Wow, I bet you saw food sensitivities in the headline and thought to yourself, “Now this seems exciting!” Am I right?
Ok, I’ll admit that digestion isn’t the most romantic topic of conversation.
But it is something worth getting through the discomfort in talking about because the digestive system plays a huge role in your immunity and your total health The thing I want to point out first is that you don’t have to have gas, bloating, heartburn or any other form of typical digestive discomfort to be experiencing a food sensitivity. For many, the symptoms are significantly more sneaky.
Do you have any of the following?-
frequent cold and flu
an autoimmune disease
Well, you just may be experiencing a food sensitivity.
Now I want to point out that a sensitivity is different from an allergy. To get technical, an allergy is an IgE mediated response. Allergies are diagnosed by looking for these IgE markers in a blood allergy test. A sensitivity is a non-IgE response, so it won’t show up on an allergy test. Another distinction between the two is that an allergy creates an immediate response while a sensitivity usually has a 24 to 72 hour delay from ingestion for the onset of symptoms. This makes a sensitivity really hard to pin down.
To make things even more tricky, the one thing that will alleviate the symptoms of a food sensitivity is usually the very food that caused the reaction! I won’t get into the whole technical explanation of why this happens. Just to quickly sum it up, you’re body is reacting like you might when experiencing addiction. The body goes through withdrawal after ingesting the problematic food and the one thing that stops the withdrawal symptoms is that same food. Yet, this inevitably leads to more difficulties as the bad reaction starts all over again with time. Ever known a person who says that only milk will make their upset stomach go away? Well, you guessed it. That person is probably sensitive to dairy products.
Almost any food can cause a sensitivity.
Yet, there are some that cause difficulty much more often. A sampling of some of the higher risk foods is soy, dairy, eggs, wheat, gluten, corn and peanuts. If you are experiencing symptoms of a possible sensitivity, these foods are a good place to start your search.
How do you test for a food sensitivity? Well, we already know that they don’t register on a conventional blood test. There are some alternative health care providers who do what is called muscle testing, but that can be expensive, isn’t covered by insurance and while many swear by it, the validity of muscle testing is still controversial.
The cheapest way to test for a potential problem is through an elimination diet.
An elimination diet is done by removing potentially problematic foods from the diet for a certain amount of time, say 3 weeks. If symptoms go away during that time period, you have most likely found a food sensitivity. If symptoms don’t abate, either it isn’t a sensitivity OR there is more then one troublesome food and all problem foods have not been identified.
The way to confirm the sensitivity is through food re-introduction. Foods are brought back into the diet one by one, with a 72 hour gap between each food. It is helpful to keep a diary during this time to note symptoms. When you notice a symptom return, that is a sign to stop eating the food just re-introduced. After a break, you may be able to tolerate this food again, but not now. That is another way in which allergies and sensitivities differ. An allergy is usually for life, but a sensitivity may disappear after giving the body a break, allowing you to have the food on an occasional basis.
There are two important factors about an elimination diet as well as re-introduction.
First, 100% of potentially sensitive foods must be removed. If there is even a trace of the food left in the diet, you may still be reacting to the food. If you aren’t 100% sure of what is in a food, don’t eat it.
Second, foods MUST be re-introduced one at a time. If you are eliminating gluten and dairy, you can’t start back with macaroni and cheese. If you have a reaction, you won’t be able to identify the troublemaker. A better method would be to have, lets say a small glass of milk, followed no sooner than 72 hours later by a few crackers.
Ok, so far we’ve learned that food sensitivities can take up to 72 hours to appear and there is a wide array of possible symptoms (including conventional digestion problems.) We’ve learned that these food irritants can compromise our immunity. Stayed tuned for next week because I”ll be going over some more essential information. Because food sensitivities don’t just disrupt your health. They also mess with your weight.
A few years ago I used to eat avocado on a daily basis until I could not longer stomach it. The same happened with eggs. It took two years before I could eat them without feeling ill. Both of these allergies happened while I was traveling and living in Sth America. Maybe I only like my eggs and avocado’s locally grown. All is better now and I eat them without issue although less frequently.
That is so funny Tim. The same thing happened to me in Scotland. I got so incredibly sick from the dairy products in a way that never happened in the US. It seems like you did the right thing by adapting the frequency with which you eat those foods. I’m glad you found a way to include them in your diet so you can tolerate them.
Jacqueline Gum says
I have been using this term for many years! Before it was popular! I have a sensitivity to fish, though not an allergy. I have had this since I was a child and it took a long time for my mother and the doctors to figure it out! It was by process of elimination, as you suggest. I have never heard of this muscele test!
Glad you figured it out! That must have been frustrating as a little kid to have all these symptoms and not be able to pinpoint the problem. Muscle testing is only done in holistic healthcare so it is rare that someone who practices Western medicine would have been exposed to it. That is probably why you haven’t heard of it.
Suzanne Fluhr says
I have a FB friend who used the elimination diet to find that dairy products were the cause of her very bothersome symptoms. It’s hard to believe that one food could make such a difference in her life. If she “cheats”, she pays for it.
