The Ultimate Food Allergy Cookbook and Survival Guide

Allergy Cooking with Ease

Easy Bread Making for Special Diets

Easy Cooking for Special Diets

 

 

 


Treatments for Food Allergies

The treatment of food allergy can, like its diagnosis, seem complex. This syndrome is definitely not a problem that fits the preconceived notions of our “for every ill there is a pill” society. Food allergies are often treated from several directions at the same time, such as eliminating allergens, strengthening the patient nutritionally, and modifying the patient’s immune response. It is not something your doctor can do for you by himself or herself. (Indeed, many physicians do not understand allergies other than those mediated by IgE). As a patient with food allergies, YOU must be actively involved in your treatment. The most important parts of your treatment YOU will do, not your doctor. Food allergy is a very individual problem, and you know your body better than anyone else does. It may be difficult to take action because of your health, but if you want to get well, YOU must take responsibility for yourself. YOU must make the necessary changes in your lifestyle. YOU must become a well-informed, active participant in your own health care. Then YOU will be the one to enjoy the benefits of improved health.

Special diets are the most commonly used treatment for food allergies. If the patient is allergic to only one or two foods, eliminating the offending foods may be the only treatment necessary. This is the course usually taken in the case of children with peanut anaphylaxis. My father was able to treat the milk allergy he got from drinking large quantities of milk for an ulcer by simply eliminating dairy products.

When a patient has multiple food allergies, the offending foods must be eliminated and all other foods should be eaten at intervals of four to five days or longer. This is know as a “rotation” or “rotary diversified” diet. Rotation diets are necessary for patients with multiple allergies because if you have overt allergies to many foods, it is likely that you have slight, subclinical allergies to many other foods that you consider safe. Eating them on a rotated basis reduces your exposure to them and hopefully will help preserve your tolerance for them.

Doctors prescribe rotation diets of varying degrees of strictness depending on the severity of your allergies. On the most strict diets each food is eaten only once on its rotation day and the length of the rotation cycle may be much longer than four to five days. One very allergic person I talked to had been put on a one food per meal, three meals per day, twelve day cycle diet by a prominent allergy clinic. Some doctors consider rotation diets with very long cycles to be counterproductive.{1} For most patients, a four to five day interval between eating foods gives the best masking of symptoms. (Visit the rotation diet page of this website and see The Ultimate Food Allergy Cookbook and Survival Guide for more information on cycle length and other aspects of the rotation diet).

Since most food allergies are not “fixed,” after you have avoided your problem foods for several months, your doctor may advise you to try to reintroduce them into your diet. When you are ready to liberalize your diet, you should eat your problem foods in moderate amounts and on a strictly rotated basis. You may find that you can eat some of them every fourth day with no problems, but that others must be rotated at longer intervals in order for you to tolerate them. For example, after six months of avoidance, my son was able to add most of his problem foods back into his diet at five day intervals, but he could eat corn only once or twice a month. If he ate it weekly, his eczema would flare up. Years ago when I was able to eat grains occasionally, I could eat one serving about once a month during the winter months without having problems. If I ate them more often or during pollen season, I could not tolerate them.

Medications and supplements may be used to help deal with food allergy symptoms. Gastrocrom™ is a prescription medication that can give people with food allergies some relief. It is sodium cromolyn, a drug which is taken by inhalation for hayfever and asthma and orally for food allergies. It must be used before exposure to an allergen, and works by preventing the release of histamine and other chemicals which initiate and mediate the allergic response. Because Gastrocrom™ suppresses symptoms without having any effect at all on the causes of food allergies, I have heard of patients getting progressively worse while taking it, although they may initially feel better. Other allergy medications such as antihistamines may also help suppress your symptoms.

Digestive enzymes help you break down your food into smaller, less allergenic molecules, thus decreasing your reaction to the foods you eat. They can be quite useful for short term use as part of the recovery process. Because digestive enzymes are large complex protein molecules, you may not want to use them for long periods of time without rotating the sources they come from or you could become allergic to the enzyme preparations themselves. For more information on digestive enzymes and how to rotate them, see pages 15 to 16 of The Ultimate Food Allergy Cookbook and Survival Guide.

Vitamin C is a general anti-allergy supplement. We experience allergic symptoms when an allergen-antibody complex causes mast cells to release histamine and other allergy-mediating chemicals.Vitamin C helps stabilize mast cells so they are less likely to release these substances.

Large doses of quercitin, such as 4 to 6 grams per day, may also be helpful to some allergy patients.

Pantothenic acid is sometimes used for general allergy relief. It supports the function of the adrenal glands which make hormones that help us cope with allergic reactions.

Bicarbonate preparations such as Alka Seltzer Gold™, Vital Life Bi-Carb Formula™, or Tri-Salts are useful as a “quick fix” for food reactions. The pH of the body becomes more acid during an allergic reaction, and these supplements help alkalinize the blood, thus making you feel better. However, they should not be over-used because they neutralize stomach acid, which is essential to good digestion and to the support of healthy intestinal flora. (See pages 16 to 17 of The Ultimate Food Allergy Cookbook and Survival Guide for more about hydrochloric acid).

Bicarbonate preparations are best used twenty minutes to an hour following the meal to which you react so they do not interfere with the digestion of your next meal. The bicarbonate preparations, as all supplements you use, should be hypoallergenic themselves. Alka Seltzer Gold™ contains corn and thus is not appropriate for corn-sensitive patients. (Click here for the URL of N.E.E.D.S. where you can purchase hypoallergenic supplements).

