Did you know that food allergies could be responsible for your child’s bedwetting, ADD or chronic ear infections? You may find this strange, since last time you checked, the intestines were located nowhere near the ears. You might think food allergies would cause gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea, gas or constipation. And they can, but an allergy is an exaggerated immune response. And now we know that we must look to the gut when the immune system is involved. You might be familiar with the saying, “Immunity starts in the gut.” There is a good reason for that!
Gastrointestinal dysfunction has been linked to a surprising number of conditions. This connection is likely related to a breach in the intestinal barrier and is often referred to as “leaky gut”. Simply stated, leaky gut occurs when the gut lining is compromised and allows in pathogens like fungi and bacteria. These “bad bugs” upset the natural balance of the gut and create toxins that are then allowed into the bloodstream.
An imbalanced gut also cannot digest foods correctly, so undigested food particles also pass through the damaged gut lining. This is where food allergies start. The immune system sees the undigested food as an allergen and launches an antibody assault. Left untreated, the result can be systemic inflammatory and immune related symptoms. For example, food allergies have been implicated in skin conditions like eczema.
So, when the normal integrity of the G.I. tract is compromised, seemingly unrelated conditions can result. Food allergies could be causing them even though the usual G.I. symptoms are missing. The ability of the body to maintain healthy G.I. function and to heal the G.I. barrier when its integrity is breached is integral to protection from any disease or disorder.
The 4R Model to Address Food Allergies
Functional medicine uses a holistic approach to treating G.I. dysfunction resulting from food allergies. We use the 4R model to guide our clinical evaluation of G.I. function and also to recommend interventions that focus on normalizing and optimizing gastrointestinal function. “4R” references the program’s four basic clinical steps: remove, replace, reinoculate and repair.
The 4R Model asks four primary questions in a patient with G.I. related complaints or complaints where we suspect leaky gut as the culprit. It is designed to provide a focus for evaluation of the status of G.I. function with interventions targeted to appropriate nutritional, digestive, probiotic/prebiotic and antimicrobial therapy.
- Remove: What may need to be removed to support healthy G.I. function? We may need to assess the presence/activity of pathogenic or potentially pathogenic yeast, bacteria or protozoa or foods and additives that result in allergic or intolerant responses.
- Replace: What may need to be replaced to support healthy G.I. function, digestive enzymes, bile salts, or stomach acid secretions?
- Reinoculate: What may be needed to support and/or reestablish a healthy balance of micro flora? This step may include reinoculation with probiotic and or pre-biotics.
- Repair: What may be needed to support regeneration and repair of a healthy mucosal layer? A variety of specific nutrients and phytonutrients are available for this purpose.
When your functional-integrative physician evaluates and treats in this holistic way, your child’s complaints can be relieved and further complications can be avoided. When we find the root cause, we not only solve the initial complaint, but also the food allergies and other underlying, inflammatory conditions. This is why your integrative pediatricians at CIPC believe that functional medicine is the way to eliminate the cause of illness and pave the way to healing!
Symptoms and diseases that may be associated with food allergies:
Gastrointestinal: Canker sores, celiac disease, chronic diarrhea, stomach ulcers, duodenal ulcers, recurrent mouth ulcers, indigestion, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, gas, gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and colic in babies
Genitourinary: Bedwetting, chronic bladder infections, nephrotic syndrome, frequent urination
HEENT (head, ears, eyes, nose, throat): Serous otitis media (inflammation of the middle ear), migraine headaches
Mental/Emotional: Attention deficit disorder, depression, anxiety, memory loss, epileptic seizures, schizophrenia
Musculoskeletal: Joint pain, myalgia, rheumatoid arthritis
Respiratory: Asthma, chronic or allergic sinusitis, constant runny or congested nose, nasal polyps
Cardiovascular: Irregular heart rhythm, vasculitis (inflammation of the veins producing purpura—purple rash), spontaneous bruising, urticaria (hives), edema
Skin: Eczema, psoriasis, urticaria (hives), red and itchy eyes, itchy skin