Food Allergies and Intolerances

Posted by sarah on September 18, 2014


The word ‘allergy’ was first used in 1906 to describe any unusual reaction by the body to something from its environment; this included food, drink, dust and environmental chemicals.

Food allergies are now classed as either IgE-Mediated or Non-IgE-Mediated reactions; the distinction clarifying whether IgE cells in the immune system are involved in the reaction or not.  Food allergies can provoke dramatic and life threatening responses such as anaphylactic shock or more chronic reactions like eczema where mast cells in the skin are sensitised to the Ig-E antibodies and release large amounts of histamine, causing swelling, redness and itching.

Food intolerance describes a variety of reactions to foods which may or may not involve the immune system.  Lactose intolerance for example is caused by a lack of lactase enzyme which is required for the digestion of lactose, a milk sugar.  This type of intolerance is an enzyme deficiency and does not involve the immune system.  Research into the involvement of IgG antibodies in food intolerance reactions is ongoing.

Food intolerances commonly produce more chronic and life-limiting but not life threatening symptoms including headaches, digestive problems, joint pains and fatigue.


Diet and Lifestyle

Discovering which food or foods are causing the symptoms is the key to managing food allergies and intolerances.  This can be done through an elimination diet process which seeks to remove as many potential allergens as possible then gradually reintroduce them one by one and notice which foods cause symptoms; or through various IgE and IgG blood and skin tests. 

Providing holistic support to the digestive and immune systems is crucial in order to encourage normal immune function and optimise the digestion of foods and absorption of nutrients.

Avoid caffeinated drinks as caffeine and methylxanthines impair nutrient absorption and can irritate the digestive tract; replace with 1.5l of water, herb teas and redbush tea.  Include a range of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables for their antioxidant contents; vitamin C has natural anti-histamine actions and alongside vitamins A and E and the minerals zinc and selenium supports healthy immune function. 

Dark green leafy vegetables supply magnesium and B-vitamins, necessary for energy production and adrenal support; adrenal fatigue or exhaustion can contribute to the development of food intolerances.  Vitamin B6 is necessary for effective histamine detoxification.

Nuts, seeds, oily fish and cold-pressed organic seed oils are rich in essential fats needed for immune function and reducing any inflammation triggered by allergies or intolerances.