Do you know the difference?
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. And because of this, 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 and 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 and 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 food sensitivity but also often accompanied by swelling, hives, difficulty breathing, and throat swelling. Additionally, 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 and 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.
What testing is available for a food sensitivity, allergy or intolerance?
Typically, skin pricks or blood tests are used to diagnose food allergies. The blood test measures if IgE is present in the blood. So, 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 a red ring around it.
Food intolerances may be determined by eliminating foods that are thought to cause symptoms. So, if you eliminate a certain food and symptoms improve, you may have an intolerance to that food. But, to make a more definitive diagnosis a Hydrogen breath test can be performed.
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,
Who should test for food sensitivities?
Symptoms of food sensitivities can vary from person to person. Symptoms can be delayed and are often dose-dependent, it can be very difficult to determine which foods are causing symptoms.
I would recommend testing for food sensititivies if you have any of the following inflammatory conditions:
- 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 may play a role.
Symptoms associated with food sensitivities:
- Abdominal pain
- Bloating and gas
- Runny nose
- Brain fog
- Achy joints
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
MRT takes the guesswork out of what foods and/or chemicals are causing your symptoms. A personalized diet will be based on which foods are non-reactive and reactive. 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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