We know that eating a healthy diet contributes to overall health. Increased awareness of the chemicals and additives in foods has created a movement. Now millions of educated consumers are voting with their dollars to choose organic foods free of antibiotics, growth hormones, pesticides and other toxins.
Statistics about food allergies continue to grow among all age groups and have grown exponentially over the past few decades. In fact, ask yourself if you know at least one person with a food allergy. Like most you probably answered yes!
When I used to hear the term "food allergy" my immediate thought went to peanuts. While growing up the only experience I had with an allergy was a severe reaction to penicillin and the doctor giving me a card I was supposed to keep on me at all times. At that time I thought that was the only type of reaction an allergy presented. One that gave you hives and breathing problems.
However, I was wrong. At age 2 our first child would projectile vomit at meals. He was diagnosed with acid reflux. At the time, the rest of the family drank soymilk because I wasn't aware of all of the controversy regarding soy. One morning at breakfast I decided to try soymilk with his cereal instead of his regular milk. He immediately had the same reaction, this time as soon as it hit his tongue.
As he grew older and he underwent further testing, we found he had many other food sensitivities and allergies as well. No wonder the poor kid never wanted to eat. It literally made him miserable!
As we started discovering all of his food allergies, for the first time I considered the possibility that some of my own adverse health issues could be related to food allergies or sensitivities as well.
When I was a teenager I had started having chronic headaches, and my doctor told me it was just tension headaches from the extensive amount of time I spent at the computer writing.
I believed him. Then one day when I got hives after eating a piece of red velvet cake, I considered a potential allergy. But the next time I ate the cake I was fine so I assumed I had been mistaken. Little did I know that allergies are unpredictable, and do not always occur with each exposure, or even with the same reaction.
Since childhood I battled with severe episodes of nausea and vomiting on and off. We blamed it on a weak stomach, stomach viruses, and food poisoning.
Then one day I had an allergic reaction to Zaxbys sauce in the parking lot, by myself, with two toddlers. It was then that it hit me. Could I have other food allergies or sensitivities that were the cause of years of fatigue, nausea and headaches?
So I started keeping a journal. Every single time I ate jalapeños, the moment they hit my tongue I started to black out. I got faint, felt short of breath, and experienced extreme nausea. I love jalapenos! I had been experiencing these strange symptoms for years, having no idea what was wrong with me. When I finally realized it was related to jalapeños, at first I was sure I was allergic to them. After all, when I stopped eating them and anything containing them, I was fine! But then I realized every time I ate Greek Peppers it happened as well.
I next noticed anytime I drank or ate anything red, it triggered an extreme bout of nausea and sometimes vomiting. This included everything from Jell-O, to sports drinks, candy, cake, icing, red chips, certain cheeses, sauces, dressings, and even medicine that came in a red or pinkish capsules. The memory of hives at a church function at the age of 17 came back to me. Red velvet cake had been the culprit.
I finally found out what was happening. I am allergic to red food dye # 40. When I came to this conclusion I cut all red food dye from my diet. Guess what? All the nausea, fainting, shortness of breath and dizziness stopped. It ceased overnight.
Then one day my husband suggested that perhaps my headaches were also triggered from a food allergy or sensitivity. Again, I started keeping notes. I realized I hated going to the movies because every time I did I got a terrible headache. What did I do every time I went to the movies? I ate popcorn.
For a while I wondered if I could be allergic to corn. I avoided corn, but my headaches continued. Turned out I wasn’t allergic to corn, it was the yellow food dye in the buttered popcorn that made me sick.
Could there be other food dye sensitivities I was having as well? I had stopped eating jalapeños fearing I was allergic. One day I heard a woman giving an interview about food dye in pickles. I marched straight to my fridge and pulled out my husband’s jalapeños and Greek Peppers. Yep! Food dye. Yellow # 5. This food dye also happened to be in my two favorite dipping sauces and dressings that also made me ill.
I bought organic jalapeños and Greek peppers free of food dye and to my absolute delight; I realized I could eat them with none of my previous issues.
It turned out I was having a lot of food dye reactions. For a while I avoided food dye like the plague and while all of the serious reactions disappeared, my headaches still happened. It wasn't until I tested for specific food allergies with my natural doctor that he told me I had food sensitivity to gluten.
