Food Allergy Vs Food Intolerance/Sensitivity

Let’s get Down & Dirty:

What is a Food Allergy vs Food Intolerance/Food Sensitivity ?

A food allergy is an IgE (I like to think of the “E” as Emergency!) response. When someone eats a food that the body doesn’t like, the IgE antibody attaches to mast cells and produces and triggers a process known as sensitization. If you have a true food allergy, you may wonder why the first time you ate a peanut you might not have had a bad reaction and then after repeated exposures to the peanut, anaphylactic type reactions occurred, this is due to the initial sensitization process. After your body is initially exposed, each time you consume that particular food, the body sends warning flags to the immune system “INVADER! INVADER!” and this floods the bloodstream with different mediators known to produce inflammation and allergic reactions (ex: A well-known mediator in this situation is histamine {Think contraction of smooth muscles in the stomach, lungs & blood vessels along with itching & hives}). The 8 most common IgE(Emergency) food allergens are peanuts, soybeans, fish, crustaceans, milk, eggs, tree nuts & wheat.

A food intolerance  is much more common than food allergy. It involves IgA & IgG antibodies.  The onset of symptoms is usually slower and may be delayed by hours to days after eating the offending food, which makes it hard for people to put their detective glasses on and figure out which foods are causing them trouble. Frequently, people can have multiple sensitivities which can make it harder to sort out as well. Unlike a true food allergy where tiny amounts can produce a major reaction, small amounts of these sensitivity producing foods might not produce a reaction until you reach certain limits, which makes it even harder to detect. As you can tell, figuring out food sensitivities/intolerances can be difficult!

The continuous buildup of day to day sensitivities can have a lingering chronic impact on your health. These sensitivities can increase the size of pores in your gut and you can ultimately develop “leaky gut” where large food particles and toxins can pass through the gastrointestinal mucosal barrier and cause severe symptoms such as joint pain, bowel irregularities, cramping, weight loss, pain, vision changes, cognitive decline and even autoimmune diseases!

Things that can play a role in sensitivities and ‘leaky gut’ include:

1.      Enzyme deficiency (Example: If you are missing the enzyme lactase to breakdown lactose (sugar found in milk/dairy products), lactose is too large to pass through the intestinal lining which can produce many lactose intolerance symptoms (Gas, Bloating, Diarrhea, Pain, etc.).

2.      Chemicals/Toxins that are found in/on certain foods (specific to individuals)

3.      Tyrosine, Histamine, Salicylates

4.      Food additives (used for preservation and appearance of food) and food coloring can be a culprit of food sensitivities

5.      Gluten, Eggs, Dairy, Corn, Nuts, Shellfish/Fish, Soy & Nightshades (Regular Potatoes, Tomatoes, Egg Plant,  Peppers, Paprika, etc.) <– Look here for a full list of Nightshades. Are the most food sensitive items

6.      Alcohol & refined sugars are also common contributors to wreaking havoc on your intestinal lining

Word cloud concept illustration of allergies symptoms