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Frequently Overlooked Origin of Disease
Food sensitivities/allergies have been a confirmed cause of human illness since the beginning of the twentieth century, when Hamburger and Schloss confirmed the first known cases of food allergies. In that time frame, conventional medicine has accepted, denied, partially accepted, and totally denigrated food sensitivity as a true condition. A food that is generally healthy for you can, a week later, set up a cascade of immune and chemical reactions in your body that have far-reaching implications if left undiagnosed. The more frequently you eat this food, the greater the strain on your systems and organs until physical symptoms may take you to your doctor. Baffled by your otherwise good health, your doctor will treat your symptoms as indicated. Unless he or she considers food sensitivities as a possible cause and does appropriate testing, your symptoms are destined to return as you continue eating the culprit food. After an appropriate number of visits, your doctor will add the adjectives “chronic” or “recurrent” in front of your original diagnosis. He or she will do further tests, change your medication, and console you in that you may require continued treatment for this problem for which there is no apparent cure.
Intolerance to a food that we commonly eat can cause an ongoing inflammatory reaction on the lining of the intestines, which can result in that lining becoming unhealthy and “leaky.” In other words, it does not keep certain substances from being absorbed into our blood stream as it should, such as partially undigested food proteins and large toxins, which result in an upregulated immune response. This flood of “bad” material into the blood stream overburdens the liver’s ability to detoxify these substances, thereby creating a great deal of oxidative stress in the body. Ultimately, this oxidative stress has been known to contribute to the genesis of a multitude of degenerative disorders, such as heart disease and cancer. Stress has an even more frequent effect on the mitochondria, which are the energy-producing parts of our cells. The eventual result is fatigue, brain-fog, degenerative disease, and a never-ending cycle of more and more allergy and intolerance.
The immune system has total autonomy. If it believes something is bad, our immune system exercises it authority to call forth all the body’s energies to protect it. No wonder so many with food sensitivities are tired! Once the immune cells have branded a food as an “invader,” the food will evoke the wrath of the immune response each time the immune system detects the food in the blood, regardless of how healthy it may seem. And once a food is branded as an invader, each subsequent exposure confirms this. It is a perfect example of “guilty until proven innocent.” This results in an incredible amount of resources being wasted, fighting an imaginary enemy, as “invader foods” continue consuming body energy, vitamins, and nutrients to maintain the massive “immune army” necessary to keep the body safe from the persistent food invaders.
The immune system not only surveys the body for precancerous and cancerous cells, but it also eliminates debris; and it must protect the body against attack from a variety of harmful pathogens. It must do so while discriminating between what is harmful and what is not harmful. It must also not attack any of the body’s own healthy tissue. Thus it has evolved a broad repertoire of responses to deal with the various situations it encounters.
There are two main branches of the immune systemthe innate immune system and the adaptive immune system. The innate immune system is the branch that is most associated with delayed-onset symptoms of food and chemical intolerance. The adaptive, or specific, immune system is more closely associated with “true allergy,” where symptom onset is rapid, more dramatic and acute, and where the association with the ingested food, or chemical, is obvious; thus laboratory testing is usually not required in order to make a diagnosis.
The term allergy was coined in 1906 by an Austrian physician named von Pirquet. It meant “altered reaction.” Thus any pathological response to a normally benign substance was referred to as an altered reaction, or allergy. It could be the outcome of either innate or adaptive immunity. However, a few decades later, allergists in Europe decided to narrow this definition to describe only such a reaction as occurs in rapid response to exposure to an allergen, such as the appearance of hives immediately following ingestion of shellfish, or a sudden burst of sneezing following the inhalation of dust. The severity of reactions varies from mild and barely noticeable to life threatening, such as when a person goes into anaphylactic shock, causing serious illness and possibly death. When such a reaction concerns a food, the very nature of the reaction, being immediate or very near immediate, makes identifying the specific culprit food quite easy and there is little need of testing. These are functions of the adaptive or specific immune system. This contrasts with the body’s reaction to delayed or hidden food allergies, usually referred to as sensitivities or intolerances, in which symptom onset may take several hours to a couple of days to occur. Hence, delayed food allergies are much more difficult to diagnose, which is why they are called “hidden.”
When a foreign protein enters the body, either through inhalation, direct contact with the skin, or ingestion, it may or may not make it through the initial defenses set up at the point of entry. If the foreign substance does get past the barricade, a cell, such as a macrophage (meaning “big eater”) or dendritic cell, may absorb it. The cell’s internal machinery then breaks down the protein and transports the broken-down peptides on to the cell’s own surface. The macrophage or other cell performing this function, such as a dendritic cell, is called an antigen-presenting cell. In the blood, lymph, and certain specialized tissue exist certain types of white blood cells known as lymphocytes. Different types of lymphocytes do different things. A T-helper II lymphocyte, or T-cell for short, responds to the presentation of an allergen or antigen (antigen means antibody generator). The T-cell initiates a response. To do so it must “recognize” the specific antigen; that is, it must have a receptor on its surface that conforms to the shape of the peptides of the allergen that is being presented.
If it does conformand this is the basis of specific immunitythat T-cell and only those T-cells with the same receptor type, is switched on and becomes activated. The activated T-cell then binds with another type of lymphocyte known as a B-lymphocyte if, and only if, the B-cell also shares the same molecular structure, or receptor, on its surface. Thus we see that the immune system has come to recognize and react against a specific allergen. That is why this function is called specific immunity.
