In the past I have written many articles about allergies, especially those that effect our nose and sinus passages due to inhaled pollen, mold and other triggers of allergic reaction. I wanted to discuss a little bit on food allergies.
Food allergies are a complex issue and are often difficult to detect and treat. Food allergies can range from life-threatening emergencies such as a child with peanut allergies having swelling of his airway, to less dramatic symptoms such as skin rashes, itching or abdominal pain.
For years we have known that there are multiple types of food allergy that involve different parts of the immune system. Traditional food allergies such as peanut sensitivity occur in the body through the same type of mechanisms that because nasal allergies. This involves a specific part of the immune system that makes this immediate allergic reaction occur.
Research has showed that other types of food allergy may be a delayed reaction occurring hours after eating the food that triggers the problem. Also we are learning that this type of sensitivity to foods may be due to disturbances of the good healthy normal bacteria that line our intestinal tract.
Much has been written recently about the health benefits of having a large number of beneficial bacteria in our digestive system (out gut). The term often used, probiotics, applies to supplements that maintain or restore this important area.
What we are now learning is that disruption in the lining of the intestinal tract often starts with loss of these healthy protective bacteria. When this occurs and there is injury to the lining of our intestines, there is disruption in the way we digest food. This normal digestive process involves breaking down the long molecules of food protein into small molecules called amino acids that are more easily absorbed into our body to be used for fuel.
If the lining of the gastrointestinal tract becomes damaged, often due to loss of good bacteria, the result is something referred to as “leaky gut syndrome”. As the name suggests openings occur between the cells of the digestive tract. This allows long chain proteins and long chain carbohydrates to get absorbed directly into our bloodstream. These proteins are then recognized by our immune system as foreign invaders. The body then reacts to this by creating antibodies and immune reaction. This reaction can manifest as food sensitivity with problems such as coughing, tightness of the chest and throat, abdominal pain and bloating, skin rashes and even arthritis.
The bottom line is we need to take precautions to keep our digestive system healthy. I strongly encourage my patients to take probiotics on a regular basis, especially if they have been treated with antibiotics for infections.
Also I strongly recommend, like many other physicians that antibiotic prescriptions be reduced to those cases when absolutely necessary.
Also keeping yourselves well involves trying to limit the number of antibiotics we ingest with our food. Unfortunately the standard commercial practice of raising cattle, pigs and poultry involves the use of antibiotics to keep them well.
In summary, having a healthy intestinal tract allows us to breakdown food into small building blocks that we easily absorb without causing allergic reactions. The use of antibiotics in humans and into feed animals in our society is now associated with the rise in food allergy reactions.