While these are very real and excellent examples of what food allergies can do, they are also quite severe examples. For many people, food allergies exhibit their symptoms with much more stealth and cunning. In fact, you could have one right now and have no idea.
Understanding Food Allergies
Food allergies, like all allergies, are a response from the bodys immune system against a perceived invader. While it is unclear why some substances trigger an immune response in certain people and not in others, allergies can become a real problem when constant exposure to the trigger places chronic stress on the immune system.
While some allergies can affect your sinuses and others affect the skin, food allergies tend to primarily affect the intestinal tract. Heres what happens:
- You consume a food that, unbeknownst to you, is an item your body recognizes as an allergen.
- The allergen irritates and inflames the lining of the intestines, reducing the bodys ability to absorb nutrients.
- Small particles of undigested food breach across the intestinal lining and enter your circulation.
- The immune system notices the foreign invaders and initiates an attack against them, just like it would with viruses, bacteria, and fungi.
- You begin to experience symptoms from the release of histamines that can range from mild to severe.
Symptoms Of Food Allergies
Mild food allergies typically cause symptoms that involve the digestive symptoms. Gas, bloating and constipation are all very common. Unexplained weight gain is also a big sign that something might be awry with the bodys tolerance of certain foods. Other symptoms of hidden food allergies can include fatigue, a generalized foggy feeling throughout the day, unexplained rashes, congestion and food cravings.
Identifying Food Allergies
Lets say that you are having trouble with sleep apnea and your doctor has told you its because of a deviated septum. You visit a plastic surgeon for a rhinoplasty and your sleep apnea is gone. Food allergies arent nearly as straightforward as this. Figuring out which foods are causing your misery isnt always an easy task because its often difficult to recognize that food is the culprit in the first place.
You can have a blood test done if food allergies are suspected, but this test does have its limits. It looks at IgG allergens in an attempt to identify which foods are the problem. However, many other things can contribute to abnormal numbers here, so these things must be considered in conjunction with the results.
The Elimination Diet
The most common and sometimes most effective way to identify food allergies is to go through an elimination diet. In this technique, you eliminate all known food allergens from your diet for a period of six to eight weeks. This would include all dairy products, soy, wheat, peanuts, corn, artificial sweeteners, coffee, yeast, citrus and all foods in the nightshade family.
The elimination diet is challenging, but well worth it for those who are able to identify the roots of their symptoms. The initial period of avoiding certain foods will allow the body to reset and heal the inflammation. After that, you can reintroduce foods one at a time to see if there is a reaction.
When you reintroduce foods, its important to take it slow. You may have allergies to more than one food. Try one item, and eat it several times a day for at least two or three days. If you dont experience any ill results, this food is safe for you to eat. If you do, youll know to eliminate it from your diet completely. Once youve determined that one food is safe, you can continue with a new food in the same manner.
The Importance Of Identifying And Addressing Food Allergies
When you eat foods to which you are allergic on a continual basis, you are putting your body in a chronic state of stress. The immune system has no time to relax and the intestinal lining has no time to heal. Its like a slow and steady river whittling away at the ground beneath until a great canyon is formed; the damage is slow and almost unnoticed while its happening, but the end result is serious.
Unaddressed food allergies can lead to a number of major health complications. Inflammation is a killer. Heart disease, diabetes and even cancer can all result from chronic inflammation. Food allergies may not kill right away, but just like the river, given enough time, they can be fatal.
Joint pain, arthritis, and fibromyalgia are also the result of inflammation in the body. While not fatal, these conditions can make life miserable for the sufferers. This isnt to say that eliminating food allergens will cure these conditions in all circumstances, but it can significantly reduce or eliminate the symptoms for those whose symptoms are caused by food allergy inflammation.
The bottom line is, whether mild or severe, food allergies are nothing to take lightly if you want optimal health. If you have any symptoms at all, its well worth it to try an elimination diet, and talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.
Michelle is a blogger and freelancer. Shes written about almost every topic under the sun, and loves constantly learning about new subjects and industries while shes writing. In her spare time she enjoys spending time outdoors with her dogs. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.