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Quest Vitamins LTD,
8 Venture Way,
Aston Science Park,
B7 4AP.

Tel: 0121 359 0056
Fax: 0121 359 0313
Registered in England No. 2530437

Issue 29

Monthly Health Review, February 2003 href="newsletters_archive.php">(View previous newsletterss)


An Allergy is not intolerance to a food or other substance. In susceptible
people, allergies may result from exposure of the Skin to a chemical;
or of the respiratory system to inhaled particles of dust or pollen; or
of the stomach and intestines to a particular food. Allergic reactions
occur only after the first contact has sensitised the content, usually on
second or subsequent exposure to the offending substance. (1).

Diagnosing allergies and intolerances is carried out through thorough
medical examinations, blood tests, biopsy and elimination diets or other
non-clinical methods. Family history is a good predictor of a food Allergy
or intolerance because these conditions may be inherited. One person in
eight seems to have an inherited predisposition to allergies.

The best treatment for an allergic reaction is prevention, and the elimination
of the offending substance from the sensitive person's environment. Antihistamine
drugs may offer temporary relief.

Allergic reactions can be divided into different groups depending on
the type of sensitivity reaction.

"Type 1" allergic reaction

Allergens that can cause "Type 1" reactions include flowers, grass and
tree pollens, animal dander (miniscule particles of Skin), house dust,
house-dust mites (and their faeces), yeast spores, certain drugs and foods,
and constituents of bee and wasp venom. Common foods that contain substances
that can provoke allergic reactions include milk, eggs, shellfish, strawberries,
dried fruit, and nuts. In cases of extreme sensitivity, either smelling
or touching the food is enough to start an immediate reaction.

The "Type 1" reaction can occur within a minute or up to an hour after
ingestion of the allergen.

The reaction can be acute or life threatening; for example, the mouth
and throat of the individual may swell suddenly and obstruct the airways.
The reaction may be severe and may produce immediate symptoms such as
Asthma, Hives, or Shock. People with "Type 1" allergic responses never
seem to outgrow their allergies or develop a tolerance to the problem
food(s). These individuals may have to avoid all contact with the food
- never handling it, or even being in the same area when it is cooked.

The "Type 1" allergic response is brought about by the Immune System
producing Immunoglobulin E (Ig E), which is important in conferring protection
against parasites. However, Ig E also causes allergic reactions, by releasing
histamine. Ig E-antigen complexes cross-link receptors on the surfaces
of mast cells to trigger a cascade that leads to the release of immune
compounds. Histamine is one of the agents released that induces smooth
muscle contraction and stimulates the secretion of mucus (2).

The "Type 1" reaction in relation to foods is undisputed and is what
most doctors mean when they refer to a 'food Allergy'. Reactions normally
occur shortly after food ingestion and usually prove positive with Skin
prick tests to the relevant food. Other "Type 1" reactions in nature include
Bites and Stings; these may be fatal, if severe and although this is rare
it is known as anaphylactic Shock (3).

Other "Types" of immune reactions

Types 2 to 4 reactions are less implicated in allergies, because they
have different mechanisms. "Type 2" reactions are responsible for autoimmune
haemolytic Anaemia; "Type 3" for a type of lung disease called allergic
alveolitis (including farmers' lung) and for the Skin swellings that occur
after booster vaccinations. "Type 4" reactions are responsible for contact
Dermatitis (1).

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Coeliac Disease

This disease occurs in all communities where wheat
is a major staple in the diet. Both sexes are equally affected and there
is evidence from studies with twins that there is a genetic factor. Coeliac
disease is caused by sensitivity to gliadin - a protein found in the gluten
in wheat. Exactly how gliadin damages the mucosa in the small intestine
is still being explored, but is thought to be through an immune mechanism.

The mucosa in the jejunum of the coeliac contains
increased numbers of immune cells. However, the villi found in the lining
of the jejunum are flattened to the extent that absorption of nutrients
is vastly reduced. This may have a serious effect on the life of the sufferer.
Weight loss and Anaemia are particularly common in adults. The sure method
of diagnosis is to have a jejunal biopsy (4).

