Food allergy or food sensitivity? Which is which? Which is worse? Why does(n’t) it matter?
Food allergies…doesn’t that mean I have to carry an epi-pen, that my throat will swell up and I could potentially die if I eat shellfish? Or peanuts, etc.? I would know if I had a food allergy so I must be fine, right? WRONG. Many people are poisoning themselves with the foods they eat every day, but don’t realize it’s happening.
Food allergies vs. food sensitivities
Most doctors will tell you they are very different and some will even tell you that food sensitivities aren’t a thing.
A food allergy is defined as “an immune system reaction that occurs soon after eating a certain food. Even a tiny amount of the allergy-causing food can trigger signs and symptoms such as digestive problems, hives or swollen airways.”
A food sensitivity is defined as “a reaction that occurs when a person has difficulty digesting a particular food. This can lead to symptoms such as intestinal gas, abdominal pain or diarrhea. Food intolerances involve the digestive system.”
In my opinion, it doesn’t matter what type of reaction you are having to foods, they are both causing inflammation. 95% of people are eating foods that cause inflammation. This is a bigger issue. Chronic inflammation can lead to illnesses like fibromyalgia, cancer, type 2 diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and many more, and it impacts your health far into the future.
What do my symptoms mean?
If you are suffering from any of the following symptoms, the foods you eat could be the culprit:
- Mood Swings (Anxiety, Aggressiveness, Irritability)
- Dark Circles Under Eyes
- Canker Sores
- Sinus Problems
- Brain Fog
- Bloating, Excess Weight
These symptoms all stem from inflammation, and the cause of inflammation for most starts with the food we eat. Be mindful that what inflames your neighbor, may not inflame you. Everyone is different, and food is different as well. Ever wonder why our ancestors never suffered from most of the diseases mentioned above? It’s because these diseases are relatively new. Our ancestors didn’t have access to genetically modified foods, strong chemical pesticides, preservatives, hormones, etc. They ate food that was grown with the seasons and didn’t have access to certain foods during certain times of the year. Everything was in moderation. The standard American diet has changed and we are seeing more chronic illnesses than ever before, and therefore we require more specialized testing.
Once you ingest a toxin (remember this can be a chemical, hormone, GMO, or a simple food that your body doesn’t like) it wreaks havoc on your gut. 80% of our immune system is housed in our gut, so it isn’t surprising that our bodies are reacting. These toxins inflame our intestinal tract, eating away at the lining causing little spaces where particles can leak into our bloodstream. This causes our immune system to attack these foreign invaders. This is what we call leaky gut. We then see symptoms and illnesses forming like those listed above. You could be eating foods that are considered perfectly healthy, but they still could be making you very sick. How will you avoid these foods if you don’t know what they are?
How do I get tested?
If you suspect you have an allergy, you need to get properly tested. Food allergy testing is one of the very first things I recommend patients get done when they come to the office.
Unfortunately, most people will go to a conventional medical doctor and do the standard allergy testing; a skin prick, skin injection or patch test. This consists of pricking your skin with different substances to see if you develop a welt or rash, showing a reaction to said substance. If so, treatment options include allergen avoidance, medications or allergy shots (immunotherapy).
What they usually don’t mention is that this type of test only measures a small portion of your immune system. This is called IgE and it makes up about 1% of our total immune reaction. These reactions are immediate and can be life-threatening, which is why most people have heard about them.
IgG makes up about 70% of our immune system. This type of reaction is a delayed sensitivity, hence the name “food sensitivity” and can take up to 72 hours to show. Unfortunately, these reactions are very common. That headache you have today could have potentially come from one specific food you ate sometime in the past 3 days. How will you know what that is without strict documentation or elimination?
At our office, we use specific lab testing to pinpoint which foods you need to eliminate.
Where can I start?
When I go over test results with patients, I see a couple of foods that frequently show up. These foods are very common food allergies and unfortunately also very common in the standard American diet. This makes it very hard to avoid them.
Some of those include milk/dairy products, eggs, wheat, yeast, and black pepper. How will you know what YOU should avoid specifically? Get tested! It is a very simple procedure, and it will give you a wealth of information. Remember there is no magic pill that can address these health issues, it takes discipline and lifestyle adaptations. It really is quite simple once you have the tools to take your health into your own hands.