The Rise In Food Sensitivities
Critics like to assume that food sensitivity is just a fad. "After all," they say, "people did not have problems years ago." But in fact, research has been done on this very question. Scientists looked at blood samples of soldiers on an Air Force Base 50 years ago and compared them to soldiers today. They found a significant rise in gluten sensitivity from populations 50 years to now. Research has also found that 20% of the world’s population today has some adverse reactions to food.
Difference Between Food Allergy and Food Sensitivity :
First of all, it is important to understand the difference between an allergic reaction to food and food sensitivity or intolerance. This difference is mainly due to the immune response. When we have an immune response to a food protein, there are certain antibodies that are formed to cause that immune reaction. There are three different kinds of antibodies involved in food allergies and sensitivities.
The IgE antibody causes an immediate reaction. People who have anaphylactic throat swelling responses to foods are having an IgE reaction. Other symptoms can include swelling of the lips or tongue, wheezing, coughing, runny nose or sneezing, vomiting, or even a loss of consciousness. People who have dairy, egg, fish, peanut, shellfish, soy, treat nut, or wheat allergies are experiencing an IgE reaction. IgE levels can be easily measured and are a useful diagnostic for food allergies.
IgA and IgG reactions are slower. There is a period of time before they surface, it can be a few hours or even a few days. The symptoms they experience include inflammation-related conditions like fatigue, headaches, brain fog, or joint pain. Other symptoms can be GI-related, for example, nausea, constipation, or diarrhea. Different people experience rashes and conditions like eczema and psoriasis.
Because there is a delayed response, it is hard to find out what foods are problematic. There are some food sensitivity tests, but are not readily available and many are not totally reliable.
Why People Have More Food Sensitivities Today?
There are two main reasons. Let us look at them in detail.
Reason One: Food Has Changed
Anything foreign to the human body that causes an immune system reaction is called an antigen. An antigen can be a pathogen like a bacteria or a virus. Food proteins are also called antigens. We use the term antigenicity to describe how aggressive and reactive an antigen is.
If the antigen changes its configuration or the configuration of the protein changes, it can become either more reactive or less reactive. For example, cooking food can make the configuration more or less reactive. Some people may react to raw eggs versus cooked eggs.
To look at what has happened to our food, we will use the example of wheat, since so many people have problems with it. Modern commercially grown wheat is more antigenic now than in the past because farmers have changed their seeds. They use hybrid seeds for weather and bug resistant crops. Spectroscopy studies show a 3 - 5% difference in protein sequencing between native wheat and modern wheat.
Another problem is pesticides. How farmers use pesticides has changed over the last few decades as well. These pesticides do not wash off. Instead, they bind to proteins. When the pesticides bind to different types of grains, they change the configuration of protein. Proteins with new configurations have the potential to be more antigenic.
Another problem is that we do not eat food directly from the field. Food is processed, and companies add different chemicals to make it more flexible or have a longer shelf life. The chemicals bind to the proteins and change the food structure, which can make it more reactive. Add to that food coloring. Food coloring itself is not going to cause an antibody response; however, food coloring binds to proteins. When it does, it prevents the body from breaking that protein down. As long as a food protein is undigested, it is going to cause a reaction.
Now, take a hybrid grain, or even one is a GMO, and combine it with food processing. Then add food coloring to it. Now we have food that's very new to our bodies. No wonder people are having new reactions to it.
Reason Two: You Have Changed
There are also ways that people become more reactive to food. One is intestinal permeability. When tight intestinal junctions open, undigested food proteins can cross the barrier. When they do, immune cells react. This is called "leaky gut."
When people have a leaky gut, they can have new reactions to foods. What causes leaky gut? High stress and bad diets, something more and more common today.
Another critical problem is people's microbiome. People have reduced microbiome diversity by eating the same types of food every day and not getting enough different fruits and vegetables into their system.
Here is why the microbiome matters: when food gets into the gastrointestinal tract, different bacteria in the gut will either command an immune response against that food or not. These bacteria produce something called polysaccharides, which signal the immune system and determines whether an inflammatory response occurs.
Researchers have also found a special connection between immune cells in the gut, the microbiome, and the immune cells in the liver. If the immune cells in the liver are over activated with constant exposure to chemicals, like food additives, for example, that can make the gut's immune system more responsive.
There is also the concept of cross-reactivity.
Cross-reactivity means one food or antigen has a similar amino acid sequence to another. When a person makes antibodies against a particular food, they can also react to things that have similar amino acid antibodies. They first identified cross-reactivity in the immunological literature in 1942. Researchers found that people who were sensitive to pollen allergens had sensitivities to specific fruits. The amino acid sequences of the fruits were identical to the pollen. They had this cross-reactivity response.
Cross-reactivity also happens with nuts. Most nuts have similar amino acid sequences. If someone has problems with one nut, they are sensitive to most of them. It is also true with seafood; different seafood has similar amino acid sequences. An immune response to crab or lobster may cause reactions against other food proteins. So people say, "I have a seafood allergy," not "I have a shrimp allergy." It is because the amino acid sequences of these food proteins are similar. Once someone has a symptom to one of them, they are active against all the other ones.
When you combine new foods made from hybrid seeds, GMOs, and chemically processed, with modern problems of leaky gut and poor microbiome, it is no wonder more people have problems today than ever before.