Updated: Oct 6, 2022
What is a food sensitivity?
How do you know if you have one?
What do the tests even measure?
Is it the same as an allergy?
We hear these types of questions from our patients at modrn med. A lot of information (and marketing) is out there about food sensitivity, but it’s hard to sort out what’s helpful.
So let us help you dig into the science.
To start, allergies and sensitivities are different.
An allergy is an immune reaction to a foreign particle. Histamine is released in these reactions, and you can experience closing of the airway, hives, and swelling. Your body releases IgE immunoglobulins when this happens. And you know right away.
On the other hand, if you have a food sensitivity, your body also produces IgG immunoglobulins, but the reaction is typically delayed.
This means that you might be exposed to a food but you don't experience symptoms until hours or even days later. The symptoms are also not life threatening and are much more generalized. It might be a stuffy nose, sinus congestion, a headache, fatigue, constipation, bloating, diarrhea or brain fog.
So if this isn’t an allergic reason, what’s causing the release of IgG immunoglobulins?
When you eat the food you’re sensitive to, the food particles cross over the gut wall, which they should normally not be able to do. Yep, that’s what we call “leaky gut” or more officially “intestinal permeability.”
When these fine particles reach the other side, your immune system recognizes them as foreign particles and creates antibodies against the food. You now have immune complexes to these foods that may be really healthy but when you eat them in the future your body may react to them.
But remember something likely caused the food sensitivity in the first place. When food sensitivity tests come back with a bunch of foods being problematic, the food itself is usually not the issue – the intestinal permeability is usually the root cause.
That’s why we lead people through an elimination diet.
This way we are not eliminating a bunch of healthy vegetables from the diet, but we are removing a lot of inflammatory foods to help heal the gut lining which is the real issue.
If you feel like you are reacting to healthy foods like broccoli or carrots then…
STEP ONE is to make sure you don't have something else going on like SIBO, which can contribute to intestinal permeability, that is really causing your symptoms. Working with a naturopathic/functional medicine doctor to test and identify can be key to discovering the root cause of your intestinal permeability.
STEP TWO is making sure that you are rotating your vegetables.
Did you know that It is super common for people to eat 4 vegetables on a weekly basis?
We get comfortable eating the same foods every day, and we know what foods don’t bother our stomach so we unintentionally restrict our diet.
When you do this, you increase your chances of developing food sensitivities because your body is constantly exposed to the same food. And you decrease your microbial diversity which has a negative impact on your gut health.
This blog might be a bit of a surprise! I know how tempting it is to order a test that could tell you to just stop eating one or two foods and solve your bloating or fatigue.
But in my clinical experience it isn't that easy.
I have found that these tests can many times cause more problems than they fix. I too often see people buy these tests on their own, and remove 10-20 foods from their diet to help heal their gut. However, they do not implement any plans for healing intestinal permeability or identifying why the intestinal permeability was there in the first place.
On top of that, the biggest mistake I see is that people do not reintroduce the foods they have taken out of their diet.
The most common issue I see with these tests is that they can make us fearful to eat the foods that came up as problematic. When fear or aversion develops around food, it can actually cause symptoms to get worse.
Healing the gut and reintroducing foods to see how your body responds to them helps ensure that your diet stays as diverse as possible.
If you would like support in healing your gut, book a 15 minute complimentary consult with one of the practitioners in our Network of Care. We will answer your questions about how we can help you love what you eat.