Q&A: Food Allergies

Q: Does it make sense to get tested after you have already excluded a possible food allergen? If yes, would we have to ingest the things we are allergic to for the testing to provide a result?

Background:  My wife is fortunate.  She can eat anything she wants.  At this point, the rest of us are envious. Our daughter decided she was gluten intolerant at age 11, then broadened to a corn, wheat intolerance with a focus on high fructose corn syrup.  At age 11 she was a walking diagnostic tool.  Flushing on her face, swelling of her nose and a head ache.  Without any question she is allergic to gluten and corn.

I have some symptoms that seem to be triggered by food, wheat and corn for the most part.  I eliminated these and felt much better and the rashes disappeared.

Our son believed he was not impacted by food allergies.  This year we were concerned because he was sickly and underweight.  His sister suggested that he might have some sort of diet-related condition.  He changed his diet, now he is gaining weight and looking better. My son can tell within minutes if he has eaten something with high fructose corn syrup.  This seems to be a food ingredient that causes all three of us to immediately react severely.

Family History:  After my daughter had these problems, I discovered from my mother that other family members have similar problems.  My mother, uncles and grandfather all had strange allergies related to corn and wheat.  As a young man, my grandfather had part of his colon removed and wound up deciding he felt best if he stuck to eating oat bran.  In the last five years, my brother has had a difficult time and is now excluding corn and wheat

B.D. West Hartford

A: Thank you so much for sharing your story.

It is best to not reintroduce foods that cause symptoms because they could cause inflammation and potentially harm intestinal vili (the cells that line our intestine and help us absorb nutrients).

I have a hunch that your grandfather may have had celiac disease. People with celiac disease have an increased risk of microscopic colitis and inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis).

I would recommend discussing your symptoms and family medical history with your primary care physician. Confirm your diagnosis and schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian who has experience with medical nutrition therapy for gastrointestinal disorders, food allergies and FODMAPs.

Lactose intolerance and fructose malabsorption are also more common among celiac sufferers and can lead to bloating, gas, cramping and diarrhea. 

Recurring diarrhea increases risk for nutrient deficiencies such as: folic acid, zinc, iron, and calcium so it is important to find the root cause to get symptoms under control.

Fructose malabsorption can also cause fatigue, headaches, mood changes, and constipation. The treatment for fructose malabsorption is a low fructose diet. This diet limits foods containing high amounts of fructose and fructans — a form of fructose found in wheat and vegetables. Some examples of foods high in fructose are: apples, pears, peaches, honey, and fruit juice concentrate. You can find detailed lists online.

Your family may also benefit from a low FODMAP diet. (FODMAP is an acronym for the short-chain carbohydrates that are not absorbed adequately by the small intestine: Fermentable, Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols.) For more information on this topic and to download a free Low FODMAP App for Apple and Android, click here.

Be well.

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