Food allergies are a major cause and contributing factor to illness especially in the so called developed world. This problem has increased greatly in the last half century due to widespread use of pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, food additives, food colourings, food preservatives, genetic modification of food and radiation treatment of food to preserve it.
Some clinicians estimate that almost 50% of the problems for which patients consult doctors are related to food allergies. Hence the diagnosis of food allergies and the removal of offending foods from the diet is essential to people recovering from their problems. The failure to do this effectively is a major cause for people to suffer from chronic illnesses, which means that they suffer from the problem, but never get well, and continue to try symptomatic treatment for the rest of their lives.
Allergic reactions causing liver damage have been well known for centuries and Hippocrates in his Hippocratic writings (Penguin Classic Edition, Page 136) written in the 5th century BC describes a case of jaundice caused by consuming beef & milk.
All foods are not suitable for all people.
Over the centuries, people in different countries and cultures learnt what foods suited their genetic constitution, and their bodies adapted to the food which grew in their area. In a flat world where food habits are rapidly becoming globalized, health problems are also becoming globalized. With globalization and a clone mentality, all foods are now becoming available all over the world, sometimes with catastrophic results on human health.
Classic examples are the American Indians and Australian aborigines who adopted a western diet and now suffer from obesity, hypertension, diabetes, alcoholism & heart disease in far greater numbers than Westerners on a similar diet. Similarly vegetarian Indians who went to the West and adopted western and non vegetarian diets have a far greater incidence of Dairy allergies, auto immune disorders like Rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, cancer and diabetes than their peers both in the West and in India.
The most common food allergy seen today is allergy to dairy products, estimated to affect more than 2 billion people worldwide. Of the 3 major racial groups, the Han races (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thais, Vietnamese, Burmese etc.) are usually deficient in Lactase after infancy and are unable to tolerate and digest cow's milk. Milk products are not a usual part of the diet of these people. For people with a milk allergy these foods are usually safe to eat as a milk free alternative to their current diets.
The negro and African races including those who now live in the United states and Europe are also deficient in lactase and a significant portion develop an allergy to milk protein. Taking of milk products affects their bodies, especially their immune systems, their digestion, their behaviour and causes profound changes in their lives. It is possible that a major contributing factor to the AIDS epidemic in Africa may be the milk being supplied to them as Food aid which affects their immune system and in combination with malnutrition contributes to their immune system being too low to withstand AIDS.
Among Caucasians (Europeans, Arabs, Indians etc.) milk allergy is becoming more common due to increasing use of hormones, antibiotics and animal products which are a component of cattle feed in developed countries. Widespread use of pesticides which contaminates the grass, fed to these animals has also contributed to the explosion in this problem. The Hybridization of Cows To provide A1 milk has also significantly increased the incidence of milk allergy.
The next most common allergy is a gluten allergy which affects an estimated 450 million people. Other food allergies in order of frequency are allergies to aluminium, nuts especially peanuts, shellfish (more common in areas where industry pollutes the sea bed with industrial wastes and heavy metals), animal products, Monosodium glutamate (MSG), antibiotics, eggs, lentils especially soya, chickpeas, kidney beans and heavier beans, artificial colourings in food, chocolates, citrus fruits, preservatives & alcohol.
Through my early years in practice, I found many patients had chronic diseases in which no clear cut cause could be found. Hence any treatment they received from me or any other physician was symptomatic. The cure of any disease has to address the cause of the disease. As we treat the cause of the disease the disappearance of the symptoms is evidence that the treatment is correct. I found that many acute and chronic problems were in fact caused by or aggravated by food allergies. Treatment of these allergies by diagnosis and abstinence from the offending food usually led to rapid improvement in the patient's health.
Allergic diseases like allergic rhinitis, asthma, eczemas and ulcerative colitis are usually treated symptomatically with antihistamines, corticosteroids or other immunosuppresants. Treatments for these problems usually continues lifelong, with a gradual accumulation of side effects of these drugs over a lifetime. If we treat these allergic diseases by removing the cause of the allergy then the symptoms disappear and stay away as long as we avoid the offending agent.
Milk is often a common precipitating factor in all the conditions described above and if you have a milk allergy, complete abstinence from all milk products leads to a magical resolution of the symptoms over a few months. The therapeutic problem lies in finding methods which allow the physician to safely and correctly diagnose, which allergy the patient actually suffers from. Today blood tests are available in some parts of the world (the US, UK, Belgium and Germany), to accurately diagnose milk and gluten allergies, but they are still expensive to do & are not easily available. (Dr. Georges Mouton carries out these tests in Belgium & the UK).
Indirect tests like skin testing, intradermal testing and RAST (radio allergo sorbent tests) are available in most countries but are not very accurate. They give a large number of false positive and false negative reactions. Almost everyone who undertakes such tests receives a long list of substances to which they are allergic. As a result, since it is difficult to avoid all the foods in these lists, patient compliance is poor. Over time, the patient often finds little improvement with avoiding those foods, and no aggravation on taking these foods. As a result, he looses faith in the efficacy of these tests and returns to his usual diet.
