Food & Environmental Sensitivities Testing & Treatment

Are you suffering from fluid retention, weight gain, mood problems such as irritability, depression or anxiety, fatigue, lack of happiness, or motivation, lack of focus and concentration, poor memory, or chronic stress? Allergic responses also present themselves as hives, rashes or other skin conditions, asthma or digestive problems, bloating, pain or nausea after eating food, sinus and hay fever and suspect you have an allergy or intolerance but you are not sure? Let us support you in finding out if your sensitivities to foods or environmental toxins are the cause of part of the cause of your symptoms. We have a number of options available:

Health Disorders and Adverse Reactions to Food
Adverse reactions to foods can cause both mild and severe health problems in a subset of the population. Immediate food allergies are known to affect 4% of the general population, whereas general adverse reactions to food may affect a much higher proportion (>20%). The symptoms caused by the food reactions can be as mild as bloating but as severe as anaphylaxis. Conditions which may be caused or exacerbated by adverse food reactions include asthma, arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), migraine, otitis media and skin rashes. A wide variety of more non-specific symptoms can be attributed to food sensitivities such as fatigue, headaches, and difficulty losing weight, food addictions and trouble concentrating.

Allergies versus Sensitivities to Foods
Adverse food reactions include any abnormal reaction resulting from the ingestion of a food. They can be categorised as food allergies (with an immune response) or food sensitivities/intolerance. This is where it all gets a bit confusing and the existence and classification of food sensitivities have been controversial. These types of reactions are difficult to diagnose because the time between consumption and response may be delayed (up to 2 days) and the symptoms are often subtle. In many cases ingestion of the offending food paradoxically masks the symptoms temporarily. Furthermore, multiple causes contribute to food sensitivities, making this area difficult to study.

What is it?
Allergies, intolerances and sensitivities are immune responses that can be to anything such as food substances, colourings, preservatives, or additives, environment toxins, pollens or insects, chemicals, moulds, and even medications. In fact, a negative immune reaction can become a reactant for you at any time to absolutely anything.

Allergies or intolerances can be immune responses passed on from birth or can develop over your life through periods of stress, compromised immune responses, or gut disease processes such as infection or inflammation.

In some cases the symptoms are acute, and quite severe, making it quite obvious that you’re having an allergic response, though mostly, the symptoms are chronic and because low-grade inflammation, which leads to disease processes in your body that you consider are normal signs of ageing, though are not. More severe cases may result in anaphylactic reactions which can be life-threatening. Most people believe, if they don’t suffer these types of symptoms, they don’t have allergies, but don’t assume this doesn’t affect you, and it could be the reason behind you just not feeling 100%.

What might you be experiencing?
Typically initially you’ll have signs of fluid retention, weight gain, mood problems such as irritability, depression or anxiety, fatigue, lack of happiness, or motivation, lack of focus and concentration, poor memory, or chronic stress. Allergic responses also present themselves as hives, rashes or other skin conditions, asthma or digestive problems, bloating, pain or nausea after eating food, sinus and hay fever.

Allergies can also be the underlying cause or at least contribute to symptoms of ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and other more severe mood or behavioural problems. Allergies have also been found to be one of the biggest causes, due to its inflammatory nature, of dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, narcolepsy, cataplexy, fluid retention, severe fatigue conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, thyroid conditions, heart disease, stroke, type II diabetes, circulation problems, auto-immune diseases, hormonal imbalances, infertility, stress, toxicity, nutrient deficiencies, it leads to further allergies, and much more.

Finding out whether you have sensitivities and minimising the risk

Tip 1: Remove your current allergens to reduce the risk of new sensitivities developing, breaking the cycle. The most valuable thing you can do for your health is to find out what food suits you and what to avoid.

Be aware that not all food allergy tests are created equal, there are some tests that can produce false negatives, being a generic assessment looking for foods you’ve already had reactions to, rather than all foods you could be reactant to.

