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Food Allergies and Food Intolerances Reveal The True Human Diet
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February 15, 2011
3:04 am
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Eight foods account for over 90% of food allergies in the United States.

Allergies!

There are four types of allergic hypersensitivity, unhelpfully called Type I through Type IV. When we think of 'allergies', we generally think of Type I reactions, which involve mast cells and result in symptoms like asthma, hives, and anaphylaxis. Indeed, type I allergies are the subject of this article.

(Note that immunoglobulins will only bond to proteins under normal circumstances. This is why allergies to fruit or vegetables are rare, and why most allergies are to foods high in protein.)

Until recently, the medical community basically refused to acknowledge…

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February 15, 2011
6:45 am
Bodhi
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Thanks for another educational blog post. I knew people had allergies to shellfish, but I didn't realize that fish were a problem for so many people. I guess that shoots another hole in the "Aquatic Ape Theory". Why are we hairless anyways? I guess you can answer that question for me on another blog post. I also didn't know that only the three nuts you listed above were "true" nuts. I knew that cashews were the seed of a fruit but I didn't know that about pecans, walnuts, and etc. You didn't list nightshades in your article and they seem to be a problem for a lot of people, myself included. I know they are a New World plant and were not included in the human diet until recently.

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February 15, 2011
7:02 am
Day 23 | Sno Valley
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[...] Food Allergies and Food Intolerances Reveal the True Human Diet [...]

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February 15, 2011
7:43 am
Tweets that mention
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[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Kenneth Younger III, Ben Cox. Ben Cox said: @philkjames should read this RT @kenny Food Allergies and Food Intolerances Reveal The True Human Diet - http://t.co/VjfP62u [...]

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February 15, 2011
9:57 am
Chris
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JS,
I've always enjoyed your posts, and wait to read them every Tuesday. Thanks for all the information!

I am curious about one point in this article though. Dairy. All of the studies (including the link to WikiPedia) use pasteurized dairy - and from experience I've seen people who are lactose intolerent have no reaction to raw dairy. Any thoughts?

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February 15, 2011
10:42 am
tracker
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I think we may tolerate raw dairy better, despite whatever the commercial milk industry would have us believe. Most of my ancestors came from Europe, but I have Native American in my family tree too, so milk, the kind you buy at the store, typically would upset my stomach if I drank very much. It's not pleasant, so I've never been a big consumer of milk, until recently that is.

We started getting milk from a local dairy (cows are grass fed) and it's raw, and amazingly enough, it doesn't bother me. I've heard similar stories from other people.

Anyway, very interesting article. I had never thought about food allergies in that way. It sure does make sense though.

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February 15, 2011
11:16 am
Emily
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I know a person allergic to cow protein. And cow dairy, so literally she can't eat anything from a cow. How has she not been "eliminated" from the gene pool?

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February 15, 2011
1:07 pm
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Bodhi:

I've never been a fan of aquatic ape theory. Taphonomic analysis can find tiny scratch marks on 2.6 million year old bones, but it can't find unequivocal evidence that shellfish were smashed open with rocks?  Color me skeptical.

As far as nightshades, they're out there as an allergen…but they're not one of the Big Eight.  Everything else is small potatoes (ha, ha) by comparison to them.  And I'm not sure they're a true allergy…just a chemical reaction to the solanine.  What reaction do you get?

Chris, tracker:

Lactose intolerance is lactose intolerance, and it doesn't matter if it's raw or pasteurized.  Casein allergy is the usual true milk allergy (very few people have whey issues AFAIK) and it may be that anti-inflammatory antibodies in raw milk get denatured in pasteurization.  There also may be an A1 vs. A2 beta casein issue…but this is all sort of guesswork on my part, as I'm not an expert on dairy chemistry.  You might ask your raw milk source what kind of cow it is, and whether they know if it's A1 or A2.

What sort of symptoms do you get from pasteurized vs. raw milk?  Allergic, or digestive issues?

Emily:

Mutations happen all the time, and most are bad: there are a lot more ways to screw up development and survival than to enhance it.  Now that medical technology lets everyone survive, humans are accumulating deleterious mutations at an amazing rate.

I actually looked around for research on red meat allergies, and apparently it's almost completely unknown except in Australia, where being bitten by a certain type of tick carries a non-zero risk of triggering an allergy red meat.  And even then it's extremely rare.  Pork or chicken is far more common...and even those allergies are insignificant compared to the Big Eight.

Is this person allergic to other things?  Because there are a lot of people with leaky, damaged guts (typically starting with undiagnosed celiac) who become allergic to all sorts of stuff as a result of that.

JS

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February 15, 2011
4:53 pm
Bodhi
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" What reaction do you get?"

