Are Food Allergies Affecting Your Sleep?

Are Food Allergies Affecting Your Sleep? - Tip Top Sleep

With the Insomnia phenomenon taking over the world finding out what is causing a lack of sleep is at the forefront of the insomniac’s mind. Believing that if they can pinpoint a cause a quick cure can be applied.

In most cases finding the cause, insomnia will never be quick or easy. Gone are the days of relaxing and you will get some sleep as we live in a complicated world with many consumables at our fingertips – food being just one of them.

Food Allergies and Insomnia

That a connection exists between food consumption and the quality of sleep that you record, has already been well established. However, the jury is probably still out on the contribution that food allergies make to the lack of sleep recorded by the population of the world.

There has been at least one fairly recent case study carried out, which provides rather compelling evidence that there is a strong connection between Food Allergies and Insomnia. It was conducted by researchers A. Kahn, M. J. Mozin, E. Rebuffat, M. Sottiaux, M. F. Muller.

It should also probably be noted that the established link made between Food Allergies and Insomnia was made in children younger than five years old – 146 of them to be precise.

In addition to that, a clear distinction probably needs to be made between a food allergy and food intolerance altogether. Perhaps an explanation before we get too far into the article will help you to differentiate between the two.

Food Allergies v Food Intolerance

The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology helps clear this up for us. Food intolerance has to do with the digestive system. Food allergies have to do with the immune system.

As we have suggested above, when you have a classic case of food intolerance, it means that the human being in question experiences great difficulty digesting particular foodstuff.

The common reaction to food intolerance is something like the production and release of gas, abdominal pain, and a runny tummy. It is all clearly unpleasant stuff but it can easily be managed.

When you have a food allergy, the consequences can be more far-reaching and even more devastating.

rewrite – Well, we haven’t really thrashed that out at length but there is probably a little more clarity, which was probably needed in the context of this blog post.

Cow’s Milk Allergy and Insomnia

There are several examples of products that can create food allergy symptoms, especially in children.

They include but are not limited to wheat, maize, shellfish, egg, peanuts (you all just thought of Howard from ‘The Big Bang Theory’ right?), soy and tree nuts.

The complications do not end there though, as there can be cross-reactions between certain foods which possess the same or similar nutrient values. We will explore that in greater detail later.

For the moment, we just want to examine the impact that cow’s milk had on those poor children who were referred to an American university because they had trouble sleeping.

The researchers at the university sleep clinic in question suspected straight away that this was a food-related issue.

At the outset, they could not rule out the prospect of there being a classic case of food intolerance. So, determining that was also a part of the equation when they pursued the study.

However, as the study progressed it became increasingly clear to all and sundry that this was actually a classic case of a food allergy instead.

Critically, they managed to produce compelling evidence that there was a link between the food allergy and the lack of sleep that was experienced by the toddlers.

The researchers said the toddlers grappling with insomnia had been reported as constantly crying during their sleep hours, in addition to them often waking up during that period.

In about 58 percent of the cases, the toddlers had merely been subjected to inappropriate sleep habits. Those cases were more easily solved. However, there was a curious case of 11 percent which remained a mystery.

This is where things get a little interesting, even if not totally provable. The researchers then removed cow’s milk from their diets, to test the intolerance theory. When the cow’s milk was removed from their diets, 15 of the 17 mysterious toddlers managed to sleep without any trouble when the time had come for some shuteye.

Their sleep was found to have normalized after a period of about five weeks. Researchers explained that this could actually take a little longer than that. Sometimes the recovery period could be in the region of six weeks and sometimes it could be as short as four weeks.

That depends on the child, the circumstances and the extent of the treatment. Prior to the removal of the cow’s milk from the diet of those toddlers, it had been taking them in the region of 15 minutes to fall asleep. Sometimes that could have ranged between 15 minutes and something like an hour.

