A food allergy is a negative physical reaction that occurs after ingesting and in some cases inhaling particles of certain foods as well as coming into contact with those foods at times. A food allergy is an immune system response that recognizes the food as an invader.
Some food allergy sufferers can have allergic responses so severe that it results in anaphylaxis, which is life-threatening. Though milder allergies may have many of the symptoms of food intolerance such as abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence, skin issues and nausea, the immune system is always involved when there is an allergy.
What is the Difference Between a Food Allergy and a Food Intolerance?
Many of the ways an allergy or intolerance manifest in the body happen to be the same except that a food allergy triggers a measurable immune system response while a food intolerance does not. A food intolerance causes an upset of the natural processes of the gut to the degree that symptoms can start to show both in the gut (such as cramping and bloating) to the more extreme leaky gut whose permeability has changed, to symptoms in other body tissues such as eczema of the skin.
How Long After I Eliminate a Food From my Diet Will it Take to be Out of my System?
It depends on the food, but typically three days and the food will be gone but the irritation caused by the offending foods may take weeks to resolve to a point where symptoms will no longer be felt. Some foods can remain in the system even longer! For example, symptoms that are shown such as eczema or dermatitis herpetiformis may take longer to resolve. After years of abusing the body with something it didn’t like, symptoms do not all disappear overnight. However, there will be a significant and immediate improvement for most that have always experienced immediate symptoms after ingesting an offending food.
What is Anaphylaxis?
Anaphylaxis occurs when certain allergens whether they are foods, bee venom, or other such substances cause the body to produce huge amounts of histamine because the body recognizes the substance as an invader. It is an extreme overactive response of the immune system to deal with an invading substance. The histamine can cause hives and difficulty in breathing due to inflammation which may progress to the point of airway blockage causing respiratory and cardiac arrest. Severe reactions are treated initially with epinephrine. Those with severe allergies usually carry an EpiPen which is an injectable dose of epinephrine.
Are Food Intolerance or Food Allergies Genetic?
Studies indicate that identical twins share the same allergies. Since they share the same DNA, it is a strong indicator that genetics are involved in allergies. It would thus be reasonable to conclude that the same would hold true for food intolerance. It is suspected that the DNA that has established a person’s metabolism is therefore the causative factor of any issues with food intolerance. So yes, mom and dad probably might be responsible for your allergies and food intolerance but there is also more to it as well!
What Does GMO Mean?
The letters GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism while GEO is Genetically Engineered Organism. Both have to do with altering organisms such as plants and bacteria on a genetic level to hopefully bring about some sort of beneficial change. For example: Insulin is made through the GMO process.
Controversy lies in that we are not technologically advanced enough to determine every possible negative outcome of genetically manipulating organisms. Every living thing interacts with every other living thing in one way or another. It cannot be fully known as to what can fully come from genetic manipulation. Mankind has manipulated genetics in plants for centuries by methods such as controlled pollination. Now we can go directly to the DNA itself to alter an organism.
To grasp the significance of the GMO issue we are facing it is important to know that the prevalence of GMO soy in our food supply right now approaches nearly one hundred percent! This is an important thing that consumers should consider to begin to understand what role GMOs will yet have on both the human and animal food supply. Over 90% of soybeans in the United States right now are of GMO origin due to the monopoly of one company in control of the seed provided to farmers. Such a strongly established monopoly is maintained over the growing of soy that there is a movement to allow the free growing of non-GMO soy. However, due to pollination of plants not being confined inside the borders of one farm’s fences, it is feasible that all soy will one day be GMO whether it is desired or not.
Consumers are making anecdotal evidentiary connections between the amount of GMO products being consumed and the increase of food allergies and intolerance. As a result there is a growing interest in the consumption of organically sourced and grown foods. If only GMO basic or raw food ingredients eventually are available, consumers will no longer have a choice.
What is it about Wheat, Gluten, Egg, Corn, Dairy, Soy, Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Fish and Shellfish that Triggers Allergies and Intolerance?
The listed food items are the Top 8 most common allergens (plus corn). Though corn is not on the Top 8 list yet, there is a significant amount of the population that is discovering and reporting allergies and intolerance to corn and corn-based products. Since corn in one form or another in such a vast number of consumer food and other products, it is not surprising that there is such an issue with it.
The allergic response is due to the body recognizing certain proteins from the food items as being invaders that the body needs to mount a defense against. It is the immune system gone into overdrive. The same issue of the body not being able to properly digest or otherwise metabolize consumed proteins is the indicated cause of food intolerance. Lactose intolerance is an example of the body not producing enough lactase to metabolize the lactose in dairy products. Simple supplementation of the enzyme lactase may resolve the issue. The mechanism of action for each food intolerance is not yet known.
