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Food Allergies and Stress: Is There a Connection?

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Have you ever wondered why so many people today have food allergies? More and more children and adults are reacting to a growing list of foods and the reactions are getting more severe.

Food allergies cause so much disruption to daily life. Nobody wants to live in fear of the food they eat. It’s time we understood all the underlying factors contributing to food allergies so we can help those who suffer from them.

Watch the video as we explore the surprising connection between food allergies and stress:

  • Discover what the research says about how allergies and stress are related
  • Learn practical steps you can take to lower your risk and severity of allergies
  • Find out how you can prevent allergies without medication

It’s time to start enjoying the foods you eat without fear!

Understanding the Allergy Landscape

Before we uncover the stress-allergy connection, let’s review some basics. Allergies, particularly food allergies, have become increasingly prevalent in recent years. The symptoms can range from mild, such as tingling and itching, to severe, including life-threatening conditions like anaphylaxis. Common manifestations encompass skin reactions, respiratory issues, digestive problems, and more.

Conventional Approaches to Allergy Management

Traditionally, addressing allergies involves identifying the specific allergen and implementing strategies to avoid or mitigate exposure. This could mean dietary adjustments, environmental modifications, or, in extreme cases, allergy shots or drops. However, recent observations have led healthcare professionals to explore a new dimension in understanding and managing allergies: the role of stress.

The Stress-Allergy Nexus

Cliff Syner, in a recent webinar presentation, shared insights into the potential correlation between stress and allergies. Drawing on clinical experiences and emerging research, Cliff posited that stress might not only exacerbate existing allergies but could also contribute to the development of allergies in susceptible individuals.

An Insightful Journey Through Stress and Allergies

The presentation unfolded with a deep dive into the intricate details of stress, allergies, and their interconnected pathways. Cliff highlighted the complex nature of the immune response, emphasizing the role of antibodies, particularly Immunoglobulin E (IgE), in triggering allergic reactions.

Understanding Perceived Stress: Perceived stress, a subjective evaluation of life’s challenges, emerged as a crucial factor influencing the immune response. The brain’s perception of stress activates neurotransmitters associated with anxiety, setting off a cascade that could intensify allergic reactions.

Scientific Corroboration: Stress and Antibody Response

Scientific studies were presented to substantiate the stress-allergy connection. One study involving college students demonstrated a direct correlation between perceived stress levels and elevated antibodies right before a stressful event. The findings suggested that stress not only influenced subjective feelings but also had a tangible impact on the immune system.

Holistic Approaches to Allergy and Stress Management

In exploring treatment modalities, the presentation highlighted holistic strategies that encompass both allergies and stress. Traditional allergy management involves identifying and avoiding triggers, utilizing nutraceuticals to lower the immune response, and, in some cases, undergoing allergy shots or drops.

A Paradigm Shift: Stress as a Target in Allergy Treatment

The paradigm shift proposed by Cliff Syner suggested that addressing stress directly could disrupt the allergy pathway. Stress reduction techniques such as yoga, guided imagery, and mindfulness were presented as potential interventions. These methods aim not only to alleviate stress but also to modify the immune response, potentially lowering the severity of allergic reactions.

Functional Treatment Approaches: Stress and Beyond

The presentation concluded with a comprehensive overview of functional treatment approaches. Stress reduction strategies, neuroplasticity interventions, and nutraceutical supplementation were highlighted as ways to holistically manage stress. By increasing resiliency and reducing the stress load, individuals may experience a positive impact on their allergic responses.

Implications for Holistic Healthcare

This exploration into the stress-allergy connection offers a broader perspective on healthcare. Integrating stress management into allergy treatment aligns with the holistic principles of functional medicine. By recognizing the interconnectedness of mental well-being and physical health, practitioners can offer more comprehensive and effective care.

Seeking Professional Guidance

If you resonate with these insights and suspect that stress might be influencing your allergies, consider discussing it with your healthcare provider. The holistic approach presented by Cliff Syner opens new avenues for personalized and effective allergy management.


As we unravel the intricate connection between stress and allergies, it becomes evident that our mental and physical well-being are deeply intertwined. Stress reduction strategies, when incorporated into allergy management, offer a promising avenue for a more holistic and comprehensive approach to healthcare.

