Holistic Approach to Wellness

About Food Allergies

Food allergies or food intolerances affect nearly everyone at some point. One out of three people either say that they have a food allergy or that they modify the family diet because a family member is suspected of having a food allergy. But only about 5% of children have clinically proven allergic reactions to foods. In teens and adults, food allergies occur in about 4% of the total population. test

This difference between the clinically proven prevalence of food allergy and the public perception of the problem is in part due to reactions called “food intolerance” rather than food allergies. A food allergy, or hypersensitivity, is an abnormal response to a food that is triggered by the immune system. The immune system is not responsible for the symptoms of a food intolerance, even though these symptoms can resemble those of a food allergy. Most patients we see have food intolerance which is just as serious if not addressed because it causes inflammation.

Although nearly any food is capable of causing an allergic reaction, only eight foods account for 90 percent of all food-allergic reactions in the United States. These foods are: Peanuts, Tree Nuts, Milk, Egg, Wheat, Soy, Fish, Shellfish. These are the allergens you will see listed on food labels per regulations. For those who are gluten free, barley does not have to be listed however it has the gluten protein (gliadin).

It is extremely important for people who have true food allergies to identify them and prevent allergic reactions to food because these reactions can cause devastating illness and, in some cases, be fatal. Be sure to check out our Environmental page on allergies

How Food Allergies Work

Food allergies involve two features of the human immune response. One is the production of immunoglobulin E (IgE), a type of protein called an antibody that circulates through the blood. The other is the mast cell, a specific cell that occurs in all body tissues but is especially common in areas of the body that are typical sites of allergic reactions, including the nose and throat, lungs, skin, and gastrointestinal tract.

The ability of a given individual to form IgE against something as benign as food is an inherited predisposition. Generally, such people come from families in which allergies are common — not necessarily food allergies but perhaps hay fever, asthma, or hives. Someone with two allergic parents is more likely to develop food allergies than someone with one allergic parent.

Before an allergic reaction can occur, a person who is predisposed to form IgE to foods first has to be exposed to the food. As this food is digested, it triggers certain cells to produce specific IgE in large amounts. The IgE is then released and attaches to the surface of mast cells. The next time the person eats that food, it interacts with specific IgE on the surface of the mast cells and triggers the cells to release chemicals such as histamine. Depending upon the tissue in which they are released, these chemicals will cause a person to have various food allergy symptoms. If the mast cells release chemicals in the ears, nose, and throat, a person may feel an itching in the mouth and may have trouble breathing or swallowing. If the affected mast cells are in the gastrointestinal tract, the person may have abdominal pain, vomiting, or diarrhea. The chemicals released by skin mast cells, in contrast, can prompt hives.

Because Gluten is a common intolerance (1 in 5 people) it’s important to know the symptoms.

Symptoms of Celiac and Gluten Intolerance:

There are an overwhelming number of symptoms with gluten intolerance. In fact the New England Journal of Medicine has linked 55 disorders with Gluten Intolerance. Many of the diseases are neurological and psychiatric. Among them are depression, schizophrenia, epilepsy, migraines, neuropathy, anxiety, dementia, and autism, and over 200 chronic conditions, including celiac disease, associated with increased levels of anti-gliadin antibody.

Many people believe the most common symptoms are gastrointestinal in nature – yet the majority of people with gluten intolerance (and celiac disease) have systemic (outside the intestinal track) symptoms and most never gets diagnosed. If you experience any of the following or if something just doesn’t feel right, it might be worth keeping a food journal for a few weeks before seeing a professional. Have your doctor test for allergies (IgE) and if nothing comes up on the allergy test consider doing an intolerance panel (IgG). You are more than likely intolerant which goes undiagnosed with mainstream medical doctors. The IgG panel is our most popular lab we run at Karmic Health and has proven to be a valuable tool for our patients.