In the next step, a chemical signal is then transmitted from the T-cell to the B-cell. The B-cell gets switched on, transforms itself into a plasma cell, and begins to manufacture and then secrete soluble forms of that very same type of receptor into the blood. This soluble form of the receptor is an antibody, or immunoglobulin (globule of immunity). This type of receptor, or antibody, has a shape on one part of it that complements the original shape of the allergen components that started this whole sequence of events. Therefore, it tends to bind with that allergen whenever the two come within close proximity to one another. Those soluble receptors are called antibodies. If the intercellular signal sent from the T-cell to the B-cell involves a chemical called IL4, or interleukin 4, the antibody that the B-cell secretes is of the IgE (immunoglobulin E) type. The IgE antibody, like other antibodies, has a “Y” shape to it. The stem portion of the “Y” has the propensity to bind with receptors on yet another type of white blood cell, a mast cell, or a similar type of cell known as a basophil. Mast cells are located in tissues, such as the mucosal lining of the gastrointestinal tract, the respiratory tract, the genitourinary tract, and the skin. Basophils, like mast cells, contain histamine, but they circulate in the blood.
Once bound to the mast cell or basophil, the portion of the IgE antibodies that remains unbound is the part that expresses the molecular configuration complementary to the shape of the peptides of the original allergen. Thus, it is known as an allergen-specific antibody. The next time that allergen comes around, it binds to the exposed portions of the allergen-specific IgE antibodies. When this happens, the mast cell or basophil reacts and the cell membrane breaks down. This allows the small granules within the cells, which contain histamine, to be spewed out and cause the various allergy symptoms. The process, known as degranulation, happens quite quickly. The immune system is believed to have evolved this particular response to defend against parasites, relatively large entities as compared to white blood cells. Therefore to effectively deter parasites, this dramatic spewing of poisonous chemicals is necessary.
Following the initial distress, caused by the release of preformed mediators (histamine, in this case), the immune system later converts the phospholipids, which make up the membranes of the involved cells, into other inflammatory mediator types. These mediators, known as lipid mediators and including prostaglandins and leukotrienes, are responsible for the so-called late-phase reaction, which takes place some six to eight hours later and lasts much longer than the initial reaction. Some leukotrienes can constrict the smooth muscles of the bronchial tubes 30 times more effectively than histamine. These mediators are actually autocrine hormones, and can also have an effect on metabolism. Some of them inhibit the burning of fat and/or, induce the storage of fat.
With adverse delayed reactions to foods, IgE antibodies are not involved. Nor is the reaction limited to just the mast cells. It appears that all the subtypes of immune system cells, especially the phagocytic cells, are involved in these reactions, and these cells are not in the skin. Thus skin tests and antibody tests are not accurate. What is needed to make an accurate identification of an offending food or substance is either a lengthy elimination and challenge procedure, carried out over a period of months, reintroducing one food at a time, no more frequently than one every three days; a blood test that can measure the reaction of all the immune system cells regardless of what factor or factors that may trigger the reaction (ALCAT test); or kinesiologic muscle testing.
Whereas the pathway, or mechanism, underlying classic allergy (where symptom onset is immediate) is very well known, the mechanisms underlying delayed reactions are different and various. Most likely, they are the immune system cells reacting to a chemical that either naturally occurs in a food or is added to it at some stage. The reaction may also be against complexes of chemicals or natural food constituents, comprised of both proteins and carbohydrates, known as lectins. Research on this started back in the beginning of the 20th century when Dr. Karl Landsteiner first identified inherited differences of “blood type” based on red blood cell surface antigens. Three types were identified: A, B, and O. Later, Type AB was identified. Some investigators in the 1920s also found associations between particular blood types and specific diseases.
Susceptibility to different micro-organisms is also seen among the different blood types, and there is no doubt, that to the extent that a lectin produces an adverse reaction to the associated food, blood type does have some predictive value. However, there are many factors within a food and any one of them may be responsible for activating the immune system.
When food passes through the intestinal wall it then enters the portal circulation, which then passes through the liver. Toxic components are modified in the liver during a two-phase process; transformation and then conjugation with other molecules that allow them to be eliminated from the body. Those toxins that go through the first phase are called toxic intermediates, and they can be more damaging to the body than the original toxin. If the second phase of conjugation cannot keep up with the first phase, then some of these toxic intermediates enter the general circulation. Here the immune system cells take a crack at them. Once activated, a sub-class of immune system cells, which includes phagocytes, releases powerful chemicals, chemicals not only capable of causing fatal damage to foreign invaders, such as pathogenic bacteria; but also capable, when misdirected, of causing damage to the host. These chemicals wreak their destructive force because they contain free radicals. Free radicals can be highly destructive.
Three major factors contribute to this process:
1. A hyperpermeable gut (leaky gut syndrome), which can be caused by a number of factors, including irritation, an imbalance in the types of micro-organisms in the gut, an underlying allergic condition directly affecting the gut, and a deficiency in a certain type of protective antibody complex, called secretory IgA. When the immune system gets cranked up, the adrenal glands will produce more cortisol. Excess cortisol can cause both gut hyperpermeability and a deficiency in secretory IgA antibodies. Thus stress, which raises cortisol levels, can also contribute to food sensitivities in this way. Stress also weakens the immune system in other ways. Whatever the cause, incompletely digested food particles are more likely to activate the immune system than are fully digested food particles.
