• THE FOOD ALLERGY & INTOLERANCE STORY

FOOD ALLERGIES

THE SCIENCE BEHIND ALLERGIC REACTIONS

Our immune system is our body’s defense against all things harmful. When a foreign particle enters the human body the immune system releases antibodies to tackle the foreign object.

In the case of food allergies the antibodies involved are called Immunoglobulin E (IgE). Once formed IgE antibodies attach themselves to immune cells called mast cells (which tend to be found in areas of the body most vulnerable to invasion). When one consumes a protein that one is sensitive to, the allergens and their corresponding IgE antibody bind together. This binding causes the mast cells to get activated and release inflammatory chemicals like histamines.

The problem in an allergic reaction is, the volume of anti-inflammatory chemicals released in the body causes unwanted changes to the body, because, the immune system has gone into overdrive to flush the “invader” out. Hence the rapid onset of reactions like swelling, rashes, diarrhea and vomiting. The trouble is that this reaction can range from being uncomfortable to distressing to life-threatening.

REASONS FOR FOOD ALLERGIES

There is no definitive answer on why one is allergic to a certain food group. Some of the popular explanations narrow it down to the following reasons:

• Hereditary: It is genetic and while may not have been detected in previous generations has been caught now either due to medical advancement or because the reaction has become more pronounced in the current generation.

• Altered gut bacteria because of the change in our diets and also due to exposure to anti-biotics.

• Altered nutrition because of: Increased consumption of processed foods which are nutritionally poor. Extended shelf-life of fresh produce through the use of artificial preservation techniques. Traces of chemical based pesticides and fertilizers in our produce. Increased exposure to growth hormones used on our cattle and poultry.

• Increase in environmental pollutants and chemicals that are harmful to the body

THE MAJOR FOOD ALLERGENS

Most of the information on food allergens are based on western societies. There isn’t very much data available on allergens in eastern societies. Around 90% of food allergy reactions in the Western World is caused by:

• Milk  • Eggs • Wheat  • Soy  • Peanut  • Treenuts  • Fish • Shell-fish

FOOD INTOLERANCES

POPULAR TYPES OF FOOD INTOLERANCE

The two most popular types of food intolerance in are lactose intolerance and gluten intolerance (Celiac Disease).

What is Lactose Intolerance?

This is the inability to digest lactose, the sugar found in milk and milk products. It is caused by a lack of the enzyme lactase in the body, which breaks down lactose.

When the lactose in the body does not break down it creates gas and draws water into the gut leading to symptoms of bloating, wind, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

What is Gluten Intolerance Or Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity And Celiac Disease?

Celiac Disease and NCGS/Gluten Intolerance is most prevalent in countries or regions that have high wheat based diet. In the context of India the incidence of Celiac Disease and NCGS/Gluten Intolerance is higher in the Northern part of the country.