Understanding Your Food Sensitivities Can Improve Quality of Life
Over the last several thousand years, the need for survival has seen humans develop a high tolerance to most foods. However, some people’s immune systems react to certain food components – antigens– by seeing them as a threat to health. When this happens the immune system tries to destroy these invading antigens, which provokes an allergic reaction in the body. This is what we refer to when we use the term ‘food allergy’. How a food allergy is treated depends upon the type of allergy it is.
Types of food allergies, their symptoms and treatment
There are three types of food allergy, scientifically differentiated by the antibodies produced and the pathological pathways seen.
The most acute of food allergies is acute symptomatic food allergy type 1. This type brings on symptoms within minutes or even seconds after ingestion of the offending food. Typical symptoms include itching and redness of the skin, caused by the release of large amounts of histamine which lead to swelling of mucosa (linings of the skin). In the worst cases, anaphylaxis can occur. Immediate care is required, and this may include intensive care.
Far less severe is asymptomatic food allergy type 1. The antibody released by the immune system is IgG4 (whereas acute symptomatic food allergy type 1 releases IgE). IgG4 doesn’t produce an inflammatory reaction, and patients rarely suffer any symptoms, in fact, they may never know they have a food allergy, and this type of allergy is considered harmless. However, depending upon the ratio of Ig4 to IgE antibodies a food allergy may become symptomatic.
Finally, food allergy type III is characterised by delayed symptoms manifesting themselves between two hours and three days after ingestion. These are also known as food intolerances. Symptoms of food intolerance may include skin conditions, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, sore joints, tiredness, headaches or even depression.
Though the symptoms of food allergy type I can be treated (for example with anti-histamine), the only lasting treatment for all food allergies is the elimination of offending foods from the diet. Type 1 allergies are usually permanent, whereas Type III allergies can change over time depending on your diet.
Type I food allergies usually need to be managed by allergy specialists, while type III may be treated by health practitioners and aided by the adjustment of food intakes. This treatment requires time to work and deep nutritional knowledge to be effective. It is best to undertake a food intolerance test in order to correctly identify which foods you should avoid and which ones are safe for you to eat.
What causes food allergies?
While the existence of a food allergy is ‘in the blood’, current thinking is that type III food allergy is becoming more prevalent and is encouraged by a number of contributing factors including:
- A monotonous diet
- Composition of modern foodstuffs, especially more gluten
- Increase in the use of processed foods
- Increase in environmental pollution
- Increase in the use of drugs
Food allergy type I and type III are caused by different immune responses. This causes different diseases which require different health management routines. Food allergy type III causes chronic inflammatory diseases. IgG testing enables discovery of possible foods causing food allergy III, and by avoiding these foods quality of life is greatly improved.