Food allergy is an abnormal response to a food triggered by your body's immune system. In adults, the foods that most often trigger allergic reactions include fish, shellfish, peanuts, and tree nuts, such as walnuts. Problem foods for children can include eggs, milk, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, and wheat. It is generally accepted that the prevalence of food allergy has been increasing in recent decades, particularly in westernised countries, such as the UK, United States and Australia. Recent reports that children of East Asian or African ethnicity who are raised in a western environment (Australia and United States respectively) have an increased risk of developing food allergy compared with resident Caucasian children suggest that food allergy might also increase across Asian and African countries as their economies grow and populations adopt a more westernised modern lifestyle.
- An untrained immature immune system due to the Hygiene Hypothesis and Molecular Mimicry AKA Major Histocompatibility Complex Dysfunction due to a number of factors including a decrease in vaginal delivery, a decrease in breastfeeding and an ever-increasing vaccination schedule.
- Leaky Gut Syndrome (increased intestinal hyperpermeability).
- Excess inflammation due to excess consumption of inflammatory forming foods and specifically in relation to food allergy, an increase in C Reactive Protein.
Naturopathic Treatment Principles to Reduce Food Allergy
- Retrain the immune system
- Treat Leaky Gut Syndrome (increased intestinal hyperpermeability) using 4 Rs
- Reduce inflammation specifically lowering C-Reactive Protein
1. Retrain your Immune system
The Hygiene Hypothesis and Molecular Mimicry (AKA Major Histocompatibility Complex Dysfunction)
The hygiene hypothesis states that a lack of early childhood exposure to infectious agents, symbiotic microorganisms (e.g., gut flora or probiotics), and parasites, increases susceptibility to allergic diseases by suppressing natural development of the immune system. The rise in immune disease in the developed world, including the rise in food allergy and autoimmune disease, have been linked to the hygiene hypothesis.
Mechanism of action
Allergic diseases including food allergy are caused by inappropriate immunological responses to harmless antigens driven by an overzealous Th2 (T helper cells)-mediated immune response. Many bacteria and viruses normally encountered elicit a Th1-mediated immune response. This downregulates Th2 responses to keep the immune system in check. The hygiene hypothesis states that insufficient stimulation of the Th1 arm leads to an overactive Th2 arm, stimulating the antibody-mediated immunity of the immune systems, which in turn leads to both allergic and autoimmune diseases.
The hypothesis suggests that the developing immune system of a child needs to come into contact with common childhood diseases, either bacterial, viral or parasitical in nature, in order to train the immune system to be able to recognise self cells from foreign cells and to downregulate overactive immune cells so that they don’t get out of control and attack their own body or elicit an overactive response. This lack of down-regulation leads to the immune system being unable to recognise its own cells from a foreign cell (MHC dysfunction), therefore attacking its own cells resulting in autoimmune disease or overreacting and resulting in food allergy.
Supporting evidence for the hygiene hypothesis
The hygiene hypothesis is supported by epidemiological data. Studies have shown that various immunological and autoimmune diseases are much less common in the developing world than the industrialised world and that immigrants to the industrialised world from the developing world increasingly develop immunological disorders in relation to the length of time since arrival in the industrialised world.
Breastfeeding and the rise in food allergy
Breastfeeding is necessary to inoculate the child’s bowel with beneficial gut flora and to introduce the child’s immune system to food antigens through the mother’s diet. This is why it is important NOT TO omit potential allergenic foods when pregnant and breastfeeding as this is how your child naturally develops antibodies to food antigens. Breasts are also not sterile.
Vaccination and the rise in food allergy
From a historical perspective, children were meant to get diseases such as skin rashes.
Historically the common skin rashes were;
- Scarlet fever
- Rubella Duke's disease (Staphylococcal scalded skin syndrome)
- Erythema infectiosum (slap face)
I am not saying vaccine do not prevent disease. It is because vaccine prevents a disease that the immune system does not come into contact with the normal childhood diseases that exercise and stimulate an untrained immune system so that it is down-regulated and learns not t overreact resulting in autoimmune disease and allergy. What I am saying is yes measles kills 135,000 globally, but asthma kills 250,000 people globally per year and asthma has both an autoimmune and allergic component. There is evidence that the increasing vaccine schedule has lead to the rise in inflammatory and autoimmune disease. Nowadays, with an ever-increasing vaccination schedule, children are not coming into contact with illnesses that would normally train their immature immune systems to be able to recognise self-cells from foreign cells including cancer cells. When our children get chicken pox, measles, mumps, school sores and worms etc, this educates their immune systems so they do not develop a food allergy. Chickenpox is not a killer but anaphylaxis to peanuts is.
