If it’s not one of the common culprits – like dairy or gluten – then it’s probably one of the ‘weird and wonderfuls’ – like lectins, histamine or sulfites. Right?
On the up side, it’s not just a ‘you thing’; research now suggests that food sensitivities and related diseases affect at least 100 million people worldwide, and have increased by more than 50% in adults and children in recent years. Seriously, it really does feel like we really are becoming allergic to 21st century!
Food allergies vs. intolerance vs. sensitivities:
Understand this – adverse reactions to food can be broken down into 3 categories:
True food allergies are immune reactions to foods. These reactions begin to cause symptoms immediately (from minutes up to 2 hours) after the trigger food is eaten, and symptoms range from mild to severe (life-threatening). Symptoms usually include a rash, swollen or itchy tongue, runny nose, abdominal pain, vomiting, troubled breathing, coughing or wheezing, or a closed airway.
Food allergies can strike children and adults alike, but are more common in children. The good news – children can actually outgrow a food allergy. The bad news – adults can develop allergies to particular foods without having been allergic to them in childhood.
Immediate IgE reactions (the medical term for the above) most commonly occur in response to milk, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts, soya, fish and shellfish, and wheat. Interestingly, an allergy to milk and egg is much more likely to be outgrown than allergies to peanuts or fish.
Food intolerances are non-immune reactions to certain food components (e.g. lactose, histamines, alcohol, etc.) that occur when a person is lacking the digestive enzyme or nutrient responsible for breaking down those food components. Intolerances can cause flushing, cold or flu-like symptoms, inflammation, and general discomfort, because the body lacks the appropriate tools to break down trigger foods.
Common trigger foods and ingredients include dairy products, sulfites, histamines, lectins, preservatives, artificial colors, fillers, flavorings, chocolate, citrus fruits, and acidic foods.
Ah, dreaded food sensitivities – this is the one that we often struggle ‘to place our finger on’.
Food sensitivities can cause reactions that are delayed by hours or even days. These food reactions are usually caused by an imbalance in the gastrointestinal system that is affecting the immune system. One such imbalance is intestinal permeability, or ‘leaky gut syndrome’. Symptoms of food sensitivities differ from person to person, and are wide-spread: from migraines, headaches, dizziness, difficulty sleeping, mood swings, depression, anxiety, unintentional weight loss or gain; to irritable bloating, sinus problems, muscle or joint pain, and acne (the list goes on…).
|Food Allergies||Food Sensitivies|
|Onset||Rapid (minutes)||Delayed (hours)|
|Duration||Brief (hours)||Prolonged (days)|
|Quantity of food||Tiny||Dose Dependent|
|Mechanism & Persistence of Antibody|
(for the ‘sciency’ people)
|Mast Cell, Lifelong||Circulating Complexes, Months after |
Elimination of Trigger Food
Ok, but what’s up with the sudden rise in adverse food reactions?
Blame stress, obesity, genetics (and as of recent – epigenetics), certain medications, nutrient deficiencies (think vitamin D, your omega’s or antioxidants), environmental toxin exposures, and poor gut health!
When it comes to gut health and food reactions; we’ve got to consider the microbiome, your digestive capacity (the stomach’s pH level and functioning of digestive enzymes), and its barrier function. The ‘leakier’ your gut wall, the more potential there is for large, maldigested food particles (food antigens) to pass through into your bloodstream and induce inflammatory reponses in the body.
Is there a test that I can do to determine which foods I react to?
Unfortunately, there is no ONE ‘magic’ test that screens for ALL food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities. Skin prick tests, IgE blood tests, and various IgG food intolerance testing are available; however, results need to be considered in combination with your symptoms, a diet history, and the outcomes of a comprehensive elimination diet (consisting of the removal of ‘trigger foods’ for approximately 21 days, followed by a careful reintroduction thereof).
How do I deal with my ‘trigger’ foods?
- See your nutritionist.
- Identify your ‘trigger’ foods with your health care professional: perform necessary testing, and medically-supervised elimination diets.
- Most importantly, address all factors predisposing you to adverse food reactions. Note: identifying your food triggers will only help you to a certain degree, but addressing your anteceding factors (see above) will assist to prevent ongoing adverse reactions to foods. At TASH360, we’re all about addressing the root causes of health concerns.
Food for thought (promise you want be allergic to this one)
Our food today is different than food 100 years ago. It’s more toxic…
Increasingly we need to ask are we intolerant to food or are we intolerant to how it has been altered?Sara Gottfried