Will Food Allergies Ever Go Away?
Posted on March 10 2021
My childhood best friend discovered her food allergy while eating her daily PB&J. One bite, and she was fine. Two bites, and we were on our way to the emergency room. Her allergy was obvious and acutely dangerous—she can't eat peanuts to this day.
Compare this reaction to my husband, who experiences low blood pressure, fainting, and GI upset from eating hemp. Or, a recent client who gets a distinctive, itchy rash every time he eats cow dairy.
These are all examples of food allergies—an interaction between a specific food protein, or in very rare cases, carbohydrate (1), with our immune system. We're most likely to hear about a true allergy when someone experiences anaphylaxis, an allergic reaction that can be life-threatening due to airway constriction. However, allergic symptoms can manifest in many different ways, including mental and emotional imbalances such as brain fog or anxiety (2).
The big question is: Will food allergies ever go away?
Before I answer that question, it’s important to understand what a true food allergy is, versus other forms of food reactions. An accurate food allergy diagnosis, technically known as a type one IgE-mediated hypersensitivity, must be made by an allergist. Diagnosis relies on reported symptoms, physical examination, and diagnostic tests, including skin prick testing, blood tests for IgE antibodies to suspected foods, or possibly an oral food challenge (4). In other words, a definite diagnosis of true IgE food allergy isn't always straightforward.
Other forms of hypersensitivity include types two, three, and four—yes, there are four types of hypersensitivity reactions that a person can experience! Types two and three hypersensitivities primarily involve IgG antibodies. However, a fair bit of controversy surrounds these forms of immune responses and their connection to food reactivity.
Even though multiple tests are widely available to measure IgG antibodies created in response to specific foods, it's still unclear and debated whether these antibodies lead to symptoms (5) (6) (7) (8). Even though multiple tests are widely available to measure IgG antibodies created in response to specific foods, it's still unclear and debated whether these antibodies lead to symptoms (5) (6) (7) (8).
Finally, there are non-immune reactions to foods. Intolerances to lactose or fructose can create discomfort, such as bloating, diarrhea, and possibly even depression (10). Some people may experience systemic reactions related to oxalates, histamines, salicylates, phytates, goitrogens, lectins, or tannins. However, these are non-allergic reactions that, while impactful, are not directly related to the immune system (11).
So, the question remains—will allergies ever go away? And, if a reaction isn't an allergy, how do we understand what's creating it and ultimately help it resolve?
The best answer to this question begins with a basic concept: lessen stressors and increase support.
While a true IgE food allergy may never go away, many reactions to foods, such as those described above, can be resolved. The gold standard protocol for any food reaction is an elimination diet (12). A strict elimination diet, on a pre-set timeline, helps you understand what foods work for your body and, just as importantly, what foods don't. Foods may create a reaction through any of the mechanisms listed above.
With this approach, even if you cannot pinpoint what is causing the reaction (oxalates, histamines, true food allergy, etc.) you will begin to understand the foods that elicit a negative response. The AIP Diet is an excellent elimination option. I also recommend eliminating as much mental and emotional stress as possible during a dietary elimination.
Introducing compounds that support digestive and immune function is just as important as lessening stressors! Remember that re-introducing foods is an often-overlooked but essential step in an elimination diet. Eating a wide variety of both plant and animal foods nourishes our bodies and our gut microbiome. The lovely “bugs” that make up our systemic microbial balance love plant fibers and phytonutrients—these same bugs intimately work with the immune system to create appropriate reactions to food.
Other supportive steps to explore are gastrointestinal support via glutamine-rich foods or supplements. Bitter foods support upper GI digestion, while small amounts of fermented foods can help colonic health. Eat plenty of foods that increase immune tolerance, such as fish, onions, garlic, leeks, Jerusalem artichokes, burdock, rosemary, and cinnamon. And, a final small but mighty suggestion—stay hydrated! Your water-loving GI mucosa will thank you.
So, will allergies ever go away? True IgE-mediated food allergies are difficult to address. But, with concentrated gut, microbial, and immune support, many food reactions absolutely can.
To further complicate the subject of allergies, some "allergic" symptoms are not allergies at all, but rather forms of food reactions, some having nothing to do with the immune system (3). 🤯