Yes, it is amazing the difference that one food can make. I’m sorry she hasn’t been able to re-introduce the food with any success. Many times you can eventually re-introduce a food in small quantities with a food sensitivity. But for some people like your FB friend, they must eliminate the food for life or they pay.
Am sensitive, to put it mildly, to all food that has a negative impact on the thyroid gland. Meat, dairy products, grain, sugar and cabbage to name a few. When I cut them out my well being and health benefit enormously. Boring but unfortunately a fact I have to live with since three years.
I can see how eliminating those foods would be worth it, especially when dealing with your thyroid. When your thyroid is off, there is really no way that you are going to feel good. I’m happy to hear that an elimination diet got all that under control for you.
Ken Dowell says
Very informative post. For many of the symptoms that you mention I would never have considered it to be caused by a food sensitivity.
I think a lot of people don’t know Ken. People so often think that you have to have digestive problems to have a food sensitivity. That is simply not the case.
Marquita Herald says
This is so interesting Erica! I learned quite by accident the effects that a particular food can have on the body. My last job (working for someone else) was a nightmare that had me living half my life in my car and basically surviving on fast food, especially my comfort food of choice, fried chicken tenders from KFC. The first thing I did when I put that behind me was to start cooking again and it was probably 4 or 5 months before I decided to ‘treat’ myself to a visit to KFC. I hadn’t even finished half the chicken before my stomach started rebelling and I paid for that ‘treat’ all of the following day. The same thing happened with diet Coke. I used to live on that stuff and now I can’t manage more than a couple of sips. Looking forward to learning more!
That is so interesting Marquita. I wonder what ingredient in the food you were reacting to. Or perhaps you were just have a reaction to the fact that it was poor quality food. I’m glad to hear you don’t drink diet coke anymore. There are so many hidden dangers in diet soda that you can only be better for not drinking it.
Erica, can you bring us up to speed on what “IgE” is?
IgE has to do with a type of antibody response. When anything physically threatens the body, whether it is a bruise, or a toxin or a cold, our immune system goes into attack mode. We then produce different types of attackers to fight the invader that is threatening the body. With a food allergy, the body creates antibodies to attack a food that is perceived by the body as an invader and this is called an IgE mediated response because of the type of antibody used to attack. Food sensitivities also create imbalances that can eventually lead to an immune response in the body, but it does not illicit these IgE antibodies so it will not show when doing an allergy blood test.
Very nice post. At times I have acne and I have tried many times to know, what is the cause.
The point I reached is, egg if I eat for consecutive days, there I have it.
I can not skip egg totally,as its good source of protein.
So I eat it on alternate days and it keeps me away from getting the problem.
I am using this technique and I do not remember last time when acne appeared on my face.
Secondly, if I eat a lot of cream in any form, worst is with lot of sugar on cakes. I try to avoid it.
That is great that you have figured how to eat eggs without having a food sensitivity reaction anymore. And yes, our body can react to sugar too. That is really a topic for another day, but sugar affects us in more ways than we realize.
William Rusho says
Thank you for sharing, a very interesting post. I wonder sometimes about the increase of food sensitivity, is it something evolutionary, more people with passing that gene onto their children. Or is it environmental, are we adding so must pesticide and fertilizer to our food we are now reacting to it?
Well, with gluten they say it is because we never before in history ate so much gluten. Now that we have so much processed foods, gluten is added to almost everything we eat. That is also the case with dairy and soy. If you start reading labels, you can see it is in almost everything. We eat it so often that we start reacting to it. And yes, we are growing foods differently than ever before and that can definitely lead to problems.
Pamela Chollet says
I found out 2 years ago I was sensitive to popcorn! I loved popcorn and ate it every night, plain hot air popcorn. I woke up every morning feeling as if I was hung over. I had blood work done and popcorn and yogurt (which I also loved) So it sounds like I could try eating popcorn again and see what happens.
Well, if popcorn and yogurt showed up on a blood test, it sounds like an allergy and not a sensitivity as a sensitivity can’t be diagnosed by a blood test. A sensitivity will sometimes disappear after a period of elimination. An allergy usually does not. So I would proceed cautiously if you try to re-introduce.
Beth Niebuhr says
When I was a little girl, my mother made me an egg every morning in the winter. I would always get a rash. Never connected it to the egg. Then when I was in high school, a teacher demonstrated an egg potion on my face and I turned bright red. I can eat them now without problems but I do keep it in mind.
Wow, that must have been a lot of rashes. I’m glad to hear that you no longer experience that. I’m fascinated to know why your teacher put an egg potion on your face! That must have been a really funny day of class, right until you developed that rash.
Meredith @ The Palette Muse says
I’m a food sensitivity nerd, so your headline really did get me excited! 🙂 We have a lot of allergies and sensitivities in our family, so when someone’s not feeling well, my first thought is “what did you eat?” It’s a lot harder to identify which food is bothering you, but so worth it if you can!
That is so funny Meredith! I am the same way even though I haven’t found a new problem food since I eliminated gluten. Yes, it is definitely easy to go without a food than feel icky all the time. That is for sure!
I have discovered food sensitivities by using the elimination method. If you haven’t done it, you should try it. I learned so much doing this. It is important to reintroduce foods one at a time though…