4

votes

Why are Paleo Foods among the Most Common Allergens?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created March 09, 2012 at 5:20 PM

In paleo-circles grains, legumes, dairy, etc. are generally considered to be problematic foods which cause adverse reactions in people due to us not being genetically adapted to them. And there is certainly some truth to that. For instance, folks who's ancestors embraced dairy longer ago, tolerate lactose better than the rest of the world which did not start drinking milk until much later.

But are "paleo" foods really totally benign?

According to The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN???)

"Eight foods account for 90 percent of all food-allergic reactions.

They are milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, soy, and wheat. Some of these allergens may be outgrown, but others, such as peanut and shellfish, will remain lifelong allergies."

Now of course it just doesn't get more paleo than fish. According to paleo theory humans should be exquisitely adapted to fish. And yet it is one of the foods MOST likely to cause a terrible reaction in humans.

Thoughts anyone?

I mean is it really fair for us paleo-inclined folks to bash wheat and other grains, and yet fish is also very, very problematic for certain people?

(BTW - I'm not a troll. I follow a diet somewhere between Weston Price and paleo.

Cebbca9a78d5612bf3468b273c2010d5

(452)

on August 11, 2012
at 07:09 PM

I absolutely agree!

9140810eb28b318fb081c1f98c0989c8

(459)

on March 10, 2012
at 01:02 AM

Well, Mystery Man X, given that, and this: More than 3% of adults have one or more food (http://www.aaaai.org/about-the-aaaai/newsroom/allergy-statistics.aspx), I would expect *most* cases of swimmy fish allergies exist concurrent with other food allergies. Also, note that your statistic is "seafood", not "swimmy fish". Interestingly, "Peanut allergy affects 1.2% of children. Approximately 20% of children outgrow it by age 6." the incidence of seafood allergies is twice that of peanuts, and yet, we hear tons and tons about peanut allergies, and very, very little about seafood allergies.

35ba1f50dad25c85ac1aa2599fe5c5cb

(2485)

on March 09, 2012
at 11:15 PM

Exactly, I'd bold eggs. Personally, I have an egg sensitivity.

0a0afca93a127c82ec4192a2e99647f4

on March 09, 2012
at 10:34 PM

@ Dragonfly - Could be. My wife and I just watched an amazing documentary about how natural vaginal childbirth is becoming less and less common due to the "McDonaldsization" of childbirth these days. Basically they induce labor with dangerous drugs or simply schedule C-sections because it's much more convenient for the doctor that way as opposed to having to wait hours for a natural birth. However.... Any reason this could not also perhaps explain why so many have issues with wheat/gluten/grains?

0a0afca93a127c82ec4192a2e99647f4

on March 09, 2012
at 10:26 PM

Interesting thoughts Jenny. But wouldn't this line of reasoning have to then apply equally to grains? Perhaps folks have bad reactions to grains due to poor early immune development, such as the parasitic-worm component of the hygiene hypothesis? As opposed to grains being de-facto unhealthy per-se.

0a0afca93a127c82ec4192a2e99647f4

on March 09, 2012
at 10:16 PM

"An estimated 2.3% of Americans – that’s nearly 7 million people – report allergy to seafood, including fish and shellfish. Salmon, tuna, and halibut are the most common kinds of fish to which people are allergic." - http://www.foodallergy.org/page/fish-allergy

Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32564)

on March 09, 2012
at 09:49 PM

Re: poor gut bacteria: 30% of births in the US are C-sections in which the baby did not get exposed to mom's flora through vaginal birth. In addition, many babies are also getting antibiotics via mom because of hospital protocol for Group B Strep.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on March 09, 2012
at 09:33 PM

true that Jenny J.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on March 09, 2012
at 08:48 PM

"I would hazard the guess that most babies aren't actually born with a fish allergy"- shellfish allergies actually manifest very early, one of the most common toddler and early child hood allergic reactions. My boyfriend (vaginal birth, breast fed to two years, grew up on a farm, ate veg and breast milk only) first had an anaphylactic reaction to shellfish when he was a 1 year old. I think there's something to be said about early immune development, such as the parasitic-worm component of the hygiene hypothesis.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on March 09, 2012
at 08:45 PM

Also, to answer, most people are allergic to shellfish but not "swimmy fish". My boyfriend's allergy is quite rare, because he is not allergic to shellfish but is allergic to fish-fish. In his particular case, if he has canned tuna his mouth gets a little itchy, but it is not very bothersome. If he has salmon, halibut, cod etc the epipen has to be very close by, otherwise its life or death. There is probably some variance between each fish in terms of reaction, but it's way to much of a risk to experiment...

