January 23, 2017

6 Tips to Prevent Food Allergies

by Dr. Scott Saunders, M.D.

“My itching is gone!  I no longer have headaches!  And, that rash disappeared!”  Marilyn exclaimed very surprised.  For three weeks she had been on an elimination diet for problems in her intestines and hadn’t expected her other symptoms to go away.  She also stopped having bloating and pain in her stomach.  As she started adding in foods, one thing showed up that she clearly reacted to:  milk.  Every time she ate anything with milk in it, including cheese, yogurt, and sauces, she got bloating and her itching and rash returned.  Other things she thought she might be allergic to didn’t cause any reaction at all.

What is a food allergy? 

Any allergy is an immune reaction.  The immune system exists simply to keep those things that are “not you,” such as bacteria, viruses, and so forth, from harming you.  So, the immune system only has to distinguish what is “you” from what is “not you.”  If you have a protein that is “not you” inside of you, then the immune system will fight to get it out, causing inflammation, reactions, and all sorts of symptoms.

What causes food allergies?

Food allergies are very common in western cultures.  In traditional societies that eat their traditional foods, food allergies are rare. In a study in South Africa, the indigenous people were changed to a “western diet.” Normally, on their traditional diet they would have been protected from food allergies, but on the western diet they experienced a sharp rise in them.[i]

Food is not part of you!  You may think that you are what you eat, but in reality, you have to break down EVERYTHING into its component parts; every molecule is absorbed and used to build up your own body.  If your body can’t break down your food properly, it cannot be absorbed and your immune system reacts to it.

A food allergy is an adverse immune response to a food protein. Proteins are long chains of amino acids that are wadded up into a ball.  In the stomach, these proteins are opened up into their long chains (“denatured”) so the enzymes in your stomach and intestines can cut them into individual amino acids. These amino acids are then absorbed and made into your very own protein. There may be several reasons that you don’t digest proteins:

  1. food allergy proteinsLow stomach acid
  2. Low enzyme production
  3. Inflammation in the intestines
  4. Bad bacteria in the stomach or intestines
  5. Toxins
  6. Parasites
  7. Lack of bile

Why do people get allergies to food?

When proteins aren’t digested, they go into the intestines whole and the immune system says, “That’s not me!” and start to fight against it.  This can cause all sorts of problems depending on many factors, such as the type of protein, the type of reaction (there are four primary types of reactions) and the amount of protein.

So, a food allergy is just a normal immune response to the presence of a protein that isn’t in the right place.  If our digestive system functions as it should, then we will have few or no proteins getting into the intestines in whole form.  They will all be broken-down into amino acids, which do NOT cause allergic reactions.  Only the whole proteins can cause a reaction, and start the inflammation cycle.

The more inflammation you have in the intestines, the worse the digestive system works, allowing more proteins into the intestines, causing more reactions.  This can continue throughout life.  The inflammation can be felt anywhere in the body, from rashes on the skin to headaches.

What are the symptoms of food allergies?

This is a very difficult question to answer because it can be anything – or nothing!  Many people (some experts think MOST) have no symptoms at all, but have inflammation inside their intestines without any noticeable problem.  Other food allergy symptoms include:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Cramps
  • Allergic rhinitis (nasal allergies)
  • Sinus problems
  • Rashes of all types (Eczema, Seborrhea, Psoriasis, Urticaria, and so forth)
  • GERD (acid reflux)
  • Abdominal pain
  • Chest pain
  • Dandruff
  • Migraine Headaches
  • Chronic cystitis (bladder pain)

The list goes on and on.

The University of Chicago Celiac Disease center explains the symptoms of just one type of food allergy, which may apply to any other as well:

There are hundreds of signs and symptoms of [food allergy], many of them subtle and seemingly unrelated. Yet many people with [food allergies] have no symptoms at all. In those cases, the undamaged part of their small intestine is able to absorb enough nutrients to prevent symptoms. However, people without symptoms are still at risk for some of the complications…[ii]

What are the complications?

