Very few people suffer from allergies, many more suffer from intolerances.
Allergies cause obvious symptoms such as swellings and rashes. Intolerances have a much more subtle effect, undermining health but not necessarily causing immediate or obvious symptoms. Foods or substances to which intolerances develop tend to be the ones we come into contact with on a regular basis such as wheat and milk. Individuals can get hooked on the food causing the problems and so will crave and temporarily feel better for eating this substance. However, once it is removed from their diet, they will notice tremendous improvements in their health and wellbeing.
At the heart of all allergies and intolerances, whether caused by food or other irritants, is our body’s own defence system. The immune system is a complex army of cells, which protect the body from external invaders. When working harmoniously, the immune system protects us from many micro-organisms, some of which cause infectious diseases.
Candida and Leaky Gut Syndrome are often responsible for the immune system being invaded (see page 8 of my book). They cause the intestinal wall to develop leaky spaces, which in turn allow partly digested food and toxins to reach the immune system. The immune system produces antibodies to tag these foreign invaders and will then deposit them in the body in areas of least resistance such as the skin, soft tissue, or joints. Protective cells underneath the skin and under every lining in the body are triggered by the antibodies in the blood to defend the body. They believe themselves to be under attack and switch to a protective mode by launching a chemical attack on the invader and oozing out histamine and other substances. This creates inflammation around the invader in order that it can be engulfed.
The liver is the organ which produces anti-histamine to counteract the swelling and inflammation. If however the liver is congested with fats and toxins, it may not be providing a good anti-histamine service and hence the inflammation remains. This can cause irritation and soreness but it can also be the cause of fluid and weight gain, and be responsible for many health problems. A lack of water or dehydration encourages the release of excess histamine and is therefore another factor which may be implicated in food reactions.
The antibodies produced by the immune system in order to tag the invaders and signal the body to produce histamine are known as the Ig antibodies. There are two types of Ig antibodies – IgG and IgE. With the classic IgE reaction, there is an exaggerated histamine response, causing a quick onset of symptoms from within a minute to two hours. A single factor such as dust, fur or seafood is usually responsible. Even a minor exposure can trigger an immense, maybe life-threatening reaction. This is a true allergy and once triggered, an IgE allergy is often permanent though tremendous improvements can occur after detoxification.
IgG reactions are quite different and can be regarded as intolerances rather than allergies. Symptoms can occur in almost any organ or tissue of the body and they can take from several hours to several days to appear, thus making the link with what we have eaten or been in contact with more difficult to determine. With IgG reactions, it is a question of quantity; you may be intolerant to cow’s milk but if you only have a little, you may not respond. Also the B lymphocytes which set up IgG reactions only have a memory time of two to three months. If you withdraw a food for three months, they forget it and you can often go back to eating it provided you have healed the condition which caused the problem in the first place.
Although the issue is food intolerance, it is not really the food but other factors which are the main problem. Every food is a potential allergen if not properly broken down by the digestive system. The ability of the stomach to make hydrochloric acid is important as a lack of this prevents food from being properly digested. In Chinese medicine, allergies are related to a state of dampness in the body. The digestion can be likened to a fire burning and too much damp energy in the body or in the food being digested will prevent the fire from completely burning the fuel.
If food that has not been properly digested passes too far into the intestines, the result is putrefaction instead of digestion. The environment is then perfect for the growth of yeast and fungi such as Candida, who have food to eat and a warm, damp environment to live in. Although we all have Candida present it will not be encouraged to grow and take over if the environment is not to its liking. The main foods which encourage dampness include wheat, sugar, honey, dairy produce, eggs, fatty meat, butter, oil, fried food, nut butters, fruit juice, bananas and tomatoes. If you look at the above list, it contains many of the foods which most people live on – especially children.
Food intolerances or allergies cause a drop in blood sugar levels (see Blood Sugar on page 3 of my book) which in turn causes a lack of energy. This lack of energy not only affects us in our daily lives but affects all our internal organs and systems such as digestion, immune system, detoxification, etc. We thus have a vicious circle, low blood sugar creating a lack of energy, weakening the digestion and immune system, encouraging more intolerances and producing low blood sugar. The problem foods therefore need removing and the blood sugar needs raising by eating regular meals. Sometimes, when the blood sugar drops in response to an allergy or intolerance, the adrenal glands kick in to produce adrenaline which causes an emergency supply of blood sugar to be released from the cells. This can cause, for instance, the hyperactive behaviour seen in children who are intolerant of certain foods, drinks, or additives.
With food allergies and intolerances it is obviously sensible to remove the offending foods and there are many therapists specialising in allergy testing (see Index). However, if the offending foods are removed, but there is no emphasis on improving health, then often further foods will start to cause problems. Detoxification is important, as is replenishing the vitamin and mineral reserves in the body. Only by getting the wrong things out and the right things in can the body and its systems function optimally.
Detoxification also helps to remove emotional toxicity which can have a large part to play in allergies and intolerances. In Vegetarian Cooking Without, I cover the emotional reasons for such problems in more depth. Work also needs to be done on improving digestion, raising the blood sugar, replacing good intestinal flora and healing the intestinal walls. Cooking Without will assist the building of good health.