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on March 09, 2012
at 08:43 PM

My boyfriend is allergic to fish but NOT shellfish, and he ate some cod liver oil when he was little. His mom was terrified and took him to emerg, but his tongue swelled up a bit, he felt a little funny, but it didn't give him the anephylactic response he normally gets immediately.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on March 09, 2012
at 08:41 PM

Yeah, my boyfriend is allergic to "swimmy fish" and not shellfish, which his allergist said is almost unheard of.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on March 09, 2012
at 08:39 PM

There is also the tropical-parasitic-worm component of the hygiene hypothesis, that it's not just exposure to a lack of soil bacteria, but also a lack of exposure to parasitic worms. This fits in nicely with IgE acting as the antibody to parasitic worms, which means that it can act inappropriately in certain predisposed (hello genetics) individuals. Microbiologists have been doing some under-the-counter trials, especially in Europe (including on their own children, which microbiologists seem particularly prone to do) and the word is very positive results.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on March 09, 2012
at 08:31 PM

Yes, so lean http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_of_Willendorf 0_o the stuff that paleolithic people ate would probably make a lot of modern paleo dieters sick (rotted carrion anyone? cannibalism? robust evidence for both). Also, can we please stop thinking of what paleo human could eat in terms of modern humans looking outside? I've seen that time and time again. You and I are not as smart or resourceful as them.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on March 09, 2012
at 08:27 PM

Hey, Bill! Good to hear from you! Great answer.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on March 09, 2012
at 08:25 PM

For the record, I don't plan to splurge on wheat but it was a stress-induced action I hope to manage better in future.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on March 09, 2012
at 08:24 PM

Same here. When I started I couldn't tolerate dairy or starch or wheat. Now I'm fine with dairy and starch and had my first symptom-free wheat splurge this week.

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6

(1507)

on March 09, 2012
at 07:00 PM

why didn't you bold font eggs?

Fc6a9e07f6056d465573c8969d3a2ddd

(370)

on March 09, 2012
at 06:55 PM

+1 because fish != shellfish

E0250b1e6dc5ec1539ffb745042b4d80

(3651)

on March 09, 2012
at 06:38 PM

How so? Paleo people grew wheat and processed it? I think it started when someone discovered beer!

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on March 09, 2012
at 06:34 PM

If Paleo really said wheat wasn't food it would be wrong.

0d0842381492a41b2173a04014aae810

(4875)

on March 09, 2012
at 06:22 PM

+1. My food sensitivities (dairy especially) have improved or completely resolved themselves since I began eating in such a way that my leaky gut was able to heal. Imbalanced/insufficient gut flora are worth considering as well.

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12 Answers

13
9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on March 09, 2012
at 06:07 PM

Well, why do humans have allergies in the first place? It's not all about food. It's about environment too and a growing body of evidence implicates the early childhood and maternal environment. Exposure to toxins in the womb and during breast feeding, improper modulation of the immune system due to poor exposure to "dirt" (the hygiene hypothesis), not breastfeeding, and a poor population of gut bacteria are just some of the issues in play. Norway was able to reduce incidence of food allergies by more strongly encouraging breastfeeding.

In adults, a poor diet can sensitive people to allergies. Having a leaky gut, for example, allows things to get into your system that shouldn't be there and then your body starts attacking them as intruders.

It's also a common myth that only plants defend themselves from predators with potentially reactive compounds. Animals (like shellfish) do it too.

So the whole evolutionary medicine thing accounts for food allergies and why there is no "one" paleo diet, but self-experimentation to find what foods work for you.

Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab

(32564)

on March 09, 2012
at 09:49 PM

Re: poor gut bacteria: 30% of births in the US are C-sections in which the baby did not get exposed to mom's flora through vaginal birth. In addition, many babies are also getting antibiotics via mom because of hospital protocol for Group B Strep.

0a0afca93a127c82ec4192a2e99647f4

on March 09, 2012
at 10:34 PM

@ Dragonfly - Could be. My wife and I just watched an amazing documentary about how natural vaginal childbirth is becoming less and less common due to the "McDonaldsization" of childbirth these days. Basically they induce labor with dangerous drugs or simply schedule C-sections because it's much more convenient for the doctor that way as opposed to having to wait hours for a natural birth. However.... Any reason this could not also perhaps explain why so many have issues with wheat/gluten/grains?

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on March 09, 2012
at 09:33 PM

true that Jenny J.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on March 09, 2012
at 08:39 PM

There is also the tropical-parasitic-worm component of the hygiene hypothesis, that it's not just exposure to a lack of soil bacteria, but also a lack of exposure to parasitic worms. This fits in nicely with IgE acting as the antibody to parasitic worms, which means that it can act inappropriately in certain predisposed (hello genetics) individuals. Microbiologists have been doing some under-the-counter trials, especially in Europe (including on their own children, which microbiologists seem particularly prone to do) and the word is very positive results.

5
E0250b1e6dc5ec1539ffb745042b4d80

(3651)

on March 09, 2012
at 05:24 PM

It's a strawman.

Paleo does not say avoid wheat because it's an allergen. It's says avoid it because it is not food, so it doesn't count!

You can't account for food allergies. Onions kick my ass. That's just sulphur.

E0250b1e6dc5ec1539ffb745042b4d80

(3651)

on March 09, 2012
at 06:38 PM

How so? Paleo people grew wheat and processed it? I think it started when someone discovered beer!

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on March 09, 2012
at 06:34 PM

If Paleo really said wheat wasn't food it would be wrong.

3
7bf306ada57db47547e9da39a415edf6

(11214)

on March 09, 2012
at 05:54 PM

Yeah, but the 90% skewed heaviliy towards the non-paleo side, and it is likely an unhealthy gut that leads to these things anyway.

0d0842381492a41b2173a04014aae810

(4875)

on March 09, 2012
at 06:22 PM

+1. My food sensitivities (dairy especially) have improved or completely resolved themselves since I began eating in such a way that my leaky gut was able to heal. Imbalanced/insufficient gut flora are worth considering as well.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on March 09, 2012
at 08:25 PM

For the record, I don't plan to splurge on wheat but it was a stress-induced action I hope to manage better in future.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on March 09, 2012
at 08:24 PM

Same here. When I started I couldn't tolerate dairy or starch or wheat. Now I'm fine with dairy and starch and had my first symptom-free wheat splurge this week.

2
361e96d70d6d3b91d63f6ad975e60ab6

(840)

on March 09, 2012
at 10:32 PM

I interpret this a different way

Why are so many SAD foods among the most common allergies?

Nearly everything processed, and the SAD diet is comprised of dairy, soy, and wheat. On the paleo diet you are cutting out 2, maybe 3 of those things, and focusing on more veggies, thus pulling your plate away the most common allergies. What could give you more reason to follow paleo?

Cebbca9a78d5612bf3468b273c2010d5

(452)

on August 11, 2012
at 07:09 PM

I absolutely agree!

1
0a0afca93a127c82ec4192a2e99647f4

on March 09, 2012
at 10:23 PM

Several of you have suggested leaky-gut as a possible mechanism, which is interesting. And that may very well be the case.

But...

If leaky gut "exonerates fish" then why doesn't it exonerate wheat or grains?

Seems we are perhaps applying a double-standard here?

We come up with creative excuses for why a paleo food like fish is "an issue" for some folks, yet when it comes to wheat or grains we simply call them evil neolithic agents of death, mayhem and disease.

Perhaps grains are not evil? But rather people have bad reactions to grains due to leaky gut.

