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Food sensitivities on the rise?

| November 7, 2010 8:00 PM

Dairy, soy - and especially gluten - are all too common culprits.

Allergic reactions to foods have more than doubled in the last six years, report researchers at Children's Hospital in Boston. They find an even greater increase in more serious - and occasionally life-threatening - reactions like anaphylaxis (difficulty breathing, dizziness, hives, nausea, vomiting, rapid pulse, and/or sudden drop in blood pressure that can result in shock).

While the reasons for this rise in food allergies isn't clear, pediatrician Susan A. Rudders, MD, recently told Reuters Health that changes in the diet may play a role. Also, the season of birth may be a factor.

Boston researchers note that allergies to foods are more common among children born in the fall and winter. "These results add support to the hypothesis that seasonal fluctuations in sunlight and perhaps vitamin D may be involved," they write in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

A specific intolerance to gluten, a protein composed of gliadin and glutenin joined together in starchy grains (primarily wheat, rye and barley), has also increased dramatically in recent years - up as much as four times what it was in the '50s, Mayo Clinic researchers find. Sadly, the most damaging form of gluten intolerance - celiac disease - can take up to 11 years to obtain a correct diagnosis.

Other leading food allergens include dairy and soy, which some experts believe go hand-in-hand with gluten intolerance. While it's sometimes possible for children to outgrow these and other allergies, anyone with true celiac disease will never be able to eat gluten-containing foods and grains again.

Dr. Ann Louise's take:

Gluten intolerance is becoming much more common in this day and age. Even though a reaction to gluten is a factor in both gluten sensitivity and full-blown celiac disease, there's a big difference between the two. Celiac disease destroys the villi (tiny, fingerlike projections in the intestines) involved in absorption of nutrients. Because this disease prevents nutrient absorption, it causes weight loss - as well as severe pain. "The clinical manifestations are extremely diverse," writes Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN, suggesting that full-blown celiac disease is "a multisystemic disorder."

Studies show that celiac disease can lead to microscopic colitis, irritable bowel syndrome, even duodenal and stomach ulcers, plus celiacs are more likely to develop other autoimmune diseases including Type 1 diabetes and thyroid conditions like Graves' disease. Not surprisingly, mortality rates are much higher for people with celiac disease than those with gluten sensitivity.

Gluten sensitive?

Upward of 70 percent of us have inherited a genetic tendency for gluten sensitivity, and some experts estimate that about half the population has some degree of discomfort with this protein. Even if you don't have celiac disease, gluten sensitivity is nothing to sneeze at.

Indian scientists recently linked heightened gluten sensitivity to psoriasis. Older adults with depression and/or rheumatoid arthritis also tend to be gluten sensitive, and older women with celiac disease are much more likely to develop osteoporosis.

Trouble is, a correct diagnosis is often difficult. Many people who are sensitive to gluten never realize what's causing their health problems.

Here are clues to recognizing gluten and other food sensitivity:

• Are you often clumsy and uncoordinated?

• Do you have itchy skin, eczema or unexplained rashes?

• Are you often subject to abdominal cramping?

• Do you frequently sneeze or wheeze?

• Are you a frequent victim of food cravings or a compulsive eater?

• Do you suffer unexplained headaches?

• Are you likely to retain water or feel bloated?

• Do you have irritable bowel syndrome?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you may be sensitive to gluten or other allergenic foods. See an integrative physician for testing. But if you suspect gluten sensitivity (and even celiac disease), don't avoid gluten before a diagnostic test - or your results can prove negative, even if you can't tolerate this offending protein.

Go gluten free

Anyone who's gluten sensitive needs to avoid reactive foods - and if you have celiac disease, they're downright dangerous. Instead, choose foods made with amaranth, buckwheat, cassava, flax seeds, Job's tears, legumes, millet, nuts, quinoa, rice, sorghum, tapioca and yucca. The good news? The number and variety of gluten-free products - baking products, breads, cereals, condiments, crackers, pasta and rice cakes - have rapidly expanded in recent years.

Sensitive to gluten and/or dairy? Then, check out the Fat Flush Body Protein! This delicious and well-tolerated combination of brown rice and yellow pea protein is free of all common allergens, including soy! Fat Flush Body Protein won't cause bloating, gas or indigestion like so many other protein powders that feature soy protein isolates and denatured dairy proteins. You can use this hypo-allergenic protein powder and stay fully sustained and energized for a good four hours. The recipes in the Smoothie Shakedown and Fat Flush for Life will give you plenty of variations to make this powder a staple - day in and day out.

In addition to focusing on "safe," non-allergenic foods, you can ease food sensitivities by eliminating stress. Walk at least 30 minutes every day. Enjoy a massage regularly to improve blood circulation and relieve anxiety. Take a yoga class or integrate any of the Yoga Quickies in Fat Flush for Life into your daily routine. Focus on your breathing, especially first thing in the morning - slowly breathing in and out while focusing on the movement of your diaphragm.

A natural anti-inflammatory that can modulate allergic symptoms, fish oil supports immune health. For anyone with allergies or food sensitivities, I recommend Super EPA, purified fish oil free of heavy metals, like mercury and PCBs, to relieve arthritis and depression as well as allergic symptoms.

Sources:

• Fat Flush for Life

• The Gut Flush Plan

• http://stm.sciencemag.org/content/2/41/41ra51.abstract

• www.annallergy.org/article/S1081-1206(10)00202-4/abstract

• www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-10713775

• www.celiac.com/articles/22252/1/Celiac-Disease-Diagnoses-On-the-Rise/Page1.html

• www.celiaccentral.org/SiteData/docs/NFCA_Glute/32dfd5c470cdd6f7/NFCA_Gluten%20Sensitivity%20v%20Celiac_What%20do%20we%20know_Dec%202009.pdf

• www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20695308

• www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20633029

• www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20626025

• www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20545470

• www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20471632

• www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20226303

• www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE66Q5Z720100727

• www.webmd.com/allergies/foods-allergy-intolerance

Dr. Ann Louise Gittleman is the award-winning author of more than 30 books on health and nutrition and guest on many TV and radio programs. She resides in Kootenai County. Information: annlouise.com

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