People with chronic inflammation in their intestines are more prone to many diseases — and not just of the intestines.  Of course, they may have gas, bloating, diarrhea, cramps, GERD, and other signs of intestinal inflammation, but they may also have poor absorption of nutrients that lead to other, seemingly unrelated problems, such as:

  • untreated food allergiesObesity
  • Diabetes
  • Neuropathy
  • Thyroid problems
  • Frequent infections
  • Arthritis
  • Fatigue
  • Autoimmune diseases (Lupus)
  • … and many others.

It also leads to a shortened lifespan, degeneration and decline in function.  Thus, food sensitivities are common, and life-threatening, making them a very important problem!

Are there any tests to see if you have food allergies?

Traditionally, skin testing using grids of many needles to inject tiny amounts of the food protein under the skin to see if it creates a reaction.  Unfortunately, this is not an accurate way to measure the reaction to foods in the intestines.  This method is about 50% reproducible; meaning if you do the same test again, you will get half of them the same – about like flipping a coin!

There are some new tests that are a little better, but have their own problems.  For example, we can measure antibodies to various proteins; however, you may have a reaction to a different protein in the food!  These are about 80% reproducible.  There are some cellular tests that determine whether your white blood cells react to the food, but again these tests aren’t consistent.  So, what do we do?

I often use the antibody test to get us close, or to give us some clues as to what might be going on.  Then we do the Elimination Diet, like Marilyn, above.  She showed reactions to milk, wheat, and candida, so we eliminated them. (For candida, we do a yeast cleanse which eliminates simple sugars).  The real test is to see if you have a reaction.  For those who don’t have any symptoms, it’s very hard to do this because you aren’t sure what you are looking for.  However, I have had several people with chronic fatigue and really no other issues just eliminate everything except lamb broth and green leafy vegetables for three weeks who have felt much better.

After eliminating a food (or multiple foods) for three weeks, you can start adding them back into your diet one-by-one.  Give only one day between them.  Any reaction will be apparent within one day. For more information about the elimination diet, check out our How to Eat Allergy Free article HERE.

How do I prevent allergies?

Prevention is the greatest thing you could do.  If you could stop food allergies from happening, then it would protect your health in many different ways.  Since you already know what causes the problem (poor digestion of protein), all we need to do is improve your digestion to digest protein well.

Remember, the acid in the stomach is important to denature the protein so the enzymes can break it down.  Protecting your stomach acid is therefore foundational.  This is done in several ways:[am4show guest_error=’noaccess’]

1. Keep your stomach empty as much as possible.

Nutritionists tell us that we always need to have something in our stomachs to keep our energy up.  This, however, is bad advice for digestion.  The “reset” button for stomach acid is an empty stomach and eating all the time creates a constant low level of acid.  By always having food in the stomach, the pH doesn’t get close to normal, nor does it get enough acid to denature some proteins.  On the other hand, having an empty stomach allows it to “reset” the pH to normal and produce more acid to aid in digesting proteins when we do eat.  This also prevents GERD, H. pylori infection, ulcers, and other stomach problems.  (The pH of plain water is 7.  More acid is a lower pH so if you have a pH of 1, that is very acidic and proteins will digest easier.)

This diagram demonstrates that your stomach’s pH is restored to a higher level when the stomach is empty with only 2 meals a day, versus frequent meals throughout the day.

Stomach pH

2. Avoid allergenic foods.

These include GMO foods, especially the ones that contain the BT toxin gene.  This is a toxin found in corn and potatoes that can incorporate into your intestinal bacteria, giving you a constant supply of the toxin and causing immune stimulation.

The other main problem foods that are highly allergenic are wheat and milk.  Wheat contains gluten that requires a very acidic stomach in order to digest it.  Milk seems to be digestible until it is pasteurized, or heated, changing the proteins and making them more acid-stable and hard to digest.  Raw milk would be an improvement.

3. Fast periodically.

Some of my patients do a weekly fast.  One woman has chosen Monday to be her fast day because she found that she could continue to eat her preferred foods if she took a day off.  She eats Sunday night, just drinks water on Monday, and then eats her normal breakfast on Tuesday morning.  After many years of GERD and other stomach problems, she has been a whole year feeling normal.  Remember, NOT eating is the way to reset the stomach.  A day off is great for your health in so many ways by allowing more efficient digestion, better enzyme production, and better acid production.