Comprehensive food allergy testing is available that is highly specific, covering all types of allergy responses rather than just one type at a time. Food allergy immediately affects your fluid levels and can have a delayed response lasting days, which in turn affects your electrolytes, causing cellular energy to diminish. Keeping off your allergens will keep your energy levels and brain functioning optimal, keep your body at your correct metabolic weight, reduces oedema, puffiness and cellulite, and reduces muscle or joint aches and pains.

Continuing to eat foods that are allergens will keep your gut wall inflamed, allowing more foods, currently not allergens to pass through the gut wall and become new allergens, forever compromising your immune system, leading to chronic disease and early ageing.

So why guess what foods are causing problems. Book in for a 30 – minute free consultation

Tip 2: Check your gut flora.
Bacterial or fungal infections, which are picked up through travelling or passed on from other people through contact or through colds and flu, release toxins, causing inflammation of the gut wall, compromising the cells known as gap junctions, allowing for food particles to slip into the blood stream.  This activates the immune system, alerting it to the presence of foreign particles, which then signals immune complexes to mark that food particle as a danger, which results in the beginning of a food sensitivity. You then not only have the immune response to deal with but the added symptoms associated with bacterial infection such as chronic recurring colds and viruses, depression, mood disorders, chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia. A healthy gut bacterial balance is a crucial step to building strong foundations in your health and protecting you from a food sensitivity.

Tip 3: Check your hormones.
Food allergy responses can cause hormonal disruption, as the immune system and the endocrine system are closely linked. Not only can you cause hormonal imbalances such as infertility, miscarriage, PCOS, menopausal symptoms, PMS, migraine or hormonal acne from food sensitivities, but the response can be a two-way street. Hormone disruption caused by other factors, such as taking the oral contraceptive pill, HRT, hormonal creams, Depo-Provera injection, Mirena, or suffering with stress, can all lower your DHEA, which increases your sensitivity to food allergens. It can become a vicious cycle leading to depression, anxiety, insomnia, memory loss, fatigue, weight gain, osteoporosis, and some hormonal cancers.

Tip 4: Reduce stress. Whether it be emotional, physical, or biochemical, stress will cause your body to produce the hormone cortisol, producing inflammation. With long-term cortisol production comes gut inflammation, leading to food particles being able to penetrate the gut wall, into the bloodstream, producing new food sensitivities. Cortisol production also causes inflammation of the joints, and the eventually irreversible breakdown of the cartilage in the joints, leading to osteoarthritis. Deal with emotional stressors and take measures to reduce your stress load. Keep physical stressors such as excessive workloads, excessive exercise, or anything that causes inflammation to your physical body to a minimum. Finally, keep your nutrient levels up, with a healthy diet, to maintain all the necessary nutrients for your biochemical pathways to function properly, reducing stress on your internal organs and systems.

Tip 5: Exercise. Exercise not only releases endorphins making you happy, and reducing stress, but moderate exercise also keeps your muscles pumping, and your lymphatic system functioning, moving excess fluid retention out through your kidneys and flushing out toxins. Exercise is also a great way to keep your bowel functioning normally, helping to rid your body of toxins from allergens in the gut. Allergy can for some people cause constipation, where for others may cause diarrhoea. For those having trouble moving their bowel, exercise is a great way to stay regular and keep fluid retention at bay.

How can I test for sensitivities?

ALCAT® Testing
The ALCAT (Antigen Leukocyte Cellular Antibody Test) is a lab-based immune stimulation test in which a patient’s white blood cells (leukocytes) are challenged with various substances including foods, additives, colourings, chemicals, medicinal herbs, functional foods, moulds and pharmaceutical compounds. The patient’s unique set of responses helps to identify substances that may trigger potentially harmful immune system reactions. This diagnostic system detects changes in the size and number of white blood cells (i.e. immune cells) in response to exposure to these foods and chemicals. A significant advantage of this system is that it uses whole blood which contains all of the immune factors, cells and serum proteins that might be involved in an adverse reaction to a food and chemical. Regardless of the pathways that may underlie an adverse reaction to a food or chemical, i.e. immune or non-immune, the final common pathway may involve the release of chemical mediators. These substances, such as histamine and cytokines, will alter the activity of the white blood cells which is detectable using the ALCAT® technique. In addition, the ALCAT® will theoretically detect changes in the innate immune system (phagocytic white blood cells) and any cytotoxic effects of food.