I get canker sore if I eat too many tomatoes. If I eat tomatoes and chilies on a consistent basis I develop blisters on my index and middle finger that look like small canker sores. I really haven't notice any reaction to peeled potatoes.

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February 15, 2011
10:55 pm
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Bodhi:

Sounds like a Type III allergy: it is theorized that canker sores are an autoimmune reaction, though no one has yet figured them out completely. (They're more prevalent in celiacs.) Interesting that you only get them from peppers and tomatoes, not potatoes, which means it probably has nothing to do with solanine. (Which is a glycoalkaloid, anyway, not a protein).

JS

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February 16, 2011
6:56 am
Bodhi
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Thanks for the follow up. Cutting out wheat has been the most beneficial aspect of the Primal Diet for me. I'm following Sisson's Primal Blueprint for the most part. My 20% comes in the way of heavy cream, potatoes, and corn chips.

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February 16, 2011
9:46 am
Ravi
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Hey--

I commented on your last post about this - "evidence" of dairy consumption is sadly lacking in the historical record - but upon investigation, *many* (not all) populations are very tolerant of and even highly benefit from dairy products with little or no difficulty- that there are examples of populations (africans you point out) that are less efficient in producing lactase after childhood - SIMPLY DOES NOT automatically jam dairy into a "neolithic" foodstuff! Perhaps they (with the excepting massai) did not find the need to capture and keep mammels for nutritional benefit in their environment? It's a big world - paleolithic eating must have been pretty damn diverse, don't you think?

If you are to use the allergy/food intolerance model as a frame for what to or not to eat - then you would have to seriously consider a whole host of confounding variables in modern diet and life - developed sensitivities due to years of processed food consumption, interactive or stimulated sensitivities (as grains damaging the gut - leaky gut - and resulting rheumatoid arthritis and other auto-immune reactions), sensitivities/allergic reactions caused by early life introduction to foodstuffs NOT appropriate to humans (soy milk, and the like) - all these things trigger sometimes life-long reactions that do not really indicate that certain foodstuffs reacted to were necessarily totally non-paleo.

I don't disagree with all your classifications, i just think that this particular frame is only an adjunct to the judging whole picture.

I posit that there are many - certainly many european - populations, that not only thrive on dairy with little or no lactose intolerance (and BTW - lactose intolerance as defined is NOT an allergy - there are allergies to dairy - but grain consumption is highly suspect in producing those reactions...) You can even argue that access to the nutritional benefits of dairy helped many populations survive harsher climates - consider the Lapp people in norther europe (and their progenitors) who herd WILD reindeer for their dairy products have done this many eons ago with no surviving evidence?

The evidence i would consider in this case is the hugely beneficial effects of especially goats milk and the almost universal keeping of goats in the still-nomadic and pastoral populations surviving today- they hardly could all be descendants of middle-eastern fertile crescent animal domesticators from only 7000 years ago now, could they?

Anyway - 2 of my 3 part arguments is here: Dairy IS Paleo, http://daiasolgaia.com/?p=1302

your posts are great BTW - provocative and fun to read--

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February 19, 2011
10:05 am
Chuckster
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Hum, so you say fruits and vegetables have essentially no protein.

Yet I get 50 grams of protein a day from nothing but fruits and vegetables.

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February 19, 2011
10:48 am
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Ravi:

Dairy is a very cultural thing AFAIK, and one of the obvious adaptations that some ethnic groups have made to a Neolithic (and possibly Late Paleolithic) diet.

As I point out above, butterfat is a good food for everyone...it's the casein and lactose that some have issues with.  (Thus fermented dairy products like yogurt, in which bacteria predigest much of the lactose.)  I myself drink half-and-half from time to time, frequently cook with butter, and sometimes consume full-fat yogurt.  However, I minimize my intake of lactose due to its likely contribution to AGEs (it's just as unstable in vivo as fructose).

Have you looked into the A1 vs. A2 beta casein issue?  Apparently A2 is the ancestral variety and A1 is a more recent mutation.

Chuckster:

Which vegetables and fruits are you eating to get you to 50g?  I don't count potatoes, beans, or grains (including pseudo-grains like quinoa) as vegetables...although it's a culinary term and not precisely defined, the usual definition is "An edible plant or part of a plant other than a sweet fruit or seed.  This typically means the leaf, stem, or root of a plant."  

Perhaps you're eating a boatload of asparagus, broccoli, and brussels sprouts?  But given that (for example) one spear of asparagus has exactly four calories, I can't see eating enough of it every day to get you to 50g of protein.

Bananas have the opposite problem: there's about one gram of protein in a banana, and 40 bananas would result in 4800 calories/day, which doesn't seem realistic.  So now you've piqued my curiosity.

