Registered Dietitian

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.

Healthy Personal Southwestern Skillet

I recently got a cast iron skillet and have been so excited to make some skillet dishes. My dish was inspired by this recipe.  If you’re like me and love Mexican food, you will love this dish! It has all the Southwestern flavor but is much lighter than traditional Mexican.

Ingredients

2 teaspoons olive oil

2 small or 1 medium sweet potato, chopped

1/2 cup black beans, cooked (I used dry beans; soaked overnight and cooked before adding to this dish) you can also use canned

1-2 cups Cruciferous Crunch or any leafy greens

8-10 grape tomatoes, cut in half

salt and pepper, to taste

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon chili powder

1 oz cheese of your choice, grated

cilantro and avocado, for garnish

Method

1. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in small oven proof skillet. Add sweet potato and spices. Cook, stirring occasionally, until potato is slightly tender, 10-13 minutes.

2. Add black beans, greens, and tomatoes, stir to combine. Cook until greens begin to wilt.

3. Turn oven broiler to high. Top skillet with cheese and place under broiler for 3-5 minutes until cheese melts.

4. Remove from oven and garnish with cilantro and avocado. Serve immediately.

 

FNCE Swag- My Favorite Items

I have been in Chicago this past week attending the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo (FNCE). It is the annual conference for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. This year was my first time attending FNCE. Overall it was a great experience. I learned some new things that I am excited to put in to practice and tried a bunch of new products. Below is a review of my favorite items I received from the expo.

1. U of A Nutritional Sciences tote bag

The University of Arizona had a booth at FNCE  promoting their Nutritional Science program; the program I received my Bachelors of Science in. #Beardown.

2. Hemp Hearts

Hemp seeds are a favorite of mine to top yogurt, salads, and ice cream with. They are a great plant based source of omega-3s and protein, they’re also a good source of fiber.

3. Scharffen Berger Dark Chocolates

Good quality dark chocolate, enough said.

4. Sun-Maid Sour Watermelon Raisins

My favorite candy is sour patch kids, but I rarely eat them because they are so sugary. These raisins satisfy my taste buds because they are sour and sweet and the best part is they contain no added sugar! Watermelon is a new flavor coming out soon, they are currently available in Sour Lemon and Sour Strawberry.

5.  Rhythm Beet Chips and Kale Seeds

I love snacks like these beet chips, because the only ingredient is beets! They are baked, not fried and incredibly tasty. I also like they they gave out seeds to grow your own kale.

6. Sunsweet Prunes

Prunes made it to my favorites list after going to an educational session on prunes ability to inhibit bone resorption! Bone resorption is when bone is broken down and the minerals are released int o the blood stream, which can lead to osteoporosis. Research suggests eating 100 grams (about 12 prunes) per day for 6 months to 1 year can increase bone density in men and women. Prunes can also preserve bond density, subjects were tested 5 years after the intervention of 100gm prunes/d; subjects did not continue to eat prunes in the 5 year period.

7. Crazy Richard’s Powdered Peanut Butter and Nut Butter Mixing Spatula

 I am definitely a fan of powdered peanut butter, except most brands add sugar, but not Crazy Richard’s! They’re 100% Peanut Powder only has 1 ingredient, peanuts. The PB plus has added B vitamins and antioxidants designed for physically active individuals. They were also giving out a handy spatula to stir nut butter. It works so much better than a knife when mixing a newly opened jar of nut butter!

8. Nuts-Almonds, Walnuts, Pistachios

Nuts are one of my go to snacks because they contain fat, protein, and fiber. 3 things guaranteed to get you to your next meal without feeling famished.

9. That’s it bars

These bars are another great on the go snack with a small ingredient list and a good source of fiber!

10.  GoMacro bar

I have seen these bars at Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Sprouts, but never tried them before. As far as bars go their nutritional stats are not bad, they taste pretty good, and have a chewy/crispy texture. They are also coming out with some new fruit and nut bars.

11. Vital Protein Collagen Peptides and Bone Broth Collagen

 I love, love, love collagen! I’ve been taking the collagen peptides for a few months now and I’m hooked. I have noticed that my hair grows faster and it helped me heal from a ligament strain. I’ve been told that my skin looks firmer too! I bought a container of the bone broth collagen and look forward to incorporating it in to my diet. These stick packs are great for traveling.