“One man’s food is another man’s poison”
Most people are familiar with food allergies and more and more people are becoming aware of food sensitivities and food intolerance. While food allergies can cause potentially life-threatening reactions, food sensitivity symptoms can be a little less obvious for some, but can significantly impact the quality of life for others.
“Food and chemical sensitivities are estimated to affect up to 50 percent of Americans. At times more subtle and difficult to spot than true “allergies,” sensitivities cause a wide range of very individualized symptoms, from a foggy head to unexplained diarrhea, that can significantly decrease your quality of life.”
Reactions may take days not minutes or hours.
If you have a food allergy, chances are, you would have an immediate reaction because an allergy involves an immune response. With food sensitivities, the reaction is not always immediate, so it can be more difficult to pinpoint.
Note: you can have a negative result from a food allergy test, but still have a sensitivity that causes symptoms (one common symptom is IBS, but there are much more, like headaches, skin rashes, bloating, etc.).
“There is increasing evidence that food sensitivities are more common and have a wider and more varied impact on our health than previously realized. Although often equated with food allergies, food sensitivities also include food intolerance which, unlike allergies, are toxic reactions to foods that do not involve the immune system and are often more difficult to diagnose.
Many of the symptoms of food sensitivities including vomiting, diarrhea, blood in the stool, eczema, urticaria (hives), skin rashes, wheezing and runny noses, are associated with an allergic reaction to specific foods. However, food sensitivities may also cause fatigue, gas, bloating, mood swings, nervousness, migraines and eating disorders. These symptoms, which are more commonly related to food intolerance, are less often associated with the consumption of food.
Clinical research is accumulating evidence that the sensitivity to food can also increase the severity of the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, asthma and other diseases normally not considered food related.” – The Worlds’ Healthiest Foods
Studies link food sensitivities to conditions such as nutrient malabsorption, leaky gut, acne, IBS, joint pain, ADD and ADHD, anxiety, depression, brain fog, dizziness, and autoimmune conditions – and this list seems to be growing!
How do you know if you may have one or more food sensitivities?
Look at the list of symptoms above and see if any of them apply to you. You may also be dealing with symptoms that are not on the list. You’ll want to journal/track your food and your symptoms for a few days to see what connections you can make. Gluten, dairy, soy, grains, eggs, nightshades, nuts, seeds, beans, caffeine, and sugar are frequent triggers. Many people have multiple food sensitivities so this isn’t always easy, but it’s a good place to start and definitely worth a try.
Keep a written journal. Keep it simple. A small notebook that you can have with you at all times or your smartphone. Record foods for the next 2 weeks. Write down what you have at each meal and pay particular attention to how you feel within the next hour. Symptoms can take longer to manifest – days even – but this is a good place to start. Be aware and tune in to how you feel. See if you can discover a pattern of what you eat and how it affects you.
The 2 most common sensitivities are gluten (a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, triticale and spelt) and casein (a protein in dairy). Any food can cause sensitivity, however – fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, eggs, meat, and seafood – you name it! Just because food purports being healthy, doesn’t mean it’s healthy for YOU. Do your best to tune into the clues your body is giving you. Avoid the foods that you determine are causing you issues.
In addition to gluten and casein, 4 more top offenders include:
Where should you begin? Good question!
Newer blood tests are reporting to be very accurate in determining food sensitivities through Cyrex Labs. Check with your doctor to see if they do this type of testing. If not, look for a doctor that does. A functional medical doctor or a naturopathic doctor will most likely do this type of testing in their practice.
Another option is to do an elimination diet where you remove foods that most commonly cause reactions. Once removed for 30 days, foods are added back in 1 by 1 for 3 days at a time. This allows adequate time to detect a reaction. It’s important to pay close attention to any symptoms you notice. (I discovered I’m definitely sensitive to gluten and dairy, and also some nuts. Eliminating them from my diet solved numerous issues for me including migraines and digestive issues.)
The only issue with this approach is that you may have a sensitivity to something that’s less common (like a fruit or vegetable). If you don’t have the resources for testing, an elimination diet would be a good place to start.
If you think you may have one or more food sensitivities, find a practitioner that can guide you through testing. A dietician or nutrition coach can then assist you in making appropriate dietary changes. Eliminating harmful foods will help you feel better and reduce or eliminate your symptoms.
Any questions, please ask!