it from their diet and they actually had withdrawal symptoms. They’d have shakes, cramping, headaches and severe cravings. I usually had them use a little of the offending food a time or two in small quantities to reduce the reaction. Pretty amazing!
What should we do? It depends on the degree of our symptoms. Correction depends upon proper analysis and recommendations. Most of the lab testing is fairly inexpensive and doesn’t need to be repeated much. Most cases of food problems in general can be cleared up by simply reducing or avoiding the offending substance for a reasonable period of time. Seek the care of an appropriate health care provider if you suspect food A/I/S.