4. Avoid sugar.

The addition of sweet foods is destructive to the digestion because all of the bad bacteria and yeast grow on sugar.  Processed foods have been implicated in food allergies for many years, even though we may not have an allergy to the sugar itself.  Sugar causes inflammation.

5. Eat fiber.

Beans, peas, lentils, fruit and vegetables all contain fiber that the good bacteria in your intestines make into substances that suppress inflammation.

6. Avoid the things you know you react to.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but I do because I have had so many patients say, “I know I react to ___________, but I like it!”  Yet they continue to eat the thing they’re allergic to.  As long as you continue to eat what causes a reaction, you will not get better – remember the vicious cycle above.

how to prevent food allergiesRECAP:

  1. Eat fewer meals
  2. Avoid allergenic foods
  3. Fast periodically
  4. Avoid sugar
  5. Eat fiber
  6. Avoid the things that cause a reaction

Food allergies are not at all common in societies where they eat natural, unprocessed foods and don’t eat too much.  We are not destined to have food allergies because of our genes.  We have a wonderful digestive system that is incredibly complex and works very well when treated properly.

If you do periodic maintenance on your car, changing the oil, checking the brakes, and so forth, then why not on an infinitely more complex machine – your body!  Your digestive system is your primary interface with the world, bringing in all your energy and nutrients that you need to live, breathe, work, play, and do all that you do.

Keep it working properly and it will allow you to remain healthy for the rest of your life.  It’s not hard, and it’s worth all the care we can give it.

 

Dr. Scott SaundersDr. Scott D. Saunders, M.D. (Ask-an-MD) is a practicing physician, specializing in preventative health care, who utilizes eclectic health care for the whole family, including conventional, orthomolecular and natural medicine. He is also the medical director of The Integrative Medical Center of Santa Barbara in Lompoc, CA. He went to UCLA medical school and is board certified in family medicine. View natural remedies with Dr. Saunders at: http://drsaundersmd.com

 


[i] http://www.allergysa.org.za/journals/march2012/food_allergy_in_South_Africa.pdf
[ii] http://www.cureceliacdisease.org/living-with-celiac/guide/symptoms

 

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How Your Diet Affects Your Pearly Whites

“Oh the shark has…pretty teeth dear…and he shows them…pearly white.”

Mac the Knife, Bobby Darin/Frank Sinatra

Amazing how the shark – with his carnivorous diet – manages to keep those – “pearly whites.” Ole sharky don’t even brush or floss none!

Well, in this month’s issue of Home Cures That Work, we go deep (get it? Deep…shark…ocean…*sigh* sorry) to uncover the foods that rule and the ones that ruin your precious smile.

And because your teeth don’t get replaced like ole sharky, hold on to your Oral-B because I have some shocking good stuff to share with you today…

Certain foods damage your teeth by lowering the pH levels in your mouth and saliva

Potential hydrogen – pH – is an important part of your dental health, which is something few of us think about when having morning OJ, or coffee.

Acidic foods and beverages like citrus fruits and juices, sodas, starches, legumes and sugars all have a negative impact on your teeth. The acid from these foods attacks your enamel and eats away at the phosphorous – the second most important mineral in your teeth and bones, next to calcium.[1]

In a moment we’re going to:

  • Examine low pH foods and beverages to stay away from
  • Review the foods that contain phosphorous that raise pH to help protect your teeth, gums and jawbone

But first, does the amount of food you eat at one sitting have an impact on your teeth?

Let’s start with the Journal of Oral Sciences…

Here’s something that may never have occurred to you when piling up the vittles.

According to the European Journal of Oral Sciences [2], it’s not only what you eat, it’s also the quantity of food you eat that determines the longevity of your smile.

You’ll see why in a moment.

Just don’t assume those 2-story stacks of premium pastrami cuts on rye guarantee your choppers and grinders that use-it-or-lose-it, life-long nibble-ability.

Now it’s true that certain foods produce more saliva than others – case in point: that mouthwatering pastrami sandwich. And saliva is very good for your gums and teeth because of the digestive enzymes. It helps wash away any food left behind after swallowing, too. In all its enzymatic, slimy glory – it even helps retard tooth decay and gum disease!

