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Food hypersensitivity in people by Prof Oladapo Ahiru

Food hypersensitivity refers to both food intolerances and food allergies. Food allergies are immune reactions, usually caused by Immunoglobulin E when histamine is released. It is also triggered by reactions from non-IgE immune responses.

This mechanism creates allergies to give an immediate reaction to foods. In food allergy, an abnormal immune system response results in the body, thus making antibodies to ‘fight off’ a particular food. Between five and nine per cent  of children and one per cent of adults are affected by food allergies.

Food allergy occurs when the body mistakenly makes an antibody (IgE) to ‘fight off’ a specific food. When the food is eaten recurrently or, in some cases, it comes in contact with the skin, it triggers an immune system response, which results in the release of histamine and other substances in the body. For instance, in milk allergy, when the body has made antibodies to milk protein, it causes an immune reaction when you drink milk. Your immune system mistakenly treats the proteins found in food as a threat.

Tummy pain, bloating, wind and/ diarrhea, skin rashes and itching are some of its symptoms. These symptoms usually manifest a few hours after eating the food. However, it is difficult to determine if the signs connote an allergy because these symptoms reflect the traits of some other conditions.  On the other hand, some people suffer symptoms after eating certain foods, even when they are not producing antibodies against them. A variety of mechanisms can cause foods to affect people in this way. These non-immune reactions are known collectively as food intolerances.

Food intolerance is much more common than food allergy and it is not caused by the immune system. Food intolerance is a detrimental reaction, often delayed, to a food,  beverage, food additive, or a compound found in foods that produce symptoms in one or more body organs and systems.

Food intolerances are classified according to their mechanisms. Intolerance can result from the absence of specific chemicals or enzymes needed to digest a food substance. For instance, in fructose intolerance, the abnormality in the body’s ability to absorb nutrients or in lactose intolerance (inability to break down lactose in sugar) can cause gut spasm, pain, bloating and diarrhoea. Most foods require some enzyme activity in their digestion and its deficiencies may cause food intolerance.

Other causes of food intolerance are naturally occurring chemicals in the food that affect the body. Substances, such as caffeine in coffee, tea, and chocolate or amines, in some instances, can produce an adverse reaction in some people. If you are food intolerant to a particular food item, you can usually eat a little of it occasionally, but unfavorable results will increase the more you eat that food item.

Chemicals in foods, such as salicylate, drugs sourced from plants like aspirin, can also cause these kinds of reactions. Substances that can exert a toxic effect may lead to symptoms of vomiting and diarrhoea. Beans or chickpeas that are undercooked have aflatoxins, which cause these symptoms to manifest. But, when cooked thoroughly, the toxins are not present. Overeating without chewing properly in the mouth may create an overload in the intestine and cause food intolerance.

Symptoms caused by food intolerance vary; they include the following: gastro-intestinal symptoms, such as bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and irritable bowel syndrome. They also include inflammatory bowel disease, chronic constipation, chronic hepatitis C infection, eczema, NSAID intolerance, respiratory complaints, including asthma, rhinitis and headache.  They also present as functional dyspepsia, eosinophilic esophagitis, ENT illnesses, skin rashes, acne and sometimes fatigue, joint pains, dark circles under the eyes, night sweats and other chronic conditions.


Histamine in foods

Some foods contain histamine naturally, while others such as fish and seafood, and some foods that are not fresh or stored correctly, can develop a build-up of histamine.

Salicylates in foods

Many foods naturally contain salicylates and our tolerance for this can vary. The vast majority of people can eat salicylate-containing foods with no problems, but other people may suffer symptoms if they eat too many foods, which when combined contain a significant amount. Hence, just because my neighbour eats a particular food very often does not mean I can do the same without attendant health consequences. These salicylate-intolerant people will get better if they eat a diet of low and moderate salicylate foods and avoid those with the highest levels. Salicylate-containing foods, such as apples, citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes. Chocolate, cheese, bananas, avocado, tomato, and wine can generate allergic reactions as a result of some chemical substance called amines produced during digestion.

Additives in foods

A wide variety of natural and artificial additives are used in colouring, preserving and processing foods. Some people can suffer symptoms provoked by hypersensitivity to food additives and preservatives.

Unfortunately, many fruits are now genetically engineered to become very sweet and attractive in color. They grow with pesticides and fertilisers. As a result, so many people have become allergic to them and have thus become fructose intolerant. The mostly sour pineapple we used to eat is not the same as the deliciously sweet pineapple that is now available. This sweetness is just mainly sugar. Overconsumption of fruits by a fructose- intolerant person will lead to arthritis, lousy skin, bloating and many other ailments.

Allergic symptoms can start immediately the food is eaten or begin after two hours or even up to two days later. When you consume the food regularly, you run the risk of developing chronic and continuous symptoms.

How do I test for food intolerance


This method requires you to pay attention to detail and to record everything fully in a food and allergy symptom diary, as well as working with a dietician. Consulting a dietician is essential. For instance, if you think your child has food intolerance and you decide to eliminate the food/s from his/her diet, it could be dangerous. A restricted diet could affect a child’s growth and development.

Cows’ milk is a vital source of calcium, vitamin D and protein. If your child has cow milk allergy, the dietician will ensure adequate nutrition and safe foods for him or her.

At Mart-Life Detox Clinic, we help identify food allergies and food intolerances with the use of our Bioenergetic test. The test detects and specifies whether a person is fructose, lactose, histamine or gluten intolerant. It also helps to determine the exact food that is generating allergy and intolerance. The Bioenergetic testing uses Interfacing Resonance Analysis Technology.

After the biogenetic test, the patient is advised to start an exclusion diet, which excludes the food that gives them allergies and stress. The patient is instructed to stay off the intolerant menu for three months. After this time he or she can introduce the food slowly into the diet and eat it occasionally, not more than once every week or once every two weeks.

Usually, most people can tolerate eating these foods sometimes without bringing back the negative symptoms. However, frequent consumption of them will bring back the signs.  Individuals will need to establish their tolerance threshold. After weeks or months of not eating the food, you may be able to start eating the food again without getting adverse reactions.

At this stage, an individual can tolerate the food and maintenance depends on frequency and the quantity that he or she can establish. Food hypersensitivity is purely individual. So, working this out and not restricting the diet beyond what is necessary is a significant consideration.