Food Allergy and Food Sensitivity

Food allergy and food sensitivity are reactions of the human body when it is exposed to food items it is allergic or sensitive to. Both the conditions differ in their nature, and, in some cases,  can be life-threatening if ignored. Food allergies and food sensitivities can be identified by testing for their characteristic antibodies and treatments can be suggested accordingly.

What is a food allergy?

A food allergy is the response of your body’s immune system to specific food items. When you consume any food that you are allergic to, your body responds severely and may require immediate medical help. A common example is when an individual’s throat swells up when exposed to nuts or peanuts.

Why Do You Experience Food Allergy?

Food allergy is your body’s reaction to the foods you are allergic to. When you consume, inhale, or come in contact with certain foods, your body produces a chemical called histamine, which can trigger many allergic symptoms such as:

  • Severe rashes on your body

  • Itching of mouth

  • Swelling of body parts such as lips or mouth or eyes and eyelids

  • Intense nausea or vomiting

  • Asthma

  • Hives

  • Vomiting

  • Swelling in the throat which constricts the airway

In extreme cases, a life-threatening condition called Anaphylaxis can occur, where the patient can experience severe swelling of face and air passages, along with an extreme drop in blood pressure, eventually leading to the cut off of the supply of air to the lungs

What food items can cause food allergy?

The following is a list of foods that commonly trigger food allergy in humans:

  • Nut families (Peanuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts, pecans)

  • Soy and soy products

  • Fish

  • Eggs

  • Shellfish

  • Wheat and wheat products

  • Milk and dairy items

  • Shrimp, crabs, and lobsters

  • Clams, oysters, and mussels

  • Certain fruits and vegetables

What is food sensitivity?

Also known as food intolerance, food sensitivity is a human body’s response to the food items it is sensitive to. The main effect of food sensitivity is a rise in IgG antibody levels. In some patients, the reaction is visible in the form of inflammation, while in others, conditions such as acne, dry and itchy skin occur.

Unlike food allergies which trigger an immediate reaction, a food sensitivity reaction may not occur for a couple of days after exposure. Many people suffer a lifetime of ailments that they never connected to the food they consume. What we eat matters.               

In general, a food sensitivity can cause the following symptoms:

  • Bloating

  • Reflux

  • Migraines

  • Joint pains

  • Dry and itchy skin

  • Sleep problems

  • Dark circles

  • Unexplained headaches

  • Unexplained sneezes and runny nose

How To Detect Food Allergy And Food Sensitivity

The main difference between food allergy and food sensitivity is the way your body reacts. In very simplified terms your body produces antibodies, also known as immunoglobulins, in response to an antigen.  One immunoglobulin, IgE, is produced in response to a food allergy, while for food sensitivity, IgG, IgM or IgA are produced. Testing is to look for different antibodies.

What Is An IgG Food Allergy Test?

An IgG food allergy test more correctly referred to as a food sensitivity or food intolerance test, is a blood test that identifies food sensitivity by testing for IgG antibodies for various foods. A higher level of IgG for a specific food indicates the likelihood the food is best eliminated from the patient’s diet, at least for a period of time. 

IgG testing provides not only a good list of “suspects” for an elimination diet, but also provides a nice list of “safe foods.”

How Is A Food Allergy Test Performed?

The two most common methods of testing are:

Skin Testing: In this test, the doctor injects a tiny amount of food allergen in the liquid form into the skin of the patient and looks for a physical response at the site of the injection. Blood Testing: A sample of blood is collected from the patient and is tested in a laboratory. Depending on the lab, resultsults may take around 1-2 weeks.

Elimination Diet

The best way to test for food intolerance is by following an elimination diet. Suspected food items are eliminated from the patient’s daily diet for a certain period and they are slowly added back and observing possible symptoms of food intolerance.