The most common symptoms of celiac disease & food intolerance include

• Fatigue
• Addison’s disease (hormonal disorder)
• Gastrointestinal distress (gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, reflux)
• Headaches (including migraines)
• Infertility
• Mouth sores
• Weight loss/gain
• Inability to concentrate
• Moodiness/depression
• Amenorrhea/delayed menarche (menstrual cycles)
• Bone/joint/muscle pain
• Dental enamel hypoplasia (dental enamel defect)
• Short stature
• Seizures
• Tingling numbness in the legs

Symptoms also include
• Abnormal liver test
• Addison’s disease
• Alopecia (hair loss)
• Anemia
• Ataxia (failure of the coordination of muscle movements)
• Autoimmune hepatitis
• Chronic abdominal pain
• Chronic fatigue
• Crohn’s disease
• Dermatitis herpetiformis (a “sister” of celiac disease)
• Down syndrome
• Epilepsy
• Family history of celiac disease
• Gall bladder disease
• Hyperthyroidism/hypothyroidism
• Total IgA deficiency (faulty white blood cells called B cells or B  lymphocytes)
• Insulin-dependent diabetes (type 1)
• Infertility/spontaneous abortions/low birth-weight babies
• Iron deficiency
• IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
• Malnutrition
• Multiple sclerosis
• Non Hodgkin’s lymphoma
• Osteoporosis, osteopenia, osteomalacia
• Pancreatic disorders
• Pathologic fractures
• Peripheral neuropathy (pain and numbness in your hands and feet)
• Primary biliary cirrhosis (ducts in your liver are slowly destroyed)
• Psoriasis
• Recurrent stomatisits (inflammation of the mouth)
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Scherosing cholangitis (chronic liver disease)
• Sjogren syndrome
• Systemic lupus
• Turner syndrome
• Ulcerative colitis
• Vitiligo (skin condition in which there is loss of pigment)

Consider These Facts with Dairy

Dairy products, especially those derived from cow’s milk are a common allergen.

Dairy allergies usually manifests in childhood and many (but not all) children grow out of such allergies or intolerances by the age of five. Heredity seems to be the prime reason some people have allergies and others don’t. If both your parents have allergies, you have approximately a 75 percent chance of being allergic. If one parent is allergic, or you have relatives on one side with allergies, you have a 30 to 40 percent chance of developing some form of allergy. If neither parent has apparent allergy, the chance is 10 to 15 percent respectively. One thing we find a lot is dairy goes hand in hand with gluten sensitivity. Dairy seems to affect the colon and upper respiratory whereas gluten affects the small intestine and with leaky gut causes more symptoms. See list of Dairy ingredients. 

Symptoms of Dairy Allergies

A dairy allergy, like any food allergy, is capable of triggering a wide array of milk allergy symptoms. Some of the most common complaints include ear infections in children, sinusitis, heartburn/reflux, constipation, diarrhea, and irritable bowel syndrome. Keep in mind casein is the protein in dairy and is different from lactose which is the sugar. Those who are lactose intolerant usually have symptoms in the GI track such as bloating and gas.

Symptoms for dairy include:

Abdominal Pain





Canker sores



Ear Infections







Iron deficient anemia


Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Joint Pain

Lactose Intolerance


Poor Growth

Poor immune function (frequent illness)


Allergy to peanuts appears to be on the rise in children. According to a FARE-funded study, the number of children in the U.S. with peanut allergy more than tripled between 1997 and 2008. Studies in the United Kingdom and Canada also showed a high prevalence of peanut allergy in schoolchildren.

Peanut allergies tend to be lifelong, although studies indicate that approximately 20 percent of children with peanut allergy do eventually outgrow their allergy. Younger siblings of children allergic to peanuts may be at increased risk for allergy to peanuts. Consider getting the family tested; especially siblings.

Peanuts are not the same as tree nuts (almonds, cashews, walnuts, etc.), which grow on trees. Peanuts grow underground and are part of a different plant family, the legumes. Other examples of legumes include beans, peas, lentils and soybeans. If you are allergic to peanuts, you do not have a greater chance of being allergic to another legume (including soy) than you would to any other food.

Trace amounts of peanut can cause an allergic reaction. Casual contact with peanuts, such as touching peanuts or peanut butter residue, is less likely to trigger a severe reaction. Casual contact becomes a concern if the area that comes into contact with peanuts then comes into contact with the eyes, nose or mouth (for example, a child with peanut allergy gets peanut butter on her fingers, and then rubs her eyes).

Based on recent studies, an estimated 25-40 percent of people who have peanut allergy also are allergic to tree nuts. In addition, peanuts and tree nuts often come into contact with one another during manufacturing and serving processes.  For these reasons, allergists usually tell their patients with peanut allergy to avoid tree nuts as well.

Tree nut allergies are one of the most common food allergies in children and adults.  Tree nuts can cause severe, potentially fatal, allergic reactions, and avoiding tree nuts can prove difficult because they can be found in some unexpected “hidden” places such as barbecue sauces, salad dressings, coffee, and even cold cuts. One of the first question people ask is: What exactly is a tree nut?

