Could What You Eat Make You Sick?

On the island of Ireland, it is estimated that around 10% of the population suffer from a food hypersensitivity – that is food allergy or food intolerance (including Coeliac disease).

Bottle and glass of red wine on table.
Many people suffer from Food Intolerences. Common foods include red wine, wheat, eggs, and milk products.

These can vary from mild to life-threatening in their severity and negatively impact on the quality-of-life of those who suffer from them.

Over Reaction by Immune System

“An allergic response occurs when the immune system which is poised to attack bacteria and viruses overreacts and becomes hyper vigilant.” It can do this in response to seemingly harmless substances like dust, cat hairs, pollen, and everyday foods such as wheat, milk and other dairy products, soy, fish, nuts, wine (red), citrus fruits, corn, yeast, and many more.

Attack interfers with nutrient absorption

Anything can become an allergen if ingested when the digestive tract is inflamed or in trauma due to parasites. Each time the allergenic food is eaten the immune system will come into attack, causing systemic inflammation and excess mucus production – interfering with nutrient absorption.

A tomato.
Anything can become a food allergen.

2 Types of Allergies

A true food allergy is very rare affecting just 10-15% of cases, whereas food intolerances or sensitivities are much more common affecting 75% of cases. The two main types of allergic reaction are known as Type 1 and Type 2.

Type 1 – Fast Reaction

In a Type 1 reaction the body produces protein molecules called antibodies to fight the allergens. These are called IgE or immunoglobulin E. This happen when the body is exposed to, for example, pollen or a particular food. Within minutes the antibodies trigger an inflammatory response which alerts us that an allergic reaction has taken place.

Prawn held up on chopsticks.
Type 1 Allergies stay with us for life.

Type 1 – common triggers Peanuts or Shellfish

Symptoms in a Type 1 reaction include rash, itchy skin, hives, itchy eyes and ears, Rhinitis, Asthma including shortness of breath, wheezing or sneezing, Closing of the throat, swelling of the mouth or tongue. In extremely rare cases anaphylactic shock can occur where immediate medical attention is required. Other common triggers to this are wasp or bee stings. These allergies can be tested by your GP, and unfortunately they stay with us for life.

Type 2 – Food Intolerances

In a Type 2 reaction antibodies known as IgG or IgM come into play, this response is much more common and is known as a food intolerance/ sensitivity. Symptoms take longer to show up, sometimes taking hours or days.

Man with dark circles under his eyes and sallow skin, his face showing pain, holding his head.
Symptoms of Food Intolerances may take hours or days to appear and seem unrelated to food.

Digestive Discomforts may be symptoms.

Symptoms of a Type 2 reaction are many and vague, making it very hard to identify the cause. Digestive discomforts can suggest food intolerances, these include nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, bloating, excessive gas, stomach pain, or ulcers, cramps, heartburn.

Symptoms may seem unrelated to digestion.

Sometimes food intolerances can produce other symptoms without gastro-intestinal involvement. Because food allergies cause sluggish absorption of nutrients – the building blocks for our body, every system can be affected.

close up of a woman sneezing or blowing her nose into a tissue.
Hay fever, rhinitus, and sinus problems maybe symptoms of food allergies.

Symptoms Numerous

If you consistently suffer from tiredness, poor memory, depression, chronic headaches, migraines, insomnia, dizziness, excessive mucus production, coughing, sore throat, hoarseness, swelling or pain, frequent clearing of the throat, sores on gums, lips, and tongue, rhinitis, ringing in the ears, blurred vision, sinus problems, hay fever, dark circles under the eyes, irregular heartbeat, palpitations, asthma, fast heartbeat, chest pain with congestion, bronchitis, shortness of breath, skin rashes, psoriasis, eczema, dry skin, over sweating, acne, hair loss, or joint and muscular pains – you could have food intolerances.

Lacking ‘Good Bacteria’ a cause.

Leaky gut syndrome is now thought to be a huge contributory factor to food intolerances. The use of medications (especially antibiotics, steroids and oral contraceptive pills), inflammatory conditions, stress and a bad diet can lead to the reduction of probiotic (good) bacteria in our digestive tract.

Yogurt carton.
Reduction of good bacteria in the gut can cause food allergies. Replacing these ‘good guys’ maybe be part of a treatment plan.

Food Particles Leak into the Bloodstream

These bacteria are feeding our intestinal cells, so they can carry out their roles of absorption. When there is not enough probiotics to feed these cells, they lose weight and shrink, leaving gaps between them. The damaged gut wall is ‘leaky’, allowing undigested particles of food through into the bloodstream, which then act as allergens, causing symptoms like those listed above.

Irish cheese at Burren Slow Food Festival 2011.
Photo by John Sims.
Luckily, with treatment, the body is able to forget about food intolerances.


One good thing about the IgG type of allergies is that the body is able to forget them. Identification and complete avoidance of the allergens for 6 months up to 2 years is necessary along with the healing of the damaged digestive tract and the correction of the digestive processes. Once the gut wall is healed, exposure to allergens may no longer create a reaction.

A tailor-made gut healing and digestion correcting diet and supplement regime is necessary for fast recovery and repletion of nutrient deficiencies caused by sluggish absorption.

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