In embracing the synergy between stress reduction and allergy management, individuals can embark on a journey toward improved overall health and well-being. If you have further questions or wish to explore these concepts in greater detail, please reach out to our healthcare professionals through the dedicated portal.

Wishing you a healthy and stress-free journey ahead.

Are you ready to take charge of your health? Schedule your free 20-minute discovery call with our New Patient Coordinator to see how you can become a patient at MaxWell Clinic and start your healing journey today.

good evening i hope everyone is doing well it’s been a few months
since um since i was able to do one of these group visits so i’m really excited about this one
this one is it’s exciting because usually when i’m presenting one of these
group visits is something that i know well that i’ve seen in my patients over and over
maybe something that i learned years ago from dr ozzie or one of our one of our
colleagues but this one is something that i have just recently stumbled upon
a couple of months ago and it’s already made such a big difference in the treatment of my patients so i’m really looking forward
um to going through it with you so let’s get started
okay so it is food allergies and stress
is there a connection so in this group visit i would love for you to ask questions
and so there is a little q a area in which you can pose questions and then at the end of this group visit that i’ll go
back through and i’ll take a look at those questions and i’ll answer them um the best i can
so let’s get started so a lot of our patients do show up with
symptoms of food allergies and if you’ve been a patient of the maxwell clinic for any length of time then you’ve probably
had some food allergy testing or at the very least put on an elimination diet to see if we can’t identify
food triggers that could be playing a role in your symptoms
so some of these symptoms that we may see would be tingling and itching in the mouth
hives itching or eczema all kinds of skin rashes and issues
of course swelling in the face or the tongue throat or other parts of the body
a lot of times we think of that as being right after ingestion of the food but
often these symptoms are not immediately after but can be hours or even days
later depending on depending on the allergic response and
the pathway that it goes through you can also have wheezing nasal congestion trouble breathing people with
uh with allergies they may think they just have seasonal allergies but often there’s a food allergy component to that
asthma is also associated with some food allergies
often there’ll be abdominal pain diarrhea nausea or vomiting but also constipation
irritable bowel syndrome crohn’s disease ulcerative colitis all of these can have
an allergy component and then dizziness lightheaded by
lightheadedness fainting but i’d also add to that fatigue which is one that we see a lot or or
foggy headedness or confusion
so once we’ve identified these symptoms then the testing is usually pretty
straightforward so we’re either going to do testing through blood or we’re going to do testing through skin or maybe a
combination of both if you go to see an allergist you’re almost always going to have skin allergy
testing which looks like the picture there on the bottom right and what they do there is they will put
a little bit of the food or a little bit of the proteins from the food into the
skin just just barely with a very very small needle prick and then we wait and we see the reaction
that the body has normally this is testing an ige reaction or what you would call a true food
allergy there are actually a lot of steps between the antibody ige and the
actual histamine release that causes these whelps to form and so anywhere along that pathway you
can have either disruption or amplification so that’s the way you test in skin and
then over there on the other picture in the top left what you see here is a
screenshot from one of our food allergy tests and we’re looking here at four
different ways in which the immune system your immune system responds to
foods so you can see there this top one here you’re looking at is almond so you can see that there’s an elevated
amount of ige which is the antibody we think of associated with true food allergies
and then you see this column igg4 and igg4 is kind of like a bulletproof vest so
let’s say that you eat almonds all the time and your body is allergic to almonds well if i
continue to eat them then i’m going to try and protect myself it’s this beautiful way in which the immune system
helps to protect us so it will create igg4 which is like a bulletproof vest to
protect us against the reactions that can occur because of the ige
and then we see igg so igg we think of as a sensitivity
and these are the same types of antibodies that we make against viruses or against bacterias
we hear a lot about igg right now especially in the pandemic because of
kovac right so everybody’s talking about covet antibodies and for the most part
they’re talking about specifically igg antibiotics so this is the body’s
response to disease it’s interesting to think that our body would respond to food in the same way
that it would respond to disease right what would cause that well one of the things that causes that is when these
large proteins from these foods leak across the small intestine into the
bloodstream where they don’t belong and they haven’t been designed to be received that way we call that leaky gut
and then those proteins the body the immune system recognizes as foreign
