We have all heard about classic food allergies where a child comes into contact with a peanut and has a reaction. This is a classic type 1 hypersensitivity reaction which is mediated by IgE cells within the immune system. Reactions can be mild to severe, but they are always immediate. Symptoms can range from:
• Redness and swelling
• Constriction of airways
• Increased mucous secretion leading to airway congestion
• Pain and itching on skin surface
These reactions occur within minutes to hours after exposure and require strict avoidance of the allergen. Type 1 reactions are typically easy to identify due to the fact that the reaction can be quite large and is always within minutes to hours upon exposure.
Our bodies can also produce a less threatening reaction to a food which is mediated by a different cell within the immune system – IgG cells. IgG reactions are less immediate and are termed delayed hypersensitivity reactions. Once a person comes into contact with a food allergen symptoms can appear up to 72 hours later. These reactions can also be much more systemic and can present with a range of different symptoms such as:
• Headaches, high blood pressure
• Asthma and recurrent infections
• Dermatologic conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and acne
• Joint pain or arthritis
• Mood disorder such as hyperactivity, depression, anxiety or inability to concentrate
• Runny nose and puffiness around the eyes
• Digestive complaints such as constipation, heart burn, diarrhea, gas or bloating
Simple avoidance of the food allergen can alleviate a lot of symptoms and will allow the body to heal. However, identifying a delayed type reaction can be a little more challenging than identifying an immediate type 1 reaction. Since symptoms appear within 24 to 72 hours it is often difficult to identify the causative food. There are 2 common ways to identify food allergies. One is by following a strict diet until symptoms improve and carefully reintroducing foods one at a time and seeing how the body reacts. And the second is by a simple skin prick blood test (very similar to how one would check blood sugar levels) that is then sent to the lab and a detailed report is obtained which identifies which foods are the causative agent. Speak to your Naturopathic Doctor if you think you are suffering from a food allergy and to determine which option is right for you.
Testing is available at the Barefoot Health Naturopathic Clinic