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Food Allergies and MS

By Matt Cavallo

I’m not sure what is in the air this year, but I am suffering from the worst allergy season in recent memory. I have had seasonal allergies since I was a little kid, but they are getting progressively worse as I age. On top of that, the over-the-counter medications I take are making me extremely drowsy and fatigued. I’m getting to the point where I don’t know if it is my allergies or MS. 

I have previously written on this topic so you can learn more tips for MS and Allergy Season here. In my never-ending research to live a life free of allergies, I found something interesting and unexpected. Research has proven there is a direct correlation between MS and food allergies. A recent study based on questionnaires involving 1,349 people with MS found that “food allergies, but not other types of allergies, were associated with significant increases in the number of MS relapses and disease activity on MRI scans.”

It is important to point out there is a link between MS and food allergies, but further research is needed to see if a food allergy will actually cause MS or MS activity. Many people are not cognizant of food allergies, except in cases where there is a severe allergic reaction to things such as peanuts or shellfish. However, you may have a mild food allergy your whole life and be unaware that it is affecting your health. 

Common mild food allergy symptoms include things such as itching, hives, and eczema. Food allergies can also include respiratory discomfort such as wheezing, shortness of breath, or nasal congestion. Stomach irritations, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain can happen with food allergies as well. If you are like me, you might experience a combination of those symptoms on any given day. Researching this article made me think that I may have been living with undetected food allergies for most of my life. 

There is no perfect way to diagnose food allergies. Talk to your primary care physician about your symptoms, your family history and that you are interested in allergy testing. There are two types of allergy tests, the skin test and blood test.

For the skin test, you lie on your stomach and an allergy specialist will prick your skin with small amounts of environmental allergens such as pollen, grass, trees, and animal dander. They may also include tree nuts and other kinds of foods. Your skin will start to react to the items you are allergic to, including the foods that are tested. The blood test is a simple blood draw, where you go to a lab for a blood sample and that sample is compared against foods for an immune system response. 

Once the testing is complete, the doctor will go over your results to discuss what you are allergic to. The best way to avoid allergic responses to food is to eliminate that food from your diet. I know it is easier said than done to eliminate a food, especially one you may really like, but now that research has proved a link between MS and food allergies it is now more important than ever to watch what you eat.