As a result of our super clean society, North Americans have a much higher risk of developing psoriasis, eczema, asthma, food sensitivities, and environmental allergies. There are quite a few foods that are known to cause allergy and sensitivity reactions; these foods are known as "common allergens" and are: peanuts, dairy, eggs, soy, corn, seafood, and wheat. Of course there are many other foods that can cause people problems, such as citrus, nightshade vegetables (e.g. eggplant, potatoes, peppers), sulphites (found in most dried fruit), and gluten (the protein found in wheat), to name a few.
Food sensitivities and/or allergies can contribute to a wide variety of health issues, including many above and beyond digestive issues. In addition to cramps, bloating/distention, flatulence, constipation, and/or diarrhea... fatigue, headaches, skin issues, restless sleep, and poor memory can also be due to an underlying food intolerance. In the naturopathic community, food sensitivities and/or allergies can be identified through two methods:
The Hypoallergenic Diet (aka the Elimination Diet) or allergen blood tests:
The Hypoallergenic/Elimination Diet consists of a patient eating an allergen-free diet (i.e. foods that typically don't evoke an immune reaction in most people) for one month, then introducing each of the allergens back into the diet, one at a time, making sure to note any symptoms experienced after the food is reintroduced. The allergen-free phase of the diet allows the body to heal and cleanse itself now that the suspected allergen is gone. The reintroduction phase, however, challenges the body to process potential allergens again. Since the body has been "clean" for a month, if an allergen is present in the body, then the body will react and it the reaction should be more pronounced than before. For example, you think you may be allergic or sensitive to soy as you get mild headaches after eating, so you cut it out for a month, then when you eat it again, you get a massive headache, likely indicating you are indeed intolerant of soy. Foods that are allowed to be eaten and those that are to be avoided while following an elimination diet vary with each patient and his or her needs; however typical hypoallergenic foods include most veggies (except nightshades), rice and rice products (breads, milks, pasta, crackers, etc), most fruits, coconut milk/butter/oil, beans, chicken, some fish (no shellfish), some nuts and seeds...
Allergen blood testing analyzes a blood sample to see if the body is making any antibodies against any food allergens. For example, if the body thinks that soy is a bad invader and elicits an immune response against it, then antibodies against soy will be made and will be measured in the blood test. Note: antibodies should not normally be made against food! Blood allergen testing does not require any diet per-say (just try to consume all of the foods to be tested within two weeks before the blood testing, so if the body reacts to any of the foods, the antibodies will be present in higher quantities when the blood is drawn).
So, this long-winded entry was written to say that I now know my food allergies! I had blood allergen testing done about two months ago and got the results this past weekend. Luckily I am not strongly allergic to any foods; I am only moderately sensitive to seven foods: peas, spinach, lettuce, soy, wheat, almonds, and amaranth. I likely will be able to still eat these foods, only once or twice a week. My ND has recommended that I completely avoid these foods for the next month to see how I feel without any food allergens in my diet, then we'll reassess how often I should eat these foods.
Stay tuned for another update after the month is up on April 27th!