I received an Email recently from an Internet acquaintance and fellow food allergy warrior that triggered me into writing this Appetizer. I’m not sure what has taken me so long to put this on paper. I give this part of the lecture a number of times each day in the exam room as I deal with one case after another of food related issues- allergies (skin, ears, allergic bronchitis), IBS, and immune-mediated diseases. The development of secondary food allergies is actually one of the most important and fascinating aspects of food intolerance.
People often ask why a carnivore like a dog or a cat would ever develop an allergy to meat (e.g. chicken, beef, lamb). At first, it does seem nonsensical. But this becomes very understandable once we grasp the deeper repercussions of the damage done to the lining of the intestinal tract by the “big 4”- gluten (wheat, barley, rye, and all forms of wheat), dairy, soy and corn.
We now know that once the intestinal villi- those little finger-like projections that line our intestinal tract- are damaged badly enough, a substance called zonulin is released by the cells in the intestinal wall. This hormone causes a relaxation of the normal intestinal barriers, which are designed to help keep harmful things out of the bloodstream. Zonulin is released as a back-up mechanism to help get nutrients into the bloodstream once the villi are damaged badly enough. In other words, it is the intestinal tracts “plan B” for helping us absorb the essential vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, carbs and water that the villi normally pick up.
But, plan B always comes with a price. (It is always better to go with plan A, isn’t it?) In this case, plan B allows some items to get past the normal immune barriers and into the bloodstream in a way that they wouldn’t normally, including macromolecules of food that have not been completely broken down into their normally digested state before entering the blood. In those individuals who are unhealthy enough (headed down the allergy road), this leads to the formation of antibodies against those foods.
This is the known mechanism behind secondary food allergies in individuals with food intolerance and explains those allergies to eggs, meats, tree nuts, tropical fruits, shellfish, tomatoes, coffee, and anything else that the individual in this state might consume. I know celiacs, for example, who have 5-50 different food allergies. Bananas and coffee were my most notable secondary food allergies.
The phenomenal thing to see is that these allergies to otherwise healthy foods would most likely not exist without the villous damage done by the “big 4”. And this intestinal damage can start very early in life, sometimes beginning with mother’s milk, which is known to contain the lectins of gluten, dairy, soy and corn. But it is the infant formulas, both human and veterinary, that really kick this off in the dairy intolerant individual. This is quickly followed by gluten (teething biscuits or puppy chows), corn (also in many formulas and finger-foods), and soy…which is now in everything.
I do a lot of food allergy testing now but mainly to determine and eliminate the secondary allergies. No matter what this test shows, I will always recommend the elimination of all gluten, dairy, soy and corn in all foods, treats/snacks and supplements. Therefore, the rational behind my recommending this test is purely to find out what we can feed that will not cause further allergy signs. We are addressing the main problem- the food intolerances- by always recommending the elimination the “big 4” in every medical cases. These are potentially harmful to all who consume them. In fact, the latest conclusion by a group of celiac researchers is that everyone is gluten sensitive (to today’s, man-cultivated gluten grains), but only 1/3 of us are showing symptoms at any given moment. That is a far cry from celiac diseases being a “rare disorder that afflicts less that 1:5000 people” which we were being told 10 years ago.
Each patient is like a snowflake when it comes to the formation of secondary food allergies but some of the most common food allergens in veterinary medicine are now chicken, rice and lamb in both dogs and cats behind the usual suspects of wheat, dairy corn and soy. They used to be beef in the dogs and fish in the cat but chicken has become the most common food protein used in pet foods- along with the wheat, corn and soy- so chicken now leads the pack in food allergens. Fish is still a major secondary allergen in the cat, however.
That is why I recommend that my veterinary clients use a novel protein (e.g. venison, bison) coupled with a novel carbohydrate (e.g. potato, sweet potato) when treating allergies, immune-mediated diseases or anything chronic. Food intolerances and allergies play a role in all of these things, including cancer and I have now observed miracles in cases that are fed biologically appropriate, non-damaging, hypoallergenic diets.
For veterinary testing, I recommend using VARL (Veterinary Allergy Reference Labs). A great test for human medical cases is The Sage Elisa Test. This one is very comprehensive and tests for 4 different classes of antibodies (immediate and delayed), a diagnostic tool I desperately wish we had in veterinary medicine.
So much for the Appetizer, eh? This ended up being an entree. Hopefully it helped. There is even more in Email and response below.
You and I being concerned about food allergies for ourselves and our companion friends, I thought this was an interesting finding.
Your friend: Pieter.
