Food Allergies (IgE)

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Latest Edit: Iva Lloyd, ND 2014-05-28 (EDT)

See Also Naturopathic Therapies
See Also Clinical Nutrition

Food allergies only account for about 5% to 10% of all food reactions. Symptoms associated with food allergies range from mild symptoms such as sinus congestion, watery eyes, hives and itchiness to more extreme symptoms such as wheezing, diarrhea, difficulty breathing or swallowing and in the most extreme cases, food allergies can trigger an anaphylaxis reaction that can be fatal.

Food Allergies (IgE)
Food allergies.jpg

Food Allergies (IgE)
Causes Dietary Factors, Environmental Toxins, Breathing, Elimination of Toxins
See Also Infections / Allergies / Sensitivities, Allergic Rhinitis, Conjunctivitis, Eczema, Asthma
Books Books on Infections, Allergies, Intolerances
Articles Articles on Infections/ Allergies/ Sensitivities

Naturopathic Assessment

Food allergies depends on two factors: personal susceptibility and exposure to the food allergen. The naturopathic assessment looks at both aspects. The stronger a person's vitality and constitution the less likely they will be affected by exposure to food allergens.

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Causes of Food Allergies

The causes of food allergies include:


  • Common food allergies include: nuts and seeds, shellfish, dairy
  • A study has shown that allergic reactions occurred in 15% of the population who consumed food products containing food colourings such as Allura Red. In this test, all 52 participants who had been suffering from hives and, or rash for four weeks or more were placed on an elimination diet and all potential sources of allura red were removed. Following three weeks of no symptoms, participants were ‘challenged’ orally with allura red and symptoms were monitored. Of those tested, 15% showed a positive reaction such as reoccurrence of rash or hives.[1]
  • Food allergies to dairy and wheat can be due to these food being introduced too early into the diet.
  • Breast Feeding
  • The risk for developing food allergies and atopic conditions is decreased by exclusive breast feeding. If possible, exclusive breast feeding for the first 4-6 months of life is recommended.[2]
  • Breathing pattern disorders such as hypoventilation can cause certain blood cells to produce an excess of histamine, a substance which causes allergic reactions.[3]


Article Food Allergies and Sensitivities: Observing the Complete Picture, Vital Link; 2012 Summer
  • Exposure to environmental toxins especially early in life can contribute to increased risk of food allergies.


  • Family History


  • Digestion
  • Incomplete digestion of food due to hypochlorhydria or other physiological process can increase the absorption of large proteins that may act as allergens, leading to an increased of food allergy development.[4]

Testing for Food Allergies

There are various ways of assessing for food allergies, each one with their own pros and cons. The various methods include:

Related Conditions

The most common conditions associated with food allergies include:


IgE antibodies are found primarily in mucous secretions. In serum it is present in very low concentrations but may be elevated in atopic diseases such as allergic asthma, hay fever and atopic dermatitis.

An IgE reaction occurs immediately after exposure to the allergen; food or inhalant. This type of reaction is referred to as a Type I immediate hypersensitivity reaction. IgE antibodies that are specific for the allergen, bind onto immune cells called mast cells and basophils. The allergen latches onto the mast cell-bound IgE antibodies in a cross-linking manner. This initiates the release of histamine and other inflammatory mediators from these cells.

The allergic IgE response is comprised of not only an immediate event but in many cases, a late event as well. The early phase reaction usually occurs within 15 minutes of exposure to the allergen. The late phase reaction may then occur 4-6 hours later and persist for days with increased edema and inflammation.


