What causes a Food Allergy?
A food allergy is an immune system response to a food that the body mistakenly believes is harmful. Once the immune system decides that a particular food is harmful, it creates specific antibodies to it. The next time the individual eats that food, the immune system releases massive amounts of chemicals, including histamine, in order to protect the body. These chemicals trigger a cascade of allergic symptoms that can affect the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, skin, or cardiovascular system.
At the present time, there is no cure for food allergies. Avoidance is the only way to prevent an allergic reaction. Although an individual could be allergic to any food, such as fruits, vegetables, and meats, they are not as common as the following eight foods which account for 90% of all food-allergic reactions: milk, egg, peanut, tree nut (walnut, cashew etc), fish, shellfish, soy and wheat.
Babies are more susceptible to food allergies because their gut barrier is still immature and macromolecules (such as protein) can pass through. Not only might they be more prone to absorb macromolecules than older individuals, but also their immune systems are immature. They have low concentrations of IgA (the predominant antibody of intestinal secretions) in the intestine and this low level combined with the large quantities of ingested proteins puts infants at increased risk that food antigens will penetrate the intestine.
According to Allergy New Zealand, most children tend to outgrow their milk allergy when they get older; almost half by the time they are eight years old, and about 80 per cent by the time they are 16 years old¹. That's an encouraging percentage. However, if you have a family history of milk allergies, your chances may not be so good. Since genetics can also play a part in allergies, if the parents have a milk allergy, the child’s chance of remaining allergic is greater than the norm.
There is a difference between a dairy allergy and a lactose intolerance. An allergy indicates that the person makes an allergic antibody against the food. A lactose intolerance means the patient lacks an enzyme called lactase that is necessary to break down the sugar lactose. Lactose intolerant patients usually have symptoms confined to the gastrointestinal tract. They do not develop symptoms of anaphylaxis. The way one differentiates these two conditions is by history and testing.
Children who are allergic to milk will have a positive skin test against milk. Children with a lactose intolerance will have a negative skin test to milk and a positive lactose intolerance test. Approximately 2.5 percent of children during the first two years of life will have a milk allergy. However the majority will outgrow their milk allergy. In children, lactose intolerance occurs most frequently after a child has had severe diarrhoea. This is usually transient and is not permanent.
Lactose intolerance is the most common carbohydrate induced food intolerance. Most people in the world are deficient in the intestinal enzyme lactase and thus have an inability to digest lactose-containing foods, e.g. milk. Symptoms associated with lactase deficiency are bloatedness, wind and diarrhoea. Lactose intolerance may occur at various ages, it may occur at birth or at a later age in different people. Treatment requires the avoidance of lactose by restricting dietary milk and milk containing products. Lactose intolerance should not be confused with a milk allergy, which is related to milk proteins.
Our bodies naturally product breast milk as a whole and complete food source that an infant needs. It is recommended that you breastfeed your child till at least 6 months of age. Breastmilk initially contains Colostrum, which naturally providing the child with immune enhancing properties and also growth factors, important for a growing child. Initially this is very low in lactose, but changes, generally within the first few days of child birth. The lactose level increases, the milk thins out and more nutrients are introduced into the breast milk to accommodate growing nutritional and developmental needs. The milk continues to develop for 5 days to two weeks after birth, when it is considered “largely matured” and by 4 – 6 weeks the milk is considered “fully matured” comprising of everything a growing child could need.²
The composition of an individual’s breast milk varies though, depending on the diet of the individual. It is important to eat a healthy, low allergen, high protein diet while breastfeeding to ensure that the body is able to convert this into healthy breastmilk.
Starting your baby off with the correct food, made by you, for your baby, is really important to set the foundation for a healthy human being.
Plain milk may cause or contribute to colic, sleeplessness, rashes, epileptic seizures, diabetes, respiratory problems, migraines and ear infections. The fat in whole milk may contribute to gastrointestinal diseases as well as childhood diarrhoea. Allergic reactions that cause asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and diarrhoea may be the results of consuming milk. It is not suggested to feed infants till at least after 6 months of age.
A probiotic supplement is recommended once plain milk is started to help reduce an inflammation and help continue to populate the digestive tract.
Allergies & ADHD
Dr. Block’s theories are outlined in her book, No More ADHD: 10 Steps to Help Improve Your Child’s Attention and Behaviour without Drugs. Millions of children diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are being treated with Ritalin or other psychiatric drugs, but Dr. Block believes that every child with the ADHD label has one or more underlying problems, such as allergies, nutritional deficiencies, sugar sensitivity, hypoglycaemia, and digestive or learning problems. Addressing these core problems, she says, will help correct ADHD behaviours. She states that “Ritalin is more potent than cocaine and goes to the same receptor sites in the brain as cocaine. It does not cure the problem and does not address the underlying causes of the symptoms. I do not believe ADHD exists. It is just a list of symptoms. Find the cure of the symptoms and treat it. No more problems. No more ADHD. No more Ritalin. I believe ADHD is a made-up psychiatric label. Psychiatrists and other doctors often don't give physical exams, but just fill out checklists."
"A diagnosis of ADHD is subjective. It's not a like a medical diagnosis, such as a bacterial infection or cancer, which is discovered and can be scientifically confirmed. Psychiatric labels aren't like that. If I adhere to a label like ADHD, I'm saying that I haven't taken the time or made the effort to find out what is really wrong with my patient. So I never use this label. If I can prove that allergies, for instance, are causing a young child's symptoms, then he doesn't have ADHD. He has allergies. Allergies and sensitivities can cause almost any symptom in anybody, from over-activity and inability to concentrate to conventional symptoms like runny noses and watery eyes. Allergies in children can cause mood swings, foggy thinking, aggression, sleepiness and hyperactivity. They can even cause symptoms that get labelled autism. What I see is that kids with allergies are likely to have asthma, ear infections, respiratory infections and/or behaviour problems.”
