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Food Intolerances & Food Allergies

Food Allergy:

Probably the best description researchers can give is that it is our immune system’s abnormal reaction to certain foods. If somebody consumes a certain food having an immediate and clear allergic reaction usually within 30’, and this is repeated every time  it’s possible she/he faces a food allergy to this particular food or substance.

The immune system reacts this way, and the reaction can be measured with a special blood test which includes the count of IgE antibodies in the intestinal walls. 

The most common manifestations of a food allergy are inflated lips or eyelids simultaneously with stomach or abdominal problems very quickly after eating the food, while anaphylactic shock can occur even with minimum consumption of nuts such as peanuts. The usual suspects are milk, fish, nuts, certain fruit and –rarely- some seasonings. Besides food, a similar reaction from our immune system can be caused by latex, the sting of a bee, some medicine like penicillin, and dyes, among others. Research has shown that cooking or canning may reduce the intensity of the allergic reaction. 

Food intolerance:

This is also an unwanted reaction to a particular food or ingredient but it is not caused by the same reaction of the immune system as in a food allergy. It may involve a number of different reactions, like a mood or behavior disorder or “unexplained” weight gain. Related research has calculated that almost 80% of food intolerances contain IgG antibody reactions in the intestinal walls.

Immune system and food allergies or intolerances:

Did you know that 60-70% of our immune system, our defense against aspiring “invaders”, is located in our intestines? When the aforementioned antibodies (IgE, IgG) are produced, several “helpers” of the immune system, like histamine, are also produced. They are potential perpetrators of inflammation, which is created in order to extinguish the enemy. Essentially, the production of these substances is the first line of resistance in our body’s battle against the enemy. And while their purpose is “sacred”, they may cause unwanted effects, such as leakage of the intestine (see Bowel Leakage).

With intestinal leakage, instead of slowly passing through our long and “tight” intestine, partially processed pieces of food find our intestinal walls loose; they penetrate them and pass into our bloodstream before their time! 

As if that was not enough, they bring along toxins, any existing bacteria and chemical additives. This is where the big battle begins! In other words, these partially digested and processed food pieces found the “borders” unattended and went through the intestinal walls, “invading” our blood. Then all alarms, which scientists call “cytokines”, go off. Cytokines are nothing more than substances produced to alert the immune system, our fighters, to attack and intercept the enemy! Essentially, the immune system is not wrong, there are enemies. Only specific nutrients should circulate in our blood; microparticles fully recognizable by the immune system, derived from the disintegration of food in the gastrointestinal system. Instead, macromolecules -from incomplete digestion- without identification, such as peptides (from incomplete digestion of proteins), can cause a number of adverse reactions usually some time after the consumption of food.

An important difference between food allergy and intolerance is the time that elapses from the consumption of food up to the event of adverse or otherwise inflammatory reactions from our immune system. In a food allergy it is usually immediately upon consumption while in intolerance they may be delayed for up to 72 hours.

May I add here another adverse effect? Our liver, the “super cleaner”, simultaneously starts to struggle for the detoxification of chemicals released from the immune system’s inflammatory responses, it is overloaded and while endlessly “working”, it fails to rid us of daily accumulated toxins and waste from our own metabolism or of from the environment.




Mood changes 

Momentary gaps in the use of the appropriate word 


Ears ringing


Panic attacks

ADD-H Attention Deficit Disorder-Hyperactivity

Dark circles under eyes

Dilated blood vessels on the cheeks and nose

Speech lapses


Anger outbursts

Lack of motivation

Headaches or Migraines

“I’m somewhere else”

Behavioral problems


Involuntary leg twitching


Constant hunger/ bulimia / weight gain



Intense or too fast pulse

Hyperactivity, mainly in children 

Epileptic seizures



Poor consentration

Blurry vision/ Blury mind

Source: Haynes, 2005.




Other grains containing gluten: Barley, Rye, Oats 

Cow milk


Food preservatives, Additives or TASTE Amplifiers


Source: Philpott & Kalita, 2009

In the British market “free from” foods, i.e. mostly free from gluten and dairy, increased over 300% since the year 2000.