2. A slow or deficient detoxification pathway fails to eliminate toxins, which are then dealt with by the immune system cells. In some instances a particular detoxification pathway may be overwhelmed because there is too much toxin to handle. This can occur because a certain detoxification enzyme is deficient. Just as a deficiency in a digestive enzyme makes it difficult or impossible to digest a certain food substance, as when lactase efficiency inhibits digestion of lactose (milk sugar), a detoxification enzyme deficiency makes it difficult or impossible to break down a dietary toxin. Many detox enzymes also require cofactors: micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, which should be in the diet. However, commercial agricultural practices deplete the soil of its natural mineral content. If it’s not in the soil, then it’s not in the diet. Thus the modern diet consisting primarily of processed and adulterated foods contributes to food sensitivities in two ways: It introduces more unnatural and foreign substances into the body, and it does not provide adequate levels of nutrients necessary for proper lever detoxification. Sometimes a large dose of a foreign chemical so overwhelms a detox pathway that the body then develops a sensitivity to new foods or chemicals that contain chemically related components. The initial insult that sets up the sensitivity is called induction. The body’s subsequent reactivity to chemically related substances is called spreading.
3. A genetic predisposition to react to a particular food substance. Some genetic tendencies are associated with place of origin. Our genetic ancestry, based on thousands of generations of previous exposures, determines our capability to digest a food. This goes a long way toward explaining today’s increased cases of food intolerance. Since commercialized agriculture and food processing began, which were only around 50 to 60 years ago, the food that we eat has now come to resemble less and less the food our ancestors ate. We must take into account factors of human migration, food migration (through preservation and shipping), food adulteration, now modification through genetic manipulation and irradiation, and less natural nutritional support for the detoxification pathways.
Nearly everyone exhibits a reaction of the innate immune system initiated by exposure to common foods, additives, and other substances. The foods and other substances we are exposed to every day, if incompatible with our own unique biochemical makeup, will result in immune system creation of free radicals and cause the type of physical damage and premature aging. Phagocytes such as macrophages and neutrophils purposely generate high levels of oxygen radicals, which they store in tightly sealed intracellular compartments. When phagocytes engulf bacteria or other microbes during the course of an infection, they deliver them from these internal radical-containing compartments, where they are very efficiently destroyed. Unfortunately, after several rounds of microbial feeding, the phagocytes die and release their contents into the surrounding tissues. Oxygen radicals released in this fashion can be taken up by adjacent cells, and once inside they cause the same sort of damage as radicals produced internally. In the case of prolonged infections a chronic inflammatory state may develop, and the repeated engorging and death of phagocytes can cause serious oxidative damage to nearby healthy cells. This is also a major source of damage in chronic inflammatory autoimmune reactions such as rheumatoid arthritis, and can lead to serious tissue loss.
A chronic infection, because it activates the immune system, can cause destruction of cell membranes, organs, and other tissue and even DNA. The damage done by reactive oxygen molecules needed to operate living cells can be enormous. No molecular species is immune. Oxygen radicals can attack and deform protein molecules, disrupting structural complexes and inhibiting important enzymatic functions. Protein degradation products frequently show up in the body fluids of elderly persons or of patients with chronic infections or chronic inflammatory diseases such as arthritis. Various lipid oxidation products show up in pigment granules called lipofuscin that clog the cells of older individuals, and are a major component of atherosclerotic plaques. Oxygen radicals also attack the individual nucleotide bases that make up both nuclear and mitochondrial DNA.
Scientists now believe that chronic activation of the innate immune system underlies diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and obesity. Today we know that it is not the pure cholesterol that initiates the arterial plaque formation that underlies hardening of the arteries. Instead, it is cholesterol oxides, that is, cholesterol damaged by free radicals, caused by activation of the immune system, which initiates this disease process. The causes are deficiencies in our antioxidant defense systems, but more than that, anything that causes chronic activation of the innate immune system is the ultimate cause. This, of course, includes immune activation induced by food and environmental sensitivities. So is it any wonder that such diseases have now reached epidemic proportions in industrialized societies?
After reading this information, you will understand the frustrating plight of the person with migraine headaches, sinus drainage, ear infections, overweight, irritable bowel syndrome, chronic fatigue, arthritis, and fibromyalgia, to mention a few. All these “conditions” may be merely symptoms of a body’s defense system mistaking a normal food for a dangerous invader.
It is to your body’s credit that this protective mechanism exists and works. Unfortunately, your body uses incredible amounts of energy to protect your immune system and subsequently your organ systems when it is switched on inappropriately. When your immune system is continuously stressed, protecting you from this food that keeps reappearing, it can no longer maintain its defenses against true invading microorganisms. Likewise, nutrients otherwise destined to support other organ systems are conscripted by the immune system to support its functions. This sets in motion another cascade of events that may eventually result in symptoms of “malnutrition” or deficiencies in nutrients. As each organ system is taxed by the immune system, it may present symptoms that complicate health.
Unless a doctor is insightful enough to consider food sensitivities as the root cause of all your symptoms, your array of diagnoses can be numerous. Each may require medical visits and medication to control symptoms, which in turn leads to low self-esteem. As depression and frustration take over your daily life, you may well become a willing subject of the medical system that seems your only hope.
The very nature of overweight suggests an inappropriate response to food, because it is not uncommon to find overweight people who eat less food and exercise more than might be indicated by their body fat. It should be routine for medical professionals to conduct food sensitivity testing to detect any reactive foods. By eliminating these foods, people who test positive for food sensitivities can resume a “normal” weight loss appropriate for calorie intake and exercise. Food sensitivities may result not only in overeating, but also in malnutrition, by interfering with the metabolism of fat for energy. This results in individuals who are overweight, plagued with “serotonin boosting” cravings, and malnourished because of poor intestinal absorption of nutrients. Exercise for these persons becomes frustrating when they consume little fat for energy and become hungrier from their exercise. When fat is not accessible to burn for energy, the body falls back on its emergency supply: the small glycogen store in the liver and muscle. Once this readily available source is used up, the body will send you to eat as quickly as possible.