JS

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February 19, 2011
9:47 pm
Cornelius
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Regarding someone saying they are allergic to anything that comes from a bovine, I have known people who claimed to be allergic to a lot of things. In the last couple of years I have encountered several people who claimed to be allergic to sugar, of all things, and while I did not attempt to disillusion them, this is every bit as impossible as being allergic to oxygen. Glucose is largely what our bodies run on, after all.

Regarding Native Americans and lactose intolerance, that link shows a very small sampling of people, and I am speculating that they were all from the same tribe. I think it is a mistake to lump all of us together, as our diets varied so widely from place to place. I certainly have no lactose intolerance, (I love milk) but my tribe derived almost all of our sustenance from buffalo for millennia. Not a lot of fruit and veggies on the Great Plains. ;)

(And no, I am not suggesting we were in the habit of milking them, merely that this diet may have exposed us to things that led to better lactose tolerance.)

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February 20, 2011
2:48 pm
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Cornelius:

I wasn't going to say it, but since you brought it up...yes, there are a lot of people who absolutely swear to allergies they don't have.  Type I hypersensitivity is very straightforward and easily testable.  And you're correct: being allergic to glucose is like being allergic to water.

It might be possible to be allergic to molasses or brown sugar, since those contain other plant compounds...but I have a hard time imagining how anyone can be allergic to white sugar.  Like I said in the article, allergies are to proteins.  (Fructose malabsorption is real...but that's not an allergy, and most of those people think fruits are just fine for them, so I'm calling 'sugar allergy' a form of orthorexia.)

As far as Native Americans and dairy: I'm sure you're right, and that was one study from one area.  I'd be interested to know who.  But AFAIK there is no history of animal husbandry in America previous to the arrival of Europeans, so I'm not sure how tolerance would have been selected for.  In the case of Eastern tribes, I'd suspect race mixing after colonization (a meaningful number of whites ran away from the rigid, autocratic Puritan colonies and 'went native'), but there wasn't much of that by the time Europeans got to the Great Plains.  I'll file it under "things I don't know the answer to".

JS

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February 25, 2011
12:45 pm
Marisa
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Regarding a "sugar allergy," it is most certainly possible to be allergic to what most Americans call "sugar," that is, sugars from the sugar-cane plant. It would more appropriately be termed an allergy to the sugar cane plant itself. I have suffered from this intolerance, or allergy, or whatever you want to call it, for my entire life - certainly before I was old enough to have a phobia of anything.

When I consume products from the sugar cane plant (white sugar, molassas, brown sugar, evaporated cane juice, etc), it triggers a reaction that causes a chemical imbalance (similar to the imbalances that cause depression). As a child, this manifested itself as crazy or angry behavior. Now, as an adult, it manifests itself as intense sadness, often accompanied by inexplicable crying. I have experienced this in many tests, many of which were double-blind "accidents." Still to this day, I can tell (or my family and friends can tell) if I've accidentally had sugar at a restaurant or in a dish prepared by someone else. It took until the 5th grade for my family (with the help of some medical allergy experts)to figure out what substance was causing my psychological problems!

I don't know how you would classify it - whether it would medically be called an "allergy" or an "intolerance," but it is most assuredly a real reaction to the byproducts of the cane plant. I am unperturbed by fructose and artificial sweeteners - with the sole exception of sucralose (Splenda), which is a byproduct of cane!

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February 25, 2011
6:42 pm
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Marisa:

Very interesting!  Are you sensitive to corn syrup/HFCS?  Beet sugar?  Dextrose?  Invert sugar?  And how long after ingestion does it take for these symptoms to manifest?  Is there any physical component, or is it purely emotional?

JS

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March 9, 2011
7:52 pm
Brandon Nolte
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JS,

What about allergies to fruit? My dad has been developing allergies to different fruits. It started with Kiwi a while back. Then it was pineapples. More recently peaches and now blueberries too. What is happening that would explain this? (Note: he is very active and in shape for a 55 year old, but doesn't eat paleo/primal - although he is starting to come around).

I love your blog by the way. I just found out about it from Angelo Coppola's "Latest in Paleo" podcast.

Thanks for the great article.

Brandon

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March 9, 2011
8:45 pm
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Brandon:

Welcome! Angelo spoke very kindly of this place in his podcast, and I'm glad you find it informative.

It's possible to have allergies to some fruits: kiwis, pineapples, peaches, and blueberries all have a little bit of protein in them (as opposed to cherries, lemons, limes, and mangoes, which have essentially none).  But it's rare in the grand scheme of things: the Big Eight are responsible for over 90% of allergies in the world.

What are his reactions like? (I'm wondering if it might be a reaction to something sprayed on the fruit and not the fruit itself.) Are these foods he ate often, or just occasionally? Is he manifesting allergies to anything else, or just fruit? Does he have IBS or any other digestive problems?

JS

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