Detecting, Avoiding and Treating Food Allergies
By: Dr. David Smithson, Medical Director of BodyLogicMD of Birmingham
Food allergies are tremendously overlooked; almost everyone is allergic to something. It may not be an obvious, severe allergy, but if you're having trouble losing weight or feeling unwell or fatigued most of the time, a food allergy or sensitivity may be behind your poor health. Specific food allergy testing is crucial to determining what's going on in your body because everything you put in your body affects how you feel.
Two Kinds of Food Allergies
There are two major types of food allergies. Most people are more familiar with immunoglobulin E, or IgE, food allergies. These are the more severe types of allergies, such as peanut allergies that can cause you to break out in a rash, wheeze, close off your airways or go into shock after exposure to peanuts.
While IgE food allergies can be quite serious, they're less common than immunoglobulin G, or IgG, food allergies. These allergies are often referred to as food sensitivities and are usually localized to the intestinal tract. They may not produce immediate symptoms. In some cases, symptoms of IgG food allergies may not be noticeable until days after exposure to the allergen.
Food allergies like these are very widespread. It has been conservatively estimated that at least 60% of Americans have some type of food allergy or sensitivity, but the actual numbers are probably much higher. In my practice, I frequently do testing for food allergies and sensitivities and I've never seen anyone who has had no food allergies at all.
Food Allergy Symptoms
The symptoms of food allergies vary widely, depending on the type of allergy, the severity of the allergy and the person suffering from the allergy. IgE food allergies can cause anything from wheezing and inflammation to shock, respiratory distress or cardiovascular problems. These symptoms tend to occur very rapidly after contact with the allergen and may require emergency medical care.
The symptoms of IgG food allergies and sensitivities tend to be far less obvious. They may take hours or even days to become apparent and, in many cases, are very easy to attribute to other conditions. Some of the symptoms that IgG food allergies may cause include:
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Nausea or indigestion
- Fluid retention
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Headaches and joint pains
- Memory troubles
- Anxiety or depression
- Nasal congestion
- Itchy skin, eczema or acne
Food Allergy Testing
Most people who have IgE food allergies know about their allergies. The symptoms of these allergies are usually fairly obvious and can develop very quickly, so it's much easier to determine what triggered the allergic reaction.
IgG allergies or sensitivities, however, can be far more subtle. Their symptoms may not be obvious or may be attributed to another medical condition, and they can develop hours or days after you eat the food that you're allergic to. It can be very difficult to pinpoint the source of your allergy based on your symptoms alone.
Luckily, there are blood tests to help detect food allergies and sensitivities, such as Genova, ALCAT or Metametrix testing. These are very simple tests that do not require fasting. You just have your blood drawn and wait for the results. These blood tests can reveal a full range of both IgE and IgG food allergies and sensitivities, as well as the severity of any allergy present.
Treating Food Allergies
How you handle a food allergy depends on the type of allergy. If you have an IgE food allergy, you will most likely have to avoid the food that you're allergic to for the rest of your life. These types of food allergies will never go away. Your body will always have a reaction to the food that you're allergic to, so you have to stay away from that food.
However, IgG food allergies are a different story. These allergies or sensitivities can be temporary. In many cases, if you avoid the foods you're sensitive to for a while, you can slowly begin to reintroduce those foods to your diet, over time. How long you'll need to avoid the food depends on the severity of your allergy. In general, I recommend eliminating foods causing a very mild sensitivity for one month and foods causing a severe allergy for up to six months.
When you do reintroduce these foods, it's important that you do so gradually. If you suddenly begin to eat the foods you were allergic to in large amounts again, your allergy is much more likely to resurface and cause more health problems. However, if you bring these foods back into your diet slowly over time, your allergy may essentially be gone.
Even if you have a mild sensitivity and have eliminated a food for only a month, when you reintroduce that food, you should eat only a small amount of it. Then, you'll need to wait another four or five days before eating it again. If your allergy is more severe, you may need to limit the food that was giving you problems to no more than once a week for the first couple of months.
Help from BodyLogicMD
The focus of BodyLogicMD is reaching and maintaining optimal overall health through bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT), fitness and nutrition. Food allergy and sensitivity testing and treatment are a major part of that overall goal. Food allergies and sensitivities can cause problems throughout your body - not just in your digestive tract - and you're not going to feel your best if you're experiencing one.
Food allergy testing is especially important before recommending a healthy nutrition plan. People may have allergies or sensitivities to almost any foods, including healthy foods that doctors frequently recommend. If you have an allergy to almonds, broccoli or some of the other foods that I might recommend, your nutrition plan isn't going to provide you the health benefits that we're looking for. That's why it's vital that I know about your system before recommending a nutrition plan.
Once we discover your food allergies, I can suggest alternative foods so that you can avoid the food that's giving you problems. This way, we can team up a healthy nutrition plan with foods that you're not allergic to, so that we can provide you with the best possible outcomes for optimal overall health.
To learn more about food allergies, treatment and nutritional testing, visit www.bodylogicmd.com or call my office at (866) 441-0534.
About Dr. Smithson
Dr. David Smithson received his undergraduate degree at the University of Mississippi in 1975, and completed his doctorate at the University of Oklahoma in 1980. After completing his Internship at Baptist Medical Center in Memphis, Tennessee in 1981, Dr. Smithson fulfilled his Internal Medicine Residency at the University of Oklahoma's Tulsa Medical College in 1990. Dr. Smithson completed his Sports Medicine Fellowship in 1994 in Birmingham, Alabama. Dr. Smithson is Board Certified in both Internal Medicine and Sports Medicine. Dr. Smithson also served as a Team Physician for the Auburn University Athletic Department from 1994 through 1996. Dr. Smithson served as an Internal Medicine representative to the Sports Medicine examination committee in 2002 and 2003 and helped to write the Sports Medicine National Board Exam.