By Dr. Lynnea Felton

A pattern I have found with patients is that they are always looking for improvement with their dietary needs. While this is a complex topic, a common starting point is looking at the types of foods in their current diet and determining if there is a connection between what they are eating and the symptoms they are experiencing. Sensitivities to foods can cause symptoms that significantly interfere with a person’s life. It is important to investigate and to get back on track with your health as soon as possible.

What is the difference between food allergies and food sensitivities?
Allergies and intolerances differ primarily in the type of immune response, leading to differences in food reaction time, symptom duration, and severity of response. Unlike food allergies, intolerances are delayed responses, where a reaction can happen several minutes to days after exposure to the food. This response activates a type of antibody, called Immunoglobulin G, or IgG. These antibodies are produced to attack the protein structure of food.

What are symptom differences between food allergies and sensitivities?
Whereas food allergies produce near immediate, severe, sometimes life-threatening reactions, food intolerances involve a variety of responses that are more mild, including: rashes (such as eczema or psoriasis), diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas, abdominal pain, behavioral changes (including hyperactivity), difficulty losing weight, headaches/ migraines, joint pain, nasal congestion and post nasal drip, snoring, and fatigue.

How are food allergies tested?
Food allergies are commonly tested using skin scratch testing, or skin prick testing, and typically performed by an allergist. This involves marking the skin with a pen, placing an extract of the allergen to be tested next to the marking, then gently pricking the skin to visualize for reaction of the blood with the allergen. If there is a response, a hive will form, indicating significant histamine response. This involves an antibody called Immunoglobulin E, or IgE. Up to 50 allergens can be tested at once, including food and environmental allergies. Food allergies should be avoided indefinitely.

How are food sensitivities tested?
Food sensitivities are tested via the blood through a simple blood draw. While companies vary, common panels include between 90 and over 200 different foods. Food allergies can also be tested at the same time in this way. Results are typically released two weeks following specimen submission and provide the patient with a detailed report outline reactions. By eliminating these foods completely, many people notice significant positive changes in overall wellbeing and bothersome symptoms.

How long do I avoid foods I have a sensitivity for?
Occasionally, these foods need to be eliminated for only a short period of time of several weeks to months to allow for the gastrointestinal system to heal. With a slow and controlled reintroduction, reactions can be monitored and more permanent avoidance of sensitivity may be needed should symptoms return. If symptoms do not return when the sensitivity are reintroduced, then the patient can continue eating the food regularly.

For more information on food sensitivity and allergy testing, call Health For Life Naturopathic Medicine at 602-368-9211.