Once the treatment or recovery period was over, the toddlers found themselves taking between 10 and 15 minutes to fall asleep. The researchers also subsequently found that on average, the toddlers were now only waking up once a night, compared to the five times per night that had previously been experienced.

The lives of parents had been changed. Sometimes researchers need to be doubly sure of this kind of thing, so they decided to introduce cow’s milk to the diets of the children in what they called a crossover challenge.

True to form, the toddlers in question started experiencing issues with insomnia once again. Most uncanny.

The link between an allergy to cow’s milk and insomnia was clear to all and sundry.

However, it was clearly not a case of food intolerance.

Insomnia an Important Clue for Food Allergy Diagnosis

Now, just to be clear. It is very difficult to prove that one thing, in particular, is actually the cause of insomnia. That is particularly true in the case of a food allergy.

However, it is also exceedingly difficult for a general or family physician to make a food allergy diagnosis without conducting a more comprehensive examination that would involve taking a closer look at the gut.

What some people loosely refer to as gut distress can sometimes be your first clue of a food allergy or intolerance. So, that is to say, that making this seemingly unlikely link between a food allergy and insomnia can ultimately prove to be an invaluable device. The gut test does have to be done, just to confirm, of course.

Fight Insomnia by Fighting the Food Allergy

The Centre For Disease Control and Prevention will tell you that food allergies affect about four percent of children and adults living in the United States, where so many of these studies happen to be done.

Just earlier in this particular article, we made reference to the issues of the 146 toddlers that were subjected to a series of tests to determine if they were victims of food allergies or food intolerance.

In addition to that, an effort was made to determine if there was a link between the food allergy and insomnia, which the toddlers were grappling with every night.

A link was found, although it remains difficult to prove that the food allergy actually caused insomnia.

Nevertheless, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention confirms the assertion we tried to make, that food allergies are likely to impact the sleep behavior of toddlers more than any other age group among children.

Okay, now that we are a little clearer on what causes the food allergies, where and when they are most likely to manifest themselves, we should examine ways in which they can be effectively treated.

You would treat a food allergy regardless of the impact that it had on your sleep patterns but as we said earlier, if you want to beat insomnia, you need to beat the food allergy.

Remember what happened when those doctors took the toddlers off the cow’s milk that had been bothering them? Not only did they manage to sleep longer, without crying or waking but they also managed to fall asleep a lot sooner. Not only is treatment your first port of call, but it is also really the only option that you have at your disposal.

We have already dealt with the first form of food allergy treatment, haven’t we? The first port of call is to avoid the food product that is directly contributing to your problems.

Don’t be lazy and make an effort to check the ingredients of the food products that you buy.

Before checking those food labels, it will also be prudent to establish if the food sources which create problems for you are known by any other name. Maybe follow up on that with a doctor.

Having said that, it is a matter of law that companies label clearly and concisely the products that are most associated with food allergies. They are also expected to do that in the simplest language possible. You really should not be able to miss that.

If this does get too complicated for you – and it can because foodstuffs can be so common in society that they are almost impossible to avoid – then it would probably be prudent to consult a dietician or nutritionist. This now becomes an urgent matter of actually changing your entire diet.

Eating out at a restaurant or takeaway facility can be dangerous. Waiters and sometimes even cooks do not necessarily know what is in food. That is where a dietician can be useful but it is not a full-proof plan.

So, the simple advice would be that you should remain extra careful when eating out, as this is when food allergies are most likely to strike, so to speak.

When it comes to children, in particular, the American Academy of Pediatrics actually has a pretty firm handle on this. They have a set of active guidelines on how parents can help prevent food allergies in children, toddlers, and infants.

Those are among the worst affected groups.

Are Food Allergies Affecting Your Sleep? - Tip Top Sleep


Food Allergies and Sleep Problems in Toddlers

Among their key findings are the following:-

1. If you are a parent, you need to know that there is not actually compelling evidence to suggest that you must limit your diet, at any stage during a child’s early development.