The rye bread tells the salivary gland (parotid gland) to secrete an enzyme called amylase to break down that starch, but if your Deli-Delight is too “Man V. Food” sized, the amylase can’t handle the quantity. And then, partially digested starch becomes plaque.

Are you eating the sandwich or is the sandwich eating your teeth?

Earlier I said that the quantity of food you eat determines how long you’ll be able to keep that mouthful of pearly whites. Here’s why…

The European Journal of Oral Sciences says…

Stuck-on starch = bacteria…and bacteria = plaque

What exactly happens when the amylase can’t break down enough starch? Streptococcus mutans (bacteriagrowth), that’s what. [3]

The Strep bacteria multiply inside your mouth and begin to create plaque on your teeth over time. That’s why brushing your teeth is good – you need to scrape that junk out of there. And using mouthwash after flossing is good, too. These practices help release and kill-off the harmful bacteria.

But if you don’t brush, floss, and rinse regularly, the plaque continues to grow and harden. Then it has to be removed by your friendly neighborhood dentist.

If not, the plaque works against you…getting between your tooth and the gum line…growing…hardening…separating each individual tooth from your gum. It leads to gum disease, periodontal disease, bone loss and eventually – complete separation. That’s when your teeth begin to fall out because they were anchored to that dissolving bone.

So in keeping with our double-decker, Deli-Delight demonstration, too much good of even the most favored food at one time can be detrimental to your teeth – not to mention your digestive and circulatory systems. But those are for another issue…

Now you know to take it easy with the portions. And that delicious food – even if its nutritional value is marginal – can still help to preserve your smile with saliva and its elevated enzymatic eminence.

If that’s the case, then what foods are bad for your teeth and why?

So glad you asked! Presenting…

Foods that are downright repellent for your teeth and mouth 

This is where we get a little more detailed and go a little deeper to discover which foods you should run away from as if they were photos of celebrity plastic surgeries gone awry…

Ahem…let’s start with the foods you definitely DON’T want to sink your teeth into:

  • Processed foods of any kind
    We say this a lot around here…avoiding these foods is good for the body and good for the teeth, too. The preservatives and sugars in there actually lower the pH of your saliva. A reduction in pH means denatured enzymes and demineralization of your teeth. Minerals are needed to preserve the enamel and keep teeth strong and healthy. The lower the pH, the worse the environment for your smile.
  • Grains, potatoes, candy and Fizzy Lifting drinks
    You may notice a bit of a theme here – sugar. We all know sugar is bad for our teeth, now you know why. Sugar drastically lowers oral pH and promotes the flourishing of bad bacteria. As mentioned earlier – that brings plaque. Grains and potatoes are sugar in disguise. Candy’s a gimme. And sodas – acidic AND sugary – mean double trouble for your fangs. Willy Wonka had a whole factory of sugary magic – no wonder his father was a dentist.
  • Citrus juice and sugary fruits
    Grapefruit juice and orange juice attack your teeth much like soda. Same with the fruits. You get the lower pH from the sugar plus relentless attack by citric acid. If you must have your morning OJ, best to take it in a Dixie cup and drink it with a straw. Drinking juice with a straw moves it past your teeth so less damage occurs.

All that said, you need vitamin C. It’s the glue that holds your cells together and makes them strong and vital. So you have to use good judgment and make sure you are mindful of what passes “through the teeth and over the gums.”

A good way to do that is with the right foods that promote a healthy environment for your teeth and raise your pH[4]

Behold…

Foods your teeth (and your belly) will love

We’ve discussed pH and how important it is to your dental health. So let me share with you the foods that raise pH and promote a happy place for your mouth and teeth.

These foods actually preserve your smile and can improve your overall health as well.

They incite your natural concoction of glandular enzymes, which kill bacteria and work to digest starch. This process is followed by a secretion of fluid and mucus that alkalizes the food while preparing for its slippery ride into the belly, where it will be bathed in hydrochloric acid for complete digestion.

A study published in Dental Anthropology *, shows how your diet relates to tooth surface variations and how teeth are misaligned. The most common is incisor irregularity – crowding of teeth in the upper jaw. “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” is a profound truth – unless you’re talking about super-sized portions – and if ignored will come back to haunt you.

