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Food Allergies

I’ve been thinking about food allergies recently, because I am currently in the midst of the conscious cleanse as outlined by Jo Schaalman and Julie Pelaez in their book. The cleanse is based on eating mostly raw, whole foods, and eliminates all of the food items that are the most common allergens including: gluten, dairy, soy, peanut, corn, beef, orange, yeast, egg, and tomato.

Gluten, the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye used as a binder, thickener and coating, “turns into a gluey paste in your system, with the potential for causing inflammation, disease, and weight gain.” You may have noticed the increase in the number of gluten-free foods available. There may not necessarily be more people with gluten sensitivities, but rather it is more detected than ever before. As a side note, gluten-free is not synonymous with healthy, so be sure to read the label closely for other harmful ingredients. One reason we may be seeing an uptick in gluten sensitivities is that it is so abundant in all of the foods that we eat, including things that may appear to be gluten-free on the surface such as cereal, condiments, barbeque sauce, salad dressings and soy sauce. Gluten is also released into the bloodstream faster these days because it is more processed than ever. According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, “gluten has been linked to more than 50 disorders, including autoimmune disease, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, arthritis, lupus, depression, anxiety, anemia, vitamin D deficiencies, heart disease, cancer, autism and multiple sclerosis.”

Gluten isn’t the only culprit. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians “about 75 percent of adults worldwide are not capable of digesting milk. Beyond childhood, your body stops producing the enzyme needed to break down and digest lactose, the sugar found in milk.” Research has shown that the countries consuming the most dairy have the highest rates of bone fractures, which is surprising to most people since we are told to drink milk for calcium. However, dairy and other animal protein increases the acidic state of your body. “To neutralize the acidic state, your body must pull from its more basic, or alkalizing, reserves - calcium.” Your body takes the calcium from your bones and actually decreases bone density as a result. Dairy also causes inflammation in the body, which increases mucus production. Over consumption of dairy leads to allergies that can cause “chronic ear infections, diarrhea and bloating, sinus congestion, trouble breathing, asthma, acne, eczema, and frequent colds and infections.”

One of my favorite interviews from the Future of Nutrition conference in January was with Robyn O’Brien. O’Brien is a former financial analyst, and mother of four. When one of her children had an allergic reaction to a breakfast made up of processed foods with loads of artificial ingredients, the analyst in O’Brien started investigating food allergies. She found that 1 in 3 kids today in the U.S. has asthma, autism or food allergies.

The way food is grown and produced has changed significantly in the past few decades. Chemical companies, such as Dow and Monsanto have genetically engineered seed for food crops. One of the early genetically modified items was artificial growth hormone in dairy cows. The U.S. was the only developed country in the world to allow it, and now we know that it is linked to breast, prostate and colon cancer. We also saw milk become the most common food allergy in the U.S. Soy and corn are genetically modified to withstand weed killers and deter insects. Corn is regulated as a pesticide because of its ability to produce it’s own insecticide.

Our food is polluted with so many artificial things that the body is reacting to the food as foreign, and creating inflammation. There is a broad spectrum of symptoms of a food allergy from congestion, hives, asthma and eczema to more life threatening reactions. When the food companies started using foreign, artificial ingredients in processed food, there were no long term studies regarding the impact to human health. Even when there are studies, most of the science is industry-funded and the purpose is for marketing vs. trying to determine the safety of the food. Independent studies are hard to come by, because patents are protected intellectual property of the companies. There are some scientists who were formerly in the industry who have started to step forward with the truth. Farmers are also speaking out, because the soil is being destroyed by this “experiment.” I’ll save more discussion on the impact of the changes in our food production and what can be done about it for another blog.

Coming back to the conscious cleanse and food allergies; it is a good idea for anyone to try a 7-14 day break from the common allergens. If/when you start to add these foods back into your diet (which is best done one at a time), you will experience a more noticeable reaction if you are indeed sensitive to, or allergic to, any of these foods. I personally found my own sensitivity to dairy years ago when I participated in my first cleanse. I have never tried cutting gluten, corn, or tomatoes out of my diet completely before, so I’ll be curious to see if I have any reactions when adding these items back to my diet at the completion of the cleanse.

There are many benefits that come from partaking in something like the conscious cleanse. Learning about how the food you eat affects you is one of the most important. Knowledge is power, so the more feedback and information that you can obtain from your body, the more empowered you are to make decisions about what you eat. As previously mentioned, there is a broad spectrum of symptoms, so there are some reactions that individuals may choose to live with if they feel strongly about cutting a food item completely out of their diet. To learn more, or to participate in one of WholeHearted Health’s guided cleanses, contact me.

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