Ever heard of someone developing a life-threatening allergic reaction from something as small as a peanut? Someone suffering an asthma attack just after taking a spoonful of cooked mushrooms? Or a severe attack of migraine triggered by black pepper? These may sound strange, but true!
Food allergy is the reaction of the immune system that occurs immediately after eating a certain food. If one has food allergy, the immune system overreacts to a particular protein found in that food. Coming in contact with even a little amount of that particular food can trigger symptoms. Some people may experience severe symptoms from a food allergy, including the potentially fatal anaphylactic reaction (swelling of the throat, airways become narrow blocking breathing). Anaphylaxis is a potentially life-threatening reaction that can impair breathing and send the body into shock; reactions may simultaneously affect different parts of the body (for example, a stomach-ache accompanied by a rash).
Many people think the terms ‘food allergy’ and ‘food intolerance’ mean the same, but they do not. Food intolerance is an adverse food-induced reaction that does not involve the immune system. Lactose intolerance is one example of food intolerance. A person with lactose intolerance lacks an enzyme that is needed to digest milk sugar. When the person eats milk products, symptoms such as gas, bloating and abdominal pain may occur.
Although an individual may be allergic to any food, such as fruits, vegetables and meats, these are not as common as the following eight foods which account for 90 per cent of all food-allergic reactions: Milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts (walnut, cashew, etc.), fish, shellfish, soya and wheat.
Homeopathic Treatment For Food Allergy
Homeopathic treatment of food allergies can be very beneficial as it treats food allergies by optimising the overcharged immune system. Though the treatment may require a more serious approach, most of the allergies can be treated with homeopathy. Homeopathy views food allergies as an expression of a disturbance in the patient’s healing system. Food allergies are not a disease to be cured in themselves, but a reflection of an underlying imbalance.
Food sensitivity or intolerance can be treated by homeopathic medicines that are specific to that particular problem. For example, homeopathic medicine Silicea for milk intolerance in infants, when even the mother’s milk disagrees; Zingiber for diarrhea that sets in after eating melons; Antim crudum for headache that comes after eating fruits.
Homeopathic Medicines For Food Allergies
1. Calcarea Carb – For Milk Allergy
Calcarea Carb is an important homeopathic medicine for milk allergy when there is vomiting after consuming milk. There is nausea, distension of abdomen, cutting pain and diarrhea. In some cases, there may be a cold sensation in the abdomen.
How And When To Take Calcarea Carb?
If symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps and loose stools appear after consuming any milk product, calcarea carbonica can be taken. Low potency (30C), can be taken 2-3 times in a day. High potency 200C can be taken once in a day if expected results are not seen after taking low potency. It is advisable to consult an experienced homeopath before administering 1M or higher potency.
2. Colchicum – For Allergy From Egg
Colchicum is a well-known homeopathic medicine used for gastrointestinal ailments arising after eating eggs. It is the best remedy for distension of the abdomen with gas and loud flatus. There are frequent tasteless burps with pressing/ tearing/ cutting or stitching pain and cramps in stomach. The patient cannot bear the smell of food, it causes nausea and vomiting. The stool contains white large particles in large quantities with mucus-like rice water. All the symptoms of Colchicum are relieved by bending forward.
When And How To Use Colchicum?
It is used in case of stomach pain or feeling of pressure on the stomach with heaviness and continuous rumbling of gas. The recommended dosage in most of the cases is 30C which can be used up to 2-3 times in a day.
200C and 1M are considered very high potencies. The suggested dose of 200C is once in a day, not to be repeated frequently. It is best to consult an experienced homeopath as self-medication should not be done in high power dosage.
3. Urtica Urens – Homeopathic Remedy For Shell Fish/Fish Allergy
Urtica Urens is a top-ranked homeopathic medicine for treating shell fish allergy. There is violent itching with burning and stinging pain on skin. Sometimes along with itching, swelling all over rashes are formed known as hives. The skin looks red, raised and requires constant scratching. The eruption and itching disappear as soon as the patient lies down and reappear immediately after rising. The complaints get worse by water, touch, air, rising up and disappear after lying down.
When and How to use Urtica Urens?
This remedy can be used in rashes or hives which arise after consuming fish/shell fish. Symptoms mainly categorise with intense skin itching, followed by burning. It can be taken 2-3 times in a day in 30C potency. Higher potencies such as 200C and 1M can also be used but it is best to seek professional help before using them.
4. Lycopodium – For Wheat Allergy
Lycopodium offers a homeopathic cure for wheat allergy when consumption of wheat products triggers a gastric reaction. It comprises of symptoms like bloating, burping (tasting sour) and flatulence. It is well indicated for weak digestion with burning burping and bitter taste in mouth.
When and How to take lycopodium?
It is a remedy that is used in wheat allergy with a much-bloated abdomen, heartburn, waterbrash (acid reflux from stomach upwards to the throat) and noisy flatulence. Both the lower and the highest potencies are credited with excellent results. But as it is a deep-acting remedy hence lower potency, 30C is usually preferred, 2-3 times in a day. Otherwise 200C potency or higher dose, has proved efficacious, but should not be taken too frequently.