Vaccinations frankly have many toxic and questionable ingredients that do not need to be in there and should be substituted with safe alternatives
The ingredients of vaccinations
Benefits of the fever and the danger of suppressing it
The fever is a necessary part of growing up. Fever is not a disease but a sign that you are healthy.
From a physiological process fever;
- Increased mobility of leukocytes
- Enhanced leukocytes phagocytosis
- Endotoxin effects decreased
- Increased proliferation of T cells
- Downregulates (disciplines) the immune system to prevent immune dysfunction
Fever in children
Fever is a sign your child is healthy!
Fever in children trains the immune system to prevent not only food allergy but also other allergic diseases including asthma, eczema, hay fever and autoimmune diseases including Chron's disease, Ulcerative Colitis, multiple sclerosis etc
Childhood diseases such as chicken pox, measles, mumps and rubella, school sores, worms, slap face etc, have a fever as part of the symptom picture. It is the acquisition of these normal illnesses, particularly the occurrence of a fever, that train the immature immune system of an infant to become a mature immune system that is able to handle the top 8 food allergens.
Childhood diseases are known as self-limiting. That is, they can be allowed to run their own course without treatment. Most people recover without specific medical attention. Herbal medicine, homeopathy and acupuncture are very effective at treating acute viral childhood illnesses and preventing complications. Fever should not necessarily be treated. Although it is unpleasant, fever rarely rises to a dangerous level even if untreated. Damage to the brain generally does not occur until temperatures reach 42 °C (107.6 °F), and it is rare for an untreated fever to exceed 105 °F (41°C). Suppression of the fever is not necessary and in fact detrimental. Healthy people throw a healthy fever.
Don't get fever phobia
Fever phobia is the name given by medical experts to parents' misconceptions about fever in their children. Many parents incorrectly believe that fever is a disease rather than a medical sign, that even low fevers are harmful, and that any temperature even briefly or slightly above the oversimplified "normal" number marked on a thermometer is a clinically significant fever. They are also afraid of harmless side effects like febrile seisures and dramatically overestimate the likelihood of permanent damage from typical fevers. Unfortunately, there is no education on fever management and our kids don't come with instructions. That is why I have this website.
Red Flag Symptoms in Fever (when to take your child to the doctor)
- Fever over 40 degrees Celsius/ 104 Fahrenheit, that is unresponsive and unrelenting
- Unresponsive to treatment
- Grey colour, floppy or reduced consciousness
- Photophobia or neck stiffness
- History of travel overseas
Naturopathic fever management
The ability to throw a good fever is an example of the strength of what naturopaths term, the Vital Force. In my experience, patients with chronic autoimmune conditions, allergic disorders and cancer do not get fevers. Many patients have taken fever suppressing medications their whole lives.
The fever is a natural response and should not only not be suppressed but sometimes encouraged. The ideal fever in an adult is between 38-40°C. When the fever is between 38-40°C cancer destroying immune cells are activated. The fever is inhibiting toxins and clearing waste from the tissues, lymph and blood, on which bacteria feed and multiply. Killer T-cells are being increased, as are neutrophils and macrophages, which are the white blood cells responsible for destroying invaders. Fever IS NOT DANGEROUS unless the temperature is over 101°F (38.3°C) in an infant, 103°F (39.4°C) in a child or 104°F (40°C) in an adult.
The treatment principle is to encourage and support the fever. These diseases need to be treated in a natural way and from a naturopathic perspective, this means increasing fluid intake, bed rest, chicken soup, herbal medicine, acupuncture, homeopathy and supplements to boost the immune system. Next time you get sick do not take paracetamol or aspirin (lemsip is the big offender here). Lose the soldier on attitude. The best advice is to keep adequately hydrated with water, as the most significant risk of complications is dehydration.