The following are considered “Tree Nuts” as currently defined by the FDA (Food & Drug Administration):

Common or usual name

Scientific name

Almond Prunus dulcis
Beech nut Fagus spp.
Brazil nut Bertholletia excelsa
Butternut Juglans cinerea
Cashew Anacardium occidentale
Chestnut (Chinese, American,
European, Seguin)
Castanea spp.
Chinquapin Castanea pumila
Coconut Cocos nucifera L.
(Arecaceae (alt. Palmae))
Filbert/hazelnut Corylus spp.
Ginko nut Ginkgo biloba L.
Hickory nut Carya spp.
Lichee nut Litchi chinensis Sonn.
Macadamia nut/Bush nut Macadamia spp.
Pecan Carya illinoensis
Pine nut/Pinon nut Pinus spp.
Pili nut Canarium ovatum Engl. in A. DC.
Pistachio Pistacia vera L.
Sheanut Vitellaria paradoxa C.F. Gaertn.
Walnut ( English, Persian, Black, Japanese,
California), Heartnut, Butternut
Juglans spp.

Soybeans are a member of the legume family, which include plant species that bear seed pods that split upon ripening. Some examples of other legumes include beans, peas, lentils and peanut. People with a soy allergy are not necessarily allergic to other legumes. If you are allergic to soy, you do not have a greater chance of being allergic to another legume (including peanut) than you would to any other food. With that being said it is possible to have a multitude of allergies/intolerances with an inflamed gut. In the United States, soybeans are widely used in processed food products and 90% are GMO (genetically modified). Soybeans alone are not a major food in the diet, but because soy is used in so many products, eliminating all those foods can result in an unbalanced diet. With any food restriction it’s important to work with a nutritionist to for optimal health

Egg allergy is one of the most common food allergies in children, second only to milk allergy. Symptoms of an egg allergy reaction can range from mild, such as hives, to severe, such as anaphylaxis. While the whites of an egg contain the allergenic proteins, patients with an egg allergy must avoid all eggs completely. This is because it is impossible to separate the egg white completely from the yolk, causing a cross-contact issue. Keep in mind some vaccines contain egg protein.

Finned fish can cause severe allergic reactions (such as anaphylaxis). Salmon, tuna and halibut are the most common kinds of finned fish to which people are allergic. More than half of all people who are allergic to one type of fish also are allergic to other fish, so allergists often advise their fish-allergic patients to avoid all fish. If you are allergic to a specific type of fish but want to have other fish in your diet, talk to your doctor about the possibility of allergy testing for specific fish.

Finned fish and shellfish do not come from related families of foods, so being allergic to one does not necessarily mean that you must avoid both.

There are two kinds of shellfish: crustacea (such as shrimp, crab and lobster) and mollusks (such as clams, mussels, oysters and scallops). Reactions to crustacean shellfish tend to be particularly severe. If you are allergic to one group of shellfish, you might be able to eat some varieties from the other group. However, since most people who are allergic to one kind of shellfish usually are allergic to other types, allergists usually advise their patients to avoid all varieties. If you have been diagnosed with a shellfish allergy, do not eat any shellfish without first consulting your doctor.

To prevent a reaction, strict avoidance of shellfish and shellfish products is essential. Always read ingredient labels to identify shellfish ingredients. In addition, avoid touching shellfish, going to the fish market, and being in an area where shellfish are being cooked (the protein in the steam may present a risk).

Testing for food allergies (IgE) is usually covered by insurance however they do not cover intolerance panels (IgG) in most cases. Keep in mind Doctors are not trained in the area of nutrition and food intolerance. Usually what happens when foods and/or celiac comes up positive is they send you home with the results but fail to provide resources. That’s why we’re here for you! Intolerance is much more prevalent, so you might want to consider getting tested at least once to see what foods cause inflammation. We can help with that!

Environmental Allergies are important to consider as they can be overlooked

With a weak immune system and inflammation we are more likely to react to environmental and manmade toxins. See our Environmental page for more detail.

Lifestyle is another area to consider. Years of antibiotics, toxins (both environmental and self-inflicted), stress, yo yo dieting, etc., can damage the immune system and show up later in life.

Karmic Health can help you with personalized wellness coaching! Check out our Wellness Packages.

Sources: Foodallergy.org, allergysf.com
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