it attacks them and then uh creates igg and then we have that that last column
or c3d or what we call complement this is a hundred to a thousand times
multiplier so sometimes i’ll explain it like this let’s say that you have a forest worker
who is going through the woods and she finds a tree that doesn’t belong there she paints a big x on it that’s the job
of ige to recognize that something does not belong here right it needs to be
getting gotten rid of then you have another forest worker this is complement and they come through the
forest and they’re looking for those x’s and they find those x’s on the tree and then they put a thousand pounds of
dynamite around the base of that tree and they blow it up creating a huge explosion right this is
a lot of inflammation and that’s what complement does so remember it multiplies the reaction a hundred to a
thousand times it’s pretty significant so with these two tests whether through
blood or through skin we’re able to determine which foods that
your body reacts to whether it be allergies or a sensitivity
so from there this is where it gets interesting
so a few months ago i started noticing some observations
things that made me wonder if there was something
going on here with allergies that was maybe a little deeper than just
a skin test or a blood test that shows you have an allergy and then therefore you should remove the food
so some of those observations are tourists
so you may have heard this yourself you may have heard that um sometimes people will say you
know they’re gluten sensitive or maybe even celiac which means allergic to gluten and they’ll say
that when they go to italy they don’t have any problems at all or when they go to other parts of the world
and often the reason that would be given why they don’t experience these
reactions in foreign countries but they do experience and experience them here back home in the united states is that
there’s a difference in the wheat right the difference being that there are more heirloom varieties over
in europe and they use less chemicals less hybridization of the products less
processing of the products and those are all true those are true
and for a long time that’s what i went with like wouldn’t it just be great if we could live you know
in in europe and just eat gluten to our hearts content
but you know you can buy a lot of those products that are made in italy made in
france with these heirloom products or even products made here in the states that
are made with heirloom wheat or organic wheat
these um are wheats that have never never been around these chemicals
uh or haven’t been hybridized and you still have that reaction so it made me wonder for something else
going on and then i had reflected on a vacation
that i had and it made me remember that you know what else is different when we go on vacation
we have less stress right usually when we’re on vacation the day-to-day task lists and worries
and things that make us frustrated or bring us anxiety they don’t exist or they exist in a different way
and that would that would change our neurotransmitters that would change the way that our
nervous system interacts with our immune system
so i thought about that and then i also seen and have seen in my own
practice that there have been significantly more food
allergies in in our own patients and in america since
the pandemic now that i know of there’s not been a
lot of change in wheat or in food processing in the last couple years
but there has been a significant amount of stress stress has gone up so you see this where
stress has gone up also food allergies have gone up now just because you have correlation
doesn’t mean that you have causation right so just because stress has gone up and food allergies go up does not
necessarily mean that stress caused that but it does make me want to dig a little
deeper so recognizing that i also thought about
a lot of medical providers friends that i know even famous functional medicine doctors
that we hear about all the time who talk about how their food allergies or their autoimmune diseases didn’t really show
themselves until medical school for a lot of medical providers that was
the place where they started to explore natural health or different ways of
healing when conventional medicine didn’t seem to fix the problem
you know what’s interesting about that is medical school pa school nurse practitioner school like these
things are are very difficult and they’re very high stress situations and so it made me
wonder does going through these stressful schools increase our immune response and
thereby increase allergies and food allergies
so then i made another connection i see a lot of children in my practice
which is such a blessing to be able to to help young children who are going through
chronic diseases or chronic inflammation and help reverse that when they’re young so that it doesn’t become a lifelong
battle and one of the things that i began to notice is that when i treat children for
allergies or eczema or asthma there seems to be a correlation with
parental anxiety or parental uh worry and i mean that could be easy to explain
away right i mean it would be easy to say that if you have a chronically ill child or a child that has asthma which
is very dangerous very life-threatening then of course that’s going to bring a lot of anxiety and that’s why they’re
anxious but i looked into it a little bit and it’s interesting what the studies show
and i’ll talk about that in the next slide
and then the straw that broke the camel’s back was i had a friend of mine send me a
