“My itching is gone! I no longer have headaches! And, that rash disappeared!” Marilyn exclaimed very surprised. She had been on an elimination diet for three weeks, for problems in her intestines and hadn’t expected her other symptoms to go away. She also stopped having bloating and pain in her stomach. As she started adding in foods, one thing showed up that she clearly reacted to: milk. Every time she ate anything with milk in it, including cheese, yogurt, and sauces, she got bloating and her itching and rash returned. Other things she thought she might be allergic to didn’t cause her any reaction at all.
What is a food allergy?
Any allergy is an immune reaction. The immune system exists simply to keep those things that are “not you,” such as bacteria, viruses, and so forth, from harming you. So, the immune system only has to distinguish what is “you” from what is “not you.” If you have a protein that is “not you” inside of you, then the immune system will fight to get it out, causing inflammation, reactions, and all sorts of symptoms.
What causes food allergies?
Food allergies are very common in Westernized countries. In traditional societies that eat their traditional foods there is very little food allergy. One study in South Africa, where the native people were thought to be genetically protected from food allergy, found that when the indigenous people changed to a “western” diet, they began to see a sharp rise in food allergies.[i]
Food is not part of you! You may think that you are what you eat, but in reality you have to break down EVERYTHING into its component parts, every molecule is absorbed and used to build up your own body. If you don’t break them down properly, they cannot be used, and your immune system reacts to them.
Proteins are long chains of amino acids that are wadded-up into a ball. In the stomach they are opened-up into their long chains (called “denatured”) so the enzymes in your stomach and intestines can cut them up into individual amino acids so you can absorb them and make your own proteins. There may be several reasons that you don’t digest proteins:
- Low stomach acid
- Low enzyme production
- Inflammation in the intestines
- Bad bacteria in the stomach or intestines
- Lack of bile
Why do people get allergies to food?
When proteins aren’t digested, they go into the intestines whole and the immune system says, “that’s not me” and starts fighting against it. This can cause all sorts of problems, depending on many factors, such as the type of protein, the type of reaction (there are four primary types of reactions), and the amount of protein.
So, a food allergy is just a normal immune response to the presence of a protein that isn’t in the right place. If our digestive system functions as it should, we will have few, or no, proteins getting into the intestines whole. They will all be broken-down into amino acids, which do NOT cause allergic reactions. Only the whole proteins can cause a reaction, and start the inflammation cycle.
The more inflammation you have in the intestines, the worse the digestive system works, allowing more proteins into the intestines, causing more reactions. This can continue throughout life. The inflammation can be felt anywhere in the body, from rashes on the skin to headaches.