If the biochemical reaction precipitated by food sensitivity blocks your metabolism of fat for energy, you repeatedly tap your emergency carbohydrate supply. Your body then insists you eat to replace this supply, and odds are slim that you will choose pure and natural carbohydrates. You are more likely to consume easily available processed food loaded with sugar and/or fat. At this point, your body is saying, “Feed me. Eat anything, and I will sort it out once it gets here.” The result of this hypothetical scenario is that you will have consumed more sugar and fat that will be stored as fat, probably in the form of one or more of your favorite or reactive foods. This perpetual cycle of living off your emergency supply of carbohydrate results in a slow but steady buildup of fat storage and the feeding of total dependence on carbohydrates for energy. Eventually your brain figures, “The only way out of this cycle is to stop exercising.” So let’s stop a minute and look at you.
· You have gained weight.
· When you exercise, you don’t lose weight but do get hungry.
· You eat right but don’t lose weight.
· You stop exercising out of frustration.
· You give in to certain foods that make you feel better.
· You have food sensitivity!
Like putting a figurative fence around our fat, the gate only opens into the fat cell; nothing leaves. We must eat, and inevitably, we will eat fat and sugar even as we try to eat healthily. The fat and sugar go to the fat cell through the gate guarded by the chemical response to reactive foods, never to leave again. We can store more fat, but, using that fat for energy is prohibited.
Millions of people act as they do and feel as they feel, not by choice, but because their body reacts adversely to a food they have eaten. Much like a parasitic relationship, this chemical response to normal food drains the host’s reserves of energy, creates imbalances in brain chemistry, and subverts the host’s energy to its purpose. To try to keep up nutritionally with this virtually continuous drain of body energy is like trying to fill a bathtub without plugging the drain.
The emotional stress placed on those afflicted with food sensitivity is monumental. These individuals may gradually become ostracized by others because of their symptoms, which restrict their activities. This contributes to decreased self-esteem, increased depression, and stress. These conditions, in turn, place further demands on the immune system, which is already significantly fatigued by its all-out response to normal foods. To absolve these negative personal feelings, victims often instinctively turn to relief in the form of the chemical serotonin. When present in the brain in adequate amounts, this chemical neurotransmitter can temporarily turn the world rosy. Needless to say, this quick fix fades relatively soon but is easily renewed by the carbohydrate load of a bowl of ice cream, cookies, or pasta.
In fact, those conscientious enough to avoid the obviously fat-building foods such as refined sugars can often achieve the same peaceful state by eating (or overeating) pasta, bread, cereal, or any number of refined “low fat” or “no sugar” foods. The dilemma is that processed foods that enhance serotonin also stimulate other body hormones such as insulin. The end result is that the more one eats for the serotonin effect, the fatter one gets. Sadly, the serotonin effect is, in the case of food sensitivities, temporary at best. When you eat a food to which you are sensitive, you stress your body, actually creating a decrease in serotonin in the eating center of the brain, but not necessarily immediately. Say a person is sensitive to corn. If she eats a food sweetened with corn syrup, or even a corn chip, the immediate result may be a familiar reaction in the body resulting in increased serotonin.
Serotonin is produced in the brain. It cannot get into the brain from the bloodstream. To produce serotonin, the brain must have precursors in the form of certain amino acid building blocks. Amino acids are the smallest building blocks that the body uses to make proteins it needs as hormones. The specific precursor to serotonin is tryptophan, an amino acid. Tryptophan is special in that it is pretty scarce in the bloodstream. It is a “heat labile” amino acid, that is denatured by cooking and is unrecognizable by the body. Most other amino acids are branched-chain amino acids and are fairly plentiful compared to tryptophan. All these amino acids line up at the blood-brain barrier waiting their turn to be transported to the brain. This barrier is like the border between countries. The body is very particular as to what gets through the blood-brain barrier, and a backup develops. Meanwhile the level of serotonin in the brain continues to fall. Your brain tells you to go eat something sweet. As soon as you do that, your insulin level soars.
The immediate effect of insulin in the bloodstream is to direct all the branched-chain amino acids to their respective posts to begin building muscle hormones and enzymes to take advantage of the sugary energy you have just eaten. The insulin sweeps through all the amino acids in line at the blood-brain barrier, conscripting all those that are branched-chain amino acids for duties elsewhere in the body. Tryptophan, normally not one of the more common amino acids, now finds itself highly concentrated at the blood-brain barrier, by the insulin tidal wave. Subsequently, more tryptophan enters the brain more quickly and is promptly converted to serotonin, one of the neurotransmitters responsible for determining hunger. As serotonin levels rise, the need to feed disappears and the body assumes a well-fed, calm peaceful state. As serotonin levels decay, this process repeats itself. The whole process is thrown into action each and every time serotonin levels drop below a certain set point for that individual. External factors may also deplete serotonin. These include long-term stress, sleep deprivation, illness, and food sensitivity reactions. Regardless of the precipitating event, the bodily urge to raise serotonin levels manifests as a strong craving for a food that will raise insulin levels and replenish serotonin levels rapidly. This is why you crave sweets.
Concurrently, however, the food may activate the immune system, resulting in various other chemical reactions, depending on the immune system response to the food. One chemical reaction in the body leads to another in perpetual motion. Serotonin aside, we now have raging insulin levels as the body tries to take advantage of the precious sugar energy you have consumed. Insulin will direct the blood glucose (sugar) into the muscle cells and liver, where it can be stored for future use as glycogen. You are unlikely to need it immediately because of your current drowsy state resulting from elevated serotonin levels. Not one to waste energy resources once all the storage capacity for glycogen is filled, the body directs the conversion of excess glucose into fat. And it doesn’t take too long before that storage capacity in the muscle tissue and liver is reached.
