A food allergy is an immune reaction to food. In other words, your body’s immune system identifies a specific food as an invader and reacts accordingly by producing antibodies to protect you.
When you hear the word “allergy” you probably think of an immediate reaction to an allergen like hives, throat closing, swelling, etc.
There are 8 common allergens: milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, and soy.
A super common example of a symptom of food intolerance is experiencing loose stool after drinking milk because you are lactose intolerance.
A lactose intolerance means that you are missing the enzyme lactase that is found in milk products. Long story short, someone that is lactose intolerant is deficient in the enzyme required to break down the sugar in milk and milk products.
Food sensitivities are the most hotly debated, and most common, of the three (allergies, intolerances, sensitivities) and different practitioners can recognize them differently.
Food sensitivities are more of a chronic, low-grade sign of inflammation. Believe it or not, you can get reactions up to 72 hours after eating something or it can be pretty immediate. Because of this, it can be pretty difficult to pinpoint.
Examples of symptoms of a food sensitivity can include anything from migraines, bloating, digestive symptoms, etc.
Food intolerances usually require replacing the missing piece. Take the lactose intolerance example: a lactose intolerance could be treated with a lactase enzyme. Obviously, different intolerances are caused by the lack of different enzymes, so each food intolerance is treated differently.
Food intolerances are more related to how the body is digesting the food while food allergies and sensitivities are related to the immune system.
Food allergies often require avoidance of the allergen. In some cases, with those that improve their immune system status, they are able to handle seasonal allergies much better! I’ve seen clients use my anti-inflammatory food protocol in the Fast Track to Fabulous program and recover from high-pollen and allergy situations much faster. In general, there allergy symptoms diminish.
Food sensitivities require healing of the root cause or issue. Some practitioners recommend that food sensitivities are avoided the same way that food allergies are, but it doesn’t have to be this way! Yes, short term avoidance is usually necessary, but that doesn’t mean that you always need to be sensitive to it! Treating food sensitivities like allergies is the #1 problem I see in food sensitivity testing.
With food sensitivities, it’s important to identify the root cause of the sensitivity. Typically, the root cause is related to the digestive system or the gut. Once the root cause is identified, you can work with a practitioner to help solve the problem!
There are different types of reactions that can happen. There are different antibodies in the immune system. IGE is the one that’s measured when allergies are suspected. There are other types antibodies and mediators that can be secreted when you eat a certain food.
Do you like analogies? Because I do!
Your gut should be a bit more like nylons instead of fishnet tights. We are supposed to digest things adequately. We are supposed to use our enzymes and break things down.
It should be semipermeable so that nutrients can cross the barrier and go to their specialized “posts” throughout the body and do their work. In other words, food breaks down in the body and different nutrients get used for different processes.
If you put a bunch of food into nylons, the food wouldn’t cross the barrier, but water and the nutrients would!. Fishnet tights would allow larger pieces of food to escape, which could cause problems.
The gut has tight gap junctions that can get pulled apart. Instead of the food getting digested appropriately, it can escape and cross the barrier. Essentially, food can land where it’s not supposed to and the body reacts poorly.
The “guards” that are responsible for this reaction are holding different “guns” labeled: IGE, IGG, IGM, different cytokines, etc. The guard is firing off at the food that escaped and found its way to the wrong place.
Different food sensitivity tests look at different “guns” like IGG, all mediators, etc. The best food sensitivity tests look at the “extent of bullets that are shot” or the extent of the inflammation. In other words, the best food sensitivity test can identify what is causing the food sensitivity and how bad the food sensitivity is.
Inflammation is the root cause of pretty much everything. Early and common signs of inflammation are things like digestive symptoms, gas, and sinus congestion. Other signs and symptoms can be a little less direct like random aches and pains, exhaustion, headaches etc.
I had a client that had insomnia that was triggered by black pepper. Another client got predictably cranking after eating port. Talk about random and unique symptoms of a food sensitivity!
All of these symptoms of inflammation can appear unrelated at first, but more often than not, they can be traced back to inflammation caused by food intolerances.
The big question is: If you invest in getting a food sensitivity test done, what are you going to do with that information? Everyone thinks that a test will solve their problem, but tests are just tools! It’s interesting and fun to learn about ourselves, but it boils down to how you’re going to implement changes based on your results.
Working with a practitioner to heal your food sensitivity is the key! There are a lot of nuances to food sensitivities and having an expert help you navigate the water is the difference maker.
We all have those foods that we love and eat every day. Even better when that food is a healthy, anti inflammatory food, right? Believe it or not, you can develop a food sensitivity to foods that you eat most often based on your level of permeability.
Dealing with dysbiosis and permeability are actually pretty common. Once you strategically work through the steps of healing and body awareness, you should be able to improve your body’s response to these foods!
One of the criticisms of food sensitivity testing is that you results might change slightly day-to-day. This is possible depending on your level of permeability or “how open your door is.”
That being said, if this is the case, the results would be minimally different and the ultimate results are just the same!
Short cuts are always the sexy answer, but they are almost never the answer!
If you’ve tried different approaches before and nothing’s worked, the food sensitivity test might be for you! Especially if you are open minded, motivated, and committed to the process. While the results are rewarding and successful, this is not a sexy short cut!
Healing a food sensitivity is not simply getting a test. The journey is not linear. It is hard work, but it’s worth it!
IGG tests are most common and are usually private labeled by different lab companies. Going back to our handy dandy allangolgy, IGG tests test for the type of “gun” that the guard is carrying.For example, Pinnertest is an expensive, private labeled IGG test.
There are also other types of tests like endpoint tests that measure all of the mediators and “bullets.” An example of this type of test is MRT. I use MRT as a primary tool in my practice because MRT is the most refined and gives fabulous results, especially if the results are implemented properly!
The MRT test is unique because also looks at food chemicals. (Remember the nuances that I mentioned?) For example, tyramine is a naturally occurring food chemical that develops when food sits in the fridge for too long. Tyramine is a common culprit for headaches and it doesn’t present for 72 hours. Imagine trying to figure out what caused your headache without knowing that!
Do you have any more questions about food sensitivities? Leave them in the comment below so that we can do a part II to this series!
Do you suspect food sensitivities in your life? Book a clarity call to help determine if this could be useful for you!
What's all the hype about food sensitivity testing? Is it worthless? Useful? Who should do it? Who shouldn't do it? What's the difference between food sensitivities and food allergies?
In this Q&A Christa answers all of these questions and more. She also ranks different food sensitivity tests like MRT, ALCAT, and even Pinnertest.
Listen to the episode here!
Christa Biegler, RD, integrative nutritionist specializes in reversing symptoms of eczema, IBS, Crohn's, Colitis, digestive issues, bloating, abdominal pain, fatigue and autoimmune symptoms, especially Hashimotos.
Get started feeling like yourself again by booking an intro consult.