Note the ALCAT® test does not identify type 1 classical IgE mediated (anaphylaxis) allergies.

Where to from here?

At Sheena Hendon Health we offer a number of services to diagnose, test and treat food and environmental sensitivities

We advise

  • An initial fact-finding consultation: The first appointment is 45 minutes to 1 hour in duration and is for fact finding – including an in-depth discussion regarding your current state of health, past health history, issues you wish to work on and outcomes you desire. We will ask about your diet, activity and emotional health, so we get the big picture about what is going on for you. And to discover whether to assess whether an allergy or intolerance seems likely. Once we have discussed your individual requirements, we will do relevant tests in the practice such as zinc tally test, urinary indicans testing, PH test, ABO blood type testing, blood sugar levels and blood pressure, weight and body composition. We may also arrange external tests such as blood and stool tests, Gene Profiling or Nutrigenomics, and Alcat food and environment sensitivity tests and so forth.
  • Follow up consultations: Depending on test results we may need one or two follow-up consultations of one hour long.

Consultation 1. To go through test results and decide the course of action
Consultation 2. To devise a nutritional and healthy diet plan if the test results are showing many sensitivities.

The cost of this basic package is $330 but does not include testing or any herbs or supplement recommended to assist in treatment. Please BOOK in for your 30 – minute free consultation to find out more

IMPORTANT INFORMATION
Two commonly used orthodox allergy tests are the skin prick test and the RAST or CapRast blood test. However, these tests do not pick up intolerances

The elimination diet and oral challenge test are popular ways to diagnose a food intolerance. All suspected foods are completely removed from the diet for 1 to 3 weeks. A small amount is then reintroduced and if symptoms reappear, the intolerance is confirmed. This test can also be performed to diagnose a food allergy.

It is important that this test is undertaken under the supervision of an experienced health practitioner, allergy specialist or dietitian/nutritionist to make sure that proper nutrition is maintained. If there is a risk of a severe reaction, foods should never be reintroduced without first consulting a health professional, especially in children.

The Ins and Outs of Allergies and intolerances – the difference, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment

According to Allergy NZ, allergies affect almost 50 per cent of New Zealanders. Many people with  allergies are living with the time bomb of life-threatening allergic reactions, where a mere trace of something as innocent as peanuts,  shellfish, wheat, dairy products or eggs, an insect sting, exposure to latex or specific drugs can have them experiencing one of the terrifying types of reactions; anaphylactic shock.

What is an allergy?

An allergy occurs when the body’s immune system overreacts to normally harmless substances, which may be in the air or water, or things we touch or eat. When an allergic person comes in contact with such a substance, their immune system produces a special kind of antibody (IgE) and other cells release further chemicals, such as histamines. This causes the symptoms of an allergic reaction.

What is the difference between an allergy and intolerance?
An allergy is an abnormal immune system response to the introduction of a food or an ordinarily harmless substance into the body. A reaction can occur within minutes, or a few hours after a food is ingested or a person comes into contact with the food or another allergen.

An intolerance is an adverse reaction to a food or substance that does not involve the immune system. Reactions can be immediate or delayed up to 20 hours after ingestion or contact.
Note:  Often I find clients come to me who have been tested for allergies and the results have indicated no allergies present. This is because they may not have an allergy but actually have food hypersensitivities or food intolerances – these are not detected in orthodox allergy tests…

What are the symptoms to watch out for?
Allergy symptoms may include hives, swelling around the mouth, diarrhoea, vomiting, stuffy nose and hay fever symptoms, eczema (a skin rash) and anaphylaxis (a potentially life-threatening reaction that affects the whole body).

Symptoms of intolerance are sometimes vague and can include a combination of the following: a headache, fatigue and irritability, gastrointestinal problems such as bloating and wind, diarrhoea, nausea and indigestion, aggravation of eczema or asthma, and joint pain. Food intolerances can sometimes mimic symptoms of other medical conditions – it is important to get checked out by a doctor to eliminate other problems first.