Once this occurs, the effect of insulin is to open the fat cell to accept fat for storage and close off the release of fat from the cell into the bloodstream. This is because the body preferentially uses glucose as an energy source over fat, when it is available. This is a good example of what is called a cascade. That is, a sugary food (high glycemic index) is consumed, insulin is produced, the sugars are stored in fat cells as fat and not burned for energy requirements, lack of energy is felt, then more sugar is consumed. The end result is that you are lethargic, with a full tank of energy stored as both glycogen and fat. Because your serotonin level is fine, your only tendency to eat is from a fluctuating insulin level, causing you to seek sweets to correct your hypoglycemia. This is a nightmare of perpetual bad news for the overweight patient. Elevated serotonin levels and intermittent hypoglycemia keep one lethargic, while increased insulin levels promote storing more energy as fat.
If the cells of the intestinal lining try to control the “invader,” one may experience any of various symptoms the body uses to tell us that something is wrong in our intestines. For example, you might experience swelling of the mucosa (lining of the intestines) and a slowing of motility, or constipation, or malabsorption of important nutrients that results in prolific mucous secretion as the irritated lining urges the body to wash this substance away. If the invading food particle is identified and attacked in the blood vessels, this may result in vasculitis, damage to the blood vessel ling. As the blood vessels desperately try to clear this chemical reaction away, they dilate, or open up. This dilation may well lead to severe headaches as well as irritability and muscle pains. Certain foods may cause symptomatic reactions affecting the brain, whereas others may affect the sinuses, intestines, skin, or joints. Not every individual will be affected in the same way by each reactive food, but a particular food seems to result in the same symptoms each time it is eaten by the same individual.
Food sensitivities can keep you fat. If you are someone who exercises regularly, eats “right,” and still can’t lose weight, think about the possibility that you may have food sensitivities. You may try to avoid sugary sweets, but probably liberally indulge in pasta, bread, or starches. The body is responding to the lowered serotonin levels resulting from a delayed food sensitivity. These refined grain products may in some cases raise insulin levels as fast or faster than sugar. Compound the dilemma by eating any amount of unhealthy saturated fat along with your sugar or refined grain treat and and stand back: Those fat cells are going to swell.
Finding out whether you have a food intolerance that leads you to crave carbohydrates can enable you to put an end to the vicious cycle. Eliminating the foods to which you react badly will result in diminished cravings and a proper resumption of normal metabolic pathways. Weight loss will then follow this normalizing of body functions.
Several research studies have shown that food does indeed have a significant impact on airway conditions. Allergic airway disease may be due to food intolerance, molds and chemicals such as preservative and food dyes, as well as airborne allergens. These intolerances represent more load on the body, and the air passages are a likely target for a system weakened by the elements.Yet of conditions traditional doctors believe are not helped by addressing a person’s food intolerance, airway problemsincluding asthma, hay fever, and sinusitistop the list. But luckily for many people, some doctors do take the link between food and respiratory problems into consideration. Testing for food intolerance is a promising therapy for the millions who suffer from respiratory problems, and who long to breathe easier once again.
Asthma, hay fever, and sinusitis are among the most common allergy complaints today. Asthma, in particular, is on the rise. Many studies have found that food allergy is an important cause of asthma and hay fever. This potentially dangerous disease is thought to be compounded by our increasingly polluted and chemically adulterated modern world. Twelve million people suffer from asthma in the United States alone. Of these, five thousand die every year. In fact, mortality has doubled since 1978, with people who live in cities being the hardest hit. The dramatically high number of respiratory sufferers is not surprising considering the complex and sensitive respiratory system. It includes miles of air passages in the lungs. By the time air reaches these passages, it has already been warmed and moistened by the nose, filtered through nose hairs and lymph tissue in the throat, and then re-filtered by millions of tiny cilia (hair-like projections along membranous cell tissue) to remove any particles that could damage the lungs.
The characteristic symptoms of asthma, which include wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness, are produced by a constriction of the air passages. This happens when an allergen triggers IgE antibodies in the mast cells of the bronchial tubes, which lead from the trachea to the lungs. The antibodies cause the mast cells to release their powerful chemicalsincluding the well-known chemical mediator histamine. This causes inflammation of the membranes lining the tubes. The tubes then become thicker and produce more mucus, which restricts the passage of air. A full-blown asthma attack occurs when so many chemicals are released from the mast cells that the smooth muscles of the bronchial tubes contract and become narrow, making a fresh breath of air increasingly difficult.
Along with asthma, two other respiratory conditionshay fever (also known as allergic rhinitis) and sinusitisare common. Combined, these two respiratory conditions affect an estimated 14 million Americans. Hay fever, which is caused by pollens such as ragweed, affects as many as one in five Americans. In hay fever sufferers, pollen triggers the mast cells of the tissues that come into contact with the environment (including the nose, throat, and eyes) by releasing mediators that cause inflammation of the delicate tissues. Sufferers experience this reaction as red, itchy, watery eyes, and a runny or congested nose. Although usually seasonal, affecting a person when his particular allergen or allergens are in season, hay fever can also be exacerbated by food.
Sinusitis is an unpleasant and often painful infection of the air-filled cavities that surround the nasal passages. It is caused by the inflammation that occurs with hay fever and the common cold. The main symptoms of sinusitis are a severely blocked nose, headache over the eyes, or an ache in the cheeks. Food intolerance triggers the body by different mechanisms than traditional airborne and traditional food allergy. One theory is that in a person with food intolerance the food allergen, combined with an airborne allergy, puts additional stress on the body and it collapses under the load. Some lucky people find that by avoiding their intolerant foods, they find a cure for their airway conditions, or at the very least, reduce the impact of their problems.
