What’s The Difference Between A Food Allergy and A Food Sensitivity?

Picture of healthy food (fish, nuts, grains, beans, etc.) spaced around tiles that spell out "food allergy".

Millions suffer from food allergies and food sensitivities, but many don’t understand the difference between the two. While food allergies cause immune system reactions in the body that affects multiple organs, food sensitivities cause digestive issues, headaches, skin rashes and fatigue that are typically mild and short-lasting. Patients experiencing food reactions should be assessed for leaky gut as it is often caused by increased intestinal permeability. Learn how to recognize an allergic reaction from a sensitivity and what you can do to stay on top of your health with these tips!

 

Food Allergies vs. Sensitivities

Image of the differences between food allergies and food sensitivities.

There are so many types of food out there that vary in form, taste, color and substance, and most are good for us. While most people can digest their food just fine, there are others who struggle with a food allergy or food sensitivity that keep them from enjoying the foods that they like to eat. However, a food allergy is not the same as a sensitivity (often referred to as intolerance), nor do they develop themselves in similar ways. A food allergy is a distinct immune reaction to Immunoglobulin E (IgE) and it often affects multiple organs in the body. Food allergies are typically more dangerous than intolerances since they often cause anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening allergic reaction to food, insect bites and even medication. A food allergy can cause swelling of the tongue or throat, difficulty breathing and/or speaking, wheezing, dizziness and paleness. On the other hand, a food sensitivity is a distinct immune reaction to Immunoglobulin G (IgG) and is a delayed reaction after eating certain foods. With a food sensitivity, you can typically eat small amounts of problematic foods without having an issue. Symptoms of food sensitivities include diarrhea, sweating, hives, itching, vomiting, headaches, rapid breathing, bloating and face and/or chest tightness. Anaphylaxis is exclusive to food allergies and not sensitivities, but both food reactions can cause similar symptoms in some people.

 

The Role Leaky Gut Syndrome Plays With Health

While you may assume that your food allergy or sensitivity is caused by the foods you’re eating, it may actually be due to a medical condition called Leaky Gut Syndrome. Leaky Gut Syndrome is a gastrointestinal disturbance that causes microbes and toxins to leak through the permeable gut wall in your intestines, letting toxins into your bloodstream and eventually into other parts of your body. When the intestinal lining is damaged, the body will actually release more toxins as a natural response, causing food sensitivities and eventual organ damage. Leaky Gut Syndrome is a painful condition that can lead to Crohn’s disease, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, food allergies, digestive issues and headaches. This is why it’s important to be evaluated when you start experiencing a food allergy or sensitivity since it could actually be stemming from Leaky Gut Syndrome and not food. For patients with Leaky Gut Syndrome, it’s recommended that they remove gluten from their diets and reduce the amount of sugar they consume to treat their symptoms. This, along with a personalized treatment plan created by their doctor, often relieves the pain and pressure that Leaky Gut Syndrome can cause.

 

How To Prevent Reactions From Occurring

If your symptoms are due to Leaky Gut Syndrome, it’s important that you’re evaluated by a medical professional and begin treatment as soon as you can. Leaky Gut Syndrome won’t dissipate on its own, so waiting it out will only leave you frustrated and in a lot of pain. However, not every food allergy or sensitivity is caused by Leaky Gut Syndrome, which means you should still see a doctor to discuss a diagnosis and treatment plan. Once you experience a reaction to a certain food, see your doctor as quickly as you can. Early treatment means a faster recovery and a better chance of preventing reactions in the future. Foods that contain peanuts, eggs, fish, tree nuts, soy, milk and wheat cause 90% of allergic reactions in people. If you have a reaction to any of these foods, avoid eating it again until you’ve been evaluated by a doctor. Chocolate, eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, strawberries, tomatoes and food additives often contribute to food sensitivities and should be avoided, after you have a reaction, as well. Make sure to write down the foods that you have reacted to and show your doctor when you visit with him/her. If you’re diagnosed with a severe food allergy, your doctor may recommend that you carry an epinephrine shot to use as emergency treatment if you accidentally consume the food again. Diet restrictions, epinephrine shots and treatment for underlying medical conditions will only be included in your personal plan if your doctor recommends it. Always meet with a medical provider before taking matters into your own hands and using products to treat your symptoms.

 

Diagnose Your Symptoms With Our Help!

At Balanced Well-Being Healthcare, we care about your overall wellness and can help you overcome your food allergy or sensitivity. While these conditions may not disappear completely, our thorough testing and treatment plans will help you adapt to a new diet and lifestyle plan so that you can feel happy again. To schedule a consultation, call our office at (970) 631-8286. Call today to get your gut health back on track!