Unlike food allergies, such as an allergy to peanuts or shellfish, food sensitivity reactions are rarely extreme or life threatening. However, food sensitivities are more common than most people realize and can subtly affect health as well as mood. While food sensitivities are often undiagnosed, there is a growing awareness of this issue as well as ways to detect food sensitivities.
Food Allergy, Food Intolerance or Food Sensitivity?
While similar, there are distinct differences between food allergies, a food intolerance and a food sensitivity. Let's explore the differences.
Food allergies are an immune response, that trigger a histamine reaction within the body. Food allergies can have extreme reactions, such as hives, or worse, anaphylaxis shock. A reaction to a food allergy is generally immediate and extreme, often requiring medical attention.
Food intolerances occur when the body lacks the enzyme necessary to digest a certain food. Consequently, there is an uncomfortable digestive reaction. An example would be lactose intolerance. Those with lactose intolerance have insufficient amounts of the lactase enzyme necessary to digest milk sugar. Food intolerances are genetic and often run in families.
A food sensitivity on the other hand, is harder to pin down. In contrast to a food allergy, the reaction to a food sensitivity can be delayed for days after eating the triggering food. Also, unlike a food intolerance, the cause of the reaction is unknown. However, some suspect IgG antibodies are reactive to certain foods. Consequently, those with food sensitivities may never know what's causing their symptoms, because of the delayed and often vague reaction.
What If You Suspect You Have a Food Sensitivity?
First, keep a record of all the foods you eat, along with when your symptoms occur. Do this for several weeks. Next, begin an elimination diet. This involves eliminating foods one at a time for two weeks or longer. When you are symptom free for the ensuing weeks, you know you have pin pointed a trigger food.
Living with Food Sensitivities
Fortunately, by eliminating the foods which trigger your symptoms, you can eliminate your symptoms within weeks. It's also advisable to eat organic as much as possible. Food additives, pesticide and herbicide residues are ubiquitous in common foods and can also be the source of food sensitivities. While it may be difficult to eliminate some foods completely, cutting back on certain foods will cut down on your symptoms and discomfort. Living with food sensitivities involves finding a balance to minimize your symptoms as well as maintaining a healthy diet.