What is an allergy and intolerance?
A food allergy occurs when there is an adverse reaction to the ingestion of food. The reaction can be caused by a protein, starch, other food compound or by additives found in the food such as colourings or preservatives.
The classic food allergy occurs when an ingested food molecule acts as an antigen. An antigen is a substance that can be bound by an antibody, which helps excrete foreign substances out of our body. Antibodies are made by our immune system and when they attach themselves to the antigen they bind to specialised white blood cells which create the release of histamine, a substance which causes swelling, inflammation and redness.
What is the cause?
Food allergies can often be inherited. When both parents have allergies, it is reported that there is a “67% chance that the children will also have allergies. Where one parent is allergic, the chance of a child being prone to allergies is still high, but drops to 33%” (Murray and Pizzorno, 1998, p.466).
The allergy presentation can be triggered by many things. Some common triggers are trauma (physical or emotional), excessive use of drugs, immunisations, excessive consumption of a specific food, stress, poor chewing and digestion of food and environmental toxins.
What are the typical signs of allergies?
Allergies can present in many different ways in the body, depending where the immune system is reacting. Typical signs include:
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Puffiness under the eyes
- Horizontal creases in the lower eyelid
- Chronic fluid retention
- Chronic swollen glands
- Constant runny nose
- Itchy nose, throat and ears
What can I do to help?
Fortunately there are many things you can do to help yourself or your family. The first and most obvious step is to find out the causative antigen and remove it from the environment. Then there are dietary steps that you can take to help repair the body and immune system and hopefully control the immune response to the antigen. Thirdly, you can provide support to the body through food, vitamins and herbs to create a strong immune system whereby a reaction to a foreign substance is not created into a full blown allergic attack.