If I’m Allergic or Intolerant to a Food I Eat, What about Contact with Those Foods?
Some people have peanut or shellfish allergies so severe that even coming in contact with the tiniest amount of the offending proteins can trigger an anaphylactic reaction requiring emergency medical treatment. For a severe peanut allergy sufferer, even the dust from a peanut could trigger a reaction if it is touched or inhaled. For those who suffer to that degree, they work to be aware of every consumer product that could actually kill them.
Just as components of peanuts could be in everything from shaving cream to peanut butter the same holds true for other allergens such as corn. Even if a product does not contain any component of an allergen, it may be produced on equipment that processes other products that do contain the offending ingredient. The ingredient may also be in the packaging such as corn-based plastics or cornstarch packing peanuts that are in use to replace the Styrofoam packing peanuts.
Fortunately for a food intolerance, it is the dietary intake of the food that is of most concern. There is no absolute guarantee that a mass produced consumer product will not contain an offending ingredient. The best thing to do is to contact the manufacturer of each of your favorite foods, and other products if there is a contact allergy, and inquire about the ingredients you are allergic to or intolerant of. Then inquire of the manufacturers policies for labeling if there is a recipe or ingredient change at the manufacturing level. If contact allergies are an issue, please inquire about packaging details as well.
Even the sourcing of raw materials that a manufacturer may use could be of concern for a severe allergy sufferer. Manufacturers of mass produced consumer products usually source their raw materials from other companies and providers. It would be an almost insurmountable achievement for a consumer to trace each product back to its raw ingredient materials.
What Kinds of Products Should I be Considering if I have an Allergy or Intolerance?
Food type, not necessarily food grade that is consumable, ingredients are in so many consumer products that it would take volumes to make a list. Consider that corn is used to make ethanol which is added to gasoline as an example. That’s just one example! There are even plastics made out of corn. Cornstarch can be used as a powder to make paper products easier to separate. Corn is an inexpensive crop so it is processed, refined and manipulated into many uses. Soy is another inexpensive crop that industry is always trying to use in new and innovative ways.
Our tendency is to think of things that we can eat to only be used in products that we can eat. Industry and technology have changed that forever. Food type ingredients can be in medications, can be used to source chemicals used to make medicines and supplements, can be used in soaps and cosmetics, and can even be found in the clothes we wear as well as the detergents we use to wash them in.
For a food intolerance only consumption of the offending foods need to be of concern for the reaction begins in the gut after the food is ingested. For allergy sufferers it depends on the severity of the allergy. Some allergy sufferers are so sensitive to certain food allergens that even tiny particulates in the air from the food that are released through cooking or preparing for cooking can trigger an allergic response.
The only way to be reasonably certain about what is not in a product is to contact the manufacturer of each product. They may have proprietary formulas and be under no obligation to release certain information unless there is a law requiring them to do so. For certain known allergens it is required that the information be made known to consumers, but there are many things that many people are severely allergic to that are not in the Top 8 list of allergens. So it may be easier to ask for an assurance that a specific food ingredient, or its derivatives, is not in the product instead of asking for a list of what is in the product in some cases. Be sure to ask about packaging as well if there is a severe enough contact allergy to make it a concern.
What is Histamine?
Histamine is a chemical released by the body that causes inflammation which causes swelling. Histamine is a component of proper digestion. Histamine dilates blood vessels and constricts smooth muscle. Smooth muscles are found in the digestive tract. Histamine is released in larger quantities in allergic individuals when some proteins, perceived as invaders, come in contact with mucous membranes and the gastrointestinal tract thus triggering a systemic immune response with amounts of histamine that can cause hives, difficulty breathing, airway blockage as well as respiratory and cardiac arrest.
For those with food allergies, the elimination diet is the only way to prevent symptoms from occurring in the first place. Once symptoms begin, emergency medical treatment may be necessary depending on the severity of the sufferer’s allergies.
What is a Histamine Response?
The systemic response to histamine is dilation of blood vessels which result in more fluid brought to tissues at the site of the inflammation which then results in swelling of the area. If the area of inflammation is the airway, difficulty in breathing from wheezing to respiratory arrest can occur.
What is a Histamine Intolerance?
Some foods such as fish that is spoiling to one degree or another contain histamine. There may be issues with histamines in other foods such as some cheeses and wines. If a person cannot process histamine well, then consuming histamines may cause a person to reach a threshold of histamine in the body where symptoms of intolerance begin to manifest. Symptoms of histamine intolerance are the same for general food intolerance. There can be pain in the gut, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, skin issues, breathing problems and headaches including migraines. Testing for levels of Diamine Oxidase (DAO) would assist in determining if a person could be histamine intolerant.