Many people do not know the difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance or sensitivity. Food allergies are quite rare thankfully as they can be life threatening. Food intolerances are milder and hard to pinpoint, although their effects are troublesome and many times attributed to other things and possibly sometimes as diseases. I hope after reading this article you will know the difference between food allergy vs intolerance, so you can start your healing journey.
Food sensitivities and food allergies are not digestive issues. People erroneously believe that the stomach is implicated with sensitivities and allergies. Food sensitivities and food allergies are immune system reactions.
Our spleen is responsible for characterizing threats to the human body and send out the white blood cells needed to deal with the threat. Most threats are handled quickly and efficiently by our immune system. With food allergy and intolerance, the immune system is confusing some foods as foreign invaders.
WHAT HAPPENS WITH A FOOD ALLERGY?
Our immune system reacts to a certain food as a threat and creates a histamine response that can be life-threatening. Food allergies are more common in young children, but adults can acquire a food allergy at any time.
Symptoms of a food allergy can be mild to severe. Reactions to the specific food can range in severity. One exposure may trigger a mild reaction and the next can be severe, so avoiding the food altogether is the only solution unless under the care of a qualified allergy specialist.
The most severe type of allergic food reaction is called anaphylaxis which is a life threatening condition. This type of reaction can come on within minutes and can be fatal.
Which brings me to my next point. Food allergies come on sudden where there is usually no doubt what the trigger food is.
90% of most food allergies are caused by these foods:
- Tree nuts
Typical Allergic Responses:
- Vomiting and/or stomach cramps
- Shortness of breath
- Tight throat, trouble swallowing
- Swelling of the tongue, affecting the ability to talk or breathe
- Weak pulse
- Pale or blue coloring of skin
- Dizziness or feeling faint
- Anaphylaxis, a potentially life threatening condition.
WHAT HAPPENS WITH FOOD SENSITIVITIES/INTOLERANCE?
Food sensitivities or intolerances are used interchangeably, but there is no difference in meaning. Food sensitivities can take days to appear and their symptoms can be many things. Food sensitivities do not trigger a histamine reaction like food allergies, so none of the reactions listed for allergy above will be the same for a sensitivity/intolerance. There is an immune system reaction however due to the body believing the offending food to be a threat.
People have a hard time believing that a food sensitivity can take so long to appear because they confuse sensitivities with allergies. Again, allergies take seconds to minutes to appear, and food sensitivities can take days.
Because a food sensitivity can take days to appear, it is often very difficult to know what the trigger food is. If you suffer from any of the below, it’s time to take food sensitivity seriously.
- Chronic headaches/migraine
- Brain fog
- Joint pain/arthritis
- Weight gain
- Post nasal drip
- Tight muscles
- Canker sores
- Heart racing
How To Determine If You Have A Food Sensitivity/Intolerance
Elimination Diet – Is the gold standard in determining if you suffer from food sensitivities. The best way to do an elimination diet is to work with a qualified practitioner to keep you accountable and to make sure you are completely eliminating the food. Food labels can be confusing to read and misleading, a professional knows what to avoid. But you can surely do it yourself as long as you understand how to do it. I recommend this program to start you off. Always do an elimination for a period of 4 weeks with no more than 2 two foods at a time with 100 percent cold turkey elimination. Absolutely no cheating. Then introduce one food at a time back leaving a couple of days before introducing the next.
IgG or IgG4 Food Testing – No blood test is completely accurate when determining food sensitivities. The body has many ways in which it can react to food and some do not include antibodies. But food testing is a great way to find out those foods that you have a high reaction too. A total IgG food antibody panel is essentially measuring when the immune system is reacting to a common (and perhaps quite healthy!) food as though it were a foreign invader. You can order your own blood tests here.
You Have A Food Sensitivity, Now What?
When your test results come back and you find you are sensitive to a couple of foods or maybe even many foods, what is the next step? Eliminating the food(s) is obvious but is there anything else you can do and do you have to eliminate the food forever? Yes, there are ways you can heal your gut and as a result, heal your sensitivities. Food sensitivities are not forever. Once you heal, you can add the offending foods back in if desired.
Healing your gut involves healing the lining of your stomach. The lining of your gut can become inflamed due to medicines, food sensitivities, bacteria overgrowth among other reasons. When the lining is inflamed or irritated, the tight junctures of the lining become less tight and as a result, it allows big particles of food and other substances to get into the bloodstream where there is an immune system reaction. This is called Leaky Gut or Increased Intestinal Permeability. Nothing other than nutrients and tiny particles should be passing through the gut and into the bloodstream.
Supplements to heal the gut:
The supplements listed below should be taken in order to heal intestinal permeability and recover from food sensitivities.
- Vitamin D. The first step is to make sure your vitamin D levels are optimum. Sub optimum or a deficiency in D causes intestinal permeability.
- L-Glutamine. L Glutamine has been shown in studies to heal the lining of the gut and tightening up the junctures.
- Probiotics. Probiotics help balance the ratio of good to bad bacteria resulting in less irritation to the lining of the stomach.
- Quercitin. Another supplement with healing properties for the lining of the gut.
- Curcumin (Meriva formula) Helps with inflammation
- Vitamin E
Foods To Heal The Gut
There are definitely food choices that can help to heal leaky gut.
- Bone broth. Homemade or purchased is a fantastic food for healing your gut.
- Vegetables include prebiotic fiber that good bacteria will feed on to balance the ratio of good to bad bacteria.
- Chia seeds
Eliminating your trigger foods is important. Even if gluten did not show up on your IgG food panel, it is wise to eliminate all gluten foods while healing your gut. Gluten is an inflammatory food and should be avoided.
Food allergies are different than food sensitivities. Food allergies are immediate responses that include the release of histamine. Allergic responses can be mild to severe or life threatening. The non-tolerated food is normally easy to figure out. IgA panels are for food allergy determination.
Food sensitivities can take days to appear and pinpointing the offending food can be tricky.
Food elimination is the gold standard in determining food sensitivities, but food panel testing such as IgG and IgG4 can be very valuable. Once a food sensitivity is determined, healing the gut is the course of action to take to eliminate food sensitivities. Food sensitivities are not lifelong afflictions.
I hope this article gave some clarity on food allergies and sensitivities.
Please comment below, I love to hear your results and feedback.
Linda is a Certified Functional Health Coach