From an immunological perspective food allergies are known as an IgE reaction and account the immediate reaction that individual's have to specific proteins in a food. A food protein which typically would be digested without concern is mistakenly identified by their immune system as being foreign or harmful. As a result it creates antibodies, known as immunoglubin E (IgE) which then react everytime the food is consumed. When IgE antibodies are activated the chemical histamine is released which can cause a number of symptoms in the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, skin or cardiovascular system.[2]

Food allergies are most common in the first few years of life, and in most cases individuals become tolerant as they age. Unfortunately this is often not the case in nut and seafood allergies.[2]


Food allergies result in immediate, typically atopic reaction. The symptoms of a mild allergic reactions includes:

  • Hives (especially over the neck and face)
  • Itching
  • Nasal congestion
  • Rashes
  • Watery, red eyes

Symptoms of a moderate or severe reaction include:[5]

  • Cramps or pain in the abdomen
  • Chest discomfort or tightness
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Fear or feeling of apprehension or anxiety
  • Flushing or redness of the face
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Palpitations
  • Swelling of the face, eyes, or tongue
  • Weakness
  • Wheezing
  • Unconsciousness

Naturopathic Treatment

The goal of naturopathic treatment is to support and work in tandem with the healing power of the body and to address the causal factors of disease with individual treatment strategies. Food allergy reactions range from mild to life-threatening. Whenever the reaction is severe it is imperative to call 911 immediately. The treatment recommendations below are a guide to mild-to-moderate food allergies only.

It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor before engaging in any treatment plan.

Home Care

The accidental ingestion of food allergens is difficult to avoid. If an individual has a known hypersensitivity, they and their family, caregivers, and/or close friends should be aware of signs of anaphylaxis and the appropriate action to take if an event occurs.[2]


Lifestyle recommendations include:

  • The most important step, and only proven prophylaxis for anaphylactic food allergies is to identify and remove food allergens from the diet.[2] Up to 1/3 of adults who avoid a food allergen completely for 1-2 years completely lose reactivity to the allergen.[6]
  • Avoid foods that have a cross-reactivity to your specific allergy.
  • Read all labels and ask detailed questions about ingredients when you are eating away from home.
  • To limit the chance of allergies with newborns follow the recommended Food Introduction Schedule and only introduce one food at a time to ensure that you can recognize allergies.
  • In cases of exercise induced food allergies, exercise should be avoided after ingesting known allergens.[2]
  • Decreasing stress can minimize the reaction experienced to food allergies in some cases.

Naturopathic Therapies

The prescribing of naturopathic therapies requires the guidance of a naturopathic doctor as it depends on a number of factors including the causal factors, a person's age, prescription medications, other conditions and symptoms and overall health. It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor prior to taking any natural therapies.

Anaphylactic Food Allergies can be an emergent condition, and in the case of severe reaction immediate medical attention is required. For therapies to treat and prevent Food Intolerances please refer to that section.

  • Herbs such as Cordyceps militaris,[7] Selaginella tamariscina,[8] and Rubus coreanus, [9] may decrease a person's reaction to food allergens.


Reviewed by Iva Lloyd, BScH, RPE, ND [3]

  1. Food Science Department of The University of Guelph, [1]
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Sampson HA, Burks AW (2008) Adkinson: Middleton's Allergy: Principles and Practice, 7th ed Chap 65 Adverse Reactions to Foods Mosby.
  3. Chaitow L, Bradley D, and Gilbert C (2002) Multidisciplinary Approaches To Breathing Pattern Disorders Churchill Livingstone
  4. Barrie S, Bongiorno PB (2006) (2006) Pizzorno Textbook of Natural Medicine 3rd ed Chap 53 Food Reactions Elsevier.
  5. PubMed Health [2]
  6. Pastorello E, Stocchi L, Pravetonni V, et al. (1989) Role of the food elimination diet in adults with food allergy J Allergy Clin Immunol 84:475-483
  7. Oh JY (2011) The ethyl acetate extract of Cordyceps militaris inhibits IgE-mediated allergic response inmast cells and passive cutaneous anaphylaxis reaction in mice J of Ethnopharmacology 135(2):422-9
  8. Dai Y (2005) Inhibitory Effects of Selaginella tamariscina on Immediate Allergic Reactions Am J of Chinese Med 33(6):957-66
  9. Shin Ty (2002) Action of Rubus coreanus extract on systemic and local anaphylaxis Phytother Res 16(6):508-13