Food Sensitivities - And How They Differ From Food Allergies
Do you suffer from any of the following symptoms?
- Stomach bloating/distention
- Irritable bowel
- Weight gain
- Frequent colds/runny nose
If the answer was yes, then there is a very good chance that a food sensitivity is to blame. Food sensitivities are not the same thing as food allergies.
|Food Sensitivity||Food Allergy|
|Triggered by the release of IgG antibodies to a specific food||Triggered by the release of IgE antibodies to a specific food|
|Symptoms from a food sensitivity typically take months to develop||Symptoms from a food allergy typically appear immediately after eating the trigger food|
|Symptoms are not life-threatening but can lead to serious diseases since foods are not being properly assimilated and the immune system is comprised||Symptoms are usually life-threatening|
It’s normal for your body to release small amounts of IgG antibodies on a daily basis. However, food sensitivity will cause excessive levels of IgG antibodies to be released.
When excessive levels are released, the macrophages in the body cannot effectively eliminate them all. The antibodies that are not eliminated will then bind to antigens and the antibody-antigen complexes formed a deposit in tissues and release substances that promote inflammation. This inflammation causes the symptoms of a food sensitivity such as irritable bowel, migraines, and weight gain.
The immune system makes five major antibodies: G, E, A, M and D. The G type, IgG, makes up 80% of all the antibodies found in the blood. The more food sensitivities you have, the more IgG antibodies produced and the more overwhelmed your immune system will be. This makes you more susceptible to viruses, bacteria, parasites, and other pathogens.
Other Causes of Food Sensitivities
- Chemicals in food - Some people are naturally sensitive to certain chemicals in foods/drinks such as the amines in cheeses, and the caffeine in coffee, tea, and chocolate.
- Aflatoxins in food - Certain foods like beans have aflatoxins that can cause digestive problems.
- Histamine in food - Histamine levels accumulate as a food rots/ferments. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, and yogurt, and vinegar containing foods such as pickles, mayonnaise, and olives are very high in histamine.
- Salicylates in food - Salicylates occur naturally in plants as a defense mechanism against harmful bacteria, fungi, insects, and diseases. Salicylates are present in most plant-sourced foods, but tomatoes, berries, and citrus fruits have particularly high levels.
- Food additives - There are thousands of food additives used in the food industry but nitrates, monosodium glutamate (MSG), sulfites and food colorings (especially red and yellow) are the most well known to cause adverse reactions in people.
Why Food Sensitivity Testing is Misunderstood
A food sensitivity is an immune process that leads to inflammation which can eventually lead to serious diseases. However, food sensitivity itself is not a disease. As a result, a lot of healthcare professionals do not see the value in food sensitivity testing.
Further confusion comes from the fact that:
- IgG food reactions are often confused with IgE food allergies.
- One subtype of IgG antibodies actually protects against IgE food allergies. However, there are many different IgG antibody subtypes and this one subtype behaves much differently than all the other IgG antibody subtypes. The majority of IgG antibodies (>95%) trigger inflammation and provide no benefit against IgE food reactions.
- Since making small amounts of IgG antibodies to some foods is normal, some allergists are misinformed that excessive levels of IgG-food antibodies have the potential to cause inflammation.
- Food sensitivities develop slowly so there is rarely an obvious link between eating a certain food and the appearance of symptoms.
Should You Get a Food Sensitivity Test Done?
I feel that the small-time and financial investment to get a food sensitivity test done is worth it for the following reasons:
- Days can pass between the time a reactive food is consumed and the occurrence of a reaction, making testing virtually the only way to determine which foods are responsible for the reaction.
- A lot of the most commonly consumed foods in North American diets can cause food sensitivities.
- Elimination diets are difficult to follow and can take months to complete.
- A food sensitivity test clearly lists which foods are considered normal (or non-reactive), which foods are borderline (or close to being reactive), and which foods are considered reactive. A food sensitivity test makes it easy to see at a glance which foods are problematic for you.
How Much Does a Food Sensitivity Cost?
A food sensitivity test is a simple blood test which tests for IgG antibodies to a panel of different foods. The cost will vary slightly based on location and the practitioner but most tests will cost in the neighborhood of $200.