The Difference between Food allergies, Food sensitivities and Food intolerances

Posted by on Jul 12, 2011 in Blog, Food, Food Allergies, Food Intolerance, Food Sensitivity | 1 comment

All too often, the connection between ingested foods and subsequent symptom-picture is overlooked. The most common of these symptoms include:

* Fatigue
* Headache
* Bloating
* Indigestion
* Constipation
* Nasal congestion
* Eczema
* Behavior problems
* Poor memory

And to dispel the common misconception that food has no bearing on disease development, there are a number of studies linking asthma, autoimmune conditions, cardiovascular disease, depression, hypertension, infertility, rheumatoid arthritis, and more to our diets.

Currently, there is much debate regarding the subject of food and how it affects our bodies and overall health. Moreover, the topic of food allergies has become more prevalent due to the increasing number of people affected and the broad array of diseases potentially associated with this phenomenon. But getting right down to it, the truth is, food allergy versus food sensitivity versus food intolerance, and differentiating the three, tends to get a little tricky. So let’s dissect these guys further and shed some light on this very important determinant of health—our diets!

We’ll start by describing the three individually:

Food Allergy – Adverse, over-reactive response by the immune system, towards a food or beverage item; typically more immediate in nature and involves many of the body’s immune cells including: lymphocytes, cytokines, mast cells, eosinophils, basophils and more. This category includes IgG reactions and immediate IgE hypersensitivity reactions that can result in anaphylaxis, a very serious condition. (Example: severe peanut allergy)

Food Sensitivity – A non-allergic response to a food or beverage, without the presence of IgE. Sensitivities tend to be more delayed in onset, chronic, and difficult to diagnose. Various reasons for occurrence include nutrient or enzyme deficiencies, eating the food too often, poor gut health and others. (Example: wheat or dairy sensitivity wherein a person develops symptoms such as bloating, fatigue, or nasal congestion hours to days after ingestion)

Food Intolerance – Non-immunological, adverse response to certain foods typically due to a physiological absence of the compound required to digest that food item. (Example: lactose intolerance wherein a person lacks the enzyme necessary [lactase] to break down lactose)

There is indeed overlap and yet asymmetry also. Without getting lost in the nitty-gritty, it’s important to keep in mind that regardless of the type of reaction imposed, the body, and more specifically the gut, sees exposure to these food offenders as a continuous insult that must be dealt with as often as the substances enter the body.

Let’s take a person who eats the same foods over and over, including two or three that do not “agree” with her body. This is interpreted as CONSTANT overload by the poor defenseless gut. And she wonders why she has trouble concentrating, irregular bowels, and on-going fatigue despite her best efforts to live a healthy life yet, she keeps sitting down to a plate of harmful fare.

In this unfortunate, all too often situation, the gut is charged with resolving this threat and in turn, the body has to shunt crucial time and energy away from normal, healthy processes such as maintaining cellular function, producing energy, digesting, fighting off infection, or growing a baby, to deal with this needless, recurring battle. Over time, this wears down her body and immune system’s ability to function at optimal levels and in turn, paves the way for disease processes such as those listed above.

So, where do we go for answers?

There are a number of diagnostic means at a clinician’s disposal to further explore a patient’s response to foods. Metametrix offers a series of tests pertaining to this topic including an Allergix IgE Food Antibodies, Celiac Profile, and the Allergix IgG4 Antibody Profiles. These can provide a great platform in the early phase of treatment plan creation. Results also serve as powerful reinforcement towards removing or decreasing offending foods that just so happen to be a person’s favorite—whether it’s a tall glass of cow’s milk, or whole-wheat bread. We all know that seeing something in writing may be the only way to bring about change!

In addition, the GI Effects profile provides further information about the overall state of gut-health. A dysbiotic, inflamed gut, as potentially illustrated through this type of testing, may offer additional clues to prove that disagreeable vittles are indeed wreaking havoc in the gut!

With that said, it’s important to remember that “negative” results or an absence of a response does not necessarily mean a person is free of any potential adverse food responses. If a patient has symptoms otherwise unaccounted for, the gold standard is implementation of an elimination diet. This is the only method to truly discover which foods cause a reaction in an individual!

Here’s my disclaimer though…

It can be quite an arduous undertaking (arduous but doable!) requiring strict adherence to an oligoantigenic diet over several weeks. This regimen typically consists of a nutrient-rich diet of steamed organic vegetables, some organic fruits, brown rice, some organic meats such as lamb, few spices, and avoidance of the big-time offenders like dairy, wheat, soy, corn, and citrus.

No matter which way our body responds to food offenders whether it’s a full-blown allergy, a sensitivity, or mere intolerance, it’s of top priority to remove harmful offenders, rotate daily meals, and incorporate healthy fare that’s not bothersome. In doing so, a world free of adverse food reactions and healthy bliss awaits. Love your gut, lose the offending foods!

I offer blood spot testing and stool testing from Metametrix to uncover your hidden food reactions.

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One Comment

  1. Thank you for your article. I am a food addict. I am part of the FAA 12 step recovery group. I am also in school for massage therapy. We were discussing food allergy vs. food sensitivity. I didn’t not agree with the professor because I had learned in FAA we have a food allergy to flour, sugar, wheat and artificial sweetners and thought there was doctors research that backed it up. Now I am not sure that is the case. I believe I have a sensitivity that could lead to an allergy by what your article is suggesting. I must look further in my research as my professor is now doing the same. Thanks, Sandy

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