Singapore based clinical naturopath and nutritionist, Christina Franco, shares how you can come to understand and control your reactions to various foods. Is your diet causing your allergies? Most people struggle with certain dietary triggers causing them to feel unwell. Read on to find out the dietary tips you can implement to overcome many of these issues.
The number of people worldwide with an allergic disease is set to rise in the coming years and currently there are already 1 in 3 Singaporeans(1) that suffer from allergy symptoms such as runny nose, congested nose, sinusitis, eczema & hayfever. The primary known causes of allergies and intolerances are typically environmental or dietary based. Navigating these influences can provide challenging as people often attempt to cut out entire food groups for prolonged periods of time.
In my experience, the key to getting on top of your allergies and intolerances is:
- First determine what foods are flaring them
- Then eliminate those foods from your diet in the short-term with the guidance of your healthcare practitioner
- Work on treating the root causes of your allergy and intolerance.
Then once the body has healed with the support of your practitioner, you can slowly add foods back into your diet.
What foods are most likely to trigger my symptoms? What foods to eat and what foods to avoid.
The FODMAP diet is well known for treating people with irritable bowel syndrome: IBS(2). FODMAP is a fancy name for short-chain carbohydrates and sugar alcohols which in some people are not well absorbed and tend to cause pain, wind, bloating, constipation and diarrhoea. Foods high in FODMAPS are fructose (found in fruit, fruit juices, honey and some vegetables), lactose, legumes, soy milk, cashews, almonds and some sweeteners(3). It is generally not recommended that you follow a low FODMAP diet for the rest of your life as it can lead to nutrient deficiencies. If these sorts of food are negatively impacting you, it’s best to check in with a Healthcare Practitioner to monitor your elimination, and subsequent reintroduction, of these foods safely.
The process of ageing or fermenting foods and drinks tends to increase their histamine levels. Foods such as cheese, coffee and wine, have high levels of histamine and cause an inflammatory response within the body(4). Have you ever met someone who ‘flushes’ when they drink alcohol? This is a sign of histamine intolerance. Histamines can be the cause of a broad array of allergy symptoms, such as: dermatitis, pruritis, hives, headaches, migraines, sneezing, wheezing, bloating & diarrhoea(5).
Gluten is the protein component of some grains and although we know it causes severe symptoms for people with coeliac disease, it is also suspected to force a less severe reaction in others, known as gluten intolerance(6). When the gluten component of grains is not digested properly, it can be absorbed into the bloodstream and even cross the blood-brain barrier affecting mood, concentration and mental performance(7).
Dairy contains two main components, casein & lactose, which can be triggers for allergies and intolerances in some people. Casein is the protein component of dairy, while lactose is the sugar component. Most people now recognise that lactose intolerance is predominantly due to the fact that the enzyme in our bodies that breaks down lactose, called lactase, decreases rapidly as our need to consume large amounts of milk as a baby decreases as we age(8). The body has a reduced ability to break lactose down further into its simple sugars and it then passes, undigested into the colon which causes pain, bloating, diarrhoea and wind. For more on lactose intolerance, see this post.
There is also supporting evidence to suggest that eggs, nuts, legumes, shellfish, citrus, yeast, nightshade vegetables (eggplant, tomato, potato), corn, soy, salicylates, oxalates, alcohol, caffeine and food additives can all be triggers to allergic responses.
If you have noticed that any of these foods are triggers for you, or if you want a treatment protocol to help manage your allergies and intolerances, book an appointment with Christina through her profile. Regardless, you should also read this article by her on the top foods you can eat to improve your immune system.
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- The Straits Times. (2016). Help at hand for those who have nasal allergy.www.straitstimes.com/Singapore/help-at-hand-for-those-who-have-nasal-allergy
- Whelan, K., Martin, L.D., Staudacher, H.M. & Lomer, M.E. (2018). The low FODMAP diet in the management of irritable bowel syndrome: an evidence-based review of FODMAP restriction, reintroduction and personalisation in clinical practice. The Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, 31(2), 239-255.
- Ong, D.K., Mitchell, S.B., Barrett, J.S., Shepherd, S.J., Irving, P.M., Biesiekierski, J.R., Smith, S., Gibson, P.R. & Muir, J.G. (2010). Manipulation of dietary short chain carbohydrates alters the pattern of gas production and genesis of symptoms in irritable bowel syndrome. Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 25(8), 1366-1377.
- Kohn, J.B. (2014). Is there a diet for histamine intolerance. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 114(11), 1860.
- Martin, S.M., Brachero, S. & Garicano Vilar, E. (2016). Histamine intolerance and dietary management: A complete review. Journal of Allergy and Immunopathology, 44(5), 475-483.
- Non-celiac gluten sensitivity: people without celiac disease avoiding gluten-is it due to histamine intolerance? Journal of Inflammation Research, 67(4), 279-284.
- Balakireva, A.V. & Zamyatnin, A.A. (2016). Properties of gluten intolerance: Gluten structure, evolution, pathogenicity and detoxification capabilities. Journal of Nutrients, 8(10), 644-708.
- Oak, S.J. & Jha, R. (2018). The effects of probiotics in lactose intolerance: A systematic review. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 9(1).