Monday, February 25, 2013

The Strong Link Between Food Allergies and Hormones


Many people ask me if food allergies can be affected by hormones, especially by people that did not have any known food allergies earlier in their life. I am honored to have Valerie Johnston from Healthline writing this guest post for me to give a clearer picture of how this can all be a part of the ever-expanding world of food allergies. 

Allergies affect nearly fifty percent of the U.S. population. They can come in all different forms, from food and drug allergies to pets and pollen. People can become allergic to just about anything at any time in their lives. While many allergies surface in the younger years, hormone changes brought about later on in life can often cause new allergic reactions to form, especially food related ones. This is because there is a very strong link  link between food allergies and hormones.

What Are Allergies Anyway?

Allergies are actually very complicated things. Essentially, an allergic reaction is caused by a misfired immune response in the body. So, if a bee stings someone, his or her body shoots off certain immune responses that cause specific reactions to begin. In a normal person, the immune system would recognize the bee sting and send the proper signals to get the infection out and the swelling down as soon as possible. However, in allergic people, their immune system overreacts to the sting and sends a bunch of crazy signals that can cause massive swelling, irritation, hives, and sometimes even swelling of the throat in more severe cases. 

Food Allergies

Food allergies work in much of the same way. When the body is exposed to a certain food, the immune system incorrectly identifies that food as being dangerous or harmful, as it would an infection or illness. However, the food is not actually bad. So, the body sends out antibodies to attack the source of the danger, which causes all the symptoms of an allergic reaction. Some people have more severe food allergies and can die from simply touching something to which they are allergic. In most cases, though, people will food allergies will experience hives, a stuffy or runny nose, sneezing, possible swelling of the tongue or throat, and maybe an upset stomach.

What Hormones Can Do

Once people figure out their allergic triggers, they can usually avoid them pretty easily and take medications to ease their symptoms. So, the question for many allergy sufferers then often becomes one of “why” rather than “what.” This is especially true for people with adult onset allergies. These individuals sometimes do not know why they are experiencing all of these allergies that they never used to have as a child. Hormones are the answer.

Because the immune system and the hormone system are pretty closely related, when one changes, so does the other. There are several stages in people’s lives when their hormone levels naturally fluctuate, which is often when they will see the appearance of new allergies, mainly to food. For example, puberty and the female menstrual cycle are major hormone changes that often cause allergic changes as well. Food allergies are more common because food is something people come into contact with on a daily basis and it is easy for the body to mistake it for something threatening.

Not all hormone fluctuations are naturally occurring, though. Sometimes, these ups and downs can be brought on by stress or other external factors. Some people even get hormone injections for a variety of reasons. These injections can trigger immune system changes that may lead to the development of new food or other allergies.

Solutions

Because allergies are so unpredictable and can come about at any point in time, there is no real way of knowing how to stop or prevent them. However it is possible to keep them in check by avoiding the triggers, taking certain allergy medications, and being sure to keep a close eye on one’s bodily changes. Though not everyone will develop allergies, it is likely that most people will have an allergic reaction at some point in their lives due to the strong link between food allergies and hormones and the fact that all people experience hormone fluctuations throughout their lifetimes.


12 comments:

  1. My 18 year old daughter has had few periods over the last couple years and 6 months ago developed numerous food intolerances, Ige and Igg. She had a colonoscopy and no inflammatory diseases present. But no explanation of why she gets lower intestinal pain even avoiding foods she is intolerant of.wonder if there is a connection with not having regular periods?

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  2. Although I am not a medical doctor and I do not know the specifics of your daughter's health and allergies, there have been many studies that state irregular periods can be due to many things (which include food allergies). Research has shown that when there is an imbalance in your body, it effects other areas of your body (such as producing higher cortisol, estrogen and progesterone. On a personal note, my cortisol levels were increasing while i was in the midst of trying to find out what was going on and many doctors either overlooked this or stated it was "within normal range". I recommend that you consider requesting copied of labwork, do some research and then see if your doctor is treating your daughter with her best interests at heart. If not, there are many other doctors that are willing to treat patients and you do have a choice as to who you use. Consider integrative medical doctors as well if you are not finding answers within your mainstream primary care physicians. Hope that is helpful~

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  3. I was told I had casein intolerence in my late 30s, I tried hard to cut out dairy, symptoms seemed to subside when I cut out dairy, but occasionally I cheated. In my early 40s I was diagnosed with breast cancer. When I started chemo my menstrual cycle left and so did all symptoms of dairy intolerence. After chemo cycle came back and so did dairy intolrence symptoms. Recently I had hysterectomy and started anti estrogen drug treatment and of course my cycle came to abrupt end and so did all symptoms of dairy intolrence issues again and I have over indulged on all the wonderful things I miss like ice cream, cheese cake and ravilolis! I have absolutely no stomach issues, no constipation, no bloating nothing feel great. I feel like I'm healed of a horrible disease...have I? Is this common issue with hormones having such an effect on food allergies?

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    1. Gina,
      I cannot tell you if you are "cured" but I can tell you that allergies & intolerances are definitely affected by hormonal changes, stress, etc. Many people have told me that they develop/see changes with foods with things such as a major life trauma, a car accident, pregnancy & menopause- it's amazing how our bodies react :)

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  4. I did not have any allergies prior to 9 years old. At 9 I developed Spring hay fever AND food allergies to most fresh fruits. However, approaching full on menopause... the seasonal hay fever seems to be getting better. Does this make any sense?

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    1. Yes- hormonal changes, any major life event/stressor, etc. can trigger a change in allerrgies (change, increase, decrease, lessening of or a brand new allergy).

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  5. I have never had food sensitivies in my life until menopausal age. Now everything bothers me. I have developed IBS-D and gone to all sorts of docs for this and not gotten the help I need. Suffering all the time. Would be nice to know what to do about it.

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    1. Any type of life change, hormonal changes or extreme stresses can also kick off new allergies and intolerance. My first recommendation would be to find an integrative doctor who will think outside of the box, treat you as an individual rather than a number and, of course, if I can help please contact me :)

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    2. Anonymous: I have the exact same problem. Not getting help fast enough. Scared and frustated.

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    3. I started having IBS-D a few years ago. Recently someone suggested I take Maca Root. My periods are much more tolerable and regular now, and my IBSD stopped completely and for the first time in years, I feel normal again. No more attacks.

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  6. I ate eggs every morning for over a year and had no issues, about two weeks ago i started getting awful pains in my stomach after eating this particular breakfast, I have hypothalamic amenhorrhea and i wonder if the hormonal imbalance is causing this?

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    1. I can't tell you if that is the cause as everyone's allergies and intolerances can be different. However, I suggest keeping a food diary to see if there are any other possible triggers that seem to show up. I also recommend that you get a food allergy panel (if you haven't already) to give you a better idea of some of the foods you might try avoiding such as Alletess http://foodallergy.com/. This test is different from the usual Primary Physiican's blood test but it covers a larger area of possible allergens. If you need help after the test results, I'd be more than happy to help :)

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