Food Allergy Diets:Part One

The Oxford American Dictionary, a wonderful birthday present from my daughter-in-law Maura a couple of years ago, defines allergy as:  “a damaging immune response by the body, esp. pollen, fur, a particular food, or dust, to which it (the immune system. es) has become hypersensitive.” Likewise, having an allergic reaction means that it is caused by or related to an allergy, and an allergen is defined as a substance that causes an allergic reaction.

Note: The photos represent the most common allergies listed in #8 on the first list below. I have also added onions & cooked tomatoes, two foods that I cannot tolerate.

Since this is a food blog, I will be discussing food allergies, not dust, pollen, etc. However, when I lived in Seattle and worked for a doctor who treated allergies, I observed that many people with food allergies also suffered from allergies to dust, pollen, and other substances not related to food. What  I  have deduced, perhaps not scientifically, but through my own experiences and observation, is that if your immune system is weak you may be more prone to several allergic reactions and if you can conquer or eliminate one, such as food allergies, your immune system may become stronger and some of the other allergies may also lessen.

For the purpose of this short article, however, I will stay with food allergies. Here is what I found when I Googled “statistics on food allergies.” These are excerpts from The Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network  (,  which notes that food allergies are a growing public concern here in the U.S.

1.     More than 12 million Americans have food allergies. (That translates into 4% of the population.)

2.     There are eight foods that account for 90% of all U.S. food allergic reactions: milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts (ex. walnuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, pistachios), wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish.

3.     Food allergies are life-altering and require constant vigilance, because even trace amounts can trigger a reaction.

4.      A study in 2007 showed that milk allergy may persist longer than was previously thought. (However, I think we need to distinguish between a true milk allergy, that is, an allergy to the protein in milk, and a reaction due to lactose intolerance, that is, the enzyme lactase is not working. Thus, many people can use lact-aid milk because they have lactose intolerance, not a true allergy. ellensue)

5.     This last statement I do not agree with: “There is no cure for food allergies.”
My feeling is that if you can rebuild your immune system, you can possibly become strong enough to tolerate a food you were once allergic to.  Conversely, you may develop a food allergy later in life if your immune system becomes weakened.

Assortment of true and false nuts: A. Hazelnut (Corylus americana), B. Pecan (Carya illinoensis), C. Peanut (Arachis hypogea), D. Macadamia Nut (Macadamia integrifolia), E. Almond (Prunus amygdalus), F. Brazil Nut (Bertholletia excelsa), G. Chestnut (Castanea dentata), H. Kukui Nut (Aleurites molucanna), I. Water Caltrop (Trapa bicornis), J. Walnut (Juglans regia). [True nuts: A. & G.; Drupes: B., D., E., H., I. & J.; Seeds: F.; Legumes: C.  Note: The pecan (B) and walnut (J) are also considered to be a true nuts by some botanists.]

Thirdly, here is an interesting excerpt from Dr. Lawrence Wilson’’s site:

by Lawrence Wilson, MD

© December 2009, The Center for Development
Food sensitivities are nothing to sneeze at.  Over 60% of the population know they must avoid certain foods.  Many others are not aware they have food sensitivities.  Many think that fatigue, itchy skin or a runny nose are “normal”.

Researchers may distinguish between food sensitivities, food intolerances and food allergies.  Intolerances are reactions that do not involve the immune system, such as lactose intolerance.  Food allergies involve typical allergic responses of the immune system.  However, the terms are somewhat vague and are used interchangeably in this brief introduction to a huge subject.

Nutritional balancing science, fortunately, usually helps reduce and often eliminate all food sensitivities, although it may take a few months to several years on a complete program to restore the digestive system, and one must avoid certain common foods such as wheat that are no longer healthful foods.


Food allergies can cause or aggravate an enormous variety of symptoms.  According to the American College of Allergy and Immunology, they include upset stomach, gastroenteritis, runny nose, dark circles under the eyes, shock, edema or swelling, anxiety, ulcers, joint pain, asthma, addictions, and rashes.  In children they can cause seizures, red ear lobes, red cheeks, excessive talking or aggressive behavior, bedwetting and attention deficit.

Other symptoms are bronchitis, celiac disease, diarrhea, chronic fatigue, colic, colitis, diabetes, depression, failure to thrive, hay fever, headaches, hyperactivity, bowel disease, insomnia, iron deficiency anemia due to blood loss, learning disorders, malabsorption, myalgia, nephritis, acne and sore throat

Still more conditions possibly related to food allergies are bulimia, anorexia, alcoholism, candidiasis, constipation, Crohn’s disease, conjunctivitis, delusions, dyslexia, epilepsy, fever, hypothyroidism, hoarseness, low stomach acid, irritable bowel syndrome, memory loss, multiple sclerosis, obesity, middle ear infections, premenstrual syndrome, psoriasis, ringing in the ears and dizziness.

From my own personal experience: I am unable to tolerate cooked tomatoes or regular onions of any kind. When I eat either of these, my skin breaks out. However, I can eat raw tomatoes and other members of the onion family: leeks, scallions, garlic, shallots. What this tells me is that I have a food sensitivity, not a true allergy, and if I can keep my immune system strong, eventually I will be able to tolerate these foods.  On the other hand, I have found that wheat gives me a negative reaction, causing me to stay close to the bathroom, which is a sign of celiac disease. Which is autoimmune disorder triggered by eating gluten.

In www., I found this differentiation between an allergy and an autoimmune response. I am using cut & paste in order not to get the facts incorrect.

There are several differences between autoimmune disorders and allergies. To understand these differences, it helps to know a bit about the immune system: Its job is to rid the body of foreign substances that might be harmful to it, such as bacteria and viruses, and also build protection against these invaders if they try to attack again. The process of getting rid of foreign substances and developing immunity is called “the immune response.”

But sometimes the body’s immune to a foreign substance doesn’t function correctly, and “over-reacts” so fiercely that it produces symptoms. This is called an allergic reaction, and the foreign substance that triggers the allergic reaction is called an allergen. People can be allergic to many “foreign substances” — shellfish, cats, plant pollen, to name but a few.

Other times, though, the immune response malfunctions and reacts incorrectly to the body’s own normal tissues. It’s as if the immune system “thinks” a part of the body is a foreign substance. It attacks the body, which is called an autoimmune response, and this happens in autoimmune disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, lupus and celiac disease.

In celiac disease, gluten stimulates (because of genetic predisposition) the production of immunoglobulins that attack the villi lining the small intestine (that is, the body’s own normal tissues). Celiac disease is often confused for an allergic illness because (like an allergy) it requires a foreign substance to trigger it.

Another difference between autoimmune conditions and allergies is that autoimmune disorders are never outgrown; they persist for life. Allergies can sometimes be outgrown. *

Also, autoimmune conditions can result in long-term damage to the body. For instance, because celiac disease damages the small intestine, people with celiac disease are at risk for malabsorption, nutritional deficiencies, iron-deficiency anemia, and  osteoporosis. People with celiac disease are also at risk for other autoimmune conditions, such as thyroid disease, diabetes, and liver disease.

Note that this article does say allergies can be outgrown.

Part 2 next week will cover ideas for dealing with food allergies.

37 thoughts on “Food Allergy Diets:Part One

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