There is growing evidence that what goes into the mouth can produce a reaction in the skin, and that food is an important factor. Much of the suffering from skin conditions such as eczema, urticaria, angioedema, and severe acne can be prevented through elimination of reactive foods. Even cellulite, the scourge of women everywhere, is closely associated with food intolerance. While traditional medicine recognizes food allergy if the result is an immediate skin rash, when the reaction is delayed, as it often is in food intolerance, traditional doctors tend to ignore the possibility of food sensitivity as a cause of the skin problems. In traditional medicine, skin rashes such as eczema and urticaria are believed to be predominantly a problem among children. However, thousands of personsboth adults and childrenare enjoying healthy skin, free of irritations, by eliminating foods to which they showed intolerance.
Eczema, one of the most common skin conditions, is an inflammation of the outer layer of skin which, in the early stages, may be red, blistered, swollen, weeping, and extremely itchy. Later, usually after much scratching by the sufferer, it becomes crusted, scaly, and thickened. For the past several decades, many researchers from around the world, all known for their special interest in atopic eczema, have independently described the value of food intolerance testing as a therapy for chronic skin conditions.
When allergy is the root of eczema and uriticaria, the mast cells in the lower layers of the skin are believed to cause the problem. When they degranulate, the mediators that are released have a powerful effect on the capillaries that lie all around them in the skin. These capillaries become leaky, allowing plasma to seep out into the skin itself. This produces the characteristic swellings and itchiness of uritcaria, which is a skin disruption with temporary welts of various shapes and sizes with clear margins and pale centers. Urticaria is often thought to be triggered by food, drugs, and stress. Sometimes it’s triggered by cold. Where a great deal of seepage from the blood vessels occurs, the tissues below the skin may also become filled with watery fluid. This produces a puffiness that doctors describe as localized angioedema, an abnormal pooling of fluid in the tissues. Many people have had success at clearing up acne, especially as a side effect of eliminating intolerant foods for other medical conditions.
Food intolerance can make you fat, and if not eliminated, will make existing fat deposits even more unsightly. Cellulite is an anatomical eyesore which very much affects the appearance of skin and has become the dread of the majority of women in a bathing suit. Cellulite, to a great extent, is the result of modern lifestyles. Cellulite is found only in fatty tissue. But one does not have to be overweight to have cellulite. The word cellulite refers to the dimpling appearance of the skin associated with the more advanced stages of change in the subcutaneous fat. Cellulite actually describes fatty tissue in various stages of development. Although areas of advanced and long-standing fatty deterioration may be irreparable, much cellulite is actually tissue in a dynamic state of evolution. The latter is amenable to revitalization. Cellulite in women most frequently appears on the hips, buttocks, and thighs. Men will tend to develop cellulite on the upper body.
Because no established medical treatment protocol exists, most physicians avoid treating cellulite. Treatment of cellulite begins with the reversal of adverse physiological changes that predispose to the deterioration of subcutaneous fat. Once the evolution of cellulite is halted, attention may turn to the reversal of body physiology that sustains existing cellulitic tissue. A thorough cellulite treatment program will include identification and elimination of food intolerance. Until intolerant foods are eliminated, any improvement in cellulite appearance will be temporary, as cellulite will continue to develop due to deterioration of the circulation in these fatty areas. The most effective maintenance of healthy tissue appearance is achieved through healthy eating habits.
One of the most commonly occurring symptoms in medicine, and especially in the histories of allergy patients, is chronic fatigue. One in four Americans have fatigue lasting longer than two weeks, often beyond six months. Fifty percent of all patients admitted to general hospitals in the United States list fatigue as a major complaint. Although fatigue may be the only manifestation of their problem, it more commonly exists in conjunction with other manifestations. The exact nature of this dysfunction is not well defined, but it can generally be viewed as an up-regulated or overactive state. Ironically, there is also evidence of some immune suppression. In many patients there are functional deficiencies in natural killer cells. In other words, these patients have a compromised immune system, which is weak and at the same time hyperactive. This paradox is not uncommon. Often when an organ has to work overtime, because of some primary deficiency, it becomes enlarged. Food is a fundamental part of a complete medical diagnosis, particularly in the area of chronic fatigue. Evidence implicates food intolerance as a cause of fatigue and even suggests that fatigue may be an “early warning sign” of food intolerance.
Normally, people experience fatigue after they’ve exerted a great deal of energy. However, if their tiredness is not related to any particular exertion on their part, is unrelieved by rest or sleep, and is frequently worse in the morning, many health practitioners believe it is probably associated in some way with food and/or chemical sensitivities. Persistent fatigue, although not necessarily life-threatening, can be a debilitating, life-wrecking medical condition, severely limiting a person’s potential, both personally and professionally. Yet it is widespread and appears, like many medical conditions caused by food intolerance, to be growing. Certain foods in certain people can trigger a “biochemical cascade.” Once the body is overloaded, these reactions can manifest as excessive fatigue or they can manifest in any organ of the body, or both.
Even though it’s so common, fatigue almost seems to not be considered a serious medical condition by the general medical community. Even the debilitating disease known as chronic fatigue syndrome gets short shrift from most doctors. An article in Newsweek in April 1996 reported that “There is no question the health establishment has erred on the side of complacency.” As a result, many people with hidden food allergies that manifest as fatigue, and with other symptoms, go to doctor after doctor seeking relief. Often, these patients are referred to as hypochondriacs or as having “thick file syndrome” because they go to doctors so often complaining about so many different symptoms. The majority of allergic individuals with the fatigue syndrome have been previously diagnosed as neurotics, due to physicians’ typical separation of mental and physical problems. It’s no wonder that patients who are chronically fatigued develop mental symptoms as well. Who wouldn’t be upset if they were too exhausted to live their lives and fulfill their responsibilities?
