Sunday, May 5, 2013

My Thoughts on Food Allergies

About a month ago I experienced a severe allergic reaction from eating prawns. My face swelled up and it felt warm and itchy. I took antihistamine right away, not knowing what else to do that could reduce the swelling. This was my third time experiencing this. The first time was a reaction from pollen many years ago after jogging around the block on a Spring night in Ohio. The second time was after doing a heavy bathroom cleaning using store-bought cleaner which I now know is full of toxic chemicals (I now make my own cleaner).

I don't know how all three allergic reactions relate but the rate of allergic reactions throughout the world have skyrocketed compared to before, especially in children. Interestingly, the increase is particularly prevalent in children who come from affluent, urban homes in developed countries that have clean environment and good sanitation. Although genetics and environmental factors may contribute to the increase in allergies, the way we eat food also plays an important factor to the rise in allergies.

We live in a society that values highly processed food and we eat way too much of them. Our children become sensitive and we ourselves become sensitive even though we've never had so-called allergies as children. We start our pregnancy with poor diets and it affects our babies' health. We continue eating unhealthy food throughout breastfeeding and it affects the breast milk that we give to our babies. Then we feed our "pure" babies processed food like cereals when they are not ready and this damages their digestive tract.

How is Damaged Digestive Tract Causes Food Allergies?

Food allergies are caused by a condition called “Leaky Gut Syndrome,” which means the digestive tract is so damaged that it allows undigested food to pass through into the blood stream — at which point the immune system reacts as if it’s being invaded. Thus the allergies. Avoiding the food you’re allergic to won’t reverse your food allergy or healed your gut. You would have intolerance against that set of foods and over time, developed more allergies and continue to damage your gut. When we can’t digest and absorb food properly, nutritional deficiencies follow, which leads to many health problems. We damage our digestive tract when we consume:

- Things that kill our good bacteria, such as antibiotics, birth control pills, steroids, drugs, and chlorine (in tap water, swimming pool, etc.).
- Things that damage our gut lining, such as eating unfermented soy and unsoaked grains, nuts, and legumes.
- Too much processed and fast food that our digestive system is not designed to process.

Kimchi (fermented cabbage)

How to Reverse Food Allergies and Sensitivities?

The process to reverse food allergies may take a while depending on how damaged your digestive tract is. If your digestive tract is damaged but you continue eating food you don’t have the enzymes to digest, you are putting yourself up for allergies and causing too much strain on your digestive tract, and not giving it the time and space to heal itself. Here are a few steps you can take to improve the conditions in your digestive tract:

- If your allergies are severe, you can try Elimination Diet to uncover hidden food allergies and gradually introduce food one by one.
- Take probiotics to rebuild good flora in your gut.
- Take fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, saurcraut, tempeh, and miso.
- Eat as much whole foods as possible, including bone broth to heal your digestive tract.
- Don't start solid food too early with babies as their digestive system is still immature. When they are ready, start with other foods but grains (something I regret doing). Read here why.

Have you or your family experienced food allergies? How did you deal with it and what steps did you take to avoid another breakout?

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