Allergies and intolerance (to foods, chemicals, and even medications and supplements) are considered to be among the fastest-growing chronic conditions in Australia - and these types of issues are only expected to become more common over the coming years. It especially concerns me how many of our young people seem to be suffering these kinds of issues - these certainly weren't anywhere near as common when I was growing up, and I'm sure you would say the same.
Hypersensitivities are caused by an over-reaction by the body to a substance that should be seen as harmless - and particularly in the case of food intolerance, the culprit can be difficult to pinpoint. The reaction is often delayed over hours, or even days.
Symptoms of hypersensitivities/intolerance can include:
- Hay fever & allergies
- Gut upsets
- Eczema & skin rashes
- Depression & anxiety
- Joint pain
- Sinus congestion
- Muscle pain
- Hormonal imbalances
And of course, the severe reactions that can be life-threatening (anaphylaxis). And let's not forget the emotional toll caused by these conditions - intolerance and sensitivities can really make life difficult, by causing stress in social situations where food intake may not be controllable, contributing to relationship difficulties with people who may not understand the challenges involved with restricted foods, and the extra work (and cost!) involved in avoiding trigger foods or allergens.
The trouble with these kinds of issues is that the first change many people make in an effort to control symptoms is to start restricting foods from the diet (often beginning with the 'usual culprits' of gluten, dairy, eggs, nuts, soy etc). Whilst these foods can certainly cause issues, it is important to keep in mind that reactions to foods usually aren't actually about the food - more often than not, the reaction is linked to the health of the gut. Remember that 70% of your immune system is located in your gut, and when things aren't working as well as they should in this area, it can lead to a loss of barrier protection in your digestive tract (this helps to keep trigger foods or allergens from causing a reaction), reduced enzyme production (meaning you can't break down the food you eat very easily), and molecules of food can enter the bloodstream where the immune system leaps on them causing an over-reaction (in a healthy gut, the gut lining is thick and strong and largely prevents this from happening). And if you are wondering just what a difference working on the gut can make, have a peek at some of the amazing results have been achieved with severe peanut allergies, by supporting gut health. (No, I'm not suggesting we can cure peanut allergies in the clinic, but this research is very promising, and is similar to the approach I use for enhancing gut health).
While restricting suspect foods often helps relieve symptoms in the short-term, in the long-term this approach can actually worsen health and lead to nutrient deficiencies - which (quite ironically) can actually make the situation worse. It is quite common after a period of time, for the person to find that they are starting to react to other foods that were previously well-tolerated. And this is because the underlying cause (the gut health, inflammation and the immune system over-reaction) haven't been addressed.
The Soothe & Settle Program, one of my Restorative Health Programs has been designed to help identify where the reactivity actually originates, so that the focus can be on rebuilding tolerance, and managing symptoms over the long-term. I'm really excited about the potential this Program has to change lives for the better!