Allergies & Food Intolerances | Kaleidoscope Wellbeing
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Allergies & Intolerances

The prevalence of allergies in Australia

Almost 20% of the Australian population has an allergic disease, and allergies are the fastest growing chronic diseases in Australia. Allergies include food/insect/drug allergies (including anaphylaxis), asthma, allergic rhinitis (hay fever) and eczema. 1

An allergy involves an immune system reaction and is mediated by IgE. Allergic reactions are immediate, and can cause symptoms ranging from annoying to debilitating and even life-threatening in the case of anaphylaxis. Symptoms generally involve inflammation and can include swelling, itching, rash, excess mucus and vomiting. 1

Allergies can be diagnosed through blood tests and skin prick tests available via GPs and immunologists. If you have a diagnosed allergy, you will need to avoid the food or substance that you are allergic to. 1

What about food intolerance / sensitivity?

It is estimated that 17% of Australians have a diagnosed food intolerance / sensitivity. There are likely many more people with food sensitivities who have not been diagnosed. This is because symptoms of food intolerance / sensitivity can often seem random and unrelated to food. Some examples of these types of symptoms include fatigue, migraine and anxiety.

Food intolerances / sensitivities can be divided into:

  • IgG mediated allergic reactions – these are very different to IgE mediated allergic reactions and are not life threatening. Symptoms can take up to 48 hours to appear and may include digestive symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhoea or constipation, skin irritations and eczema, headache or migraine, fatigue, brain fog and even anxiety and depression. Blood tests for IgG antibodies are used to identify IgG mediated reactions.2
  • Malabsorption of FODMAPs – this is a problem digesting certain types of carbohydrates such as fructose, lactose and other fermentable carbohydrates found in fruits and vegetables. Symptoms can take up to 48 hours to appear and include digestive symptoms such as bloating, gas, pain, diarrhoea, or constipation. Breath tests can be used to identify fructose and lactose malabsorption and an elimination diet can be effective at identifying problematic FODMAPs. 2
  • Histamine intolerance, salicylate sensitivity and lectin sensitivity
    • For people with histamine intolerance, the ingestion of histamine-rich food or of alcohol or drugs that release histamine or block the enzyme that breaks histamine down may result in diarrhoea, headache, nasal congestion, runny nose, post-nasal drip, sneezing, red eyes and itching of the nose or eyes, asthma, low blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, rash, itching flushing and more.3
    • Salicylates are compounds found in foods, medications and some personal care products such as toothpastes and shampoos. Symptoms can include nasal congestion, sinus problems, asthma, digestive symptoms including bloating, gas, pain, diarrhoea and colitis, hives and inflammation. People with salicylate sensitivity have a decreased ability to metabolize and excrete salicylates, and can react when they consume a food or use a product that contains even small amounts.4
    • Lectins are proteins found in many plant foods. For people in whom the enzymes that break down lectin do not function properly, consuming lectins can cause digestive symptoms including bloating, gas, nausea and diarrhea, inflammation, brain fog, anxiety and depression, insomnia and skin conditions.5

An elimination diet is the only way to diagnose these intolerances.

Can we reduce the impact of allergies?

Some allergies are very serious and the allergen must be completely avoided for life – it’s not possible to reduce the impact of these allergies.

However, for people who have many non-life-threatening allergies, reduced diversity and altered composition of their microbiome has been shown to be a factor. A highly sensitive, overactive immune system can also be a factor, and stress can exacerbate allergies such as allergic rhinitis. I have personal experience with my allergy symptoms increasing substantially when I’m stressed!

Some of the strategies we can use to improve the symptoms of less serious allergies, such as allergic rhinitis, include:

  • We can positively alter the microbiome composition and diversity by changing the diet and/or utilising specific probiotics.
  • We can support or down-regulate the immune system using particular strains of probiotics and reduce the release of inflammatory mediators such as histamine, using certain nutrients.
  • We can learn to reduce and manage stress. 2

Can we eliminate food sensitivities / intolerances?

Many food sensitivities / intolerances can be successfully treated via an elimination diet and gradual reintroduction. We eliminate problematic foods for a period (replacing them with alternatives that ensure you get the nutrients you need). During this time, we use foods and nutrients to heal the gut if necessary and allow the body to recover. We then reintroduce the offending foods gradually in a controlled way. 2

How Kaleidoscope Wellbeing can help

Kaleidoscope Wellbeing can order tests to identify IgE and IgG allergies and FODMAP malabsorption. I can also help you with an elimination diet to identify problematic foods.

Increased intestinal permeability can be a trigger for food sensitivities to develop, and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) can be responsible for maldigestion. I can order functional pathology tests to determine if intestinal permeability or SIBO are factors for you.

Following the identification of your allergy or food sensitivity or intolerance, and any other drivers of your symptoms, I’ll develop a tailored plan for you, using individual strategies or a combination, with clear, achievable goals and simple, manageable steps to improve your health.

References

  1. Australasian Society of Clinical Immunology and Allergy Inc. (2013). Allergy and Immune Diseases in Australia (AIDA) Report 2013. Retrieved from https://www.allergy.org.au/images/stories/reports/ASCIA_AIDA_Report_2013.pdf
  2. Hechtman, L. (2019). Clinical naturopathic medicine (2nd ed.). Chatswood, Australia: Elsevier Australia.
  3. Maintz, L., & Novak, N. (2007). Histamine and histamine intolerance. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 85(5), 1185–1196. doi:10.1093/ajcn/85.5.1185
  4. Baenkler, H.-W. (2008). Salicylate Intolerance. Deutsches Aerzteblatt Online. doi:10.3238/arztebl.2008.0137
  5. Medical News Today. (2021). Does the lectin-free diet work? Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319593