Food/Environmental Allergy and Sensitivity

Dr. Roberts has a special medical interest in allergy, and her world-class training at Hopkins, Yale, and Mayo Clinic gives her a strong understanding of the biochemical and physiological foundations for these conditions. She has lectured to thousands of doctors on allergy treatments. Her approach is usually integrative, combining cutting-edge natural therapies with traditional medical solutions.

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Allergies result from the body’s histamine response to allergens, environmental or dietary. This reaction can cause a variety of uncomfortable symptoms, including itchy, red, watery eyes, pressure behind the eardrums, sinus congestion, skin irritations, gastrointestinal discomfort, and diarrhea/constipation. In severe cases, food allergy can lead to life-threatening anaphylaxis. Exposure to allergens can also be related to other conditions like asthma or chronic migraines. Dietary or environmental sensitivities can also cause non-traditional symptoms that are difficult to diagnose, but Dr. Roberts is an expert at discerning triggers and prescribing allergy treatments because of her specialty in auto-immunity. Of special note is her recent diagnosis and treatment of more patients with the alpha-galactose allergy, a tick-bite induced anaphylactic allergy to mammalian meat.

In contrast to these IgE or anaphylactic allergies, food sensitivities are a delayed reaction to various foods, beverages, or additives. These immune-mediated reactions are similar to allergies but do not involve the usual antibody production. They can cause gastro-intestinal issues, respiratory problems, or even skin rashes for up to 48 hours after ingesting sensitive foods. Patients can develop sensitivities to a variety of compounds—most traditionally foods, but also beverages, additives, and other chemical or “hidden” components of the diet. These people are often diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome and their symptoms, if untreated, can lead to more serious health issues. However, food sensitivity is likely to be chronic and much more difficult to diagnose than classic food allergies (classic food allergies meaning IgE-mediated causing hives, swelling, or anaphylaxis).

         Food sensitivity can result from a variety of medical conditions. These can include lack of digestive enzymes, abnormal nutrient absorption, or reactions to chemicals in processed foods. Celiac, an increasingly common disorder, results from an auto immune system response to gluten. Lactose intolerance is also a pervasive food sensitivity. Finally, hormone issues can play an important role because some chemicals mimic hormones in the body, potentially triggering inflammation in other systems. All of these problems can arise from genetics or environmental and lifestyle stressors.

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 Dr. Roberts offers unique and cutting-edge therapies for treating allergies and food sensitivity. One method is the ALCAT, a blood lab test that evaluates the patient’s reaction to hundreds of foods and indicates which ones cause reactions. The Yale School of Medicine recently completed a study showing that the test significantly improved irritable bowel syndrome, and the research has become the most read article in its journal. (https://news.yale.edu/2017/09/20/individualized-diets-irritable-bowel-syndrome-better-placebo) Having an experienced practitioner like Dr. Roberts is important for patients seeking these tests because they need guidance on how to implement the results without nutritional deficiencies and prevent future sensitivities from developing. Dr. Roberts can also often make a significant impact on patients’ food sensitivities through natural supplements that are geared toward decreasing inflammation and allergic reaction.

For patients preferring to forego testing, elimination diets can also be useful as an initial therapy for food sensitivity because they introduce or eliminate foods slowly to determine whether they cause a reaction. This path involves more trial and error than other regimens, and patients must keep a meticulous food diary to keep track of reactions and foods ingested. That information combined with records of symptoms and medication use can help us discern patterns of reactivity and make diet recommendations.