There’s always a lot of hype about allergies, sensitivities, gluten-free fascism, dairy-free, soy-free, food-free. Let me clarify it all as easily and *quickly* as possible, and you can be the judge of what you read and hear!
PROCESS OF AN ALLERGY:
- Only 4% of the population actually has a food allergy. Here's what happens when there is an allergy/sensitivity:
- A food allergy is a very specific immune system response involving either the immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibody or T-cells. Both are immune system cells that react to a particular food protein, such as milk protein. An IgE reaction occurs within minutes to an hour or so of either smelling, touching, or ingesting a particular food. The presence of the food triggers the immune system to over-react and interpret the food as harmful. Histamine is released, causing symptoms that range from mild to severe, including hives, itching, trouble breathing, wheezing, and anaphylaxis.
- Food intolerance occurs when the body lacks a particular enzyme to digest that food. Two common examples are lactose intolerance and celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disorder in which the gastrointestinal tract cannot process gluten, a protein in wheat-based products. An intolerant person avoids the foods that trigger a reaction, but these reactions aren’t caused by the immune system and they are not life threatening. Another cause of a food intolerance is Irritable bowel syndrome. This chronic condition can cause cramping, constipation and diarrhea. Food poisoning is another intolerance…toxins such as bacteria in spoiled food can cause severe digestive symptoms. Common Food Intolerances: Lactose: This is a sugar in cow’s milk that requires the enzyme lactase to be broken down into simple sugars for absorption in the gastrointestinal tract. Sucrose or maltose, histamine and tyramine: These are substances created in the fermentation process in aged cheeses, processed meats, beer, wine, vinegars, and soy sauce. Salicylate: This is a salt contained in some foods and is used to make aspirin. Tartrazine: This is an artificial food color used in food. Benzoates, (BHA), (BHT), and sulfites: These are preservatives. Monosodium glutamate (MSG): This is a naturally occurring or added flavor enhancer in foods. Other food dyes.
- Food sensitivity, an understudied area, generally means people have an unpleasant reaction to certain foods; perhaps they develop acid reflux, nausea, or abdominal cramps, but again, these are not immune system reactions, and these reactions do not always occur in the same way when eating the food.
- Elimination diets: know that eliminating a food group can lead to the inability to digest it later in time. For instance, removing protein can eliminate the digestive enzymes that break down these foods - I gave up meat over 20 years ago...adding any of it into my diet now, is the equivalent of food poisoning, because I don’t have the enzymes to digest any of it anymore. Sometimes, elimination works in removing the offending antibodies from your body. The process of reintroducing them slowly, acts to test the body for any reactions, and slowly build up your tolerance. Think of allergy shots, for instance; a small amount of the allergic substance is introduced in small increments into your body, to slowly build up your reaction to them. But sometimes, our digestion is just too weak to process certain foods, and we need to avoid them...this is because of our OWN reaction, and not what the media/social media is telling us. Follow YOUR agenda, not someone else's.
- Gluten-free: this is an extremely confusing topic, often overly grabbing unnecessary negative attention. Unless you've actually been diagnosed with an allergy, you don't need to avoid it completely. You do need to eat whole-food versions of it, and opt for healthier grains vs potato bread. It’s obviously wise to incorporate gluten-free grains into your diet to broaden your horizon a bit, and balance out the amount of gluten in your system, along with getting various nutrients. You may notice that your belly swells a bit, if you eat crappy white breads. You may have no trouble at all--if the latter is the case, avoid the fad of banning gluten from your diet. Despite what many people wish to advertise, it’s been in our food supply for thousands of years. There is speculation from Jeffrey Smith of EWG, that when people switch to an organic lifestyle, they can suddenly tolerate gluten...and that the sensitivity is actually a result of a chemical interaction with the GMO's (this isn't just organic wheat we're talking about--it's all foods). An additional theory about why gluten is problematic in this day and age is because it started being introduced to infants about a generation ago, to help boost nutrients in infants. Since infants can't digest too many foods at birth, this may have led to many people having a sensitivity to it. In addition, we've now introduced wheat/gluten into our diet 365 days a year, when it really is best eaten when harvested only...in the fall season. Our microbiome (intestines) are designed with a delicate system of bacteria that change with the seasons. Some of these bacteria are meant to specifically digest the foods of that season, and guess what? Wheat is best digested in the fall! Perhaps you just wish to reduce or eliminate it in the spring or summer, rather than avoid it completely? (Remember what I stated in the paragraph above...eliminating a food completely for a long period of time, can lead to an intolerance of that food. Unless it's a physician diagnosed allergy, the problem may not be wheat at all, but rather another food.)
- Dairy-free: regardless of your ethical dietary choices, dairy is hard to digest, as is meat. Hard cheeses are the hardest to digest Ayurvedically because they are salty, oily and heavy. If you wish to continue eating more humane and organic versions, add some spices to it, to boost up your digestive fire. If you're from an ethnicity that's eaten it for centuries (like Italians), it *should* pose less of a problem for you...if you’re like me and your DNA is from regions that don't eat too much dairy, you very well may have trouble digesting it. If dairy is in your routine, the best forms for the body are yogurts, grass-fed ghee and softer cheeses like paneer (a soft Asian Indian cheese). Many adults (especially those of Asian and African decent) are lactose intolerant, simply because it's not in their genetic code to ingest it.
- Nightshade-free: tomatoes, white potato, eggplant, pepper and tobacco all have levels of poisonous alkaloids in parts of their anatomy, especially the leaves. Eating them in small quantities isn't a big deal, if you don't have any serious medical conditions. If you have R.A. (rheumatoid arthritis) or rosacea, you may want to avoid these, as well as gluten and sugar—these foods all cause inflammation.
I hope this helps clear up a bit of the confusion for you! If you still have questions, or would like to add comments, feel free to contact me, and I’ll gladly update the blog as needed!