Most importantly from a naturopathic perspective, DO NOT SUPPRESS THE FEVER. If the child is uncomfortable old school treatments such as tepid baths are useful but in general, a fever must be encouraged as it is a sign your child’s immune system is working. Of course, you can always have paracetamol on hand in the unlikely event that the fever will reach a dangerous level.
For my 6 children, I use herbal medicine, acupuncture and homeopathy to reduce temperature quickly. For fever management, I recommend Yarrow, Elder and Peppermint (YEP) tea. YEP tea is a blend of diaphoretic herbs, which promotes sweating to lower temperature. Made with honey and lemon it is very palatable and kids love it. Please note herbs are amphoteric, meaning that they can increase the temperature in a low-grade fever or increase temperature in a high-grade fever. This means that if someone is throwing a low-grade fever, ie < 38 °C a warm YEP tea will increase the body temperature. The same advice applies to adults.
Get dirty, return to mother nature
Get dirty, allow your children to get dirty. Have a natural childbirth and breastfeed. The rewards are there for the taking. There are natural remedies to encourage breast milk. Problems with breastfeeding can be overcome if you really want. Encourage normal play on the beach or in the dirt. Avoid the overuse of antibacterials particularly on eating utensils and dishwashing liquid. Remember, the development of specific immunoglobulin antibodies to environmental allergens encountered early in life is a normal, healthy physiological response to develop tolerance to the environment.
Examples of these allergens include not only surface and airborne bacteria and viruses but also foods, in particular, and cows’ milk or egg. However, if there is an abnormal response and large numbers of antibodies are generated, this may cause an allergic reaction. Bringing up your child naturally by avoiding vaccinations and suppression of symptoms with western medical drugs, and not suppressing fevers in your children, will lower the risk of food allergy. Find a good naturopath who doesn't vaccinate and has experience and confidence in treating children.
For a herbal tincture to boost your immune system please see also Immune Boost
Leaky Gut Syndrome (increased intestinal hyperpermeability)
Leaky Gut Syndrome is also described as increased intestinal hyperpermeability. Tight junctions (TJs) represent the major barrier between intestinal epithelial cells that line the digestion tract. Damage to the TJs leads to intestinal hyperpermeability ("leaky gut") which is part of the causes behind acute and chronic diseases such as systemic inflammatory response syndrome (SIRS), including autoimmune diseases such as inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD) including Chron’s disease and ulcerative colitis (UC), and cardiovascular disease, type 1 diabetes, allergies including eczema and asthma and even autism.
Hypotheses of Leaky Gut
Three mechanisms are proposed;
- A "leaky" intestinal mucosal barrier
- Altered intestinal immune responsiveness
Dysbiosis refers to a condition with microbial flora imbalances in the digestive tract. It has been associated with different illnesses, like inflammatory bowel disease and chronic fatigue syndrome. A leaky bowel wall leads to bacteria and endotoxins building up in the bloodstream creating an immune response. This is an important stimulus for inflammatory cytokine activation including C Reactive Protein (CRP).
- A "leaky" intestinal mucosal barrier
The gastrointestinal tract is responsible for digestion and absorption of nutrients and electrolytes, and to maintain water homeostasis. Another important function is its ability to keep pathogens from the environment that enter through the gut from the host through this barrier mechanism. The intercellular tight junctions of the intestinal epithelial barrier, together with the gut-associated lymphoid tissue and the neuroendocrine network, controls the balance between tolerance and immunity to nonself-antigens. Whilst this tight junction should allow absorption of essential nutrients and ions, intestinal tight junctions that are “leaky” allow substances, which should not be absorbed into the bloodstream.
Select enteric viruses, bacterial pathogens and parasites modulate intestinal tight junction structure and function and these effects may also contribute to the development of chronic intestinal disorders. Physiological, pharmacological, and pathophysiological stimuli all cause changes in the barrier properties of the tight junctions. Enteric pathogens such as E. coli, Giardia, and TNF disrupt tight junctions function of epithelial cells. Alcohol consumption induces a state of "leaky gut" increasing plasma and liver endotoxin levels, leading (in excess) to liver diseases.