Even with scientific studies, patients’ personal experiences, and physicians’ success stories, the fact that fatigue (including chronic fatigue syndrome) can be alleviated by eliminating intolerant foods from a person’s diet is not generally accepted by the medical community. But physicians who accept food intolerance believe that fatigue may be the most characteristic part of food and chemical susceptibility. They believe that if no obvious medical condition, such as heart problems, chronic infection, or cancer exists, food or chemical allergy should definitely be suspected.
Over 45 million Americans get chronic, recurring headaches, and that number increases every year. Of this number, 16 to 18 million suffer from migraines, and 70 percent of all migraine sufferers are women. These chronic, recurring headaches are severe enough to cause those in pain to seek medical attention and, in some cases, prevent them from maintaining full-time employment. Only a migraine sufferer can understand the excruciating, throbbing pain of this condition which, at its worse, can land a sufferer in bed for an occasional day or incapacitate them for several days each week. A large portion of head pain, including even the worst forms of migraine, are simply due to allergic reactions.
Of the several types of headaches, most fall into one of three basic categories: tension-type headaches that bring an ache in the area where the muscles of the head and neck meet; vascular headaches, which include migraines, toxic, and cluster headaches; and organically caused headaches from tumors, infections, and disease. Many popular treatments are attemptedincluding prescription and over-the-counter medications, vertebra realignment, and psychotherapyyet the excruciating head pain still continues for millions. Often sufferers search their whole lives for help, willing to try anything that even remotely claims to be a cure. Many choose to suffer the dangerous side effects of drugs, including constricted blood vessels around the heart as well as in the brain, rather than endure a migraine’s wrath.
These debilitating headaches are often accompanied by vision sensitivities (even temporary blindness), nausea, shaking, vomiting, fatigue, depression, skin problems, and irritable bowel, all symptoms that compound the suffering. Statistically, each year in the United States headaches cripple more people than motorcycle accidents, car collisions, and industrial accidents combined. According to the National Headache Foundation, by 1995, headaches cost industry a $50 billion loss due to absenteeism and medical expenses, and migraines caused sufferers to lose more than 157 million workdays. In excess of $4 billion is spent annually on over-the-counter pain relievers for headaches, many of which are ineffective. Adults are not the only ones to suffer from headaches and migraines; children do as well. Studies show that 70 to 80 percent of migraines have a hereditary influence. If both parents have them, children have a 75 percent chance of having migraines as well. When one parent suffers from migraines, the child will have a 50 percent chance of being afflicted.
The idea that allergenic foods can cause headaches is not new. Many researchers have discovered a relationship between allergy and migraines. As far back as 1905, the Australian medical pioneer Dr. Francis Hare reported that head pain could be the result of eating incompatible foods. In 1927, two prominent American allergists, Drs. Albert H. Rowe and Warren T. Vaughn, both published articles implicating specific foods as the cause of allergic headaches.
Many headache sufferers have found the simple, drug-free solutiontreatment for food intolerance. Up to now, the cause of headaches has been attributed to hormonal imbalance, genetic predisposition, chronic tension, and emotional issues, with some foods cited as the triggers. However, physicians who recognize food intolerance as a cause of headaches agree that medical professionals who ignore food allergy do not have the whole picture. Thousands of patients and dozens of research studies show that identifying and eliminating their intolerant foods is a viable solution for many. There is no need for a person to suffer for years on end with persistent headaches when the cause can often be identified and relieved by eliminating certain substances from the environment.
We need to understand that food sensitivities are a potentially serious problem before we will consider testing to identify and avoid them. Disseminating this preventive information would seem the responsibility of the medical system, yet medical professionals have no great incentive for doing so. After all, if patients were to stop their migraine headaches, ear infections, sinus drainage, indigestion, overweight, coronary artery disease, ADD, hyperactivity, and breathing and skin problems, who would fill the waiting rooms of doctors and hospitals?
Treating food allergies is a simple science of noticing the symptoms, then not noticing them once foods are eliminated. Conventional medicine is still in denial of the possibility of food intolerance being the cause of a person’s symptoms. This approach to food allergies stems from a number of issues:
· Political. To accept food as a cause of illness would contradict many influential scientists and divert funds form their research into curing disease with medication.
· Medical philosophy. Current medical doctrine is based on nonfood causes of disease. In the era of HMOs and big business medicine, the common accepted treatment is the one that will be paid for. There is little incentive for an individual practitioner to consider patients as individuals whose common symptoms may be unrelated to the conventional “odds.”
· The wide array of symptoms caused by food allergies. The varying symptoms related to food sensitivity perplexes the practitioner who is under pressure to give relief now. Americans are not given to dealing with problems for the long term; we are addicted to instant gratification. Our medical system struggles to live up to our expectations and still remain highly profitable. This precludes recommending an elimination diet that excludes what are likely your favorite foods. Because the best-case scenariothat your condition resolves and you don’t need to see your doctor againis hardly a practice-building activity, your caregiver will more likely supply the conventional medication and recommend you return if the condition doesn’t improve.
· The lack of concrete evidence as to the exact mechanisms by which food allergies perpetuate their symptoms. This is the clincher for many physicians who need the full faith and confidence of their medical textbooks and literature behind each treatment. In all fairness, our medical/legal atmosphere perpetuates the “conventional” practice. Few physicians continue to learn with each patient they treat. Learning comes via the drug and medical equipment companies that sponsor continuing education or visit offices to update doctors on newer drugs. Drug companies seldom encourage doctors to consider something as mundane as food as the cause of and cure for patients’ health problems. If you cure your migraine with food elimination, who will buy the headache medicine? If your irritable bowel settles when you stop eating a food, who will finance the x-ray department at the hospital?
