With a food allergy or sensitivity, the problematic food can set up a cascade of immune and chemical reactions in the body, usually within minutes or days. If this food is continued to be consumed over time, it can cause an ongoing inflammatory reaction on the lining of the intestines, which can result in the lining becoming unhealthy and ‘leaky’.
Our gut allows the foods and water we consume to enter the body while preventing dangerous toxins and compounds from getting in. When our gut is not working optimally or is in a state of distress, these dangerous compounds can get in our system. The body will also not be fully absorbing the key nutrients it requires for the tasks asked of it.
Not everyone has an allergy or intolerance to foods or food groups. For those who have never experienced an allergic reaction before it can be difficult to accept. It can be difficult to understand how even food that is generally good for us can cause some people such problems.
It’s becoming a popular dieting trend that everyone must restrict their diet to avoid any chance of reactions or responses to certain foods, which shouldn’t be the case.
The Immune Response
We know the strength and importance of our immune system, it’s a complex and connected system that is designed to protect the body. If the immune system cells brand food as an ‘invader’, it will be dealt with by the same process as any other immune response to deal with the food. It’s a smart system too, as it will remember the problematic food and respond in the same fashion with each subsequent exposure.
This response calls forth the body’s energies to protect it, using up macro and micronutrients in order to keep the body safe and protect it. This is why tiredness is strongly linked to those with food sensitivities.
Sensitivities or food intolerances are different from allergies as the onset of symptoms may take several hours to a couple of days to occur. This is from a delayed immune response and they can be much harder to diagnose as a result.
The pathways or mechanisms underlying these food intolerances appear different and vary to that of the allergies. Most probably they are the immune system cells reacting to a chemical that either naturally occurs in food or is added to it at some stage.
There are a number of reasons why people will see an immune response to certain foods or food groups.
There are three main factors that contribute to this process: –
1. An HYPERPERMEABLE GUT (LEAKY GUT SYNDROME)
Leaky gut can be triggered by a number of things, including inflamed gut lining, unbalanced bacteria levels, underlying allergic conditions within the gut, and deficiencies.
The source of these can then typically be linked back to a number of lifestyle factors. A diet containing intolerant foods is the most common, but any food that has been shown to inflame the GI tract can cause issues.
Stress can also be a trigger as it can greatly reduce blood flow to our important digestive organs. A diet low in fiber can play a significant role too, as fiber keeps us regular and therefore excreting dangerous compounds in the process.
Lastly, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs will cause havoc on our gut and kill off good bacteria.
2. A SLOW OR DEFICIENT DETOXIFICATION PATHWAY
The detoxification system is the primary factor used to remove toxins from the body. If this is not operating efficiently, problems can arise. A slow detox may exist in the body’s detox system is already put under strain – it finds it difficult to keep up with the demand. As a result toxins (such as a food intolerance) remain in the body and cause an immune response to occur.
This can also occur when a certain detoxification enzyme is deficient. A detoxification enzyme deficiency makes it difficult or impossible to break down a dietary toxin. This can also be linked to a poor diet, as an optimal detox system requires adequate levels of the nutrients necessary for proper liver detoxification.
3. GENETIC PREDISPOSITION
It’s considered that some people are more likely to react to a particular food substance than others. This can be related to the place of origin, ancestry, previous exposures, migration, and food modification. It has also been suggested that blood types may have some predictive value to produce an adverse reaction to the associated food.
When we constantly expose the body to a food intolerance it can lead to chronic activation of the innate immune system. This constant response of the immune system leads to increased free radicals in the body, taxing the detoxification pathways and increasing inflammation in the body.
Symptoms & Responses
There are a number of common symptoms or reactions within the body when exposed to a food allergy or intolerance:
This is one of the most common symptoms with food sensitivities and is commonly considered with an up-regulated or overactive immune state. This can be linked to an overactive immune system that is constantly being taxed by the consumption of intolerant foods. Fatigue can also be an alert to food intolerance.
Like fatigue, headaches can become a recurring problem in those who are experiencing allergic reactions to food. These again may range from mild right up to full-blown migraines that require medical treatment.
Many people resort to prescription drugs and medicines, yet these rarely prove to be effective. For some, the simple solution may appear to be the elimination of certain foods from their diet or substances from their environment.
Many common skin problems such as eczema, acne, or irritation may be reduced or prevented through the elimination of intolerant foods. That’s because there may be a link to what we eat and the condition of our skin. Many people have had great success at reducing skin problems by assessing their diet and removing any trigger foods.
Food sensitivities can result in malnutrition, as the body is no longer absorbing the nutrients correctly and expending more of them to keep up with the immune response.
The body will naturally crave more food to replace the lost and expended nutrients, so with the overconsumption of calories, we can see weight gain as a result.
IRRITABLE BOWEL SYNDROME (IBS)
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common condition of the digestive system. It can cause bouts of stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation.
The symptoms of IBS usually appear for the first time when a person is between 20 and 30 years of age. They tend to come and go in bouts, often during times of stress or after eating certain foods.
Symptoms vary between individuals and affect some people more severely than others. However, most people have either diarrhoea, constipation, or bouts of both.
The exact cause of IBS is unknown, but most experts agree it’s related to an increased sensitivity of the entire gut, which can occasionally be linked to a prior food-related illness.
This may be caused by a change in your body’s ability to move food through your digestive system, or may be due to you becoming more sensitive to pain from your gut.
INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISEASE (IBD)
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is a term mainly used to describe two diseases, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Both ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease are long-term (chronic) diseases that involve inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract (gut).
Ulcerative colitis only affects the colon (large intestine), while Crohn’s disease can affect the entire digestive system, from the mouth to the anus.
There is medical research to suggest that food we eat can have an impact on our airway conditions. Allergic airway disease may be due to food intolerance, moulds, and chemicals such as preservatives and food dyes, as well as airborne allergens.
Typical problems are asthma, hay fever and sinusitis to just name a few. These intolerances represent more load on the body, and the air passages are a target for a system weakened by the elements.
Some lucky people find that by avoiding their intolerant foods, they find a cure for their airway conditions, or at the very least, reduce the impact of their problems.