Where were all the "wheat sensitive" people 20 years ago?

Sure, there were some, but not like these days I don't think.

1
1c67bc28f4e44bbb8770b86df0463df3

on March 09, 2012
at 08:15 PM

Our Paleo ancestors most certainly ate and operated completely differently than what we 'Paleo' eaters do.

Try eating what you could collect if you actually tried. Good luck. I just looked outside and saw a cat, some squirrels, little birds and thats about it.

Eating Bacon, Eggs, and heavy cream for breakfast.

Salmon, Spinach, Oranges, Nuts for lunch.

and Grass Fed Beef with squash, a salad with olive oil and vinegar for dinner.

Thats 2012 'Paleo' but most certainly nothing like what real life Paleo folks ate.

Many of us over consume and have too many options, too much availability to food, etc.

Paleo man was without a doubt LEAN, Mean(from hunger), and a fighting machine with a slooow metabolism and expended energy on only a couple of things. Procuring water, and hunting/picking/gathering and sex, and thats it.

9d43f6873107e17ca4d1a5055aa7a2ad

on March 09, 2012
at 08:31 PM

Yes, so lean http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_of_Willendorf 0_o the stuff that paleolithic people ate would probably make a lot of modern paleo dieters sick (rotted carrion anyone? cannibalism? robust evidence for both). Also, can we please stop thinking of what paleo human could eat in terms of modern humans looking outside? I've seen that time and time again. You and I are not as smart or resourceful as them.

96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on March 09, 2012
at 08:27 PM

Hey, Bill! Good to hear from you! Great answer.

1
1a98a40ba8ffdc5aa28d1324d01c6c9f

(20378)

on March 09, 2012
at 06:24 PM

Eating Paleo avoids many allergens.

1
9140810eb28b318fb081c1f98c0989c8

(459)

on March 09, 2012
at 05:58 PM

My understanding of swimmy fish (as opposed to shellfish) allergies is that they're pretty rare. Also, could be mercury rather than the fish, as there are people sensitive to heavy metals... higher concentrations of mercury in fish looking like fish allergies, see? Just a hypothesis. I'm with DFH up there... allergies are separate from the Paleo "it's not food" argument.

0a0afca93a127c82ec4192a2e99647f4

on March 09, 2012
at 10:16 PM

"An estimated 2.3% of Americans – that’s nearly 7 million people – report allergy to seafood, including fish and shellfish. Salmon, tuna, and halibut are the most common kinds of fish to which people are allergic." - http://www.foodallergy.org/page/fish-allergy

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on March 09, 2012
at 08:41 PM

Yeah, my boyfriend is allergic to "swimmy fish" and not shellfish, which his allergist said is almost unheard of.

Fc6a9e07f6056d465573c8969d3a2ddd

(370)

on March 09, 2012
at 06:55 PM

+1 because fish != shellfish

9140810eb28b318fb081c1f98c0989c8

(459)

on March 10, 2012
at 01:02 AM

Well, Mystery Man X, given that, and this: More than 3% of adults have one or more food (http://www.aaaai.org/about-the-aaaai/newsroom/allergy-statistics.aspx), I would expect *most* cases of swimmy fish allergies exist concurrent with other food allergies. Also, note that your statistic is "seafood", not "swimmy fish". Interestingly, "Peanut allergy affects 1.2% of children. Approximately 20% of children outgrow it by age 6." the incidence of seafood allergies is twice that of peanuts, and yet, we hear tons and tons about peanut allergies, and very, very little about seafood allergies.

1
Af842c68e3d07fa0e35b4274f3acaeec

on March 09, 2012
at 05:57 PM

As for tree nuts, it's pretty obvious as to why they are a common allergen. They are seeds, and therefore share many of the aame defensive compounds as grains and legumes(also seeds) which can harm the gastrointestinal tract.

However, for fish and shellfish, I have no idea why these are more common allergens. I'm guessing there might be some kind of protein that is difficult to digest in these foods or that can form complexes with other foreign particles to form chimeras, much like lysozyme in egg whites can(egg whites also tend to be a common allergen).