Chewing and biting stimulates the root and periodontal ligament. This stimulation tells the nerves to keep the blood and lymph flowing so the surrounding bone can keep a healthy, tight grip on the root.

So, let’s eat…

  • Cheese, please
    Yep. One of the oldest, most coveted comfort foods helps preserve your smile by protecting your teeth and gums. It’s down in sugar and up in calcium. It also contains a special protein called casein. Casein is found in milk and is very useful in the fortification of the tooth’s surface.[5] And a nice aged parmesan works as a remedy to guard against the effects of acid attacks on the teeth.
  • Veggies
    Pumpkin, broccoli and carrots are teaming with necessary vitamins and minerals. Particularly, vitamin A – a non-negotiable building-block of tooth enamel. Eat them raw or steamed but do NOT overcook them. That crunch will help clean and stimulate your gums to a nice, healthy condition. Don’t forget the onions…onions contain super-strong antibacterial compounds. They can even have the power to kill certain types of bacteria. Peel one and eat it raw. Your breath might not be date-friendly, but it guarantees healthy teeth.
  • Animal food
    No – not dog or cat food!  Lean beef, and poultry – including eggs – are healthy meats and high in phosphorous. Calcium and vitamin D work together with phosphorous to fortify your bones, including your jaw bone. They also keep your teeth strong and healthy by protecting them from tooth decay.

Also, be sure to drink plenty of water on a regular basis. Water cleanses your mouth and palette. It helps your saliva remineralize your teeth and keeps your gums hydrated. And as an added bonus: It also washes food particles from your mouth that get caught in your teeth and rot – causing bad breath (maybe try drinking some after eating the onion!).

In addition to including the above foods in your diet, chewing gum with xylitol is a convenient way to increase salivary flow and will inhibit plaque bacteria (Trident makes one, but you have to look for the one that contains xylitol).

Recipes for a healthy “shark bite”

Here are a couple recipes you can try that are delicious and very, very friendly to those…pearly whites:

Mighty Green Juice**

  • 1 bunch spinach
  • 1/2 bunch kale
  • 1/2 bunch chard
  • 1 bunch cilantro or parsley
  • 1/2 head of broccoli
  • 1/2 bunch celery
  • 1-2 cucumbers
  • 1-2 green apples

Process in a juicer or really good blender and enjoy!

Healthy Chicken Parmesan and Broccoli***

What you’ll need:

  • Oil spray like Pam®
  • 2 tbsp EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
  • 1 medium chopped onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1, 28 oz can diced tomatoes (I made it with the Italian seasoned tomatoes), no added salt
  • ¼ c basil – fresh plus 1 sprig
  • Kosher sale to taste
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1 large broccoli – cut off florets
  • ¼ c whole wheat flour (gluten-free if you can)
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 c whole wheat bread crumbs
  • ¼ tsp dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp dried rosemary
  • 3 tbsp fresh-grated aged parmesan cheese (who are we kidding – I doubled that!)
  • 4 large chicken breasts – boned, skinned made into cutlets
  • 1 c reduced fat mozzarella cheese grated

What to do:

  1. Coat a large skillet with Pam® cooking spray. Place over medium heat and add your EVOO. When hot, add the onion, 2/3 of the garlic and bay leaf. Cook for 6 – 7 minutes while stirring, until the onion becomes translucent. Reduce heat and add the tomatoes and basil sprig. Cook until sauce thickens stirring occasionally – about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and simmer on low while you prepare the broccoli and chicken.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Cover a large baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Sprinkle the remaining garlic over the broccoli and season with salt and pepper. Wrap broccoli tightly in aluminum foil and set aside.
  3. Put the flour on a piece of waxed paper. In a shallow bowl, beat the egg whites. Mix bread crumbs with oregano and rosemary on another piece of waxed paper. Add 2 tbsp of Parmesan and a pinch of salt and pepper.
  4. Sprinkle both sides of the chicken cutlets with salt and pepper. Lightly dredge the cutlets in the flour, then dip in egg white mixture. Shake off the excess egg then dredge in the bread crumb mixture. Coat both sides of each cutlet with Pam® or other cooking spray and place on the prepared baking sheet.
  5. Bake the chicken and foil packet of broccoli until the cutlets are golden and the broccoli is tender – 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the broccoli and chicken from the oven.
  6. Preheat the broiler. Sprinkle the cutlet with the mozzarella and remaining Parmesan and place under broiler for 1 to 2 minutes, until the cheese is golden. Transfer chicken and broccoli to a serving platter. Remove the bay leaf from the tomato sauce and ladle the sauce around the chicken. Sprinkle with basil and serve immediately.

