Allergies can be caused by things we ingest such as foods, things that we are exposed to such as pollens and dust mites, and things that our skin is exposed to such as chemicals and even sunlight.
When we are exposed to these allergens, our immune responses may be activated. These can be mediated by different parts of the immune system such as the IgE mediated system which is a true allergy response such as with a nut allergy. Such responses can be immediate as with anaphylaxis which is a threat to life, and therefore a serious reason to ensure no exposure to the triggering foods.
Some people often use the terminology allergies and intolerances interchangeably when it comes to food. In fact food intolerances are something very different, with intake of these foods triggering a less serious immune response from our IgG mediators. These responses are very much changeable throughout life and during certain times an individual may get associated symptoms such as bloating and discomfort and other times, no response whatsoever. This can depend on multiple factors such as a threshold response, ie, you can sometimes ‘get away with’ a little, the integrity of the digestive tract wall, enzyme status, microbiome status and overall health status at any given time.
We may then have another response to a very specific food group which is gluten. Gluten has a very different immune response from the mucosal membranes which run from the mouth right through the digestive tract. This response is called an IgA response which may be investigated when it comes to conditions such as coeliac disease. However, we don’t just arrive at a disease such as this. It is a continuum that often starts with an IgG intolerance response that can then gradually impact upon the health of the microvilli in the digestive tract, further develop to activate a more serious immune response and ultimately result in a state of disease.
Atopic conditions such as hay fever and atopic dermatitis can both be triggered by external sources such as pollens in the case of hayfever, or topical exposure to metals or chemicals in the case of some forms of atopic dermatitis. When we are not exposed to these external factors we are usually symptom free, but when we are exposed, the response can seriously impact day to day life. An example of this is during hay fever season when we cannot get away from the triggering pollen. During these times Nutritional support to modulate both the immune and the histamine response, can be extremely helpful to minimise the impact of these conditions.
Nutritional Therapy for food intolerances is about supporting overall digestive health and a good dietary intake, rather than looking at extreme exclusion diets which can sometimes exacerbate the response when small amounts of the triggering foods are then included.
Some of the associated conditions that we often work with when it comes to allergies are as follows:
During a Nutritional Therapy consultation, we work using a Functional Medicine Framework to look at the root cause of any intolerance or allergy response. Most people would assume that we mainly work on exclusions in this area but quite often is the case that is actually more about specific inclusions such as functional foods as a restorative approach to health.
We may also look at Functional testing here and although this is not a first line approach, where a specific situation warrants, we may run tests such as the Gluten Sensitivity profiles, Intestinal Permeability, Food Intolerance Analysis and in the case of Hayfever for example, we may look at genetics relating to Histamine response.
There is no one size fits all approach and we help to educate and create a workable plan with the simplest of interventions to make the most positive impact on your health.