0
3d7fb71b0e71302bccb49b5ec06c0e88

on May 05, 2012
at 03:13 PM

no one was immunized way back when....

0
E1c41fc9d29cec2c3066e000c9562d92

on March 09, 2012
at 06:05 PM

I think that is actually an interesting question, and its one I've pondered considering things like iodine allergy. Seems odd to have our bodies react badly to something as evolutionarily old as iodine. I do have one theory, but for ethical considerations it is probably beyond the realm of testing.

With increasing evidence that allergens in later age can be attributed to things like vitamin d deficiency, and gut flora, most are probably acquired. (They could be acquired just as readily through the mother, who also possesses dysfunctional gut flora, or any multitude of modern deficiencies.) The allergen could very well result as a result of modern eating. I would hazard the guess that most babies aren't actually born with a fish allergy, precluding the scenario given above. Except its developed when fed cow's milk, or deficient breast milk.

I think it is even more interesting that the foods you mention, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish were such an essential part of our very old evolutionary diet, especially in the nutrients they would provide. (Perhaps even eggs for our little scavenging ancestors who couldn't hold a fight.) So you have allergens extending from realllllly old times, and allergens to modern food. I would bet that one day they will all be connected in some bizarre twist of biochemistry, whether through lectin mimicry or immune system deficiency.

One more ball park thought: Is it possible that a food could be too healthy for a body? Given a deranged metabolism, dysfunctional gut flora, vitamin deficiencies, what if the body simply just in a way "doesn't know what to do with it"?

EDIT: I think it also could be possible that any necessitated evolutionary adaptations to wheat, may backfire and produce an "allergy" or reaction to the age old food. One potential source of this could be answered by phytic acid. Shellfish especially are high in zinc, as are some nuts, especially peanuts, interestingly enough. Its possible that in adapting to wheat and its phytic acid bound zinc, those foods provide too high of a highly absorbable zinc source that the body adapted away from. Zinc and the immune system go hand in hand, so I don't think this hypothesis is entirely impossible. Perhaps the zinc dump merely causes an immune system overload.

0a0afca93a127c82ec4192a2e99647f4

on March 09, 2012
at 10:26 PM

Interesting thoughts Jenny. But wouldn't this line of reasoning have to then apply equally to grains? Perhaps folks have bad reactions to grains due to poor early immune development, such as the parasitic-worm component of the hygiene hypothesis? As opposed to grains being de-facto unhealthy per-se.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on March 09, 2012
at 08:48 PM

"I would hazard the guess that most babies aren't actually born with a fish allergy"- shellfish allergies actually manifest very early, one of the most common toddler and early child hood allergic reactions. My boyfriend (vaginal birth, breast fed to two years, grew up on a farm, ate veg and breast milk only) first had an anaphylactic reaction to shellfish when he was a 1 year old. I think there's something to be said about early immune development, such as the parasitic-worm component of the hygiene hypothesis.

0
D7cc4049bef85d1979efbd853dc07c8e

(4029)

on March 09, 2012
at 05:43 PM

Good thing you can be strict Paleo and get along pretty well without fish. Grass-fed meat, pasture-raised poultry and eggs ftw. ;)

Does cod liver oil cause a reaction to people allergic to fish?

Are all fish equally allergenic to those sensitive to them?

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on March 09, 2012
at 08:43 PM

My boyfriend is allergic to fish but NOT shellfish, and he ate some cod liver oil when he was little. His mom was terrified and took him to emerg, but his tongue swelled up a bit, he felt a little funny, but it didn't give him the anephylactic response he normally gets immediately.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on March 09, 2012
at 08:45 PM

Also, to answer, most people are allergic to shellfish but not "swimmy fish". My boyfriend's allergy is quite rare, because he is not allergic to shellfish but is allergic to fish-fish. In his particular case, if he has canned tuna his mouth gets a little itchy, but it is not very bothersome. If he has salmon, halibut, cod etc the epipen has to be very close by, otherwise its life or death. There is probably some variance between each fish in terms of reaction, but it's way to much of a risk to experiment...

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