One reason conventional medicine finds it difficult to accept the concept of food sensitivity is that no standard treatment protocol is available. Each patient must be seen and treated on the basis of his or her unique symptoms. Add to that the time lag of up to 72 hours before symptoms may occur, and the variables boggle the imagination and the office schedule. Using the interminable method of rotating foods through elimination phases just to detect an improvement in symptoms taxes the perseverance and trust of the most dedicated patient.
The medical establishment has little incentive to promote research into food allergies. Even if research identified the cause of food allergies, you can be sure that, unless big drug companies make a pill to alleviate your symptoms, it will not be highly touted. Even those who are close-minded regarding food sensitivity testing realize that some foods are more allergy provoking than others. This awareness may enable these doctors to successfully treat many patients with food intolerance without drugs, or to relegate patient care to nutritionists, osteopaths, homeopaths, and dieticians familiar with advances in food sensitivity testing for food allergies.
Doctors, for the most part, do have intense concern for their patients. Sooner or later their compassion will lead them to consider the growing body of evidence that our food may be making us sick. The long-term health benefits of proper eating are undeniable, and to eat properly you must know the foods to which your body will react abnormally. Avoiding these allergic reactions is imperative to maintaining your good health.
Not only can you treat this problem, but treatment is less expensive than treating a chronic medical condition. This normal, predictable sequence of events can be stopped at any time by removing the figurative domino at the start of the chain reaction. If you simply don’t tip the first domino, no harm is done. The body’s natural response to change is to return to a state of equilibrium. As the body returns to “normal,” the first domino now starts a spontaneous reaction that efficiently proceeds to the more beneficial outcome in the maintenance of lifewithout sidetracks, split pathways, and dead-ends, and with minimal waste of energy. Usually, patients notice a significant improvement in various symptoms within the first month; symptoms associated with sinus, headache, and indigestion often improve within two weeks. This is a great impetus to continue the elimination.
Rather than buying medication and keeping doctor appointments for the rest of your life, you simply stop eating your reactive food or foods for a period of time. Often, after three to six months, you can begin reintroducing these foods into your diet if you wish. All in all, you save instead of spend money to cure this condition. You stop buying your reactive foods, you add new foods to your diet, and you learn the most basic of lessons: Your health is your responsibility. No one knows your body better than you do. Unless you actively lead those caring for your health, you follow them.
Food sensitivity testing is more valuable than most screening tests done today. Even a negative or “normal” test reinforces your eating habits and skills and allows you to safely assume that any symptoms you develop are not food related. Once we realize the tremendous potential food has to enrich as well as to unravel our lives, we stop taking it for granted. Food sensitivity testing should be an integral part of the thorough annual physical examination. Much of the money currently spent on blood tests is wasted in the sense that we don’t get useful information from a normal test. For most blood tests, “normals” are the cumulative averages or most common measurements in a large population sample, which is tantamount to comparing you to everybody else to decide whether you are normal. Doctors order the tests routinely and routinely discount minor abnormalities as “not important” or casually say, “We will check it again next time.” If next time is a year later, how valuable was the test in the first place?
In its best-case scenario, an abnormal blood test will lead to more specific tests that either confirm an otherwise undiagnosed condition or confirm that the initial test results were erroneous. By contrast, consider routine annual testing for food sensitivity. All year long, your body fights any number of conditions that cause the absorption of food through a compromised intestinal lining. These conditions may range from pregnancy, to viral infection, to food poisoning, to yeast overgrowth, to lack of digestive enzymes. Virtually any common everyday condition can result in your body changing its reaction to a particular food. In the ALCAT test, the “normal” used to standardize the results is your own blood and cells. Thus a normal test is what’s normal for you, as opposed to your being compared to a group of strangers. Likewise, with kinesiologic muscle testing for food sensitivities or bio-compatibility, the individual being tested reveals what that his body knows is compatible or incompatible.
The ALCAT Test accurately measures changes in white blood cell size and number, using state of the art instrumentation. The test mimics as closely as possible what actually happens when a food is consumed or chemical exposure occurs and can detect the effects of a wide range of the biological mechanisms that are involved in food and other sensitivities. The blood is dispensed into individual vials containing samples of each food or chemical tested. They are incubated to simulate the conditions inside the human body. The highly sensitive and precise ALCAT instrumentation measures changes that occur in the immune system cells when the blood is exposed to the respective test substance. The computer analyses each individual result and produces an easy to follow dietary modification plan.
The ALCAT Test has been validated by independent scientific studies and has benefited tens of thousands of people worldwide. This is a sensitivity test not a test for true allergy. True food allergy causes an immediate, immune-mediated reaction such as hay fever or anaphylactic shock. Food and chemical sensitivity, on the other hand, may or may not be immune-related, and its onset could develop in a few hours or a few days after the ingestion of any food or chemical. Food and chemical sensitivity is affecting more and more of the population. It can affect virtually any organ system of the body, resulting in a host of medical complaints from migraine and chronic ear infections to hyperactivity.
Standard allergy tests, such as skin testing, are not accurate for these type of reactions as they measure only a single mechanism, such as mast cell release of histamine or the presence in the blood of the IgE molecules associated with such release.
Only the ALCAT Test has been proven to be accurate in identifying the relevant foods and substances associated with the many types of chronic inflammatory and metabolic disorders described above. It is convenient (one blood sample can be used to assay well over 100 foods and substances) and is cost effective. What's most important is that it works, thus taking the guess work out of therapeutic dietary planning. Just as each of us is unique in our personality, we are also unique in our biochemistry, metabolism and immune reactivity. The ALCAT Test helps define the right diet for your optimum health and performance.