The only way to be really sure if you are allergic to a particular food is to abstain totally from that particular food and all its products in all its forms for at least 3 months. If the symptoms improve with this abstinence, then the diagnosis that you are allergic to that food is probably correct and taking that food again should bring back the symptoms. Most intelligent people however are satisfied with the improvement in their health and do not unnecessarily inflict further suffering on themselves by taking that food ever again. Food allergies may sometimes go away after some years, or their manifestations may change. A safe method of leading your life in good health is to plan for lifelong abstinence from the offending food.
In 1987 I studied with Leo Schafer (known as Canada's cancer doctor), who taught me how to diagnose milk and other allergies easily and accurately by examining the iris. When I applied these techniques to my practice I found that a variety of chronic problems originated from allergies to milk and other foods. When I advised my patients to abstain from the foods they were allergic to, they found that their symptoms gradually resolved. They also found that when they took these foods again their problems recurred. This was indeed convincing proof, that they did actually have an allergy to these foods. As they continued to stay off these foods they were cured of their diseases, many of which had been there for many years.
Why does an allergy affect you ?
Our immune system has been designed by nature to protect our body from damage by external forces. A very important part of this system is the antigen - antibody system. Antibodies are the body's protection against invasion by external threats like bacteria, viruses, fungus etc. The body creates these antibodies, to destroy foreign proteins (antigens) which irritate or damage it, and so protect itself. Antibodies are created by the immune system to react to specific proteins.
Antibodies are usually Y shaped. The bottom of the Y attaches itself to cells called mast cells which contain substances like histamine, serotonin, bradykinin etc. The top arms contain receptors which recognize specific segments of foreign proteins. An antigen antibody reaction occurs when, all the receptors on both of the top arms recognize the specific sequence of amino acids for which it has been encoded. This makes it very specific and is designed to prevent accidental destruction of other useful or friendly proteins. The mast cell is like the gunpowder in a firecracker, the antibody is like the fuse which activates the firecracker & the protein is like the spark which lights the fuse. All these elements are necessary for a fire cracker to go off, so too all these three are required for an allergic reaction to take place.
When an antibody comes into contact with the specific protein segment for which it has been created (antigen), it combines with it, destroying it and triggers an explosive release of substances like histamine, serotonin etc. from the mast cell. This commonly happens with an insect bite and we have all experienced it. The area becomes red, itchy, painful and swollen, white blood cells rush to the area and the blood vessels around it constrict, to wall off and restrict the invading substance to that area till it can be fully destroyed.
This antigen antibody reaction also takes place when we have a cold and histamine is released. Allergies often cause these symptoms. We are all familiar with what happens with a cold, the nose runs and itches, it gets blocked because of the swelling of the nasal lining. Similar reactions occur in the skin with mosquito bites, bee stings, hives (Urticaria), eczema, allergic reactions, and fungal infections. The area becomes red, itchy, painful and swollen. In the lungs, histamine causes bronchospasm leading to asthma and secretion of mucous. With repeated exposure to foreign proteins which the body perceives as an enemy, tissue destruction often takes place at these sites.
Antibodies are present in large numbers in those areas which are exposed to invasion from the outside like the skin, stomach, intestines, lungs, vagina etc. When these reactions take place in the stomach & intestines it can manifest as hyperacidity, peptic ulcers, colitis, gastro intestinal bleeding, haemorrhoids (piles), indigestion, gas, diarrhoea or constipation. If we continue to take foods to which we are allergic, destruction of the intestinal lining takes place and the foreign protein is directly able to enter the blood stream through the ulcers. This is also called the "Leaky Gut Syndrome". The free antibodies in the blood react with these proteins to form dense tangled masses called immune complexes.
These immune complexes enter the blood stream and first go to the liver which is the second line of defence after the intestinal lining. Here too, the antibodies try to destroy the proteins but if the quantity of the invading protein is too much, extensive tissue destruction takes place and the antigen is able to escape into the general circulation and affect other parts of the body. Once the protection offered by the intestine and liver is breached the Antigen- antibody reactions occur in any part of the body. These circulating immune complexes then get deposited in the tiny blood vessels called capillaries in the liver, eyes, brain, skin, the kidneys and the joints. This problem is called serum sickness or type III hypersensitivity and affects these and other organs.
Auto Immune Diseases
Once the protection offered by the intestine and liver is breached the Antigen- antibody reactions can occur in any part of the body. External proteins present in foods, contain some amino acid sequences which are also present in some proteins in our body. If antibodies are formed which recognize these sequences in the body's proteins then these antibodies attack the body causing a series of diseases called "auto immune diseases".
This often occurs in the synovial tissue of joints attacking it and cause symptoms which are diagnosed as Rheumatoid arthritis. Such reactions can also cause diseases like SLE, scleroderma, cardiomyopathy, Hashimoto's disease which affects the thyroid gland and breast problems like fibroadenosis which may progress to breast cancer. In the uterus it can cause fibroids and endometriosis. If it occurs in the lungs it may cause asthma or bronchitis. If it occurs in the brain it may cause memory loss, dyslexia, attention deficit disorders (ADD), transient ischemic attacks and in late cases may even cause a paralytic stroke. Such reactions can occur in any part of the body creating a wide variety of disease syndromes.
Food allergy is today a serious problem which is affecting an increasing number of people all over the world.
It causes a wide range of problems which can be alleviated or cured by not eating the offending food and its products.
If you have been diagnosed with a food allergy you need to completely abstain from all products containing that food to allow your health to recover.
Always Check the ingredients of all the products you are buying if you have an allergy.