- Altered intestinal immune responsiveness
Kupffer cells are macrophages located in the liver. When Kupffer cells become activated they produce a variety of substances including cytokines, chemokines, growth factors, cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase metabolites, and reactive oxygen species such as superoxide anion, hydrogen peroxide, and nitric oxide that damage the TJs and lead to increased intestinal hyperpermeability.
1.Reduce Food Antigens
Food allergy Non-IgE Mediated (Delayed) Food Allergy
These are allergic reactions that are delayed and are mediated by the cells of the immune system called immune complexes (antigen-antibody complexes), which circulate in the bloodstream. This is opposed to histamine release in immediate reaction food allergy.
These circulating antigen-antibody complexes can lodge in tissues creating all sorts of problems in particular, asthma, eczema and hayfever, but also can develop severe autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis (children can get juvenile arthritis) and insulin dependant diabetes. There is a strong relationship between the antibody for bovine protein found in milk and the similarity of this protein to the pancreatic Islets of Langerhans for example as an immature immune system fails to recognise the difference in the cells due to the hygiene hypothesis and molecular mimicry.
Delayed reactions to food may take several hours or days to develop. Foods causing reactions of these types include cows’ milk, eggs, fish, wheat, other cereals, yeast, soya, pork, chocolate and citrus fruits are the main offenders. Please note the advice is to reduce and rotate your grains and milks rather than completely eliminate as complete elimination often increases sensitivity. For a full explanation of food allergy please see Food Allergy and Intolerance Explained.
- 2. Replace digestive enzymes
Including saliva, stomach acid and bile flow using herbal bitters which are naturally;
- Sialogogues (promote saliva)
- Cholagogues (promotes bile)
- Orexogenics (promotes stomach acid)
Short-term use of digestive enzymes such as bromelain and papain may be advisable, alternatively eat pineapple or papaya after meals as these fruits contain the proteolytic enzymes. Chew your food 32 times. Avoid liquid with meals as this dilutes hydrochloric acid.
- 3. Repair gastrointestinal lining
Nutritional supplements specifically for leaky gut
L-Glutamine for gut repair
Glutamine is important for a large number of bodily functions. It is one of the most important nutrients for healing leaky gut syndrome because it is the preferred 'fuel' for the cells lining the mucosa of the small intestine (enterocytes). Glutamine is also required for the production of both intestinal mucus and Secretary Immunoglobulin Type A (SIgA). Glutamine will help repair and maintain a healthy small intestinal lining. The suggested dosage for moderate-severe leaky gut syndrome is in the range of 5-20g per day.
An essential nutrient for the production of the GI tracts protective antibodies (SIgA). Vitamin A also helps to maintain a healthy intestinal mucosa and soothes inflammation. Vitamin A can be used safely in doses of up to 20,000-25,000 IU's per day. Vitamin A is also involved in immune function, skin and cellular health and displays antioxidant activity.
Zinc is required for growth and healing and is essential to cells with a rapid turnover. The cells of the small intestinal mucosa have an extremely rapid turnover, being replaced about every four days, so zinc is extremely important to the integrity of the intestinal lining. Small intestinal permeability is often increased in patients with Crohn's disease and may be pathogenic for clinical relapses. Clinical studies have shown zinc supplementation can resolve permeability alterations in patients with Crohn's disease in remission. Improving intestinal barrier function may contribute to reducing the risk of relapse in Crohn's disease. Dosages in the range of 50-80mg per day are usually taken to correct deficiencies of zinc. Sturniolo GC., Di Leo V., Ferronato A, D'Odorico A., D'Incà R Zinc supplementation tightens "leaky gut" in Crohn's disease. Inflamm Bowel Dis.2001 May;7(2):94-8.
Glucosamine is a precursor for glycosaminoglycans. GAGs form an important component of connective tissues and is essential for the secretion of the mucus that creates a protective lining on top the cells of the gut.
- 4. Re-inoculate bowel flora
Effect of Lactobacilli on Paracellular Permeability in the Gut
A rat study showed the probiotic strain Lactobacillus plantarum can reduce paracellular permeability in the gut resulting from cytokines, chemicals, infections, or stress. There have been few human studies focusing on the effect of lactobacilli on intestinal paracellular permeability but recently it has been shown that they could influence the tight junctions.