Food Allergy Self-Test
If you suspect that you are allergic to a specific food, a simple test can help you determine if you are correct. By recording your blood pressure after consuming the food in question, you can reveal if you are having an allergic reaction. Using a watch with a second hand, sit down and relax for a few minutes. When completely relaxed, take your pulse at the wrist. Count the number of beats in a 60 second period. A normal pulse reading is 52-70 beats per minute. Consume the food that you are testing for an allergic reaction. Wait 15 to 20 minutes and take your pulse again. If your pulse rate increased more than 10 beats per minute, omit this food from your diet for one month, and then retest.
You can also get a Food Sensitivity Test done, which uses food-specific IgG antibodies via the ELISA methodology. This can test 96 common foods and 16 common inhalants, which can help to pin point the cause of any problems. This test specifically does a Dairy segment and this will test Casein, Cheddar Cheese, Cottage Cheese, Mozzarella Cheese, Whey, Milk, Goat Milk and Yogurt.
A probiotic is always important for someone who has an allergy of any kind. For those individuals that are alot more sensitive, Ethicals Nutrients do their Inner Health Plus Dairy Free. They have removed the Colostrum from their normal probiotic formula. This helps to re-populate the good bacteria in the gut, that can help to lessen the immune response by the body.
Using a digestive enzyme can also help to breakdown any dairy that has been digested, which can stop the body reacting so badly to the digested dairy.
We have a huge range of digestive enzymes and quite a few that are Dairy and Lactose specific. Radiance have a digestive enzyme called Digest Dairy and Nature's Way have Lactase Enzyme. Enzymedica also have their product Lacto.
Please note that if you are anaphylactic to dairy, a digestive enzyme is not suitable, and dairy should be avoided altogether.
Tips for Managing a Milk Allergy
Many people are concerned that if they remove dairy from their diet (or from that of their children’s) they will become deficient in calcium. However, the highest rates of osteoporosis are in the industrialized Western nations - the biggest consumers of milk.
Alternative Sources of Calcium
Sources of calcium include sesame seeds, almonds, broccoli, bone meal, buckwheat, salmon (with bones), sardines, turnips, molasses and green leafy vegetables. Even though calcium can be found in green leafy vegetables, it is important to know that spinach, chard and most grains and cereals can bind to calcium, so these are not advised as forms of calcium and it is advised to avoid these around calcium supplements or a calcium rich meal. One of the best natural food sources of calcium is Tahini. You can make this yourself by toasting the sesame seeds in a non-stick frypan (not Tefal) and then grinding them in a food processor, with a little bit of salt and a little bit of oil (preferably vegetable oil) to get it started. Blend until a smooth paste. Important to keep in mind that when you are toasting the sesame seeds that you keep a very close eye on them, as even if one seed is burnt, it will change the whole flavour of the end result.
You can also supplement with products like the Ethical Nutrients EthiCal Bone Builder, which comes in tablets and also in powder. This product contains a special form of calcium called Hydroxyapatite, which has been used in the prevention and treatment of Osteoporosis.
We also have Super Calcium Complete, which also uses Hydroxyapatite.
To supplement your daily calcium and mineral needs, we suggest using Mineral Power by Radiance. This is a combination of Calcium and Magnesium, plus all other minerals needed by the body to absorb calcium and magnesium.
Fortunately, milk is one of the easiest ingredients to substitute in baking and cooking. It can be substituted, in equal amounts with water, Almond Milk, Coconut Milk, Rice Milk. Protein powder mixed with water can be a nice alternative as well and help to increase the protein content of your baking.
We have lots of dairy free protein powders that can be used. Clean Lean Protein is a Golden Pea based protein powder, and comes in lots of yummy flavours, as well as natural. We also have the Plant Protein, which is also made from the Golden Pea, and this also contains Coconut Water to help increase the mineral levels. This is a great product to use after exercise to help replace your electrolytes. We also stock the Amazonia Paleo Protein Powder which is a sprouted wholefood protein powder.
Coconut cream can also be used as an alternative for normal cream. The trick is to only get coconut cream not coconut water, and to leave the can in the fridge for a few hours before use. You can then scoop the cream off the top and the water is left at the bottom of the tin. Leanne has also had great success making Coconut Yoghurt from coconut cream and a probiotic. You can read about how she made this here blog.healthy.co.nz/coconut-yoghurt/.
Some Hidden Sources of Milk
Deli meat slicers are frequently used for both meat and cheese products.
Some brands of canned tuna fish contain casein, a milk protein.
Many non-dairy products contain casein (a milk derivative), listed on the ingredient labels. Some meats may contain casein as a binder. Check all labels carefully.
Many restaurants put butter on steaks after they have been grilled to add extra flavour. The butter is not visible after it melts.
Is goat milk a safe alternative to cow milk?
We have used goats milk in the past as an alternative to cows milk, especially for infant formula's and love the KariCare Goats Milk Formula as it is lower in lactose, but do keep in mind that it does still contain lactose, so is not suitable for people with a lactose intolerance.
Nutritional Almanac, Gayla and John Kirschmann
Prescription for Nutritional Healing, James and Phyllis Balch
The Physician’s Handbook of Clinical Nutrition, Henry Osiecki
¹ Excerpt from http://www.allergy.org.nz/A-Z+Allergies/Food+allergy/cows+milk+allergy.html