A food allergy is an abnormal reaction to foods, or food ingredients, normally tolerated by most people.
Types of food allergies
There are two types of allergic reactions: "fixed" and "variable".
A person with a fixed allergic response reacts to even a small amount of food every time it is encountered. Extremely sensitive people need only smell or touch the food to react. The reaction can be very severe; producing immediate symptoms such as asthma, hives, or shock.
People with fixed allergic responses never seem to outgrow their allergies or develop a tolerance to the food(s).
These individuals may have to avoid all contact with the food - never handling it, or even being in the same areas when it is cooked.
The more common type of allergic response is the variable or cyclical response. This reaction is more difficult to diagnose, but less severe than the fixed response.
Since the variable response is dose-dependent, a tolerance for the food(s) can be elicited by avoiding it for a period of time (i.e. 2 to 12 months), and then eating small amounts of the food on rare occasion.
Food allergy reactions can also be classified as either "immediate" or "delayed".
An immediate food allergy reaction is dramatic and easy to diagnose because it occurs within minutes or an hour after ingesting an allergen. The reaction can be acute and life-threatening. Upon ingesting an allergen, an individual's mouth and throat may swell suddenly and obstruct the airways.
The delayed type of food allergy is more common and often the cause of frequent vague and chronic symptoms, including dull, chronic headaches, migraines, joint pains, fevers of unknown origin, abdominal pains, etc. These symptoms can last a few hours, or may continue for one to two days, up to a week or more.
Food allergy onset
Food allergies can appear at any age and continue indefinitely. Allergies may develop at an early age only to disappear with advancing age. Adults may suddenly develop new allergies, or may discover that symptoms once attributed to other causes are actually food related.
Most people believe food allergies occur mostly in children. However, according to some studies, food allergies occur more often in adults, in almost direct proportion to age. Perhaps this can be attributed to the poor nutrient absorption occurring as one gets older.
An individual has nearly a 75% chance of being allergic if both parents have allergies.
A child does not necessarily inherit the particular allergy or sensitivity of his parents. Rather, he may develop a different type of reaction. For example, a woman who develops eczema after eating fish may bear a son who develops asthma after eating milk and eggs.
General health and food allergies
Tolerance to allergens is affected by one's physical condition at the time of exposure to the food(s). For instance, whereas milk may not provoke an allergic reaction under normal circumstances, a sensitivity to it may be noticed while nursing a cold or infection.
Other factors such as emotional distress, malnutrition, altitude and stressful situations may lower the tolerance threshold and aggravate an existing allergy.
The allergenicity of a any food may be due to the nature of the food itself. Citrus fruits are more potent allergens than apples. Peas are more allergenic than carrots. Cow's milk is more potent than soybean milk.
Sometimes a food's allergenicity is affected by the manner of preparation, or the amount consumed. Cooked foods are less potent allergens than raw, and stale foods are less potent than fresh. A person may be unaffected by the small amount of milk in a cup of coffee, but severely allergic to a whole glass of milk.
Signs & Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of food allergy vary according to the organ systems affected.
Most symptoms affect the gastrointestinal tract. However other systems, such as the respiratory, urinary tract or nervous systems, can also be affected.
Symptoms may be localized (as in a skin rash) or they may be generalized and nonspecific (in the form of a headache, abdominal pain or changed behavior).
Some of the possible food allergic reactions are as follows:
Itching eyes Tearing Puffy eyelids Dark circles under eyes Red, congested blood vessels
Fluid in the ears Hearing loss Dizziness Tinnitus Excessive ear wax
Laryngeal edema Asthma Post nasal discharge Night cough Allergic tracheitis Allergic laryngitis Allergic bronchitis
Tachycardia Generalized angio-edema Flushing, chilling Hot flashes, pallor Skipped heart beats Chest pains Fainting Night Sweats
Cheilitis Diarrhea Nervous stomach Repeating a taste Vomiting Spastic Colon Air swallowing, belching Cramps Indigestion Anal itching Nausea Excessive salivation Heartburn Flatulence Bloating Abdominal pain
Hives or welts Eczema Adult acne Skin lesions
Muscle spasm or cramps Muscle pain Muscle weakness Undue fatigue Backache Arthritis Sluggishness
Urological and Gynecological
Urination at night Frequent urination Painful urination Urgency Poor bladder control Bed wetting Genital itching or pain Premenstrual Syndrome
Structure & Function: Immune System Support
Adult Child/Adolescent Bioflavonoids 500 - 1,000 mg 200 - 500 mg Fish oils 6 - 10 g 2 - 3 g GLA 2 - 3 g 1 - 2 g Spirulina* Vitamin B-12 500 - 1,000 mcg 200 - 500 mcg Vitamin C 2,000 - 6,000 mg 500 - 1,000 mg Wheat germ* Zinc 20 - 50 mg 10 - 30 mg Luteolin*
* Please refer to the respective topic for specific nutrient amounts.