Many people find their “allergies” are worse sometimes, and hardly affect them at other times.  They are like the straw that broke the camel’s back. With the background level stress of city life, coupled with extra daily pressures, an allergen can often tip the balance and just be too much for the body’s immune system to cope with. Contact with bacteria or viruses, work stress, emotional upsets with the family etc. all adds up to stress on the body.

Often people talk about foods that they reacted to as a child, but which they are fine about now. From a naturopathic viewpoint this may mean that the allergen is having an effect at a deeper level within the body, and not that it has gone away. The body adapts to allergens that it has to deal with all the time, and the allergy becomes “masked”.  For this reason reactions to allergens sometimes become more pronounced after avoiding a food for a while.

Some people, however, find they can cope with their “allergy foods” on a rotational basis only 1 day in 4, as long as the other stress in their life is under control.

Which foods are the most common cause of food allergy?
The most common foods allergens are eggs, wheat, soy, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, fish and shellfish. These eight foods account for 90% of all food allergies. However, almost any food can cause an allergy.

Common culprits in food intolerance:
Almost any food can cause an intolerance, but there are some types of intolerances that occur more than others.
Lactose intolerance, a condition in which a person cannot digest the sugar found in dairy products, is one of the most common food intolerances. Sensitivity to naturally-occurring food chemicals can cause symptoms of intolerance. These chemicals include salicylates, natural preservatives found in a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, nuts and spices; amines, produced during fermentation, ageing and ripening, and glutamate, an amino acid found naturally in all protein foods. Some food additives can also cause food intolerances. A specific type of intolerance can develop to the protein in wheat and other grains called gluten. This condition is called coeliac disease, and it is estimated that 1 in 300 New Zealanders is affected.

Diagnosing an allergy or intolerance
Two commonly used allergy tests are the skin prick test and the RAST or Carats blood test.  Along with these tests, the health practitioner will take a detailed history of symptoms. The allergy tests will be used to confirm what the history tells them.

The elimination diet and oral challenge test are popular ways to diagnose a food intolerance. All suspected foods are completely removed from the diet for 1 to 3 weeks. A small amount is then reintroduced and if symptoms reappear, the intolerance is confirmed. This test can also be performed to diagnose a food allergy.

It is important that this test is undertaken under the supervision of an experienced health practitioner, allergy specialist or dietitian to make sure that proper nutrition is maintained. If there is a risk of a severe reaction, foods should never be reintroduced

What should I do if I have been diagnosed with an intolerance or allergy?

  • Avoid the trigger food(s)

If you have an allergy you must completely remove the food from your diet.  Total avoidance is the key to being clear of symptoms. Become an avid label-reader and familiarise yourself with the technical terms of foods to watch out for. Don’t hesitate to call manufacturers to find out if a  product contains an ingredient derived from the allergic food. Get to know which foods and cuisines are at high-risk of containing ‘hidden ingredients’ and avoid these when shopping or eating out.

Most intolerances are dose-dependent, meaning that you have to consume a certain amount of the offending substance before symptoms appear. You may be able to consume small quantities of the food. The amount tolerated is very individual, so once you have discovered what is causing your symptoms,  you’ll have to learn how much affects you. Coeliac disease is an important exception to this rule – gluten must be strictly avoided.

  • Treatment programmes

Whilst just avoiding the trigger foods can reduce the symptoms of the allergy, we recommend that you consider a full treatment programme which will help the body to heal and overcome the abnormal reaction it has to the foods or environmental triggers.

Following the Functional Medicine theory of recovering good health, we work with the basis of obtaining health – through the gastro-intestinal system, including liver detoxification. This allows the body to regenerate new cells with all the nutrients and enzymes it needs to re-adjust itself.  It takes at least 6 -8 weeks for the body to achieve this.

A programme called ANT PIE gives excellent results

A = abstain from stressful foods, get good sleep, have health-promoting habits
N = nourish; feed the gastrointestinal system with a balance of nutrients and digestive aids
T = toxins – a gentle liver / gut detoxification
P = probiotics -practitioner strength acidophilus / bifid us
I = Identify food intolerances – we do this early on
E = eliminate any gut pathogens or extra toxic burdens on the body.