youtube video that talked about this
this patient’s journey through topical steroid withdrawal if
you haven’t heard of this before it’s where you’ve been using steroids for a really long time topical steroids maybe
for eczema and and now you have this almost need to
use these topical steroids or else the skin will almost automatically flare
what was interesting in these individuals who have topical steroid withdrawal is that they also have very
very high levels of ige ige is the antibody remember from the test before
it’s the antibody that that is associated with allergies and
when i say really high i mean really high so somebody without without allergies might have an ige of less than
20 and i’m talking about an ige of over a thousand so very significantly elevated
so with that information i began to wonder you know what else causes people to have
high levels of cortisol is stress so what i wondered
was do people who have a lot of stress who have chronically elevated cortisol
because of their anxiety and because of the stress that they’ve had in life do they also have
elevated ige and they do they do
so anxiety and stress is associated with elevated ige and also elevated
elevated allergy in the elevated um skin skin disease and eczema
so then i began to look at the data right because just because you see things correlate doesn’t mean they’re
caused by one another so it’s important to see the studies that have been done
and so i came across this study that looked at college students
and it looked at their perceived stress associated with studying for a test
and then taking the test and then after the test watching what happens to their stress level but also
looking at what happens to their antibodies these were not just ige antibodies the
ones associated with allergy but they also looked at igm which is associated with acutely ill
patients and also igg which remember we talked about those as food sensitivities
that’s also associated with leaky gut also associated with having the disease
having gotten rid of the disease and now being prepared to deal with that disease if it comes back
so what the study showed was that right before the test
the students antibodies were elevated
and they were correlated with their perceived stress score
wow this is fascinating information right it seems to show that there is a direct correlation
and then after the test you would watch perceived stress decline
and you would also see these antibodies decline so that was one study
that was helpful so then i looked at um at the data to see if there had ever
been studies done in anxiety or perceived stress in pregnancy
and elevated ige antibodies in babies
and what we’ve seen is that there is a correlation so moms who have a stressful pregnancy
also tend to have children who are more likely to have eczema or more likely to
have allergies and that’s just i mean that’s amazing
because we see stress levels going up in our community and we also see food
allergies going up in our children so this gives us a new way to be able to
attack this if we can help bring down stress in our pregnant population then we can
decrease allergies in children really exciting especially when you
consider how dangerous some of these allergies are like peanut allergies like gluten allergies
then there was another study that looked at caregiver stress perception so these are young children these are
young parents who are caring for their children after birth and it looked this
study tracked until two years and it looked at the perceived stress of
being a caregiver for a young for a baby and for a toddler
and how that was associated with ige expression in the child so this is even
after birth so the child just being around
a parent who felt stress increased their ige expression or their
allergy their eczema then there was perceived stress so
perceived stress let’s talk about that for a second so perceive stress is is really
interesting because it’s not objective right perceived stress
is how i feel about my stress right so if i
lift 100 pounds and then one of my co-workers lifts 100 pounds
then that is objectively 100 pounds that was lifted
but if i say i feel like that was 100 pounds and my neighbor says i feel like that was 100 pounds that doesn’t really
mean that we both lifted 100 pounds right our perception doesn’t always
match with the objective truth of the weight so
perceived stress works much the same way i may feel like what i’m going through
is really really stressful and someone else may go through the exact same thing
but not feel as if it’s stressful see this is the difference between perceived stress
but what is interesting is that the brain is most worried about perceived stress
so if i think that what i’m going through is highly stressful
then the neurotransmitters of anxiety are released in my brain flood throughout my body
and a cascade is set off that could eventually lead to allergies as we’ve talked about in these prior studies
so you have this immune response based on perceived stress and it’s mediated in
the middle there by the neurotransmitter activation so the neurotransmitters in my brain
that make me that that are released whenever i the way i perceive stress
so then i wanted to look and see like what can we do about this or what has been done about this
so if you look at yoga there was a study done with yoga and cytokines so cytokines
are these drivers of antibody separation so we talked
about antibodies we’re talking about the ige like we showed on that test before the igg
so cytokines are what forces the body to make these things to to force the body