Each person should be evaluated individually to see if any essential nutrients are lacking. Hypoallergenic supplements should be taken as needed.
In particular, a vitamin C deficiency seems to occur with many food allergy sufferers. Some doctors recommend high doses of parenteral vitamin C which seemingly relieves many food-allergy induced symptoms. Vitamin C also maintains immunologic stability. Vitamin B-complex vitamins should also be provided during the Elimination Diet.
Aloe vera juice has also proven helpful for some food allergy sufferers.
Possibly due to the increasing environmental pollution, the list of antioxidants found useful by allergic patients has broadened considerably in recent years, beyond vitamin C. A-C-E is usually just the start, now [ A in the form of Beta Carotene plus vitamins C and E). Pycnogenol™, Quercetin and Rutin as well as Superoxide Dismutase are leading examples.
Bee products may even have a special benefit, to those suffering a reaction to local pollen, of de-sensitizing them, by eating bee products, including honey and bee pollen, or bee propolis.
Essential Fatty Acids have been examined and organized as Omega-3, Omega-6 etc. Basically, EPA referred to fish oils and GLA is commonly derived from Evening Primrose Oil (EPO).
The trace mineral Germanium is sometimes mentioned.
From the plant kingdom, milk thistle, spirulina and wheat grass are most often recommended.
All amounts are in addition to those supplements having a Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA). Due to individual needs, one must always be aware of a possible undetermined effect when taking nutritional supplements. If any disturbances from the use of a particular supplement should occur, stop its use immediately and seek the care of a qualified health care professional.
An allergy-free diet has two components: the Elimination Diet and the Maintenance Diet.
Because of the inaccuracies inherent in skin test food allergies, the Elimination Diet is an important diagnostic tool.
To begin the Elimination Diet, avoid the following common allergens for a period of two weeks: milk, eggs, wheat, sugar (from sugarcane and beets), corn, citrus, chocolate, coffee, plus additives, preservatives and colorings.
If symptoms decrease or disappear by eliminating all of these items, one can begin to add foods back one allergen at a time.
A food diary should be kept, for noting which foods (if any) cause a recurrence of symptoms upon reintroduction into the diet.
If symptoms persist in spite of avoiding all the above food items, then some further detective work is warranted.
Once offending foods have been identified through the Elimination Diet, the Maintenance Diet can be undertaken.
These recipes can be adapted to an individual's requirements; many ingredients can easily be adjusted by substituting an equal amount of another acceptable ingredient. For example, nut milk can be used in place of cow's milk. This will work with most of the recipes. However, the quantities of some ingredients such as flours and sweeteners might need adjustment.
As many different substitutes as possible should be used. For example, if allergic to wheat, do not use only rice flour. Try buckwheat, amaranth, tapioca flour, nut flour, etc., so as to prevent an additional allergy (to rice flour) from developing.
Although not technically food allergies, food intolerances will be discussed here as they can produce diarrhea and malabsorption syndromes which mimic food allergies. Gluten, lactose and MSG are some foods which frequently induce food intolerance reactions.
Gluten intolerance is either an inborn error of metabolism or a manifestation of an immune system abnormality.
Diarrhea follows the ingestion of gluten-containing foods such as wheat, oats, rye and barley.
Intolerance is diagnosed by skin test, or upon symptomatic relief while omitting gluten in an Elimination Diet.
Dietary management includes a Gluten Restricted Diet supplemented with iron, calcium, folate and fat-soluble vitamins. Lactose intolerance results from the lack of lactase. The undigested lactose osmotically pulls water from the surrounding cells into the intestine. Bacteria feed on the lactose, producing organic acids and gas. This results in symptoms of bloating, cramps, flatulence and watery diarrhea.
Diagnosis of a suspected lactose intolerance is made by omitting lactose through an Elimination Diet. Long-term management consists of the Lactose Restricted Diet with calcium supplementation.
A less common food intolerance is monosodium glutamate (MSG) sensitivity. MSG is a flavor enhancer used in Chinese cooking. While the reaction varies from individual to individual, many sensitive individuals experience headache, burning sensations in the legs and arms, facial pressure, and/or chest pain.
