What you eat has a definite impact on your overall wellness, but in a world full of conflicting and ever-changing nutritional advice, it can be tough to know what you should be putting on your plate. For people with food sensitivities, things are even more complicated. How much do you know about food sensitivity symptoms? Would you recognize the red flags that might indicate a potential intolerance? What can you do if you suspect that you or a loved one is dealing with an undiagnosed food sensitivity?
Understanding Food Sensitivities
Food Sensitivities vs. Allergies
It’s widely accepted that certain foods are healthier than others, but few people tend to think of food as an active threat to wellness. When someone has a food sensitivity, even a nutritious food can be a danger to their health. A food sensitivity, also called food intolerance, “occurs when a person has difficulty digesting a particular food. This can lead to symptoms such as intestinal gas, abdominal pain, or diarrhea” (source). It can affect the digestive or immune system, and it can cause immediate or delayed symptoms.
Food allergies, on the other hand, involve the immune system. They are extremely serious, because even a tiny amount of an allergen can lead to a grave and potentially life-threatening reaction: anaphylaxis. This condition can involve a tightening of the throat, difficulty breathing, a rapid pulse, a severe drop in blood pressure, dizziness, and/or loss of consciousness. It demands immediate emergency medical care.
Some people use the terms food allergy and food sensitivity interchangeably, so we encourage you to fully explain your condition to others when important, and ask questions when talking to someone else about their food sensitivity or allergy. In both situations, the person affected must avoid the food that causes the adverse reaction.
As you may know, medical professionals test for the presence of an antibody known as Immunoglobulin E (IgE) to find out whether a patient suffers from an allergy, because IgE plays an important role in allergic reactions. Food sensitivity reactions often involve other antibodies, especially Immunoglobulin A (IgA) and Immunoglobulin G (IgG). So if you believe you suffer from a food sensitivity, your doctor may recommend an IgA or IgG test.
Virtually any kind of food can cause a problem, but certain foodstuffs are definitely more likely to trigger an adverse reaction than others. Eggs, peanuts, cow’s milk, tree nuts, wheat, shellfish, fish, and soy are the eight foods responsible for the majority of allergy and sensitivity reactions. That’s why food manufacturers in the U.S. are required by law to clearly disclose it if their products contain any of those eight foods. While they may be the most common culprits, these eight foods aren’t the only potential troublemakers, so keep an open mind as you search for the food causing your adverse reaction.
Recognizing Food Sensitivity Symptoms
Why is it so important to be aware of potential food sensitivity symptoms? Food sensitivities can develop at any time. A child troubled by food sensitivities may outgrow the issue or find that the problem continues into their adult years. Likewise, an individual who breezes through childhood without a single problem may struggle with a food intolerance as an adult.
Symptoms of a Food Sensitivity
Food sensitivity symptoms can vary depending on factors like the individual’s reactivity, the food involved, and the level of exposure. Thankfully, not all food sensitivities present dramatic effects. In fact, many go undiagnosed because people do not realize that their symptoms could indicate a potential food intolerance. