Adverse reactions to food are on the rise in developed countries and range from an immediate life-threatening anaphylactic shock to a delayed skin rash (1). Whatever the case, food reactions have a direct impact on the quality of life of individuals that are affected by them and are worthy of further investigation.
What is the different between a food allergy and a food sensitivity?
The below diagram from the July 2010 issue of Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology illustrates the wide range of food reactions that can take place in the body (2).
Food allergies refer to the Type 1 IgE response that causes an immediate immune response, triggers the body to produce histamine and usually requires prompt medical attention. On the other hand, food sensitivities are referring to the Type 3 or 4 IgG hypersensitivity reactions, which can be delayed for one to three days. Due to the delayed response of an IgG reaction, it can be difficult to determine which foods are causing the reaction.
What are common symptoms of food sensitives?
There is a large range of symptoms and diseases that are associated with delayed food sensitivities, ranging from mild headaches to Crohn’s disease. Some symptoms documented by clinical studies include:
IBS – diarrhea or constipation (3, 4, 5, 6)
IBD – Crohn’s or Colitis (7)
Migraines (8, 9, 10)
Diabetes & Obesity (11, 12, 13)
If you have one of these symptoms or diseases, it does not automatically indicate a food sensitivity is involved. However, if the root cause of your symptom or illness has not been discovered, it may be worth investigating further to see if food sensitivities are playing a role.
How can you determine if your symptoms are influenced by a Food Sensitivity?
There are two main ways to determine if a food sensitivity is contributing to your symptoms Elimination Diet and IgG Food Sensitivity Panel
1. Elimination Diet
During an elimination diet, an individual removes the foods that cause reactions in most people, including:
After these foods have been out of the diet for 6-8 weeks, they are systematically re-introduced one at a time. Each week, one eliminated food is eaten 2-3 times per day, and a food diary of symptoms is kept. If adverse reactions occur to a specific food, it is removed from the diet before the next food is re-introduced.
An elimination diet can be an excellent tool to determine if an individual is reactive to certain foods. There is also high compliance for avoiding the reactive food since an individual will actually feel their body respond negatively to a specific food. However, it takes a lot of organization, planning, food preparation and journaling to complete the diet. Some individuals who have suspected food sensitivities are not in good enough health to accomplish this on their own. If they don’t have somebody to help them, a food sensitivity blood test may be an acceptable alternative.
2. IgG Food Sensitivity Panel
A typical IgG food sensitivity panel tests the blood for around 100 of the most commonly consumed and reactive foods. The results come back in a graph form and indicate if an individual has a low, moderate or severe IgG response to each food. The foods that show up as severe are most likely associated with the adverse symptoms and should be eliminated for a period of time before re-introduction. Some symptoms decrease within a week of removing the offending foods.
Whatever method you chose, it is highly recommended that you work with a nutritionist or health practitioner who is familiar with elimination diets and food sensitivity testing to make sure you get the most accurate results possible.
If you have any other questions about food sensitivities, elimination diets or the IgG Food Sensitivity panel, feel free to contact Winnipeg Nutrition at 204-952-7982 or firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Zoler, Mitchel L. Food allergies up 33% in children, survey shows. Skin & Allergy News, 2012, 5; 23.
2. Brandtzaeg, P. Food allergy: separating the science from the mythology. Nature Reviews Gastroenterology & Hepatology, 2010; 7; 380-400.
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10. Mitchell N et al. Randomised controlled trial of food elimination diet based on IgG antibodies for the prevention of migraine like headaches. Nutr J. 2011; Aug 11;10:85
11. Ahmed T et al. Circulating Antibodies to Common Food Antigens in Japanese Children With IDDM. Diabetes Care. 1997;20;1 :74-76.
12. Kohno T, Kobashiri Y, Sugie Y, Takai S, Watabe K, et al. Antibodies to food an- tigens in Japanese patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus. Diabetes Res Clin Pract. 2002; 55: 1-9.
13. Lewis J et al. Eliminating Immunologically-Reactive Foods from the Diet and its E ect on Body Composition and Quality of Life in Overweight Persons. J Obes Weight Loss erapy 2012;2:1.