Updated: Dec 15, 2019
A food allergy is different from a food intolerance or sensitivity. A food allergy reaction is the result of the immune system identifying a food a foreign entity and then launching a response against it. The body will immune cells called Immunoglobulin E (IgE) Immunoglobulin G (IgG) and histamine. Common food allergies include peanuts, tree nuts, seafood (fish or shellfish), milk/dairy, soy, eggs, corn and sugar. The symptoms may be immediate or rapid onset (IgE) or delayed with onset in hours to days later (IgG) which makes it difficult to identify their source. Common symptoms include the following: Rashes Hives Pruritis (itchy skin) Angioedema (swelling around the lips or eyes) Shortness of breath Abdominal pain Chest pain Anaphylaxis A food intolerance reaction is a result of being unable to adequately digest a food. It causes chronic inflammation and irritation in the gut. This is not an immune response but may be a result of enzyme deficiencies (eg. a lactose intolerance) or other physiological factors.
Such symptoms may include: Headaches Indigestion/Heartburn Gas, bloating, abdominal pain
Nausea Irritability Fatigue
Food sensitivities are getting progressively more common. Sometimes as we grow older, we can become less able to digest certain foods and other times children are born or shortly develop sensitivities to foods that cause digestion, metabolic or mood problems. Symptoms may be expressed within hours to days after ingesting the offending foods. These sensitivities can come about in several ways including the following:
- Regular consumption of limited foods
- Antibiotics - recent or prolonged use
- Environmental pollution
- Dysbiosis - a deficiency of beneficial bacteria in the GI tract
- Early introduction to foods - that is, before the GI tract is fully developed
- Impaired digestion
- Genetic predisposition - runs in families
- Hypochlorhydria and/or pancreatic insufficiency -that is, low stomach acid and digestive enzymes, often related to stress
- Leaky gut - damaged cells in the gut lining that allow undigested food particles straight into your blood stream (Yikes!)
Once these sensitivities are formed, the body will mount an inflammatory response. Inflammation is linked to insulin resistance which promotes fatigue, high blood pressure, bloating due to poor digestion, poor blood sugar control, fat storage and weight gain (especially in the abdomen). Chronic inflammation can also be associated with PMS and menstrual irregularities, joint pain, brain fog, anxiety and depression.
Identifying and eliminating food sensitivities can help reduce generalized inflammation. Reducing inflammation is a key component to reducing cardiovascular health risks including obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes/insulin resistance and other aspects of metabolic syndrome in general.
It is important to be aware of how your body responds to foods. A good way to develop this awareness is to keep a diet log or diary which documents foods you eat and your physical and mental responses to them. This is often all you need to do to identify offending foods. Once identified, you may choose to begin an Elimination Diet where the suspected foods are removed for a period of time to see if your symptoms resolve. The foods may then be slowly re-introduced to confirm your suspicions. If your diet diary is not definitive, you may want to pursue testing that will measure the levels of IgE and/or IgG in your blood in response to various foods. You may also test for other inflammatory markers in specialized intolerance/sensitivity tests. This helps you understand your body's reactivity and equips you with the information you need to take the next steps in your diet and lifestyle to optimize your health and well-being. What could be better that that?? I recommend speaking with your primary care doctor regarding any changes in your diet and for supervision and guidance when investigating food allergies, intolerances or sensitivities. For more information, check out this great article Gut Immunity by Alletess Medical Lab.
I offer Food Allergy, Food Intolerance/Sensitivity blood testing in my practice and find them incredibly helpful in resolving the chronic health issues listed above.
Contact us today to have your food allergies, sensitivities or intolerances identified so you may continue your journey to optimal health and vitality!
Here's to your health,