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Naturopathy & Herbs

Food Allergies

Food allergies are immune reactions to food proteins. For example, Celiac disease is an immune reaction to the protein gluten. However, food intolerances don’t involve the immune system, they are triggered by certain food chemicals which cause reactions by irritating nerve endings in different parts of the body in sensitive people. The chemicals involved in food intolerances are found in many different foods, and it would be wise to identify them, and reduce your intake of groups of foods, all of which contain the same offending substances.

Protein allergens are unique to each food, e.g. milk, egg, peanut. Dealing with a food allergy means identifying and avoiding all traces of that particular food. For example, gluten, the protein involved in celiac disease, is only found in certain grains (wheat, barley, rye) and their elimination is the basis of a gluten free diet.

One of the most common food allergies is to peanuts. Peanut allergies may be severe, but children sometimes outgrow them. Other common allergens are Tree nuts (pecans, pistachios, pine nuts, coconuts and walnuts). Also certain seeds, including sesame seeds and poppy seeds may elicit an allergic reaction.

Egg allergies affect about two percent of the population, but children often outgrow them by the time they reach five. The sensitivity to the egg protein is typically in the white, rather than the yolk.

Food allergies can be very serious (people can die) and if you, or a member of your family are susceptible to food allergies, then your GP may give you an Epipen to carry with you at all times, in case of emergency.

Osteopathy (or any other physical therapy, physiotherapy) of course, cannot treat food allergies.  According to the practice notes of some early American osteopaths  (e.g. John Littlejohn) and early twentieth century osteopaths — they were enhancing lymphatic drainage, and facilitating venous blood return, what they called 'blood congestion'.  Perhaps this is what today, in the language of modern medical science, we might term 'low-grade inflammation'.

The early phase of the allergic reaction is in part mediated by the release of histamine (together with the production of other inflammatory mediators: leukotrienes, prostaglandins and cytokines).  An allergic reaction is different from an inflammatory response which also includes the mobilisation of lymphocytes (white blood cells) particularly macrophages and phagocytes typically in response to infection.

According to the early osteopaths, how osteopathy worked, according to these osteopathic principals, was to help the autonomic nervous system to self-regulate, which would hopefully enhance many physiological processes.

Possibly this type of osteopathic treatment principle (lymphatic drainage, better autonomic nervous system regulation) and osteopathic treatment might help palliate certain symptoms.  But I make no claim here, as to the accuracy or meaning of these early osteopaths practice notes and clinical records (osteopathy for lymphatic drainage) and there is no modern evidence base for any efficacy for osteopathic treatment, and I make no claim as such.  This discussion about osteopathy, historical osteopathy and the original osteopathic principles, and acupuncture and Chinese medicine - is purely academic and speculative.

The conceptual framework and model of acupuncture and Chinese medicine also seems to work 'holistically' and seeks to treat the 'whole' person, and give constitutional treatment, to enhance 'general health'.

According to some (which I do not endorse here) acupuncture might possibly be able to partly reduce the severity of certain symptoms (perhaps by reducing the histamine response, and possibly affecting other inflammatory mediators). For more on this please see: Pacific College of Oriental Medicine.

Some modern research suggests that acupuncture might have potential to treat inflammatory diseases (e.g. Crohn's and Rheumatoid arthritis). For more see: Medical News Today.

You may also want to read the Asthma, Allergies and Food Intolerances page on this site.

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mike inman   osteopath

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