Pumpkin Pudding**

What you’ll need:

  • ½ medium pumpkin, peeled and cut into chunks
  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ cup coconut water
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 1/3 cup agave
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • 1 tablespoon golden flax seeds, ground

What to do:

Mix all ingredients in a blender until smooth.

Fin (As in – end!)

You can be a carnivore just like ole sharky from Mack the Knife – as long as you understand how to keep your bite…pearly white.

  • Keep a high pH by steering clear of sugars even in their carb and starch form
  • Eat smile-friendly foods
  • Take care of your fangs by cleansing and remineralizing like we talked about earlier
  • Brush, floss, and rinse with a quality mouthwash
That should take care of your shark bite for life!

And it only works if you work it…

As we’ve discussed, it takes more than just brushing 2 or 3 times a day for good dental health. Just like any healthy regimen you have to eat right, exercise (chew good stuff), and drink lots of water.

Then your teeth will be pearly white and not brown…you’ll smile so much easier…through mouth so healthy…now that Macky’s – back in town!

 

  • Do you brush and floss as recommended by the American Dental Association (ADA)?

  • Are you tearing into chunks of food without fear of how that food is affecting your choppers?

  • Do you think that brushing and flossing (assuming you answered “yes” and follow the ADA’s recommendations) gives you carte blanche to eat and drink as you please?

When Bipolar Meds Aren’t Working, Follow Your Gut

Follow Your Gut

In my opinion, people with bipolar and depression tend to have unhealthy diets due to their illness. We are constantly trying to make ourselves feel better, and food is one way to do that. Moreover, most of us have energy and motivational issues, which result in behaviors such as less exercise and less cooking of fresh food.

“All diseases begin within the gut.” Hippocrates 460-370BC

Almost all “mental illness” is simply gut illness and poor dietary intake in disguise. Do you have digestive problems like bloating, flatulence, diarrhea, and constipation?  Do you suffer from frequent headaches, fatigue, mood swings, depression or bipolar disorder? These symptoms brought on my poor eating habits are part of your overall gut health.

Bipolar disorder always involves a gut that needs to be “cleaned out” or fixed as soon as possible before malabsorption of essential nutrients becomes severe.  Excess toxicity is also a part of all mental illness, affecting your mood and overall state of wellness. A pathogenic yeast, candida albicans, is a prime agent in many emotional and physical problems.

A Little Yeast Works A Long Way

The yeast connection is a term to indicate the relationship of superficial yeast infections in your digestive tract to fatigue, headache, depression, PMS, irritability, bipolar disorder and other symptoms that can make you feel “sick all over.”

Eating certain foods poor in adequate vitamins and minerals may increase your risk of candida overgrowth.  Antibiotic use, mood stabilizers and other chemical drug cocktails could lead to candida yeast overgrowth.

Yeast can become a hardy fungus and has an aggressive appetite. Minor increases in intestinal yeast are usually not a problem, but if yeast overgrowth is left unchallenged it can cause intestinal permeability and leak toxins across the cellular membranes. This can cause a disruption in the absorption of nutrients and nutritional deficiencies that can lead to reduced immunity and weaken the body’s defense systems and contribute to mental illness problems.

Cleansing the Body

Without proper nutrition, the body can’t heal or regenerate its tissues and if you cannot digest and assimilate food, the tissues will eventually starve. Cleansing the body and taking probiotics, and other anti-candida measures is a step toward healing.

You should consult a Naturopathic Doctor, a nutritionist that has treated bipolar disorder beforehand or an orthomolecular medicine doctor to help cure candida. Here are some steps to take to cleanse your body of unwanted candida yeast:

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