More precisely, short-term administration of L. plantarum WCSF1 to healthy volunteers increased the relocation of occludin and ZO-1 into the tight junction area between duodenal epithelial cells. Siv Ahrne and Marie-Louise Johansson Hagslatt Effect of Lactobacilli on Paracellular Permeability in the Gut, Nutrients 2011, 3(1), 104-117.
- 3. Lower C-Reactive Protein and reduce inflammation
C-reactive protein (CRP) is an inflammatory biomarker. In healthy amounts the physiological role of CRP is to bind to the surface of antigens dead or dying cells (and some types of bacteria) in order to activate the complement system and encourage phagocytosis by macrophages. It is also known, however, for its ability to bind autoantigens and presumed capacity to promote clearance of apoptotic cells. These latter properties of CRP are suspected to contribute to its role in autoimmune disease.
C-reactive protein (CRP) test
Measuring CRP level is a screen for infectious and inflammatory diseases. Rapid, marked increases in CRP occur with not only food allergy but also inflammation, infection, trauma and tissue necrosis, malignancies, and autoimmune disorders.
The C-reactive protein (CRP) test can be used to monitor inflammation, which is associated with food allergy. A high or increasing amount of CRP in the blood suggests that the patient has an acute infection or inflammation. In a healthy person, CRP is usually less than 10mg/L. Most infections and inflammations result in CRP levels above 100mg/L.
Mediterranean diet and C-reactive protein
Levels of C-reactive protein can be decreased by increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables and by taking certain supplements such as vitamin C. Sticking to a Mediterranean diet, high in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fats, lowers levels of inflammation as reflected by lower levels of C-reactive protein. This effect should, in turn, lead to a lower risk of autoimmune disease.
Fibre and C-reactive protein
Foods high in fibre lower C-reactive protein. In a study of 524 healthy adults, investigators found that those with the highest fibre intake had lower blood levels of C-reactive protein CRP than those who ate the least fibre. The findings support the general recommendation that adults get 20 to 35 grams of fibre per day in the form of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. Both of the main forms of fibre, soluble and insoluble, were related to lower CRP levels. Soluble fibre is found in oatmeal, beans, berries and apples, while whole grains and many vegetables are good sources of insoluble fibre.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, April 2006.
Flavonoids and C-reactive protein
Intake of dietary flavonoids is inversely associated with serum CRP concentrations in U.S. adults. Intake of flavonoid-rich foods reduces inflammation-mediated chronic diseases. Food sources of flavonoids include, tea, green tea, apples, apricots, blueberries, pears, raspberries, strawberries, black beans, cabbage, onions, parsley, pinto beans and tomatoes.
Vitamin C and C-reactive -protein
Vitamin C treatment significantly reduces C-reactive protein.
Omega-3 fatty acids and C-reactive protein
Higher intake of n–3 polyunsaturated fatty acids from marine or fish is inversely associated with serum C-reactive protein (CRP) concentrations. Therefore, eating more fish or taking fish oil capsules can reduce C reactive protein levels.
Dark chocolate and C-reactive protein
Consuming dark chocolate can reduce C-reactive protein levels.
General Anti-inflammatory Diet
Certain foods contain compounds which are naturally anti-inflammatory. Examples of such compounds are omega 3, curcumin, resveratrol and flavanoids. Eat plenty of berries and cherries and fruits and vegetables.
- Minimise saturated and trans fats.
- Eat a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish or fish oil supplements, walnuts and flax.
- Reduce intake of refined carbohydrates such as pasta and white rice.
- Eat plenty of whole grains such as oats, brown rice and bulgur wheat.
- Cut back on red meat and full-fat dairy foods.
- Eat lean protein sources such as chicken.
- Avoid refined foods and processed foods.
- Ginger, curry, and turmeric have an anti-inflammatory effect.
- Green tea and tea are rich in flavonoids.
For a herbal tincture that reduces inflammation please see also Cancer Support
From a naturopathic perspective, there is a plethora of dietary, lifestyle and supplement and herbal medicine advice that will address the causes of and alleviate the symptoms.
Please consult a naturopath or your doctor before taking natural remedies if you are on medication or if symptoms persist.
Carina Harkin BHSc.Nat.BHSc.Hom.BHSc.Acu.
Cert IV TAE. ARCHTI mem.