A discussion on allergies with nutritionist Nikki Wood
If it’s not pollen, mould or dust mites, it’s some sort of food allergy… Going out for dinner can be a minefield, both for those with allergies and for the poor chefs that have to cook around it!
Many have become sceptical because every second person seems to have a food allergy – and there is some truth to the fact that some people do simply choose to avoid the common allergens such as dairy and gluten and claim an allergy in order to be heard. Even though it must be really challenging for those preparing our food, the food industry has to take every allergy seriously or risk very serious repercussions in the case of life or death situation such as an anaphylactic reaction.
Allergies and food intolerances are on the rise worldwide, and there seems to be a very strong link with gut health, which makes sense as the decline in gut health is almost mirror perfect to the rise of food allergies.
So how did things get so bad? The truth is we have not been very kind to the bacteria in our tummies. Modern lifestyles wreak havoc on our microbiome (our gut bacteria);
- We eat processed food rather than fibrous prebiotic foods which nourish and feed the good bacteria
- We look to antibiotics far more than necessary: antibiotics play a really important role when we are fighting a bacterial infection. The problem is many people insist that the doctor write them scripts for antibiotics when it isn’t necessary eg. in the case of a viral cold or flu
- We are overly hygienic – you may have heard of the ‘hygiene hypothesis’? Our insistence on things being ultra clean means our developing body’s are not exposed to environmental microbes which deprives us of immune stimulation critical for healthy immune system development
- Caesarean births are another factor – vaginal births are really important for the developing baby as every skin cell is covered in the mothers’ healthy bacteria as the baby is born. These bacteria forms the foundation for our gut health later in life. If caesarean births are unavoidable it is possible for the baby to be wiped over with a swab of the mothers’ bacteria – not quite as good but certainly better than nothing! Unfortunately, modern medicine is advocating for C-sections more than is necessary and there is also a rise in modern times of mothers opting to have their babies ‘though the sun roof’ instead of a natural vaginal birth
- Formula feeding – whilst most infant formulas these days are fortified with various strains of bacteria, there is simply nothing compared to the balanced meal produced naturally by a lactating mother
The diverse array of bacteria in our guts, ideally from early on in life, effectively ‘trains’ our immune system – teaching it which substances are harmful (pathogenic microbes that need to be acted upon) and which are harmless to the body (such as friendly microbes and dietary proteins).
When we abuse our microbiome a very common phenomenon known as “leaky gut” – this is where holes form in the intestinal barrier allowing large undigested dietary proteins to enter the blood, stimulating an immune response. Coupled with a poorly trained immune system, we’re in a for a rocky ride with food intolerances and allergies.
So what do we need to do to combat this rising trend? Firstly, avoid antibiotics as much as possible. If you do have to take a course of antibiotics ensure you top up the good bacteria with probiotics, and eat plenty of prebiotic foods such as vegetables (raw and cooked) and fermented foods such as good quality yoghurt, kefir and kombucha. Bone broth (made a huge come back in recent times, and for good reason) is also wonderful for restoring gut health.
The key to reducing allergic reactions is to firstly identify the culprit foods through an allergy test. Once identified these foods can be removed from the diet whilst we seal and heal the gut lining through supplements and probiotics. In time, once the gut lining has healed we can start re-introducing some of the previously intolerable foods.
If you’re suffering from any food allergies then it’s best to get it checked so we can make the necessary amendments. Not only will your symptoms improve, but the gut microbiome has been linked with everything from depression and anxiety, to brain function and the development of Alzheimer’s later in life.
Remember symptoms may appear in the gut such as flatulence, bloating, diarrhoea or constipation but they are also likely to show up elsewhere in the body in the form of headaches, skin conditions such as eczema or psoriasis,
If you suspect your allergies may be a result of a gut imbalance (9 times out of 10 it will be!) then it’s a good idea to get checked.
Nikki is in clinic Thursdays by appointment. Call on 9997 2121 to make yours.