Allergies…or intolerances?

There is a high proportion of the population now convinced that they have an allergy, the number is apparently 1 in 3 that are convinced, in fact recently I read recently that even an Andalusian horse called Chanquette was allergic to grass, not a good thing for a horse as you can imagine, so it’s happening in the animal kingdom as well now!

But more frequently I’m not finding allergies are the issue, but instead intolerances and which have a wider range of reactions, often they go unrealised so I’m going to explain the difference between the two and why it matters.

The European Food Information Council believe that most children will outgrow their allergies, but many in my clinic are showing this is potentially not the case, in fact they are getting worse not better over time, and I’m mostly seeing adults with food intolerance issues that they never realised they had which had been changing how they feel.

Whether this factor is because of the poorer quality of foods that are now available, the increasing use of pesticides, increasing gut permeability and changing microbiome, infections, stress of work, the increasing use of prepackaged foods, eating the same small amount of ingredients that people tend to eat daily, or the fact that most people rely on ready meals which are packed with preservatives, research has no fixed conclusions. Or even whether other factors such as stress for children which has increased over the years due to the testing they go through continually in schools, the changing internal environment due to the increase in vaccination schedule, or the chemicals we are now surrounded by far more now than in the past, is it just one of these things or them all, no one knows, but what we do know is that there is a higher issue than ever before. Which is sounding familiar across the board of health in most arenas.

So how do allergies and intolerances differ?

Allergies cause a rapid response from the immune system to either food, pollen, a chemical for instance, mostly it is realised by the individual because the response is so quick to happen. The body sees the incoming allergen as a foreign body and for what ever reason it decides to have an allergic reaction within minutes normally, itching, sneezing, hives, wheezing, swelling or headaches are just some of the fast responses that you might see.

The difference with an intolerance is that there is a delayed response due to the lack of the body’s ability to deal effectively with the food, chemical etc. It is this response that makes the individual feel slowly but surely unwell, and reduces the body and mind performance over time, the delay can be over hours and days. I tend to find that the individual has often been feeling unwell for a long time, having fatigue, lack of energy, anxiety, unclear thinking, sleeping issues, bloating, and skin complaints being just some of the factors that may have been happening with little realisation of the core reason behind them.

The immune reaction is fascinating, antibodies are released by plasma cells to protect the body, IgE antibodies trigger immediate reactions, and they release histamine, most people who have allergies know of antihistamine, and it is then that you will experience inflammation. The IgE reaction is the one which can cause anaphylaxis, which of course can be life threatening.

IgG responses are far more prevalent, and are produced when an antigen is introduced into the body more than once, this is the reaction we tend to see with food intolerance, and in some respects some people don’t even know they are having this response.

If you have circulating IgG responses this can lead to potential long term health issues, without understanding that this is a factor in your changing health picture.

Now just remember that you could be taking in these intolerances via the skin, so cosmetics, chemicals, dust mites, or even dyes on your clothes could be a factor in health, some are more easily avoided than others as you can imagine. Or you could in the case of hayfever or air pollution be breathing this in, but which ever way they are ingested, all treatment of allergens and intolerances has to start with the digestive tract, because at some point some of those ingested will reach that point in the body.

Obviously with the IgE responses you need to exclude the food, but research does show that desensitisation that has been carried out can reverse this over time, but this was carried out in a hospital environment so should not be carried out at home because of anaphylaxis being an issue.

But limiting the diet is only one aspect of how to improve the health over time, and treatment has to be put in place that resolves the underlying issue, because just eliminating food doesn’t mean that the symptom will go away. So its important that you get to the bottom of why the food intolerance or allergy is happening and not just eliminate the food.

Diet is an important part of resolving this health issue, particularly focusing on an anti-inflammatory diet, rich in fruits and vegetables, the anti-oxidants are needed to reduce the ongoing oxidative stress. Reducing the amount of processed foods in the diet is key, essential fatty acids, nuts and seeds, and fish if you are eating fish. You need a full range of nutrients to enable the body to react effectively and break down it’s food, just one of these out of balance can then lead to further issues down the line.

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