The Five Most Common Food Sensitivities
— by Cate Stevenson, BA
What would you guess would be the most common food sensitivities in the world? Peanuts and shellfish? Or maybe wheat and milk? Which country do you think would be likely to suffer from the most food sensitivities? The U.S., France, or perhaps the U.K.? The answers to these questions may be a little different than you expected, according to a recent clinical trial.
The study, which looked at more than 4,500 adults from 13 Western countries, found that nations varied in the rate of people who were sensitive to foods. For example, about 25% of people in Portland reported sensitivity to one specific food, while only eight percent of those in Reykjavik, Iceland, were found to have a food sensitivity.
To get their results, researchers tested participants’ blood for antibodies against a range of foods. This helped to determine food sensitivity, which refers to an immune system response to a food’s proteins.
So, who had the highest prevalence of food sensitivities? The U.S. came in at number one, with Germany, Italy and Norway following close behind. About 22% of people from each of these countries showed antibodies against some type of food.
What about the lowest rates of sensitivity? That honor went to Iceland and Spain, with 11% each, with France and the U.K. following at around 14%.
When it came to the types of foods behind people’s sensitivities, there were a few surprising results. The top five most common food sensitivities were hazelnuts, peaches, shrimp, wheat and apples. The research team found that, contrary to popular medical opinion, fish, eggs and cow’s milk were the least common causes of sensitivity. In several countries, in fact, no one recorded either a fish sensitivity or an egg sensitivity.
Hazelnuts seemed to be the most prevalent sensitivity in the most number of countries, with the U.S., Germany, Norway and Sweden showing a prevalence of 12% to 15%.
The research team is unclear as to why countries were similar in their patterns of food sensitivity. They noted that there are differences in the typical diets of the various nations studied. This suggests, they say, that a nation’s overall consumption of a food does not determine the prevalence of allergies to it.
Here in Canada and the U.S., many believe that certain foods that are eaten every day — sometimes multiple times a day — are the most likely to cause food sensitivities. This latest study suggests that the answer to food sensitivities may be more complex than previously thought.
The Five Most Common Food Sensitivities Burney, P., et al., “Prevalence and distribution of sensitization to foods in the European Community Respiratory Health Survey: a EuroPrevall analysis,” Allergy, Feb. 22, 2010.
Thanks for sending this. It will be a great basis for a paper because it is all completely explainable, once we understand the pathomechanism behind secondary food allergens (e.g. the release of zonulin), the primary foods that induce villous atrophy and stimulate zonulin release (gluten, casein from dairy, soy and corn), the principle of adaptation (which lessens the incidence of sensitivities over time), the cultural traditions that lessen food intolerances (e.g. wine consumption which cleans the villi), and the traditional diets of the groups tested.
It is no wonder that the USA- who consumes all four of the “big4” in mass quantities- would lead the pack in food sensitivities, followed by the countries that are known to have the highest incidence of celiac disease (Germany, Italy and Norway/Scandinavia). It was the northern Germanics who started this whole mess by altering wheat to begin with over 1500 years ago. But, they have also had the longest time to adapt, forcing celiac disease under the covers along with their previous secondary food allergies.
The most interesting part of this article is the list of secondary foods. Although I still find their results a bit hard to believe, there may be something wrong with hazelnuts and shrimp. Shrimp are major collectors of PCBs and other environmental pollutants. You couldn’t get me to eat a shrimp from Mobile Bay if you paid me. Our water system is as polluted as any in the country. The “unclean” animals of the Mosaic food laws were on the list because they were either scavengers, predators of those scavengers, or bottom-dwelling creatures of the sea (oysters, clams, and other shellfish) sucking up the red tide and pleomorphic bacteria that salt water is notorious for containing. If they didn’t have fins and scales, they were “unclean”, which would include catfish- the prime example of a bottom-dweller.
Of course, I’m having real trouble with the apples and peaches unless they are allergens due to their commonness or due to the pesticides used during their production. I would hate for anyone to think that apples aren’t good for them, knowing that they are loaded with pectins that help scavenge lectins.
But the gist of this article to me is: The main sensitivities they list are the result of secondary allergy production due to the harmful effects of the “big 4” and the intolerances they create (e.g. celiac), followed by zonulin release. Cow milk and the usual suspects may dropping out of the picture due to adaptation, or what doctors often mistakenly refer to as “outgrowing” an allergy. We don’t outgrow intolerances to gluten, dairy, soy and corn- we adapt to them. And if we didn’t like the first set of symptoms (colic, nasal/bronchial congestion, and diarrhea), we’re really not going to like the next set (diabetes, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue, and early cancers).
Thanks again for keeping in touch and for sending this. I know that you know most of the above but I went ahead and took the opportunity to put my thoughts down for the Website paper. J
Have a great week!