1.* Histaminium - 15 to 30C
2.* Pollen nosodes - BioActive nutritional as Allergen II
3. Pulsatilla nigricans - 15 to 30C
4. Kali bichromicum - 15C
5. Iodium - 15C - for sneezing
Doses cited are to be administered on a 3X daily schedule, unless otherwise indicated. Dose usually continued for 2 weeks. Liquid preparations usually use 8-10 drops per dose. Solid preps are usually 3 pellets per dose. Children use 1/2 dose.
X = 1 to 10 dilution - weak (triturition)
C = 1 to 100 dilution - weak (potency)
M = 1 to 1 million dilution (very strong)
X or C underlined means it is most useful potency
Asterisk (*) = Primary remedy. Means most necessary remedy. There may be more than one remedy - if so, use all of them.
Boericke, D.E., 1988. Homeopathic Materia Medica.
Coulter, C.R., 1986. Portraits of Homeopathic Medicines.
Kent, J.T., 1989. Repertory of the Homeopathic Materia Medica.
Koehler, G., 1989. Handbook of Homeopathy.
Shingale, J.N., 1992. Bedside Prescriber.
Smith, Trevor, 1989. Homeopathic Medicine.
Ullman, Dana, 1991. The One Minute (or so) Healer.
Ephedra (Ma Huang)
Wild Cherry Bark (Prunus serotina)
Note: The misdirected use of an herb can produce severely adverse effects, especially in combination with prescription drugs. This Herbal information is for educational purposes and is not intended as a replacement for medical advice.
Echinacea boosts the immune system. (1 tspn t.i.d.)
Ephedra (Ma Huang) has been a favorite in China for allergy, although they recognize that it needs to be ameliorated by other herbs and nutrients in order to protect the adrenal glands. Both licorice and ginseng are used, together with antioxidants (e.g. green tea) and minerals.
Nettle leaves relieve symptoms.
Wild Cherry Bark is a noted ingredient in cough medicines, although cherry flavoring is more commonly used. It also has astrignent properties.
Numerous herbs may provoke an allergic reaction. The following list is derived from Newall:
Herb Effect Agnus Castus Allergic effects reported constituents Angelica Furanocoumarins. photosensitivity, connstituents Aniseed Furanocoumarins, photosensitivity, contact allergy Apricot Contact allergy, kernels Arnica Contact allergy Artichoke Sesquiterpene lactone constituents Asafetida Irritant gum, contact allergy Boneset Sesquiterpene lactone constituents Cassia (see Cinnamon) Celery Seed Furanocoumarins, photosensitivity Chamomile, Sesquiterpene lactone constituents (German) Chamomile, Sesquiterpene lactone constituents (Roman) Cinnamon Contact allergy Cornsilk Allergic reactions Cowslip Allergic reactions Dandelion Sesquiterpene lactone constituents Elecampane Sesquiterpene lactone constituents Euphorbia Histamine potentiating properties Feverfew Sesquiterpene lactone constituents Fucus (Kelp) Iodine may aggravate/trigger acne Garlic Sulphur containing compounds, allergic reaction Gravel Root Sesquiterperic lactone constituents Guaicum Irritant resin Holy (Blessed Thistle) Sesquiterpene lactone constituents Hops Contact allergy Hydrangea Contact alllergy Hydrocotyle (Gotu Kola) Photosensitivity Juniper Contact allergy Lady's Slipper Contact allergy Meadowsweet Potentiation of histamine bronchospastic Motherwort Dermatitis, photosensitization Parsley Furanocoumarins, photosensitivity Pilewort Contact allergy Plantain Contact allergy Pleurisy Root Contact allergy Pulsatilla Contact allergy Rosemary Dermatitis, photosensitization St. John's Wort Photodermatitis, hypericin Tansy Sesquiterpene lactone Wild Carrot Seed Furanocoumarins, photosensitivity Yarrow Sesquiterpene lactone
People who react to any of the infamous species of Poison Ivy/Poison Oak/Poison Sumac will undoubtedly react to the others; further, they may cross-react with mango (Mangifera indica), cashew (Anacardium occidentale), and Chinese or Japanese Lacquer (Rhus verniciflua).
Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-care Professionals. London: The Pharmaceutical Press, 1996:21,45,63,282.
Walji, H: Asthma & Allergies. Kian Press, 1997.
Aromatherapy - Essential Oils
Chamomile Essence, Lavender Essence, Lemon Essence, Patchouli Essence.
Related Health ConditionsAbstracts
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