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Food: Weapons of Mass Destruction?
by Barry W. Ritz, M.S.

Normally, food is a very positive part of the human experience. But what about when food is foe? We've all heard stories about people with reactions to peanuts so severe that even the smell of an open jar of Jiff from across the room resulted in swelling and in general, difficulty breathing. However, reactions to foods tend to be more subtle. Symptoms develop over time, making it very difficult to determine the cause. Hidden food sensitivities are thought to contribute to chronic diseases, like arthritis. How do you determine if a particular food is your enemy? More importantly, what can you do to heal? Let's begin by defining a few key terms: Food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances.

A food allergy is an immediate immune system reaction to a specific food that is not normally considered harmful. Common trigger foods include milk, eggs, nuts, soy, wheat, gluten, fish, and shellfish. When the body mistakenly identifies a protein from such foods as a threat, or antigen, it can mount an attack that includes an IgE antibody response. IgE, or immunoglobulin E, is one of five classes of antibodies from the immune system that the body uses to fend off invaders. The IgE response results in the release of a chemical called histamine Antihistamines are drugs used to combat symptoms—rashes, hives, itchy skin, watery eyes, runny nose, shortness of breath, and swelling—of histamine release. In extreme cases, the allergic reaction can culminate into anaphylactic shock, which can end in sudden death. It takes very little of the antigen to elicit this type of allergic reaction in a susceptible individual, and subsequent exposure can result in a more severe reaction.

A second type of immune reaction is often called a food sensitivity, or delayed-type allergy, and results from long-term, high-level exposure to certain foods. Just about any food can be associated with allergenicity, but common ensitivities include milk, eggs, wheat, beef, pork, and citrus. Food additives—preservatives, colorings, dyes, and flavorings—can also cause sensitivities. With food sensitivities, the IgG response (another antibody class) is greater than the IgE-histamine response, forming immune complexes with the antigen that build over time and delay symptoms. Food sensitivities are associated with leaky gut and result in gastrointestinal (GI) disturbances, and are believed to be an underlying cause of such autoimmune conditions as chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, eczema, and migraines. In children, they sometimes play a role in ADD/ADHD, autism, and learning and behavioral problems.

So, the fundamental differences between food allergies and sensitivities are the levels of exposure, how quickly the immune system reacts, and the outcome. If food allergy is a bullet—small, fast, and with acute disastrous effects, then food sensitivity is a cannonball—larger and slower, but just as damaging on impact.

Then there is food intolerance, which is entirely a GI phenomenon and does not involve an immune reaction at all. Intolerance results from poor digestion, dysbiosis, or some type of enzyme deficiency. Lactose intolerance, in which a person is unable to produce the enzyme needed to break down the lactose sugar in dairy products, is most common and affects about 10 percent of Americans. Symptoms of food intolerance can include nausea, stomach pain, gas, bloating, and diarrhea, and can occur in anyone at anytime—depending on how much of a trigger food is consumed.


The only way to treat a food allergy or sensitivity is to identify the food or foods and avoid their consumption. A doctor may determine food allergies by a series of skin prick tests or by blood test. In a controlled setting, such as an intensive care unit, a trained doctor might also perform a challenge test by administering a suspect food to you, either disguised or in capsule form, and observing your response. A doctor may prescribe a topical cream, antihistamine, or steroid, depending on the severity of symptoms. In an emergency situation, epinephrine injections are needed to stop the progression of an allergic reaction.

Identifying sources of sensitivities can be more difficult. A food diary can be used to try to identify trends in the diet leading up to days when certain symptoms are experienced. A doctor might also help you through what is called an elimination diet. By eliminating specific foods from your diet for a period of time until symptoms subside, you can then re-introduce the foods one at a time to identify which foods cause the symptoms to return. Eliminating one or a few trouble foods from the diet may not improve symptoms. A final means of identifying food sensitivities is by blood test, which gives a quick look at about 100 different foods and provides clinicians with some direction to begin elimination.

  • Begin by avoiding the most highly allergenic foods: Dairy, wheat, and eggs. Sugar, coffee, and fatty foods can contribute to GI symptoms.
  • Consider another high-exposure allergen in foods— mold. Chocolate and coffee, unfortunately, can be high in molds.
  • Improve your digestion. Chew your food thoroughly and enjoy mealtime. If that's not enough, consider supplementing with digestive enzymes. Avoid overusing acid blockers that might also prevent thorough digestion.
  • Support your intestinal and immune function with SeaVive® from Proper Nutrition, Inc. In a recent case study of three individuals displaying high IgG antibody scores to multiple foods, SeaVive®—a combination of Seacure®, colostrum, and beta glucan—appeared to help reduce the number and severity of food sensitivities (6 capsules per day for 6 months). Seacure® hydrolyzed white fish was first developed in the 1960s as a means of providing easily digested and assimilated protein to malnourished children. Proper Nutrition's proprietary controlled fermentation process predigests high-quality, clean, deep-ocean white fish protein into small bioactive peptides that have been shown time and again to support intestinal integrity and function. The colostrum in SeaVive® is specially processed to remove the casein and lactose, which is extremely important to sensitive or intolerant individuals. This colostrum is available from Proper Nutrition, Inc., as Colostrum 80/40®, the most potent and hypo-allergenic colostrum supplement on the market.
Additional resources available on request.

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