to become more sensitive or to become more allergic or to be able to respond to something as if it were an allergy
what was so cool is that the people that practiced yoga often
they had lower cytokines they had lower drivers of inflammation
this doesn’t say anything about whether or not they were um
eating gluten or not eating gluten or eating dairy or not eating dairy or you know or whatever food allergy has
nothing to do with the actual food allergies it has nothing to do with seasonal allergies
it had a lot to do with just practicing yoga
and we already know that yoga objectively decreases stress
and then there was another study i’ve seen that looked at guided imagery so guided imagery would be if we close
our eyes and we focus on this
this green pasture we can see the wind just gently blowing
through the grass maybe there’s a creek beside this pasture and we can hear the water
rumbling over the rocks ever so gently it’s a nice cool temperature of about 65
to 70 degrees we just sit in that space
so that’s guided imagery which leads to relaxation
you actually see this in a lot of faith traditions so in christianity there is a
version of this called lectio divina that goes back thousands of years way before modern medicine ever discovered
mindfulness and it would take a scripture and it would find a piece of scripture that
really settled the soul maybe in psalm 23 of this idea of being
comforted by a caring and loving shepherd and then you would just sit in that
space of knowing it logically what the word said what the picture looks like
and feeling it in your heart what it feels like to be held to be loved in
that space those kinds of things actually reduce
serum ige they lower the body’s ability to respond
with an allergic reaction in this specific study it was asthma
but it could just as very well have been eczema or food allergies
i think that these studies and these aren’t necessarily new i think the newest one
was the guided imagery study that was a couple years ago a lot of these studies were done back in the early 2000s but
you see it just takes a while for medicine to catch up to the studies
okay so now that we have found a connection between stress and
allergies i want to review a functional treatment of allergies and what we typically do
so typically what we want to do is we want to stop the spiral so allergies and
inflammation are this cyclical rhythm that just keeps getting worse and
worse and worse so in order to stop this spiral we need to remove the food or remove the
offending agent so if you go see an allergist one of the things that they’re gonna do if you have seasonal allergies they’re
gonna say okay let’s seal up the windows let’s make sure we don’t open those let’s make sure we have a top quality air filter in
the house and we want to decrease our time outside or we want to wear a mask and we’ll make
sure we have no pets this is isolation from the offending agent or from the
allergy or if it’s a food we say well then you just can’t eat that anymore you know if
you’re allergic to gluten then you just don’t ever get to eat gluten again
or you have to be really careful not to get very much of it or it could be dairy or it could be almonds i mean it could
be any number of foods so then another way that we can treat
food allergies is nutraceuticals that lower the response so this is going to be
something like milk thistle milk thistle is good in allergies there’s also quercetin quercetin you
have heard a lot about with covid recently and it lowers inflammation but specifically interrupts that pathway
that starts with ige and ends with histamine so you can use nutrients that lower the
response or you can do allergy shots or drops so
remember we talked about that igg4 and how i said it was like a bulletproof vest that’s what allergy shots or allergy
drops that’s what its focus is so if i’m allergic to almonds and then i take a
almond allergy shot or i take allergy or almond allergy drops under my tongue
then i’m going to build igg4 which would then protect me against that ige
reaction that’s not something i do a lot with food necessarily
if it’s a seasonal allergy then i think that makes a lot of sense right because i can’t get away from nature and
actually we don’t really want to right we want to be able to be in nature so allergy shots or allergy drops for
environmental allergies makes a lot of sense but when it comes to certain food allergies
you know we don’t really want to to um to decrease that allergy to gluten by
adding another immune response by adding igg4 because that’s just a another
immune reaction so now we’ve got one and then we’ve got another one to cover it so if we can we just want to we want to
stop stop the allergy completely or stay away from the food rather than just trying to
cover over it with a second immune response so we also
treat um functional we functionally we treat allergies
with things like omega-3s or vitamin d which are shown to lower the
inflammation if we lower inflammation in the body then we tend to lower the allergic response
so what if we add stress reduction to lower allergy expression
see in that way this is what’s so exciting because we’re always seeking to treat
people as holistically as possible and so by using stress
treatment to work on allergies we’re adding another facet and we’re truly
helping this to become a holistic way of treating allergies
so now let’s take a look at functional treatment of stress
so functional treatment of stress usually goes something like this you know this plate that we’re always
