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These days it’s common to hear that someone or maybe you have a food allergy, food sensitivity, or food intolerance. It seems as though almost everyone has some allergy or sensitivity.
Hearing these different terms can also be confusing or misused. Let’s dive deeper into what the differences are in these food aversions.
First, let’s go over the most common food allergies. These are the food allergens that are located on your food ingredient labels as may contain, so people know that said product contains these food allergens.
8 Common Food Allergies
Eight foods or food groups account for the most serious allergic reactions in the United States: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, wheat, soy, peanuts, and tree nuts.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, food allergies are estimated to affect 4% – 6% of children and 4% of adults.
Are Food Allergy, Food Intolerance, and Food Sensitivity the Same Thing?
No the way your body reacts to certain foods is the key in determining whether or not you have a food allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity.
With a food allergy, the body is making an immune response to the food, and this can be dangerous. With an intolerance or sensitivity, the body may just not be processing or digesting the food appropriately and this is not actually dangerous (although it can obviously be uncomfortable).
What Is a Food Allergy?
Food allergy is an immune system reaction that occurs soon after eating a certain food. Even a tiny amount of allergy-causing food can trigger signs and symptoms such as digestive problems, hives, or swollen airways. In some people, a food allergy can cause severe symptoms or even a life-threatening reaction is known as anaphylaxis.
So specifically, a food allergy has an immune response. Meaning your immune system erroneously thinks certain foods (your food allergy) is a foreign invader or harmful substance in your body.
Your body then reacts to this harmful invader and triggers symptoms. Your immune system overreacts by producing antibodies called Immunoglobulin E (IgE).
In order to understand IgG and IgE, you need to understand what antibodies are first.
What Is an Antibody?
Your immune system produces these protein molecules in response to foreign substances in your blood. This includes responding to bacteria, viruses, and in this instance, specific foods.
What Exactly Are IgG and IgE?
Immunoglobulin G (IgG) Is an antibody that protects you from viral and bacterial infections. Usually showing specific food immune responses or food sensitivity. The response can be delayed by up to 3 days and cause digestive issues as the response.
Immunoglobulin E (IgE) is an antibody that triggers an allergic reaction to specific foods. This response triggers an immediate allergic reaction to specific foods.
Food Allergy Symptoms
itchy watery eyes
itching on the body/hives/rash
shortness of breath
Remember that no two people are the same; therefore, no two people will have the same reactions. The reactions listed are common and informational. However, you must monitor your own symptoms to learn your body’s reactions.
Food Allergy isn’t only about eating a specific food. Food allergies can also be triggered by smelling or touching a specific food. Be mindful of smelling or touching your food allergen in addition to eating it.
Does Anyone Else Want to Know How or Why Food Allergies Develop?
It’s easy to say that we have a food allergy/intolerance and avoid that allergen, but I like to know the root cause, as with all health issues. So let’s dig a little deeper.
What Actually Causes Food Allergies?
Food allergies can be caused by gut health or lack thereof. You must heal your gut to improve food allergies.
First, you start with figuring out what foods you are allergic to, try an elimination diet.
Then you avoid these foods in your regular diet.
Begin healing your gut while avoiding these foods by taking probiotics. I recommend this one. Start repairing your gut lining. Once you’ve repaired your gut you can slowly try some of the avoidable foods to see if your reaction is still the same. If so, continue eliminating and taking your probiotics. It may take some time to heal your gut and notice improvements.
What Is Food Intolerance?
Unlike a food allergy that has an immune response, food intolerance has a digestive response.
Food allergy is distinct from food intolerance in that intolerance does not arise from immune system dysregulation; for example, lactose intolerance arises from non-immune factors, such as lactose malabsorption and lactase deficiency.
Symptoms of Food Intolerance
Heartburn / indigestion
What is Food Sensitivity?
Food sensitivity is having a digestive response or reaction to a certain food rather than an immune response like a food allergy. SO food sensitivity and food intolerance can be used interchangeably because they are one of the same.
Food allergy is the immune response to certain foods that is the difference from sensitivity/intolerance.
It’s easy to confuse a food allergy with a much more common reaction known as food intolerance. While bothersome, food intolerance is a less serious condition that does not involve the immune system.
How to Determine if You Have a Food Sensitivity or Food Allergy?
If you have a true allergy that triggers severe reaction or anaphylaxis, be sure to work with your doctor and always have your epi-pen on hand. For others who have a less severe reaction, you can use the following.
You can do an elimination diet to help you figure out if you are intolerant of certain foods such as gluten, corn, soy, or one of the foods listed above.
Doing an elimination diet is a great way to determine what is triggering your reactions. You may be surprised to learn that eating some foods like wheat, corn, or gluten is actually causing your brain fog, inflammation, or upset stomach, to name a few.
It’s worth a shot in decoding your health and figuring out what foods may be causing you more harm than good. Try using a food journal and documenting your reactions to certain foods to decode your sensitivities or intolerance.
Food Sensitivity Testing
If you don’t want to do an elimination diet and go that route, you can also have a food sensitivity test. You can purchase one through Everlywell.com and perform this in the privacy of your own home.
For this test, you prick your finger and place your blood sample on the provided card. You return it to them with the provided label and box.
Within a week or so, you’ll have your results. I’ve used this test and found it easy and convenient. It was also surprising to get my results back and find out that I have sensitivities to things I never knew about. For instance, eggs! I had no idea! I eat eggs almost every day.
After I stopped eating eggs, I noticed my blood pressure start to go down. I also found out that I have about 15 other sensitivities; however, the reaction levels were much lower than the egg sensitivity.
The test results are easy to read and informative. You can easily have this test done to help you figure out any possible food sensitivities.
I think this is a great way to jump-start your health and wellness journey and I go into more detail about decoding your health and starting your wellness journey in my new e-course you can find here.
I wish you peace and guidance on your journey.
Take care and be well. ☮🕉