A food sensitivity is not a food intolerance. A food sensitivity is not a food allergy.
But a food sensitivity, a food intolerance and a food allergy are all types of adverse food reactions.
Confusing right? It can be. Many people use these terms interchangeably. And while these conditions have many common symptoms, they are quite different.
So let’s break it down.
What is a food sensitivity?
Food sensitivities are an adverse reaction or reactions to a food or chemical. These reactions can manifest itself in many ways. You may experience digestive problems but you may also have other symptoms too. Symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, headaches, rashes and joint pain may also be a result of a food sensitivity.
These reactions involve the immune system. When white blood cells react to a food or chemical they release inflammatory chemicals aka “mediators”. These mediators are what cause these various symptoms. Symptoms are often not immediate and can depend on how much you consume.
What is a food allergy?
A food allergy also involves the immune system. It occurs when the body mistakes a food to be potentially harmful. In return, the body defends itself by producing a type of antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). These IgE antibodies trigger the release of histamine and other inflammatory chemicals. These reactions typically occur within minutes of exposure to a couple of hours.
Symptoms of a food allergy may be similar to a a food sensitivity but also often accompanied by swelling, hives, difficulty breathing and throat swelling. These reactions can be life-threatening.
Some common food allergies include peanuts, soy, shellfish, tree nuts and eggs.
What is a food intolerance?
A food intolerance is when the body lacks a certain digestive enzyme to break down certain foods. These types of reactions do not involve the immune system. Symptoms are usually less severe then a food allergy and generally include digestive issues such gas, cramping and diarrhea.
A common food intolerance is lactose intolerance. Lactose is found in most dairy products.
What testing is availabe for a food sensitivity, allergy or intolerance?
When it comes to a food allergy, skin pricks or a blood test are used to diagnose. The blood test measures if IgE is present in the blood. If these antibodies are present, typically this means you have an allergy to that specific food. A skin prick test checks for immediate allergic reactions. This is a simple prick to the skin which inserts a certain amount of a substance. You’re allergic if you get an elevated bump with red ring around it.
Food intolerances can be determined by eliminating suspected untolerated foods. If symptoms improve, you may have an intolerance to that food. Hydrogen breath testing is used to make a definitive diagnosis.
Food sensitivities can be determined by a simple blood test. The most accurate and comprehensive food sensitivity test is the Mediator Release Test (MRT). It tests for mediator reactivity to 150 foods and 20 chemicals. This test identifies the specific foods and chemicals that are causing adverse symptoms. Learn more about MRT,
Should you get tested for food sensitivities?
Symptoms of food sensitivities can vary from person to person. And because symptoms can be delayed and are often dose-dependent, it can be very difficult to determine which foods are causing symptoms.
You may consider being tested if you have any of the following conditions. These conditions are linked to chronic inflammation and food sensitivities.
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
- Irritable Bowl Syndrome (IBS)
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD_
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Please note this list is not inclusive. This is a full list of conditions where food sensitivities play a role.
The following is a list of symptoms associated with food sensitivities:
- Abdominal pain
- Bloating and gas
- Runny nose
- Brain fog
- Achy joints
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
MRT takes the guess work out of what foods and/or chemicals are causing your symptoms. Once determined which foods are reactive and non-reactive, a specific diet will be followed. Most individuals begin to feel relief within the first 10 days.
Want to know more? Contact me to learn more or see if food sensitivity testing is right for you.
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