天职药房 MISSION (HOUGANG) MEDICAL CLINIC

Can Organic Food Help with Allergies or Sensitivities?

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Many individuals turn to organic food with the hope that it might alleviate allergies or sensitivities. While the relationship between organic food and allergy relief isn’t entirely straightforward, there are several factors that might make organic options beneficial for those with specific dietary concerns. Today we answer the question: Can Organic Food Help with Allergies or Sensitivities?

But first, What is Organic Food?

Fresh fruits and vegetables displayed on a table with baskets. Can Organic Food Help with Allergies or Sensitivities?

Organic food is food that is produced without synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), or irradiation. Instead, organic farmers use natural methods to enhance soil fertility, control pests, and manage weeds.

Some people believe that avoiding synthetic chemicals in organic food may reduce the risk of allergic reactions and sensitivities. Additionally, organic farming practices may help preserve the nutritional quality of food, which could be beneficial for those with sensitivities to certain nutrients or additives commonly found in conventional food.

If you would like to know more, we have an in-depth article about organic food here.

Scientific evidence that Organic Food helps with Allergies?

While organic foods provide some potential benefits that may be helpful for those with food allergies or sensitivities, it is important to understand their limitations. At this point of time, there is currently no definitive scientific evidence that shows organic foods can cure or provide a guaranteed solution for allergies and sensitivities.

Reasons for this include firstly, limited research on this topic. Existing studies are few, with small sample sizes and methodological limitations. More large-scale, robust research is needed. Secondly, allergies and sensitivities are complex and vary from person to person. Different people’s responses to organic foods can vary considerably. Lastly, there are variables in organic food standards. Different regions have different criteria for organic certification, thus making findings hard to generalize.

If you would like to read more on this, here are some studies included below. 1 2 3 4

Potential ways that Organic Food helps with Allergies

That being said, there are potential ways that organic food may help with allergies. One key advantage is reduced pesticide exposure. Organic foods are produced without the use of synthetic pesticides, while conventional farming relies heavily on pesticide application. For some individuals, pesticide residues on conventionally-grown produce may trigger allergic reactions or sensitivities. By avoiding these chemicals, organic foods reduce this potential risk.

Another potential benefit is the reduced level of artificial food additives found in organic products. Organic foods generally contain fewer preservatives, artificial colors, flavors, and other synthetic additives compared to their conventional counterparts. Many of these additives are known or suspected allergens and can cause reactions, especially in sensitive individuals. The lower additive levels in organic foods may help minimize exposure to these potential irritants.

Some research also suggests organic foods may have higher levels of certain beneficial nutrients and compounds. Multiple studies have found organic produce contains greater amounts of antioxidants like vitamin C, polyphenols, and other plant antioxidants. While their impact on allergies is unclear, these nutrients play important roles in overall health and immune function, which could provide ancillary benefits.

Finally, organic foods may help reduce the risk of cross-contamination with allergens during processing. Organic products are typically processed separately from conventional items using dedicated equipment and facilities. This segregation lowers the chances of cross-contact with potential allergens like wheat, nuts, dairy, etc. That said, cross-contamination is still possible, so those with allergies should always read labels carefully.

While research is still emerging, these factors collectively suggest organic foods could provide some potential benefits when it comes to avoiding allergic triggers and sensitivities compared to conventional alternatives. However, it’s important to note that being organic does not make a food hypoallergenic.

Organic foods do not guarantee hypoallergenicity

What does that mean?

Hypoallergenicity refers to having a low likelihood of causing an allergic reaction. Something that is hypoallergenic has very little potential to trigger an allergic response.

However, just because a food item is certified organic, it does not automatically make that food hypoallergenic. Or in other words, it doesn’t ensure that it won’t cause an allergic reaction in someone with food allergies.

Reasons being that Organic foods can still contain common food allergens like milk, eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, tree nuts, etc. The organic label does not mean the food is free of these allergens. Naturally found substances in foods such as proteins, amines, etc. can trigger allergic responses in some people. Organic or not, these potential allergens may still be present.

Lastly, cross-contamination of organic foods with allergens is still possible during handling, processing, and manufacturing despite segregated facilities.

So… Can Organic Food Help with Allergies or Sensitivities?

A woman enjoying a healthy meal of vegetables in her kitchen, promoting a balanced and nutritious diet.

Just to recap, there currently isn’t any scientific evidence to suggest that organic food is able to help with allergies or sensitivities. However, organic food may have some benefits for people who are suffering from allergies or sensitivities.

It is important to note that individuals with allergies will still need to exercise the same diligence in reading ingredients lists and avoiding their allergen triggers when it comes to organic foods, rather than assuming “organic” automatically means a product is hypoallergenic and safe for them to consume.

References

  1. Baudry, J., Assmann, K. E., Touvier, M., Allès, B., Seconda, L., Latino-Martel, P., … & Hercberg, S. (2018). Association of Frequency of Organic Food Consumption With Cancer Risk: Findings From the NutriNet-Santé Prospective Cohort Study. JAMA Internal Medicine, 178(12), 1597-1606. ↩︎
  2. Curl, C. L., Beresford, S. A., Fenske, R. A., Fitzpatrick, A. L., Lu, C., Nettleton, J. A., & Kaufman, J. D. (2015). Estimating pesticide exposure from dietary intake and organic food choices: the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Environmental health perspectives, 123(5), 475-483. ↩︎
  3. Kummeling, I., Thijs, C., Huber, M., Van De Vijver, L. P., Snijders, B. E., Penders, J., … & Brandt, P. A. V. D. (2008). Consumption of organic foods and risk of atopic disease during the first 2 years of life in the Netherlands. British Journal of Nutrition, 99(3), 598-605. ↩︎
  4. Mie, A., Andersen, H. R., Gunnarsson, S., Kahl, J., Kesse-Guyot, E., Rembiałkowska, E., … & Willers, S. (2017). Human health implications of organic food and organic agriculture: a comprehensive review. Environmental health: a global access science source, 16(1), 111. ↩︎
Picture of MMC Writing Team

MMC Writing Team

An Apple a day keeps the doctor away. We hope that we can provide you with information to stay healthy.

Picture of MMC Writing Team

MMC Writing Team

An Apple a day keeps the doctor away. We hope that we can provide you with information to stay healthy.

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