Food sensitivities have entered the stage more recently, after food allergies have been on the rise for over a decade. We will discuss the difference between food allergies and food sensitivities, the symptoms, how food sensitivities affect gut health, and how to check for food sensitivities.

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Food sensitivities versus food allergies

Food allergies are an antibody mediated hypersensitivity response, modulated by the immune system. The reaction is immediate. In food sensitivities, this is a non immune mediated response, but rather an abnormal physiologic response that could be mediated by metabolic processes, toxins or the effects of ingested contaminants or food chemicals. The response could be anywhere from hours to days later.

Symptoms of Food Sensitivity

Food sensitivities can present on the skin as eczema, hives, dermititis, or rashes, and digestively as gas, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation. They can also have an effect on sleep, causing insomnia, and can even cause migraines.

Conditions that are affected by food sensitivities

Food sensitivities cause inflammation, which is the main cause of chronic disease. Additionally, intestinal permeability can be affected by food allergies, and can exacerbate conditions such as obesity, GERD, IBS, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), insomnia, ADHD and migraines. GERD or gastroesophageal reflux disease is a digestive issue that can present as heartburn or acid indigestion. IBS or irritable bowel syndrome affects the large intestine and can present as cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, and diarrhea or constipation. Most patients with ASD and ADHD are also found to have food sensitivities, and discovering what these are have also been shown to help with treatment of these disorders.

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How to test for food sensitivities

An elimination diet is the gold standard for testing for food sensitivities. By removing all common triggers – dairy, gluten, nuts, wheat, eggs, oatmeal, black beans, soy, yeast, nightshades, corn – for a period of 2 to 4 weeks, this allows the gut to heal. After the elimination period, foods can be tested individually over a period of 2-3 days, and symptoms are monitored. Gluten and dairy are common sensitivities, and interestingly enough, gluten is cross reactive with casein, oats, yeast, sesame, and instant coffee so these foods are avoided during the elimination period.

A note about lactose intolerance.

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Lactose intolerance is the most well known food sensitivity. Babies are born with lactase, the enzyme that digests lactose, but after weaning, the body stops making this enzyme. As a result, about 75% of the population does not have this enzyme and are lactose intolerant. Lactose is found in high amounts in milk, and lesser amounts in milk products such as butter and cheese, so these can be more easily tolerated. Most people of Western European decent do have the lactase enzyme and are more tolerant of dairy.

There are tests that can check for food sensitivity, but results can be tricky. Two of these tests are PinnerTest and EverlyWell, but an elimination diet is recommended for true results. Work with us on discovering your trigger foods.


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