No, it wasn't going to kill me. I didn't vomit or get hives like I did from red food dye, but he suggested I avoid gluten and see if I felt any different. I did a six-week test. In the first week I noticed something very significant. I hadn't had a single headache since day 3 of no gluten.
To this day if I eat gluten, within a few hours I will get a headache- and experience brain fog. If I stay gluten free, I remain headache free. And, that is a good enough reason for me!
As I started connecting the dots with my own food allergies and sensitivities, I felt compelled to keep a food journal for my youngest son as well. When I gave birth to my second child, he was born with severe reflux and other stomach issues. We used medicine and, tried various procedures, none of which provided any relief.
We went all organic and toxic-free, and found relief from texture issues and speech improvement. In fact, the difference was so significant that we focused our entire home and lifestyles around remaining “chemical free.” But the digestion issues were still persistent and acute. It wasn't until he was a toddler that we wondered if dairy was triggering episodes.
We had him tested and sure enough he had an extreme sensitivity to dairy. The child lived on organic yogurt and cheeses. In fact, if he had his choice every single meal should contain cheese. Cheese grits or toast for breakfast, mac and cheese or grilled cheese for lunch, yogurt for afternoon snack, and lasagna or some other dish packed with cheese for dinner. This was his chosen diet. The fact that he rarely ate any meats, beans, or nuts, and that his sole source of protein was coming from dairy hindered me from removing these foods from his diet for quite some time.
What would he eat? He would surely starve! How would he get his protein and healthy fat for development?
After a severe bout of reflux, heart palpitations and nausea that lasted for days, I decided it was worth a try. So I took all dairy out of his diet. He did lose a couple pounds at first, which almost caused me to give in. But, then I realized something incredible. He was sleeping better and wasn't as moody. He was running and playing more with the other children and eating better at meals. He wasn't begging me to hold him or asking for ginger chews for nausea all the time.
When I re-introduced dairy to his diet, his heart began to race and he had an immediate reaction.
Through the years I've met people who have discovered hidden food allergies and sensitivities to be responsible for a whole host of symptoms and adverse health problems. I have firsthand experience with family members and friends who have transformed their quality of life after removing a certain food or group of foods from their diet.
Just recently my sister-in-law did an elimination diet to see if something she could be eating could be responsible for her six month old baby’s extreme fussiness and sleepless nights. Sure enough, she found pork and dairy to be some of the culprits.
Another family member, who wishes to remain anonymous, experienced chronic re-occurring episodes of diverticulitis. I shared a scientific article linking gluten to many cases of diverticulitis. After going gluten free, the episodes subsided. However, as soon as old eating habits took over, the diverticulitis returned.
The truth is, many of us have food allergies and or sensitivities that we are unaware of. Maybe it isn't a life-threatening allergy, and maybe it's not an immediate one. Sensitivities can show up hours or even days after eating the offending food.
If you suffer from unexplained health problems such as asthma, headaches, digestion issues, fatigue, chronic sinus issues and or congestion, skin problems, brain fog, or other chronic discomforts you've learned to live with, it may be time to consider a food allergy or sensitivity.
I have a friend who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis 40 years ago. This lady chose to live gluten and dairy free, along with adhering to a strict healthy diet and exercise routine. To this day she can hike mountains I would never dare to explore.
Does this mean diet could do this for everyone with the same diagnoses? Maybe not. But isn't it worth trying?
If you would like to learn more about symptoms to look for with food allergies and sensitivities, please check out this article from Robyn Obrien. http://robynobrien.com/protecting-children-from-food-allergies-food-sensitivities/
Remember, you must be your own advocate. If you believe food sensitivities or allergies could be responsible for some of your chronic health issues, don't let it go! Do your research, and ask other allergy friends for advice! Know your options for allergy testing, and know that elimination diets are a free possibility for anyone.
Most importantly, take a stand for your health and the health of your children!
Stay tuned for more information on how to find out if you have a food allergy or sensitivity. Tylene Loomer, co-founder of OneBode and nationally recognized nutritional expert, will be joining me in further discussion!