talking about you know we have this plate that’s just too full we’re usually talking about our life we’re usually
talking about all of the things that we have on our plate so i can either increase the size of that plate
and i can do that by decreasing inflammation i can do that through meditation i can do that through a whole
lot of different ways in which we’re able to become more resilient to stress that’s the key word in increasing the
size of your plate is resiliency or we can decrease what’s on the plate
so this is like prioritizing right thinking about in your life what is
truly your responsibility and what can you maybe um give authority
to other people to so that they can do the tasks and that you don’t have to or what things can
just fall aside because they’re not even necessary so you’re decreasing what’s on your plate
the other way that we can treat stress functionally is neuroplasticity so this is
neurofeedback this is biofeedback this is any different way that we can
use to change the neuronal pathways that trigger our body into a stress response
this can also be done with therapy you could use narrative therapy to help
to help repair some of the broken parts of your story and help to start reframing
maybe how past events and past harm have caused you to show up in the world a
certain way maybe stressed out maybe anxious so you can if you can attack
stress that way through narrative therapy you can also do it through things like emdr or brain spotting
there’s also different types of prayer emanuel prayer is one of those that actually helps to change the way the
brain works and then there’s nutraceuticals so sometimes there are deficiencies of
nutrients that cause increased anxiety so that would be things like omega-3 vitamin d could be
magnesium all three of those things have been shown in research to decrease anxiety
especially if there is a deficiency there or it could be through nutraceuticals
using something called green medicine green medicine is where you use an herb
or a supplement or nutrient in a similar way that you would use a an actual
medication or an actual drug this would be like maybe using kava root for
anxiety instead of using xanax so that’s also a way you know there’s
all kinds of herbs out there that you can use to help treat stress so we want to disrupt the allergy
pathway when we treat stress so that’s
amazing that we can do that right and that we can think of
the food allergies that we have as being not caused necessarily but definitely
being amplified by the stress that we have in our life
and i think that there is tons of anecdotal evidence as we even have walked through this
group visit there may be even examples in your own life or maybe in friends or family that you have where you’re like
oh i can see i can see how this happens and i would encourage you that if you
feel like this is what’s going on with you then talk to your healthcare provider about it and start thinking
about how stress could be playing a role in your allergies you know a lot of times
when we have patients in functional medicine they’re used to being treated in a conventional model
so they may come to us and they understand that we’re going to use deeper testing or that we’re going to maybe use
natural ways of healing or we’re going to use supplements or food plans but they they may
think it’s kind of crazy if we want to talk about your stress level when you’re worried about your food
allergies right but hopefully that this group visit has shown you
that there’s actually a pretty significant connection and i think that it’s not just with
stress analogies but it’s also stress and chronic disease which is clear in the literature it’s stress and
just about anything i mean if you look at the blue zones which you if you know me i’m always talking about these areas
around the world where people tend to live the longest and be the healthiest stress
is the main reason that most of these populations tend to live longer because they have a decreased stress as compared
to most of western culture
so thank you for taking time with me this evening and
letting me share with you these ideas on stress and allergies
are there any questions all right i don’t see any questions
let’s see let me look at my notes and see if there was anything i wanted to add to that
no i don’t think so i think that’s it well i hope everybody has a wonderful evening and of course if you think of
any questions later please reach out to us that’s what the portal is for and have a good night

This blog provides general information and discussions about health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog, website or in any linked materials are not intended and should not be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This blog does not constitute the practice of any medical, nursing or other professional health care advice, diagnosis or treatment. We cannot diagnose conditions, provide second opinions or make specific treatment recommendations through this blog or website.

If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult with your health care provider or seek other professional medical treatment immediately. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something that you have read on this blog, website or in any linked materials. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911 or call for emergency medical help on the nearest telephone immediately.

Cliff Syner, PA-C

Cliff Syner, PA-C, has a passion for helping others heal. While serving in the U.S. Army, he cared for trauma patients around the world as a special operations flight medic.