Food allergies are becoming and epidemic in this country (Where did those hives come from? (Part 1) ). The good thing is that there is a lot more awareness and acceptance of those who suffer from this problem. There is a wealth of information available for families, schools, food companies and restaurants that can help manage this issue and help prevent needless deaths and illnesses. Nothing is fool proof but the climate is getting better.
But what is a food allergy? And what is the difference between a true food allergy and a food sensitivity or food intolerance?
A food allergy is an immediate immune response that triggers an IgE (immunoglobulin E) reaction. IgE is an antibody to the particular food protein the body does not like. The IgE antibodies become attached to special cells in the body called mast cells, where they can stay for a long period of time without adverse effects. But, repeated exposure to this offensive food protein, causes the sensitized mast cells to lock onto the offending protein and trigger a response. The response is a release of histamine and other inflammatory chemicals that result in symptoms being experienced in the gastro-intestinal tract (GI tract) and other areas of the body (1). It's almost like a case of mistaken identity where the body has erroneously decided harmless food protein is a dangerous invader like a virus, and the flood of histamines is released to rid the body of the intruder. This response can wreak havoc on the body as the flood of inflammatory chemicals are made and delivered needlessly (1). It is therefore extremely important for people suffering from true food allergies to do everything they can to BOOST their immune systems (and stay away from all known offenders).
Food sensitivities occur when antibodies (IgA, IgG, and IgM) are triggered in response to food, chemicals, and microbial toxins. Symptoms can take from several hours to several days to appear which makes it very difficult to track down the offenders. When antibodies bind to antigens, immune complexes are formed. If these complexes are large they are eaten up by macrophages --the garbage men of the immune system. Smaller complexes can bind to tissues and cause problems in the body. IgM antibodies circulate for about three months, until IgG antibodies are released to take over the battle. IgG antibodies are longer lasting and our bodies will keep producing them until we stop the exposing the body to the offenders that are challenging the immune system. Some symptoms include: chronic headaches, runny or stuffy nose, irritable bowel syndrome, hives, hair loss, muscle weakness, mood swings to name a few (2)! Whew!
A food intolerance has to do with the lack of specific enzymes needed to break down specific substances. The most common are: gluten, lactose and fructose intolerance. Intolerances can cause the following symptoms: abdominal cramping, gas, diarrhea, acne, bloating, eczema, headaches, depression, nausea, vomiting and constipation to name a few (2).
So where are the hives coming from?? Allergies? Sensitivities? Intolerances?
In the last few weeks I've talked to 2 families that have children experiencing either a food allergy, sensitivity or intolerance. The first mother described her 13 month old child getting eczema patches on her cheeks. We saw the same thing with Caleb when he ate certain foods. Normally his face is the only part of his body that is eczema free. The second mother talked about her 6 year old breaking out in hives and getting swollen lips. At the age of three similar reactions were occurring but when allergy testing was rendered, nothing was discovered. We have experienced both hives and swollen body parts with Caleb.
Based on my experience, both cases sound like food related reactions. I encouraged the families to start a food log to keep tract of what the children are being fed. For kids, because they cannot always express themselves fully, a food journal or log is absolutely KEY in identifying trends and subsequent preventative methods to quell the adverse reactions. I started a food journal for Caleb after all the allergies were uncovered at 6 months of age. After symptoms decreased and healing took a choke hold on the situation I stopped (4 months ago). Reading labels and asking questions in restaurants is also crucial. Know what you and your children are putting in your bodies!!
Most recently, Caleb broke out in a rash resembling small heat bumps (twice). There was no itching or redness in either case. After some investigation and elimination of veggie chips and raisins all the bumps disappeared. Can you imagine? Raisins???
In order to get to the TRUE root cause as to why you or someone in your family is suffering from vomiting, eczema, hives, and irritable bowel syndrome (to name a few) you have go the extra mile and think outside the box (Radical Practices). Because Caleb's favorite snack (besides bananas - King of Banana Land) started giving him issues -- we've eliminated ALL processed store bought food. This has caused us to think harder about what snacks to give him and dig deeper to prepare the right food that will continue to build his immune system and keep him on the right track.
So where do you think the hives are coming from???? The symptoms for food allergies, sensitivities and intolerances are very similar. How do you figure out which one you or someone you know if suffering from? Stay tuned for Part 3!
Peace and blessings
References for this post:
1 - Caring for your Child with Severe Food Allergies - Lisa Cipriano Collins
2 - Digestive Wellness - Elizabeth Lipski