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What’s the deal with food sensitivities?

There are a number of terms that get thrown around when talking about how food can affect people in a negative way. Food allergies, sensitivities or intolerance; the goal of this post is to discriminate the differences between the above mentioned.

Food allergies

This type of immune reaction is mediated by the IgE antibodies, this is a typical anaphylactic reaction, where acute first aid is needed. Symptoms usually include some or all of the following; itchy rash, throat swelling, and low blood pressure. This is the type of reaction that is commonly associated with peanuts, or shellfish.

Food intolerances

This reaction is a response to lack of an enzyme within the body to digest the food properly. The most common in this case is lactose intolerance, where the digestive tract is missing the lactase enzyme responsible for breaking down the lactose sugar. Symptoms typically associated with food intolerances, are bloating, gas, abdominal cramping, and change in bowel patterns. This type of intolerance has been associated with chronic antibiotics use, as the bowel flora was disrupted.

Food sensitivities

Food sensitivities affect the immune system differently causing a hypersensitivity response that can take up to 48 hours after food ingestion to appear. The antibodies or portions of the immune system that are affected are IgG or T cells. These IgG antibodies or T cells will do one of two things; in the process of binding to the food protein, become confused and begin to react to proteins in the body (joints, blood vessels). The other reaction causes the antibodies to bind with the food particles and deposit in tissues causing local pain and inflammation.

Some of the non-specific symptoms that can be related to food sensitivities include;

  • Migraines
  • Joint pain
  • Seasonal/ environmental allergies
  • Chronic runny nose/ cough
  • Asthma
  • Poor immunity
  • Skin conditions: eczema, psoriasis
  • Autoimmune disease: lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.
  • Bloating, gas, IBS, bowel disease

Often the biggest hurdle with food sensitivities is determining the offending foods. Naturopathic Doctors are highly trained and have clinical experience guiding individuals in removing offending foods and moving toward a better state of health.


  1. Interesting article. I have seen some of your articles in The Silo, and have found them very informative. You seem to be very knowledgeable in your field, and I look forward to reading more. I will definitely sign up for the newsletter!

  2. Thomas,
    Thanks for the positive comment, I just submitted another article for the next issue of The Silo, so watch for it.