Surveys have shown that gluten, a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, rye and oats can affect the onset of symptoms such as stress, depression, cloudy mind, obsessions, phobias, obsessive-compulsive behavior. People with the autoimmune disorder celiac disease have their intestinal hairs (villi) almost ruined. Gluten appears to be one of the main causes and it should be completely eliminated from the new special diet plan that will be recommended by a specialist. In celiac disease it is almost impossible for our bodies to absorb nutrients and some research associates it with schizophrenia, cardiac malfunction, autoimmune thyroid disorders, and malfunction of pancreas, adrenal glands and kidneys.

Research also correlates the occurrence of autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes I, myocarditis, osteoporosis, with sensitivity to gluten and sometimes with sensitivity to casein, a protein of milk, and ovalbumin, the egg protein.

Food Intolerance and Allergy Diagnostic Tests

There are several food intolerance diagnostic tests but scientists disagree about their reliability. Perhaps one of the most reliable methods, which also traces food additives, is the ELISA test, which can be done easily at home, examining more than 100 foods and additives. In 90% of intolerances IgE is not observed in the blood but the majority is characterized by IgG antibodies in the blood. The results of these tests also record the degree of intolerance to each food so that it is taken into account in the proposed diet plan. As for specific food allergy tests involving correlated factors, they are provided by reliable diagnostic laboratories and hospitals.

Intolerance test results and diet plan

So, depending on the degree of intolerance or allergy that will be detected, certain foods should be consumed in smaller quantities and at certain times or they should be completely removed from our diet for a period of time and be replaced with others that will ensure the inflow of nutrients in our body. Foods that are completely removed from our diet may again be included in the diet plan, provided that a a nutritional therapy practitioner, weekly monitors our program implementation and recommends the correct way to do so.

The digestive process needs support whatever the outcome of the test. Some suggestions:

1. Chew food very well in order to start the digestion process.

2. Investigate the levels of HCL (hydrochloric acid) in the stomach. It is necessary for normal digestion of food and proteins, which are often the cause of intolerances or allergies. A nutritional therapist can investigate the levels of HCL and suggest solutions.

3. If intestinal dysbiosis and/or leaky gut are suspected, they should be treated properly as they contribute to the risk of an immune reaction and intolerances. Pre- and pro-biotics are key, as are selected nutritional supplements.

4. Support the detoxifying function of your liver with a special diet and supplements like antioxidants and minerals, so that the released toxins do not remain in the blood and cause inflammation or affect your brain.

5. Adopt some good habits like sufficient sleep, reducing the sources of toxins in your environment (electrical appliances, composite materials, detergents), exercise lightly every day, and do things that delight you and make you laugh!


American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. 1996-2001. The Allergy Report: Science based findings on the diagnosis and treatment of allergic disorders.

Boris M., Mande S 1994. Food Additives are common causes of the attention deficit hyperactive disorder in children. Annals  of  Allergy.

Curione M., Barbato M., et al. 2002. Idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy associated with coeliac disease: the effect of a gluten-free diet on cardiac performance

Dunn J., Swiergiel H., Beaurepaire R., 2005. Cytokines as mediators of depression: what can we learn from animal studies? Neuroscientists and Behavioral Reviews.

Haynes A., The Food Intolerance Bible.

MacKarness R., 1979. Eating dangerously: the hazards of hidden allergies.

Marshall S., 1993. Allergy and depression: a neurochemical threshold model of the relation between the illnesses. Psychological Bulletin.

Morris J., Adjukiewicz A., Read A., 2003. Coeliac Infertility: An Indication For Dietary Gluten Restriction. The Lancet.

Pfeiffer C., 1987. Nutrition and the Mental Illness.

Sampson A., 1999. Food Allergy, part two: diagnosis and m    anagement. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Toscano V., Conti F., et al 2000.The American Journal of Gastroenterology 95, 1742–1748; Importance of gluten in the induction of endocrine autoantibodies and organ dysfunction in adolescent celiac patients

Vojdani A., O’Bryan C., 2008. The Immunology of gluten sensitivity beyond the intestinal tract. Eur. J. Inflmm.











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