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The Inedibles


"Food sensitivity is an umbrella term for food allergy, food intolerance and other adverse reactions to food. A food allergy is an immune system response to food that the body believes is harmful.

"Food sensitivity" is an umbrella term for food allergy, food intolerance and other adverse reactions to food.

A food allergy is an immune system response to food that the body believes is harmful. Once the immune system decides that a particular food is dangerous, it creates specific antibodies to defend itself. The next time a person eats that food, the immune system releases massive amounts of chemicals such as histamine in order to protect the body.

These chemicals trigger a cascade of allergic symptoms that can affect the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, skin, or cardiovascular system. Anaphylaxis is a potentially deadly reaction, and occurs when the allergen enters the bloodstream, causing fainting, itching, hives, breathing difficulties, and often shock.

Cow's milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat are the most common allergic foods, according to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, and account for 90 percent of all food allergy responses. Health Canada claims five percent of children suffer from food allergies (many outgrow the sensitivity), along with one to two percent of North American adults.

Many people mistake food allergies for food intolerances, which is an adverse non-immune related, food-induced reaction that can cause great discomfort but does not trigger the same allergic response cascade.

Food allergies can be treated by correcting the immune system response which has gone awry. Minimizing exposure to allergens will help the immune system correct itself, reduce inflammation, and allow time for the damaged gastrointestinal tract to repair.

If the allergy-causing food is removed, the body will turn its attention to fixing the damage it has provoked. Once this has been corrected, the person should no longer react to the substance in the same way.

Eliminating the Enemy

In order to determine the potential food "offender," many nutritionists, health care professionals and medical bodies, including the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network and the Food and Drug Administration, recommend following a supervised elimination diet. Specific "suspect" foods should be eliminated for two to three weeks and then reintroduced one at a time. These foods usually include (but are not limited to):

  • dairy products
  • eggs
  • gluten-containing products, such as wheat and wheat-containing products (including pasta), and barley, oats or rye grains
  • corn
  • citrus fruits
  • all processed foods, including caffeine

If the symptoms are due to a food allergy, they will usually improve during the elimination phase. When the immune system abnormality and gut lining have healed, slowly reintroduce into the diet one food group at a time, and keep a daily record of the symptoms.

Nutrient Supplements

Elimination diets have been associated with anemia, vitamin deficiencies, and osteoporosis. Removing major food categories such as fat, protein and carbohydrates from the diet can have nutritional consequences, and should only be done with the help of a knowledgeable health care professional.

Many health food store staff can advise on natural food free from artificial preservatives, additives, colours, flavours and hydrogenated oils, as well as food designed for specialty diets such as gluten-free and dairy-free.

It is also important to take nutrient supplements to prevent vitamin, mineral, and energy deficiencies once the allergy-causing food has been eliminated.

  • Multivitamins prevent vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
  • Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids found in evening primrose, flaxseed and fish oil are potent anti-inflammatory agents, and will help repair a damaged gastrointestinal tract.
  • Digestive enzymes aid in food digestion, and help repair leaky gut.
  • Probiotics help improve intestinal flora by repopulating the good bacteria - essential for people with compromised digestive systems.

Once the problem food has been identified, and supporting nutrients are being taken to support recovery and overall health, the nasty rashes, stomach aches, and other negative symptoms that have been causing concern should be quickly eliminated. Cutting out certain foods is well worth the patience!



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