Whether that be while you are pregnant or while you are lactating. So, there need not actually be an intervention at this stage in your child’s development. That will come later. This is a common view that researchers have always held.

2. However, if you do feel compelled to make an intervention at this stage of your child’s development, there are certain avenues that you can pursue.

The researchers conclude that firstly, you could breastfeed exclusively for the first three of four months of pregnancy and decrease the prospects of skin-related allergies for the child within the first two years of that toddler’s life.

The one very common allergic reaction during this period is something called eczema, which is a typical case of inflamed, itchy, rough, red or cracked skin. The real risk here is that the child could also develop blisters. Those are very painful. Nobody sleeps when they are in pain.

While the evidence is slender, there is every indication that it would be prudent of a parent to pursue this path. At this point, there would have been nothing to lose and everything to gain for the health of the child.

There is also a commonly held view, among those experts, that there are no additional short or even long-term advantages that come with exclusive breastfeeding beyond the three or four months that we have mentioned above.

Another common ailment for children during the first two years of their lives is something called wheezing. That is the tightness of breathing. The researchers think there is now very compelling evidence to suggest that breastfeeding after three or four months can actually limit the prospects of this allergic reaction from a child during the first two years of his/her life.

There are no baselines on how exclusive that breastfeeding needs to be, which is a positive change.

Unlike the previous two guidelines, the scientists are a lot clearer on this intervention.

The finding is actually a progression from a previous set of guidelines that they would have published in the 2008 report.

3. Toddlers are also often exposed to asthma during the early stages of their childhood development. Again, the researchers have managed to find a way to make a meaningful progression on the previous set of guidelines that they had published in 2008.

That is to say, there is now compelling evidence to suggest that breastfeeding for longer periods can actually help reduce the asthma-related risks for your child. Ordinarily, the focus would be on toddlers, because that is the most dangerous age.

However, they believe the associated benefits with this can actually be felt well beyond the five-year stage of a child’s life.

4. The researchers cannot say with absolute certainty that partially or extensively hydrolyzed formula can assist in protecting your toddler from food allergies. You can pursue this option but there are definitely no guarantees of meaningful results being produced. This development is actually a step backward from the 2008 findings.

5. There is a commonly held view that delaying the introduction of solids into a child’s diet will help reduce the prospect of that child reacting negatively to certain foods. However, the researchers now say that there is actually no compelling evidence to confirm this.

Among the foods that are often intensely scrutinized are eggs, fish, soy and peanuts.

Young people are known to have allergic reactions to all of these and there is every indication that they will continue to be affected by this, no matter how long you delay the introduction of those solids.

The researchers have actually been pretty darn consistent about this since their previous findings were made in 2008. However, the common public view about feeding delays persists…when researchers are now finding that the opposite might hold true.

That is to say that, it might actually be prudent of parents to introduce their children to these solids sooner rather than later. The researchers have actually been pretty specific on peanuts, where their early introduction is actually believed to reduce the risks of your child having an allergic reaction when he/she gets older.

The jury is still out on when you should introduce children to eggs and any of the other solids that have been associated with allergic reactions in toddlers though.

Final Thoughts

Even though the analogy within this article has referred predominately to young children and their possible food allergies and food intolerances. You may see the possible parallels with your own intake of certain types of food and any medical problems you may suffer from.

If you have trouble sleeping you can carry out some simple tests at home yourself to find out if removing these foods from your diet helps you get to sleep or sleep more soundly.

All you have to do is remove a suspected food from your diet give it a month or two and see what happens. Continue you to do this until you find the culprit and try to keep it out of your diet.

As always here’s to better sleep!

By Michelle D.

Meet Michelle, founder of Tip Top Sleep, a website dedicated to helping you achieve the best sleep possible. With over 50 years of combined experience in the realm of sleep, Michelle and her team provide easy-to-follow tips and strategies to help you feel better, function better, and live better through optimal sleep. Let us help you prioritize your sleep and discover the power of a good night's rest.