Diet and the Coeliac

Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. These should be excluded
from the coeliac's diet for life. Doubt exists with oats; some people
find they have sensitivity, while others don't. Rice, maize and soya products
are 'safe' and are widely available in the forms of corn or rice pastas,
rice cakes, tapioca bread and so on (4). The Coeliac Society is a useful
point of reference and can be found through the phone book or the Internet.

Dairy allergies

A protein found in dairy is attributed to dairy Allergy. Reactions to
this may be severe. Whole cows' milk contains about 3.3g of protein per
millilitre, 80% of which are casein and 20% whey. Hypersensitive reactions
are confined to the protein components. Neither milk fat nor lactose is
antigenic. There is antigenic similarity between the proteins of cows'
milk and the protein content of the milk of the other related species,
sheep and goats (4).

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Allergen avoidance

Generally advice is to avoid the allergen. Easier
said than done? Maybe.

Keeping ones living space as clean and as dust free
as possible is the biggest part of the strategy. Bear in mind that particles
of dust are actually dead cells from Skin, pets, insects (fleas, flies,
woodlice, dust-mites (and their faeces) all drop cells in our living space
where we breath, touch and eat!

During the 'Hay Fever' season, a sufferer could do
worse than strip off inside the front door of their home and have a shower
and wash their hair. Then put on some 'indoor' clothes. The 'outdoor'
clothes could then be shaken out of a window (or put in the wash) before
hanging in a separate room to the one being slept in.

Those with allergic reactions to dust mites may find
that covering the mattress and pillows with special covers useful to reduce
suffering. The removal of fitted carpets, dust-traps in bedrooms for example
open shelves with books and toys can be replaced with closed display shelves
with see-through doors.

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Nutrition and

Fish Oils, Aged Garlic Extract and Evening
Primrose Oi
l may help support the Immune System (5).

Vitamins B12 and B6 have been found to
be deficient in those with allergies (5).

Vitamin C is a natural antihistamine, so may
help to reduce the amount of histamine produced by Ig E in people with
allergies (5).

Zinc benefits the Immune System and people
with allergies are advised not to become deficient (3).

A multinutrient supplement containing good
amounts of Antioxidants may help prevent deficiencies in the diet of any
one with a food Allergy or intolerance (3).

Vitamin A may be useful in increasing anticontent
Ig A activity as the mucosal surfaces slow down passage of allergens through
the wall of the intestine. People with food sensitivity have been noted
to have unusually low levels of Ig A (6).

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Food intolerance

Food intolerance is a reproducible, unpleasant reaction
to a specific food or food ingredient that occurs each time the substance
is eaten. It is not thought to be due to a psychological cause or to food
poisoning and does not affect the Immune System (1).

The causes of food intolerance are mainly unknown,
but may include various toxins or food additives. The condition may be
associated with an adverse reaction to the foods or fermentation of unabsorbed

Food intolerance can be caused by an inborn or acquired
biochemical defect, such as a deficiency in the enzyme lactase (necessary
to digest the milk sugar lactose (1)). Lactobacillus acidophilus (friendly
bacteria) may be helpful to those with Lactose Intolerance. The lactic
bacteria help to digest the lactose (5).

The enzyme lactase as a supplement may also
be helpful to a person with a Lactose Intolerance by breaking down the
milk sugar.

Digestive Enzymes may benefit general digestion of
the fats, carbohydrates and proteins in foods.

Food intolerance is not life threatening, an Allergy
may be!

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  1. "The BMA Complete Family Health Encyclopaedia", Ed. Dr T. Smith.
    Dorling Kindersley. 1995.
  2. "Biochemistry", Lubert Stryer. Freeman. 1996. p668.
  3. "The Complete Guide to Food Allergies and Environmental Illness",
    Dr. Keith Mumby. Thorsons, 1993. p104.
  4. "Human Nutrition and Dietetics", James, Ralph & Garrow et al.
    Churchill Livingstone 2000.
  5. "Nutritional Influences on Illness", Dr. Melvyn Werbach. Thorsons.
  6. J. Allergy Clinical Immunology, Minor J.D., Tolber S.G., 1980,
    6, p314.

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