Hold the gluten
Do you really need that special menu?
Juliette Allen Published: 10/24/2019
There are certain restaurants with a reputation for drawing in a desirable demographic: the young professionals ranging in age from about 22 to 35. What do most of these hot spots have in common? Irresistible food, Instagram-worthy décor and many times, a gluten-free or vegan menu.
“In my professional experience, I have noticed an increase in food allergies over the years,” Michael Young, MD, a family physician with Baptist Primary Care, said. “The CDC backs my experience up, stating that food allergies increased by 50% from 1997 to 2011.”
While the exact cause of the increase in food allergies is unclear, Dr. Young offered several hypotheses.
- The medical community has become more efficient at diagnosing food allergies, leading to higher numbers of diagnoses.
- Lack of exposure to infectious organisms in childhood may create a scenario in which the immune system mistakes a food protein as an invading organism.
- Overuse of antibiotics can cause changes to the microbiome, which is partially responsible for the immune system. The microbiome plays a part in epigenetics – the influence of internal and external factors that change a person’s genes. While the exact cause of allergies is unknown, Dr. Young says medical professionals know genes and the environment play a role.
- Exposure to chemicals and certain food in utero may cause allergies.
Dr. Young said 90% of food allergies come from 8 foods:
- Tree nuts
“There is a belief now that over-avoidance of foods may lead to food allergies,” Dr. Young said. “Current research shows the early introduction of common food allergens may prevent allergies. For example, there are guidelines supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics to introduce peanuts to the highest-risk infants as early as 4 to 6 months of age.”
According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open, an estimated 10.8% of adults in the United States have been diagnosed with at least one food allergy, while 19% of U.S. adults believe they have a food allergy.
“People who voluntarily cut foods from their diet may be missing key nutrients and vitamins,” Dr. Young said. “It is easy to find those nutrients in other foods, but it is important to discuss it with your doctor.”
Just because a person doesn’t have a food allergy, however, doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t have a food intolerance. According to Dr. Young, food intolerance is more of a digestive issue than a true allergy.
Some popular diets and alternative ways to get necessary nutrients are:
- Gluten-free: Gluten-free processed foods are typically lower in fiber and have a higher glycemic index, meaning they cause a rapid rise in blood sugar, according to Dr. Young. Additionally, foods with gluten, such as breads and cereals, are typically fortified with multiple vitamins. Pseudo-grains like quinoa or amaranth, an ancient grain originally grown and harvested by the Aztecs, are good sources of fiber for a gluten-free diet.
- Dairy-free: A dairy-free diet can lead to deficiencies in protein, calcium, vitamin D, zinc and phosphorous. Protein can be made up through the consumption of meat, fish, legumes and protein powders. Calcium can be found in leafy green vegetables, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and black beans. Both mushrooms and seafood such as cod, shrimp, sardines and salmon are good sources of vitamin D. Zinc and phosphorous can be found in multiple types of meat, lentils, chickpeas, nuts, pumpkin seeds and sesame seeds.
- Vegan: A vegan diet can lead to deficiencies in vitamin B12, vitamin D, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids and iron. Deficiencies in vitamin D and zinc can be addressed in the same ways as for a dairy-free diet. Vitamin B12 can be consumed through nutritional yeast, plant milks and supplements. Iron can be found in lentils, soybeans and tofu. To make up omega-3 fatty acids, a person could turn to chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts.
Dr. Young recommends always talking to your primary care doctor before starting any new diet plan to ensure it’s right for you.
If you suspect you have a food allergy or intolerance, reach out to your primary care physician for guidance. To find the right primary care doctor for you, call 904.202.4YOU. Baptist Health also offers wellness coaching through its Y Healthy Living Centers.