Food Allergy + Intolerance
Food allergies and intolerances are well-managed using naturopathic medicine.
A Food allergy is an immune system reaction that occurs when you ingest a food you are sensitive to, and your immune system mistakenly identifies components of that food as harmful.
Allergy reactions occur when, on exposure to an offending food, antibodies (specifically IgE antibodies) cause the release of histamine and other chemicals into your bloodstream, resulting in the symptoms of an allergic reaction (e.g., tingling sensation in your mouth, anaphylaxis). Foods commonly causing allergic reaction include cow’s milk, hen’s egg, peanuts, tree nuts, and fish and shellfish. Complications of food allergy can include anaphylaxis, eczema and migraine headaches.
A food allergy is distinct from a food “intolerance” which may be the result of a variety of causes (e.g., absence of an enzyme required to fully digest a food [e.g., lactose intolerance], irritable bowel syndrome, etc.), but is not an immune system reaction.
Consuming foods you are allergic to may result in skin symptoms such as eczema.
Seek professional healthcare if you experience food allergy symptoms shortly after eating, or if your digestive symptoms interfere with your daily activities.
Seek emergency medical care if your food allergy symptoms suggest anaphylaxis. If left untreated, anaphylaxis may result in coma or death. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- Constriction of airways
- Throat swelling or sensation of a lump in your throat making breathing difficult
- Dizziness, lightheadedness or loss of consciousness
- Rapid pulse
Symptoms of Food Allergy and Intolerance
Possible symptoms of food allergy include:
- Tingling sensation in the mouth
- Swelling of the lips, face, tongue, throat or other body parts
- Wheezing, nasal congestion or difficulty breathing
- Abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea or vomiting
- Hive, itching or eczema
- Dizziness, lightheadedness or fainting
Possible symptoms of food intolerance include:
- Nausea, and sometimes, vomiting
- Abdominal cramps
- Headaches and migraine headaches
- Nasal congestion
- General malaise (feeling unwell, in general)
Treatment of Food Allergy at Toronto Centre for Naturopathic Medicine
At Toronto Centre for Naturopathic Medicine, the goals of food allergy treatment are to manage exposure to offending foods and decrease (and if possible eliminate) intensity of reaction to offending foods.
Severe allergic reactions are treated using epinephrine injections (e.g., EpiPen®) and emergency hospital treatment. Natural medicines should not be used to treat acute anaphylaxis.
Conventional treatment for non-life threatening food allergy reactions may include a variety of medications, including over-the-counter or prescribed antihistamines to reduce symptoms of minor allergic reactions. These treatments may have short- or long-term side effects.
For this reason, for treatment of food allergies not causing an anaphylactic response, or food intolerances, you may choose to try natural treatment to possibly avoid use of conventional medications, or together with conventional medications in order to decrease dosages of conventional medications required to manage your food allergy symptoms.
Naturopathic treatment of any chronic health concern must be recognized as a process that involves:
- Identifying specific treatment goals
- Development by your naturopathic doctor, of a thorough understanding of all factors affecting your health, including physical, psychological, emotional and lifestyle factors
- Development of a comprehensive treatment plan
- Implementation and maintenance of that plan through periodic monitoring and adjustment
At Toronto Centre for Naturopathic Medicine, a typical approach to treating food allergy may be to:
- Identify and manage exposure to offending foods using a supervised food elimination and challenge protocol or laboratory testing
- Decrease severity of symptoms using botanical (herbal) medicines or nutritional supplements to decrease severity of symptoms
- Optimize health by establishing a healthy, nutritionally balanced diet
Where appropriate, a number of therapeutic options are available, to be used alone, or more often in a complementary fashion, including:
- Nutritional counseling
- Nutritional supplements
- Metabolic detoxification protocols
- Botanical (herbal) medicines
- Bowen Therapy
- Exercise prescription
- Relaxation (meditation) training
- Lifestyle medicine and counseling
- Registered massage therapy
Treatments provided by naturopathic doctors and registered massage therapists are covered by most extended healthcare plans.
Food Allergy [Internet]. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; [cited 2010 Jan 18]. Available from: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/food-allergy/DS00082.
Lactose intolerance [Internet]. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research; [cited 2015 Mar 22]. Available from: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lactose-intolerance/basics/symptoms/con-20027906.
Allergy and intolerance [Internet]. NSW Food Authority; [cited 2015 Mar 22]. Available from: http://www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/consumers/problems-with-food/allergy-and-intolerance/#.VQ8Rhlx6MiH.