5. Apis Mellifica – For Skin Issues In Food Allergy
Apis Mellifica is a wonderful medicine for treating Urticaria (rashes of round, red welts) on the skin where itching is severe. It is a great remedy when hives develop due to milk allergy. The body is covered with large, elevated bumps accompanied by stinging, burning, pricking or itching. The wheals (red, swollen marks) are painful, tender, hot and extremely sensitive to touch with stinging pain. There is also violent itching and burning in the wheals. The person needing Apis Mellifica may experience worsening of symptoms by warmth and relief by cold applications.
When and How to take Apis mellifica?
The symptoms such as hives/wheals/ bumps caused due to specific foods are largely benefitted by Apis. The complaints include rapid swelling of the affected area along with stinging pain, burning, itching and redness. The lower potency 30C works well in these conditions and can be repeated 2-3 times in a day. A careful analysis should be done before using it in 200C and 1M potencies and should not be frequently repeated if the symptoms doesn’t seem to get better.
Common Food Allergens
In adults, they include:
Tree nuts, such as walnuts
Shellfish, including shrimps, crayfish, lobsters and crabs
For children, the food allergens that most often cause problems are:
Types Of Food Allergies
Pollen Food Allergy Syndrome
Also termed as oral allergy syndrome, pollen food allergy syndrome affects many people having hay fever. In this condition, a protein found in certain nuts, spices, fresh fruits and vegetables can trigger an allergic reaction that can cause itching in the mouth. In serious reactions, it can lead to throat swelling or anaphylaxis.
Proteins in certain fruits, vegetables or nuts cause the reaction as they are similar to allergy-causing proteins found in certain pollens. This is an example of cross reactivity.
Exercise-Induced Food Allergy Syndrome
In this condition after eating certain foods, there is itching, a person may faint and can get ‘hives’ or even anaphylaxis when body temperature goes up after exercising. One can prevent it by avoiding eating anything for a few hours before exercising.
Food Protein-Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome (FPIES)
Also referred to as delayed food allergy, it is a severe condition causing vomiting and diarrhea after consuming food allergen, like milk, soy and grains. FPIES mostly develops in infancy when the baby is introduced to solid food.
In this condition, there is inflammation of esophagus (food pipe). It occurs due to allergy or sensitivity to particular proteins found in foods. Many people with this condition have a family history of asthma, rhinitis, dermatitis or food allergy.
Symptoms Of Food Allergy
The symptoms that the allergic individual produces are individual in nature. They can range from a mild asthmatic attack to a severe life-threatening allergic response anaphylaxis.
– If people are allergic to a particular food, for example, they may first experience itching in the mouth as they start to eat food.
– After the food is digested in the stomach, abdominal symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea or pain may start.
– When the food allergens enter and travel through the bloodstream, they can cause a drop in blood pressure.
– As the allergens reach the skin, they can induce hives or eczema, or when they reach the lungs, they may cause asthma.
– All of this takes place within a few minutes to an hour.
Other symptoms include
– Shortness of breath
– Repetitive cough
– Shock or circulatory collapse
– Tight, hoarse throat; trouble swallowing
– Swelling of the tongue, affecting the ability to talk or breathe
– Weak pulse
– Pale or blue colouring of skin
– Dizziness or fainting
Most food-related symptoms occur within two hours of ingestion; often they start within minutes. In some very rare cases, the reaction may be delayed by four to six hours or even longer. Delayed reactions are most typically seen in children who develop eczema as a symptom of food allergy and in people with a rare allergy to red meat caused by the bite of a lone star tick.
Pathophysiology Of Food Allergy
Our immune system uses two components to deal with food allergies. One of these is immunoglobulin E (IgE), a type of blood-moving protein known as an antibody. The other is mast cells, which are found in all body tissues but are particularly prevalent in the digestive tract, nose, throat, and lungs. When you eat a food to which you are allergic to for the first time, certain cells produce a lot of IgE to counter the allergen in the food. IgE is released and adheres to the surface of the mast cells. Although you won’t have an allergic reaction just yet, your body is prepared to do so.
The allergen reacts with that IgE the time you consume the meal containing the allergen, causing the mast cells to release histamine and other substances. These compounds will produce different symptoms depending on the tissue they are in. Additionally, some food allergens can enter your bloodstream because they aren’t destroyed by the cooking heat, stomach acids, or other food-digesting enzymes. They can then spread throughout your body and trigger allergic reactions. The timing and the place are impacted by the digestive process. Your mouth can start to itch. Then, you can have symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, or stomach pain. Blood-borne food allergies can lower blood pressure. They can cause hives ( reddish bumps on skin) when they reach the skin.
Risk Factors Of Food Allergy
1. Family history: Risk of having food allergy increases if one has a family history of asthma, hives, eczema or allergies, like hay fever.
2. Age: Food allergies are more common in children, especially infants. As a child grow older, the digestive system matures and the body is less affected by the food that triggers allergy.
3. Asthma: Asthma and food allergy commonly occur simultaneously. When they occur symptoms of both are severe.
4. Other allergies: If one is having a particular type of allergic reaction like hay fever, one is more prone to risk of developing food allergy.
Dr. Vikas Sharma is a Chandigarh-based homeopathic doctor. He has been practicing homeopathy for the last 13 years.