Can Food Allergies Increase with Age?
The most common food allergies in the population are peanuts, dairy, eggs, soy, shellfish and wheat. Food allergies typically begin in childhood, however food sensitivities often can occur over time as we age. Adults commonly have food allergies to peanuts and tree nuts, fish and shellfish in addition to fruit and vegetable pollen. Most common symptoms for food allergies include: hives; eczema; swelling of lips, face or tongue; difficulty breathing; abdominal pain; or dizziness. Food sensitivity symptoms are more delayed and common symptoms include migraines, stomach upset and bloating, headaches, runny nose, IBS and fatigue.
Food sensitivities can develop over time particularly if GI function is compromised. There are some genetic risk factors and items like canned foods that have shown to negatively increase chance of allergens. Lifestyle, nutrition and environmental factors as well as specific enzyme deficiencies are contributory factors. The immune system and gastrointestinal health are key areas to review since it increases the chances of overall food sensitivity. The gut microbiome can also be weak due to medications, additives, processed chemicals and antibiotic use affecting the ratio of good versus bad bacteria which increases the likelihood of food sensitivities.
I frequently treat families in our office, particularly children. I find the most critical time to address this is in childhood before food sensitivities increase; often times parents may think their child will just grow out of it, however, why wait when there are so many effective natural approaches that can ameliorate the symptoms.
It still isn’t clear as to why food allergies and sensitivities have been on the rise. Some research indicates that earlier exposure to common food allergens (younger than 2-3 years of age) helps to prevent food allergy. Similar research has been conducted to early exposure to animal dander, preventing likelihood of allergy as an adult. There have been a lot of studies related to the US being too hygeinic to decrease spread of infection. Studies have demonstrated that exposure to dirt, allergens, bacteria, and viruses regularly builds your immune tolerance. For example, a study showed that children who were raised in homes that used dishwashers more frequently had higher rates of food allergies.
It is important to consider stomach acid production both if there is too much stomach acid or too little. Lower levels of hydrochloric acid (HCL) prevents food from being broken down as well. Sometimes support with betaine HCL helps to support acid levels. Additionally, digestive enzymes help to support the body’s ability to effectively break down foods and obtain the necessary nutrients.
It may be helpful to look at histamine levels, particularly if both food and environmental allergies are present. Histamine crosses the blood brain barrier and is a component of stomach acid helping to break down food. Foods that are rich in histamine may aggravate health including runny nose, headaches, dizziness, and abdominal cramping. You should look to avoid foods that trigger, possibly foods higher in histamine, and also consider a diamine oxidase (DAO) enzyme supplement to decrease histamine levels related to food.
Individuals with food allergies may have lower immune function. Supplements like Vitamin C with bioflavonoids that not only support the immune function but have anti-histamine properties are helpful to reduce symptoms. Much of the immune function is located in the intestine, particularly under the age of 5 years old, and a good quality probiotic is also recommended. I also consider supplements such as Quercetin, which is a natural anti-histamine, a high dose fish oil and turmeric which both decreases inflammation and supports immune function.
Our office uniquely provides what is called sublingual immunotherapy to support food sensitivities. It is an alternative way to treat sensitivities without painful injections and boosts tolerance to reduce symptoms to foods. Testing needs to be completed to identify what food sensitivities are occurring and these identified food sensitivities are removed, in conjunction with taking sublingual immunotherapy daily.
It is helpful to be evaluated by a specialist in this area with complete blood work and testing to ensure an individualistic approach is recommended for food allergies and sensitivities, as it varies by individual.
Dr. Jaquel Patterson is a nationally recognized naturopathic physician and Medical Director of Fairfield Family Health. She has over 11 years of experience with a focus on Lyme disease, autoimmune conditions, allergies, women’s health, anxiety and depression and childhood developmental disorders. She is active member of International Lyme and Associated Diseases Association, American Academy of Environmental Medicine, Medical Academy for Pediatric Special Conditions and American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. She is the current President for the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.