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Allergies

The best solution for a food allergy is following a properly chosen diet, which eliminates products causing the allergic reaction.

Food is one of the biggest challenges for our immune system. If our general health condition is fine and our body does not struggle with such problems as incomplete digestion, damaged intestine, or immune system overload (overexposure to an antigen), everything is going smoothly. However, weakness in at least one of these areas may lead to an improper reaction from the immune system. Such reactions include: runny nose, asthma, contact dermatitis, oral ulceration, tiredness, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, middle ear infection, inflammation of the joints, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and fertility disorders. The list of these abnormal reactions is long indeed.

It is not unusual for patients with many seemingly unconnected symptoms to fruitlessly wander, from one doctor to the next, in the search of a diagnosis. When development of an allergic reaction to an allergen takes hours, connecting it to prior consumption a particular food is very difficult.

The most important element of curing every allergy (as well as intolerance) is reducing the exposure to a given allergen. To put it simply, we have to eliminate the thing causing the adverse reaction, either from our diet, or from our environment. Often, a simple diet not containing the problem-causing foods is enough to effectively prevent the symptoms. We need keep in mind that our body will keep producing antibodies as long as we are in contact with the allergen, which in turn causes the stimulation of our immune system.

If we are able to find the cause and eliminate it, we will definitely see an improvement, and the allergy symptoms should subside. It is worth keeping in mind that removing the foods causing allergic reactions from our menu allows the immune system to rest. The antibodies levels drop, immune complexes are cleared out and the symptoms subside.

IgE allergies seem to be “permanent,” meaning that we will have to avoid the allergen for the rest of our lives. IgG allergies can, with time, be reversible. In their case it is best to eliminate the allergy-causing foods for a period of at least three months. If the symptoms subside, it is possible to reintroduce the eliminated foods. However, it should always be done one at a time and while carefully monitoring the results.
Unfortunately, the elimination diet requires a great deal of patience.

When we remove a non-staple food e.g. celery, citrus fruits, chocolate, or kiwi, we can easily replace it with another and we barely notice its absence. The situation changes dramatically, however, when we are faced with eliminating a food that is a staple on our menu. For example we could list breadstuff, milk or eggs. Creating our everyday menu so that it is not only balanced but also varied and tasty becomes truly challenging. Luckily, in many cases the necessity for milk- or egg-free diet lasts approximately a year. After that time, if the products are served sparsely enough and in proper amounts, they can be tolerated by our body quite well. In particularly difficult cases a longer period of avoiding a given ingredient is needed, and sometimes it becomes a lifelong commitment. Luckily, these cases are not common.

However, the situation is different with gluten. If a malabsorption and temporary intolerance is diagnosed, gluten-free diet can be used for a short time (around a few months). However, if we are diagnosed with celiac disease, the diet must be a lifelong commitment.

Throughout the course of the diet it is important to eliminate not only the product that is causing the allergic reaction, but also any other foods that contain it. We should learn to read labels carefully, because allergens can be hidden in products we would least expect them (e.g. eggs in mayonnaise or semolina in sausages).

A good course of action might be to limit foods belonging to the same group as the ones we have an allergic reaction to, since they share common allergens and may produce similar allergic reactions. It means that, if, for example, there is a peach allergy, we should also watch out for apricots, almonds, and raspberries. In similar vein, if there is a celery allergy, reactions may crop up when eating carrots, aniseed, or parsley. These cross-reactions, however, are relatively rare, and as usual, each patient should be treated individually.

Often, the foods that cause a smaller allergic reaction are tolerated by our bodies, as long as they are not eaten more often than every four days. However it is important to keep in mind that the tolerance is different for different people, so in order to achieve improvement, even products with 1+ reactivity should be eliminated.

During diets it is important to remember that sometimes a product which did not cause any reaction before may start causing one, if the product is consumed often and in higher quantity. Food allergy may also undergo seasonal changes. Therefore, it is very important to observe our body and its reactions for various foods, as well as our general well-being.
Since it is believed that IgG allergies are caused by transmission of food allergens through the intestinal wall, we should keep in mind that a treatment of intestines is necessary. Intestinal permeability test and a minute stool analysis are helpful in diagnosing the “leaky gut” as well as contributing factors (including indigestion, malabsorption, flora imbalance, IgA deficiency, and mucosa damaged by infection or by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Correcting these problems may help to reduce a chance of additional allergies arising.

Rotation diet is another kind of diet used with food allergies. It is used for people allergic to several or around a dozen of food products, or in cases there in a sudden allergy flare-up of unknown origin. Rotation diet helps us to avoid “overloading” our menu with allergens originating from the same group of nutritional products. Usually a four-day diet is used, but five- and six-day cycles are also possible. No matter the length of cycle, there is basically just one rule: first day we eat a product or product from a group, which we after avoid until the first day of the next cycle.

With a four-day cycle, products from one group may only be eaten only on this day, and then after four days. Product form the same group can be combined in one meal only if earlier they have been used separately and no adverse reaction was present. During the rotation diet, it is suggested to use fresh, least processed products, since they possess more nutrients and no hidden ingredients (allergens) added during processing, e.g. corn, soy, or eggs.

Rotation diet not only helps to subdue an allergic-immunologic reaction, it also decreases the risk of new allergies appearing.

To summarize: it is vitally important for our diet, despite some foods being removed, to maintain variety and provide all the needs for our body (energetic and nutritional), since following a deficient diet for a longer period may be detrimental to our health. Diet should always be individually chosen. While excluding highly nutritious foods, it is necessary that the replacement products cover the need for required nutrients. A dietician or a doctor should perform periodical checks the diet’s effectiveness and judge to what degree it is being followed and whether no dietary errors are present (these are often unintended and come from the patient’s unawareness).