November 16, 2008

You Ask, I Answer: Food Allergies

I have been feeling sluggish and bloated for almost 6 weeks now.

One of my friends thinks it is probably a food allergy, either corn, wheat, or soy.

Do you agree?

-- (Name withheld)

(Location withheld)

Not really.

Let's first begin with some basic definitions.

A food allergy means your body is developing antibodies in response to specific food proteins.

This is different from a food intolerance, which has to do with the body's inability to break down certain substances, often resulting in gastrointestinal distress.

While wheat and soy allergies are common, corn allergies are not.

Additionally, corn allergies trigger symptoms like wheezing, sneezing, and swelling of the throat and face almost immediately. They go far beyond simply feeling "sluggish."

Keep in mind, too, that feeling sluggish and bloated are not necessarily allergic reactions.

Feeling sluggish can be a result of many other things -- stress, iron-deficiency anemia, not consuming sufficient calories, etc.

It concerns me that there is so much self-monitoring happening with allergies. To truly know what is going on, you need to see a specialist who has experience with food allergies.

Otherwise, you run the risk of misdiagnosing or overlooking a more important issue.


Anonymous said...

An allergy skin test years ago indicated that I have allergies to wheat and corn. With corn, I often have itching and swelling of the roof of the mouth hours after I've eaten food containing corn. The digestive problems usually appear hours later as well.

So if an allergic reaction to corn is always immediate, then my symptoms are hard to explain.

One explanation I have read for delayed allergic reactions is that they involve IgG rather than IgE. Do you know if there is any validity to this?

Andy Bellatti said...

I should have been a little more specific. What I meant to say was that corn allergies have specific symptoms -- in your case, swelling, itching, and digestive problems.

The person posing this question wondered if her general sluggishness (and no actual symptoms) could be attributed to corn.

The answer is "no," since corn allergies usually manifest with the symptoms you mention.

Instead of "almost immediately" I should have said "soon after a meal," which more accurately reflects what I wanted to convey.

Although most symptoms happen immediately, it is common for them to pop up 2 to 3 hours after the "offending" food has been consumed.

What is important about your situation is that you have been DIAGNOSED with this allergy, not simply performing random guessing.

I will answer your question about IgG and IgE in another post -- that's quite a complicated issue.