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Identifying Adverse Food Reactions: The Role of Elimination Diets and Enzyme Supplementation
By Walter J. Crinnion, ND

Over the last four decades, the rates of asthma and allergy have been steadily climbing, and with good reason. Many of the most common environmental toxicants have been shown to imbalance the immune system, resulting in increased rates of allergies (and a reduced ability to fight infections). These pro-allergenic toxicants are common in outdoor and indoor air: diesel and gas engine exhaust, as well as plastics and a host of other compounds that most people are exposed to daily. With the stage set for increased allergic reactivity, the immune system is exposed to the same food antigens daily, because most people eat the same few foods over and over again.

Foods that trigger an IgE-mediated histamine release are considered to be true food allergies. The most severe form of this problem can result in life-threatening anaphylactic reactions. Food intolerances are typically caused by an insufficiency of digestive enzymes to break down that specific food. Gluten intolerance is one example. Humans often do not have the enzymes required to consume gluten (a gliadin-containing protein), but the addition of dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (DPP-IV) can dramatically reduce that inflammatory reaction of gluten in the small intestines. Adverse food reactions can have an immune component (typically elevated IgG), a digestive component (insufficient levels of digestive enzymes), a compromised mucosal barrier (low secretory IgA and leaky gut), as well as dysbiosis (candida).

When a person is having food intolerances and adverse food reactions they can present with a wide range of symptoms:
  • Alternating constipation and diarrhea
  • Angina
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Eczema
  • Fatigue
  • Food cravings
  • Gas and bloating
  • Hayfever
  • Migraines
  • Otitis media (recurrent)
  • Sinusitis
  • Urethritis

If you are having any of the above problems, then you are likely to be reacting to one or more of the foods that you are eating regularly. For these symptoms to be a chronic health problem, you would need to be consuming one of the following foods at least three times a week or more. Foods that you are consuming only twice weekly or less will NOT be the cause of the above listed chronic health complaints.

The most common foods to have an adverse reaction to are:

  • Wheat
  • Eggs
  • Milk and milk products
  • Sugar
  • Corn
  • Coffee
  • Chocolate
  • Beef
  • Peanuts
  • Soy
  • Citrus
  • Alcohol

One day I was working with a patient who told me: "Doc, I have finally found out how I can tell if I am reacting to a food! " To which I excitedly responded "Great, tell me how". She simply replied: "If I love it". And, she was quite right. If you love and crave any of the above foods (and eat them more than once daily) you are undoubtedly reactive to that food. Sorry! But you are.

The next step is to take the suspected foods out of your diet for at least four days (but 14 days would be better) and see how you feel. Then add the foods back into your diet one-at-a-time and see what symptoms show up. If you experience your typical battery of symptoms, take some alkalinizing agents to help reduce reactivity. You can then try the suspected foods a second time along with the digestive enzymes necessary for those specific foods and see if enzyme supplementation is sufficient to address your intolerances.

The enzymes that I have found most beneficial in persons with adverse food reactions include:

Dipeptidyl peptidase-IV – very helpful in breaking down gluten in the small intestine, dramatically reducing one's reaction to grains.

Xylanase – breaks down plant cell walls – helpful in digesting fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains.

Blended proteases – for breaking down proteins at the various pH levels that are found throughout the digestive tract.

Blended amylases – for breaking down carbohydrates at the various pH levels that are found throughout the digestive tract.

Blended lipases – for breaking down fats at the various pH levels that are found throughout the digestive tract.

Alpha-galactosidase – for digesting the carbohydrate lectins that are found in most foods.

Lactase and maltase – for helping the digestion of sugars.


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