IgA

Food Allergies vs. Sensitivities

In the past few years there’s been a lot of talk about food allergies and more recently food sensitivities. With many popular diets eliminating common allergens, you may be wondering if you need to remove these foods from your diet. In this post I’m going to explain the difference between food allergies and food sensitivities. I’m also going to share my experience with testing for food sensitivities and the effects I felt after changing my diet.

Food Allergy

An allergic reaction to food occurs when we consume something that our body perceives as a threat. This causes the immune system to respond by producing antibodies. Antibodies work by removing harmful molecules from the body. The symptoms of an allergic reaction occur quickly after ingesting an allergen and can be severe. This is because the amount of antibodies increases rapidly; IgE antibodies. For example someone with a peanut allergy accidentally eats some granola that contains peanut. Within minutes their throat may begin to tighten, they might develop hives, or their lips, tongue, and face may swell.

Food allergies Signs/Symptoms

  • Skin reactions
    • Lips, tongue, and face swell
    • Itchy eyes
    • Hives
    • Rash
  • Respiratory tract reactions
    • Swelling, itching, tightness in the throat
    • Shortness of breath
    • Dry cough
    • Runny nose
    • Wheezing
  • Digestive tract reactions
    • Abdominal cramps
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhea

Food Sensitivity

When you have a food sensitivity, the body responds in a similar way, by releasing antibodies, however different ones; IgG and IgA. Compared to an allergic reaction the symptoms of a food sensitivity occur slowly, this is because the amount of antibodies increases over hours and can remain elevated for a longer period of time. Someone with a sensitivity to dairy can drink a glass of milk and feel fine, until a few hours later, when they might feel bloated, gassy, or tired.

Food Sensitivity Signs/Symptoms

  • IBS
  • Migrains
  • Rashes
  • Asthma
  • Chronic fatigue

For a more in-depth explanation of food allergies/sensitivities this article  does a great job at breaking it all down in a easy to understand way.

Here is my experience and reason for being tested for food sensitivities. I have had acne most of my life, a pimple here or there is no big deal. However, a little over a year ago my face was breaking out badly. I’m talking painful cystic acne and more white pustules than I had ever experienced. I feel like I have done just about everything to get it under control over the years; cut out dairy, take antibiotics, apply numerous prescription/non-prescription creams, gels, spot treatments, and masks. During this time of terrible breakouts I was reminded of a fellow RD who spoke about her experience with developing acne as an adult. Ultimately she found out she had a sensitivity to almonds, and when she removed almonds from her diet her skin cleared up. It made me wonder if there was a something in my diet that could be contributing to my skin issues.

I found a functional medicine practitioner and was tested for food sensitivities; IgG and IgA antibodies. My blood was tested against over 100 foods. Once I got the results I was very surprised to learn that many of the foods I ate on a regular basis I was sensitive to; dairy, eggs, blueberries, and soy to name a few. I was overwhelmed with this information and sad I could no longer drink blueberry, banana, kale smoothies. After the initial shock wore off I slowly removed the foods I have a sensitivity to from my diet. Soon after doing this I noticed I was less bloated and gassy than ever before. I also realized what foods made me feel that way to begin with, dairy I’m looking at you! I did see a modest improvement in my skin and as it turned out my skin issues ran deeper than food sensitivities alone. When I did the food sensitivity testing I also checked my hormone levels, which told a different story and was more closely tied to my skin issues. A whole other topic for another day.

If you experience any of the above food sensitivity symptoms it may be worth for you find a professional and get tested. What I enjoyed most about this experience was learning something new about my body and seeing how it responded to the changes I made.

*Removing certain foods/food groups from your diet can cause nutrient deficiencies. It is important to speak with a health professional; MD, NP, RD when removing a food/food groups from your diet to formulate a plan to ensure you are getting the necessary nutrients you body needs to function at its best.