When most people think of food allergies, what often comes to mind is the image of a child going into anaphylactic shock after exposure to peanuts.
A much more common scenario is an adult with a low-grade food allergy to gluten, who never pinpoints the cause of their misery. The symptoms are vague (bloating, constipation, weight gain) and the exposure is frequent (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), so the connection between the offending food and the symptoms is difficult to make. Over years, the hidden allergy takes a toll on the immune system. The result of an overworked immune system is everything from weight gain to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to arthritis.
During this process, the lining of the gut becomes inflamed and small fissures open between the tightly woven cells making up the gut walls. These chinks in the gut’s armor allow bacteria and partially digested food molecules to slip into the bloodstream where they are considered foreign invaders. The immune system then mounts an immune response where white blood cells rush to surround the offending particle. The result is inflammation. This smoldering fire occurs every time the offending food is consumed.
Most people eat foods they are allergic to several times a day. Every time that food enters the body, the immune system responds with an inflammatory response. Because symptoms can be delayed up to 72 hours after eating, a low-grade food allergy can be hard to spot. Without diagnosis or awareness, the damage is repeated over and over, meal after meal.