Food allergies seem more common now than ever. Are we just hearing about them more because of better awareness, or are they really more common? We have reliable data about celiac disease: it’s four times as common now than it was a half century ago. I suspect the same is true of other food intolerances and of food allergies.
Your best weapons? The egg yolks and liver that have disappeared from our diets during this timeframe, and avoiding unnecessary use of over-the-counter anti-inflammatories.
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Read the Transcript
Got food allergies? Food intolerances? This is your best weapon.
Hi. I’m Dr. Chris Masterjohn of chrismasterjohnphd.com. And this is Chris Masterjohn Lite, where the name of the game is”Details? Shmeetails. Just tell me what works!”
And today we’re going to talk about your best weapon against food allergies and food intolerances. You may have the perception that this is a bigger problem than it used to be.
For example, when I was a kid, we didn’t hear about how it was dangerous to bring peanuts to school because of peanut allergies.
And now we hear things like this. But it’s hard to know whether the problem is really increasing or we just hear about it more because we’re paying more attention to it.
But we do have a pretty amazing piece of data showing that the incidence of celiac disease is truly dramatically higher now than it used to be. And that’s because we can take archived blood samples and apply the exact same diagnostic criteria used to diagnose celiac disease today to those archived blood samples. And what we find is that celiac disease is over four times higher today than it was a half-century ago.
My suspicion is that food allergies and food intolerances in general are higher today. Why? Well, I think two factors that we can blame is that we have stopped eating liver, we’ve stopped taking cod liver oil, and for a very long time, although the egg is making a comeback now, we had taken eggs or at least taken the egg yolks off our plates.
And when we look at what is it that allows us to healthily tolerate foods, our default healthy state of not having allergies and intolerances, we find that it is not simply the passive absence of a disease, but it is actually a very active process that depends on nutrients from these foods that we had for so long abandoned.
In our intestines our immune systems are going to take particles of undigested food, bring them into centers of immune activity in the intestines, and train the immune system to tolerate those as food. To train them with the message that, “This is food; we do not mount an inflammatory response to this.”
But in order for that training to work, we need to have the biochemical tools at the disposal of our immune systems. And the two most important biochemical tools are number 1, retinoic acid, which is a compound that we make from retinol, the form of vitamin A that’s found in animal foods, and the form of vitamin A that we can make from the carotenoids in colorful vegetables.
And the second biochemical tool is prostaglandin E2, a chemical that we make from arachidonic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid that we find in animal foods. When we look at retinol and arachidonic acid in foods, retinol is found mainly in liver and cod liver oil with smaller amounts in egg yolks and dairy fat. Arachidonic acid is found mainly in liver and egg yolks. So losing liver and egg yolks from our dietary menus was probably two major factors that led to the increase in food allergies and food intolerances.
Another important thing is that some of the most popular drugs in the world are the over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and aspirin. These drugs, the NSAIDs, block the enzyme COX. That’s why they’re called COX inhibitors. They block the enzyme COX, that turns the arachidonic acid from the liver and egg yolks into the prostaglandin E2 that is used by our immune system to train to tolerate those foods.
So, I also believe that the liberal use of NSAIDs is probably a factor in the development of food allergies and food intolerances. When I look at the evidence, I do think it’s possible that out of all those anti-inflammatory drugs, the safest one is aspirin.
But I would prefer to say that we should avoid using these drugs in general, unless we have a real need to. For pain management, for example, we should try to maintain drug-free if the pain is just annoying. Go to these drugs only when it’s debilitating or when we’re managing a medical condition that needs it.
So, what do we do with this? Well, I think preventing food intolerances is easier than fixing them. For preventing food intolerances, we want to raise our children from an early age eating liver once or twice a week and eating the yolks of eggs with an average egg consumption of one, two, maybe even three a day, especially going into adulthood. It doesn’t have to be every day, but to work them in in an average in those amounts.
And then stay away from unnecessary use of the NSAIDs. To fix a food intolerance, I don’t know that I have the answer to this, but the first thing that I would try is take the things that you can’t tolerate out of your diet. And in the case where you’re managing a serious medical condition like celiac disease, it may have to stay out forever. In the case where something like anaphylactic shock is a potential consequence of the food allergy, it may have to stay out forever.
But if the responses are something more tolerable and manageable where you feel safe experimenting, then after a time with them out of your diet and implementing the preventative course of action that I just described, then I would work them back in in small amounts after some months or maybe even years away from those foods, when you can, in a predigested form.
For example, if you have a problem with nuts, try soaking them and sprouting them; pay attention to the difference between raw and roasted. If you’re dealing with grains, try using sourdough grains, long-fermented grains, and so on. And see if you can work them in. If not, then it’s better to keep them out of your diet than to force your body to try to consume something it can’t tolerate.
But with the time away, working them in in small predigested doses after doing what you can to provide the tools to your immune system to train for tolerance,I think is the best approach.