Immunotherapy may also be used to treat food allergies by modifying the immune response to allergenic foods. While standard conventional allergy shots are not effective for food allergies, two types of immunotherapy were developed in the 1960’s that are useful. In this country, neutralization is the most widely used type of immunotherapy for food allergies. The patient is tested using the provocation-neutralization method and the dilutions of food extracts which “neutralize” the patient’s reactions are determined. These dilutions are called “neutralizing doses.” The doctor’s office then prepares a solution containing neutralizing doses of extracts for all the foods to which the patient is allergic. The patient takes this neutralizing solution either under the tongue or by self injection. When an allergenic food is eaten, the neutralizing solution should turn off the patient’s reaction to the food. Because neutralizing doses change, patients must be retested frequently to keep their neutralizing drops current and working effectively.

The second kind of immunotherapy for food allergies is low dose immunotherapy. The first treatment of this type was enzyme potentiated desensitization (EPD) which was developed in England over 40 years ago and has been used around the world. It was used in the United States for about 10 years as part of a study conducted under an Investigational Review Board. An EPD shot contains a very minute amount of many allergens plus an enzyme which naturally occurs in the human body, beta-glucuronidase.

An American-made form of low dose immunotherapy called LDA (for Low Dose Allergens) was developed in 2003. Both EPD and LDA are used to treat inhalant allergies, adverse reactions to chemicals, and food allergies all at the same time. They stimulate the body to make T-suppressor lymphocytes specific for allergen suppression. These lymphocytes retrain the body not to react to allergenic substances.{2} Because the shot’s effectiveness is dependent on having the correct, very low dose exposure to allergens at the time the shot is given, patients must avoid exposure to high amounts of allergens around the time of their shots. For severely allergic persons, it may take two years of treatment to achieve good results with food allergens, but after that, most patients' diets are unrestricted except for around the time of their shots. About 70-80% of LDA patients have a good response to treatment for food allergies. The success rate for inhalant allergies is 80-85% (90% if the patient has no food allergies) and the response is usually rapid, within one to a few shots.{3} Retesting is never required for low dose immunotherapy.{4}

LDA contains uniquely American allergens such as cottonwood, mountain juniper, New World evergreens, sage, perfumes, avocadoes and other foods not commonly eaten in the UK and which are not in EPD, etc. This broader antigenic coverage makes LDA a more complete treatment for Americans.{5} Part of the reason low dose immunotherapy is more effective than conventional allergy shots or neutralization may be because it treats all of the patient’s allergies at the same time, including those not tested for and those which may be causing subclinical reactions.{6} Thus, having a unique form of low dose immunotherapy for Americans makes sense on many levels.

Most American patients who have taken both EPD and LDA find them to be equally effective. In my own personal experience, I have done better on LDA than I did previously on EPD, but whether this is due to being better covered by the Americanized antigen mixture or just my improving health is impossible to determine. However, conversations with other patients also lead me to believe that more complete coverage for one’s allergies is important. I have talked to many patients who say things like, “My doctor didn’t think I had major problems with inhalants. When my food allergies didn’t respond to treatment as expected, he reconsidered and added the inhalant concentrate to my shots. Then suddenly I could eat everything.”

Before low dose immunotherapy treatment is begun, factors which could interfere, such as dysbiosis, hormonal imbalances, heavy metal toxicity, and poor nutritional status, should be corrected as well as possible. Dr. Leo Galland estimated that in his practice of patients with digestive problems, after he treated their dysbiosis, nutritional and other problems, and promoted intestinal healing, only 25% of those who came to him for low dose immunotherapy treatment for their food allergies still needed it.{7} If low dose immunotherapy has seemed to fail, interfering factors should be tested for and treated.

To learn more about low dose immunotherapy and for recipes and organizational tips which will help you with this treatment, see The Low Dose Immunotherapy Handbook and the low dose immunotherapy page of this website. For further information or to find a doctor who can treat you with LDA, visit this website: www.drshrader.com.

By using these options for the diagnosis and treatment of food allergies, and especially by getting to the root of the problem, those of us with food allergies can progress towards optimal health.

Footnotes:

1. Personal communication from W. A. Shrader, Jr., M.D., April, 1997.

2. Interview with W. A. Shrader, Jr. M.D. “Enzyme Potentiated Desensitization (EPD): Exciting New Hope for Food Allergies,” Mastering Food Allergies Newsletter, #74, July/August 1993, pp. 1-2.

3. Personal communication from W. A. Shrader, Jr., M.D., January, 2006.

4. Interview with W. A. Shrader, Jr. M.D. “Enzyme Potentiated Desensitization (EPD): Exciting New Hope for Food Allergies,” Mastering Food Allergies Newsletter, #74, July/August 1993, pp. 1-2.

5. Personal communication from W. A. Shrader, Jr., M.D., June, 2003.

6. Interview with Len McEwen, M.D. and W. A. Shrader, Jr. M.D. “EPD Update,” Mastering Food Allergies Newsletter, #88, November/December 1995, p. 3. 14. Ibid, p. 1.

7. Ibid, p. 1.

The information on this page is abridged from
The Ultimate Food Allergy Cookbook and Survival Guide ($24.95, eBook $13) © 2007

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The information contained in this website is merely intended to communicate material which is helpful and educational to the reader. It is not intended to replace medical diagnosis or treatment, but rather to provide information and recipes which may be helpful in implementing a diet and program prescribed by your doctor. Please consult your physician for medical advice before changing your diet.

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