Have you noticed a sudden increase in how often you sneeze? Or maybe you've noticed that your eyes are itchy, you have unexplainable patches of irritated skin, or have trouble breathing? It might be a case of allergies.
What is an Allergy?
An allergy is a simple word for a wide variety of reactions that your body has to foreign substances. These foreign substances are known as allergens and can range from bacteria, chemicals, and even food.
When your body encounters these substances, it reacts by making antibodies or releasing chemicals called histamines. This release of antibodies and chemicals in your body cause an inflammatory reaction, which result in the symptoms that we associate with allergies.
You probably already know some pretty common allergy symptoms, like sneezing and itchy eyes – but allergy symptoms extend way beyond these. The inflammatory reaction your body has can affect your body tissue, organs, skin, lungs, and even gastrointestinal tract. Some of these symptoms include:
- Watery eyes
- Runny and congested nose/sinuses
- Respiratory discomfort
- Skin reactions (i.e. rashes, swelling)
- Rapid heartbeat
- Intestinal gas or pain
- Abdominal bloating
- Mood swings
Oftentimes, people don't realize that they have allergies and mistaken these symptoms for other health conditions.
What Causes Allergies?
Lots of environmental factors can cause allergic reactions. These include natural environmental substances, chemical toxins, and food. The most common types of allergens are classified below.
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The list of allergenic foods includes anything that you eat. This means that any type of food can be a potential allergen. Whether you have a food allergy or not, is correlated to how often you eat a particular food.
A common sign of allergies, that many people ignore, is chronic pain. Oftentimes, chronic body pain means that you’re dealing with inflammation, which could quite possibly be an allergic reaction. In order to minimize pain, discomfort, and inflammation associated with an allergic reaction, you need to find out which foods you are allergic to. The consequence of not taking the time to find your allergies may lead to:
- Continued health problems
- Impaired digestion
- Inability to absorb nutrients
How Can I Find Out If I Have Allergies?
There are two ways that you can find out what you're allergic to:
- IgG/IgA testing
- Elimination diet
IgG/IgA measures the level of immunoglobulin, a type of antibody, in your blood. Immunoglobulin can be broken down into five subclasses, including IgG (Immunoglobulin G) and IgA (Immunoglobulin A). IgG is found in all bodily fluids, while IgA is mostly found in mucous membranes (i.e. the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts).
IgG testing looks for food sensitivities where IgG antibodies attach to food antigens, creating an antibody-antigen complex. Though the body will do its best to break this complex a part, sometimes this does not happen. This complex will then enter body tissue, causing reactions like inflammation. IgG testing looks for the antibody-antigen complex to help you target reactive foods so that they can be eliminated from your diet.
IgA testing measures food reactions. Specifically, this test looks for IgA antibodies that form when specific foods are consumed. These antibodies form when the lining of of the intestines or mucuous membranes become inflamed due to reactive food reactions.
The elimination diet requires you to completely eliminate foods that you suspect may cause allergic reactions. After a specific time period, you reintroduce the suspected food to see if it will cause negative effects in your body. I highly advise working with a trained nutritionist, naturopath, or other trusted health care professional during an elimination diet. A professional will be able to guide you on what you should or should not eat during this period, and help you monitor any reactivity once foods are reintroduced.
Finding out which foods you are allergic to can be tricky, especially if you consume a lot of boxed, frozen, or take out foods. This is because these foods have ingredients that are found in almost all common off-the-shelf and restaurant foods. By far, the easiest way to detect food allergies is to eliminate convenience foods. Instead, shift to buying and eating whole foods as much as possible. You should avoid packaged and processed foods and try to cook all of your own meals and snacks as often as possible.
Other Allergy Considerations
The following list are additional considerations you should take, when it comes to allergies.
1. Children under the age of one
Eating habits during the first year of life may impact a baby's allergy sensitivities. These include, feeding babies solid food too early, lack of breast feeding, and gluten allergies from grains such as corn, wheat and oats.
2. Poor Digestion
Poor digestion can lead to allergies because of:
- Insufficient chewing/eating too fast
- Poor hydrochloric acid in the stomach
- Lack of pancreatic enzymes and bile
- Excessive fluid intake around meals
- The presence of parasites, worms, Candida, and other bacteria
Stress puts mental and physical strain on the body and for is reason may lead to allergies. This includes emotional and mental anxiety, fatigue, and even menstrual stress.
4. Excess or repeated contact with particular foods and substances
If you are constantly eating the same foods, or often have food "cravings," it may be a sign of allergies.
All in all, I encourage everyone to take the time to discover if they have allergies. Big or small, knowing that you have an allergy can help get rid of discomfort and larger health issues in the future.