Intolerance or sensitivity is a hot topic in the food world these days. Food packaging is clearly in on the trend as it is common to see food labeled “gluten free,” “lactose free,” or “contains wheat.” What has brought about this trend? Why are so many people unable to eat certain types of food? It is possible that testing for these allegies and intolerances is flawed, and it is leading to overdiagnosis.
There are many types of food testing available today. Some are very unorthodox and come to conclusions that seem very hard to swallow, like eating green peppers may cause bloating and lethargy, lemons trigger headaches, or chicken may act like poison in your body.
Other non-traditional practitioners may diagnose food sensitivities by analyzing hair, assessing muscle strength, or by performing a test that assesses the body’s “energy pathways.” From these tests, patients are told what foods may be causing their troubling symptoms. Sometimes these tests are concluding that serious issues like irritable bowel syndrome, autoimmune disease, and arthritis are being caused by particular foods.
These are tall claims and allergists and gastroenterologists are questioning these methods. Most allergists and gastroenterologists agree that food intolerances do occur from time to time, but they also agree that the tests being marketed have no scientific basis. The tests are prone to false positives and lead people to eliminate foods from their diets unnecessarily.
My son has a severe, life threatening allergy to peanuts and tree nuts. We discovered this food allergy when he was two years old and we just could not figure out why he had severe asthma, requiring multiple emergency room visits, steroids and the like. He also randomly developed enormous hives all over his body and had difficulty breathing when the hives occurred. We took him to an allergist who tested him with both a skin test and a blood test, and we learned of the severity and breadth of the allergies.
Food allergies are different from food intolerances. A food intolerance can cause stomach upset, gastric distress, and possibly digestive issues in the form of diarrhea and constipation. Many people claim that they have a food allergy when a food does not agree with them, and this diminishes the severity for those with a true, life threatening allergy. A food allergy is defined as an abnormal response to a food triggered by your body’s immune system, and is most often triggered by the so called “Big 8”. These eight foods account for 90% of all food reactions and are milk, egg, peanut, tree nut, shellfish, sesame, wheat and soy.
You may hear of a person outgrowing their food allergies, but peanut and shellfish most often remain as lifelong allergies. A food allergy affects the breathing and heart and can, if not stopped in time, lead to death. People who have been diagnosed with a food allergy are often prescribed an epi-pen, an auto-injector of epinephrine that must be injected into the upper thigh to stop the reaction.
By Steven V. Joyal, MD, VP of Medical & Scientific Affairs at Life Extension. Life Extension has been a pioneer in funding and reporting the latest anti-aging research and integrative health therapies while offering superior-quality dietary supplements to consumers.
Feeling bloated? Gaining weight but don’t know why? Food sensitivity might be the cause. Chronic, low-level inflammation due to food sensitivity is a little-appreciated contributing factor for unwanted weight gain, along with other health conditions like fatigue, fluid retention, headache, and skin conditions.
Before we review how sensitivity to certain foods can make weight loss difficult, we need to understand the difference between food sensitivity and food allergy.
Classic food allergy occurs when certain foods trigger the immune system to release large amounts of the chemical histamine. When large amounts of histamine flood the body, a potentially life-threatening condition called anaphylaxis can occur. This potentially fatal condition causes the throat to swell, potentially cutting off the air supply to the lungs.
Mary Hartley, RD, MPH, is the director of nutrition for Calorie Count, providing domain expertise on issues related to nutrition, weight loss and health. She creates original content for weekly blogs and newsletters, for the Calorie Count library, and for her popular daily Question-and-Answer section, Ask Mary. Ms. Hartley also furnishes direction for the site features and for product development.
Calorie Count members want to know more about the mysteries of gluten. Here are some of our readers’ favorite “Ask Mary Q+A’s,” all gluten-free.
How would I know if I’m unable to tolerate gluten?
The classic signs of gluten intolerance are digestive problems such as constipation, diarrhea, gas, and bloating. And although not as common, not being able to tolerate gluten can also cause skin rash, joint pain, headaches, and anemia. Sometimes, gluten intolerance can actually show no obvious symptoms at all. Since there is a lot of overlap between gluten intolerance and dozens of other diseases, you should visit a doctor for evaluation if you have any concerns. You also should also consult a doctor before starting a gluten-free diet as this change can impact the test results and confound the diagnosis.
Seasonal allergies can be a life-changing experience, making us cough and sneeze to the point of even avoiding social situations. While there are certainly prescription and over-the-counter medical remedies that you can seek out, there are actually natural ways you can go about easing symptoms through your diet.
Whether it’s mold, pollen, ragweed, or what have you, it’s possible to find seasonal allergy relief (red skin, itchy eyes, and those embarrassing sneezes) from what you eat and other natural remedies.
“Using nature-based products can be a very useful way to handle mild allergies and a useful adjunct for more significant allergies, and there are many types of treatments you can safely try,” says Mary Hardy, MD, director of integrative medicine at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Here’s where you can begin: