10 Shopping Tips for People With Allergies
Flashback to the 1950's: take a peek in an American lunch box and you'll probably find an iconic PB&J. Today however, the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology estimates that 8% of children are affected by food allergies and peanuts are one of the top 8 allergens. How can we explain this radical shift in allergies?
Why do we have allergies?
According to the medical definition, an allergy can only be to a protein. Therefore, by definition, one cannot be allergic to a strawberry because there's no protein. Any other allergic reaction is called a food sensitivity.
Sensitivities occur when your body's been reacting to a protein for some time and has become hyper sensitive. It then may react on accident to something that resembles a protein it attacked in the past.
Our bodies attack because 80% of the immune system lies along the digestive tract, mostly in the intestines. If the stomach doesn't produce enough acid to break down food, then big particles of undigested food make it to the intestine. The large particles bump into the intestinal lining causing inflammation and small holes or "leaky gut". When the immune system detects these foreign particles leaking out, it does a great job in attacking and we perceive an allergic reaction.
In attempt to protect the entire body, the immune system doesn't only trigger reactions in the intestines, but may react across the skin or sinuses. Allergic reactions vary from rashes, hives, sneezing, coughing, indigestion... the usual symptoms our immune system uses to rid the body of the invaders.
You can be a food sensitivity detective by looking for these symptoms immediately after eating. If we suppress these allergic reactions with medications and prevent our immune system from doing its job, our bodies will develop stronger reactions.
This could result in a real food allergy, seasonal allergies, IBS, asthma, or an autoimmune disease such as celiac, Hashimoto's, or Crohn's. In an autoimmune disease, our bodies have become so confused, the immune system attacks our own body tissues.
Two steps to heal
When struggling with allergies, we need to think of two things.
- Remove the stressors
- Strengthen the defenses
Remove the Stressors
If the child is reacting to gluten, remove the gluten. This doesn't mean go out and purchase "gluten free" products as gluten free flours will just as often confuse the body into an allergic reaction. This means, eat naturally gluten free foods like rice or carrots.
If you sneeze or develop a rash after eating a food, remove the food for a few weeks and see if the symptoms subside.
Strengthen the Defenses
When someone is reacting with an allergy we can assume the immune system is compromised and furthermore the intestinal wall is damaged. We need to help the intestinal lining heal by eating a nutrient dense diet and creating a healthy food foundation.
Believe it or not this begins in the brain.
Our brain must realize that we are about to eat in order to stimulate saliva. Saliva is full of enzymes and the first mechanism to break down food. We need to sit, make sure we're not hyper-adrenalized, and that our brain, stomach and mouth are excited for the meal. This is the opposite of gobbling down a protein bar in the car.
Next, we must make sure there's enough stomach acid to digest proteins, separate the essential nutrients from food and destroy pathogens so you don't get sick. A high protein and low sugar meal is key in stimulating sufficient stomach acid.
Processed and genetically modified foods don't stimulate proper stomach acid and they disturb the digestive process.
How we eat is just as important as what we eat.
What we eat becomes paramount when the digested food arrives in the intestine. There must be appropriate levels of essential fats for two reasons. First the vitamins A, D, and E are only in essential fats and second the gallbladder must receive healthy fats to function properly.
Unfortunately, most of the processed foods we eat these days don't contain enough essential fats as companies push for low fat options. These options often use cheap vegetable oil substitutes that don't have the correct form of these vitamins and are causing leaky gut.
Here are 10 key points to remember when shopping for those with sensitivities or allergies. We want to remove as many toxins and allergenic foods from the shopping list as possible and include as many nutrient dense foods that stimulate the gut to heal.
10 Shopping Tips for People With Allergies
- Avoid all sugar and artificial sweeteners
- Make sure to eat plenty of protein and healthy fats
- Walk the perimeter of the store to find food in its natural state
- Buy organic whenever possible to avoid toxic pesticides
- Seek nitrate free, hormone, and antibiotic free grass fed meats
- Avoid packages of "healthy junk food" with ingredients you can't pronounce
- Whole fat dairy with the essential fats is healthier for the body
- Choose raw nuts and seeds that haven't been roasted in cheap vegetable oils
- Cultured foods like yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut and pickles are probiotic gems
- Sour dough or sprouted grain breads are easier to digest
It can seem daunting at first if you're not used to eating real food, but with a little practice you too can build a healthy food foundation. If you're working on reversing an allergy, and find you need special attention, don't hesitate to contact me.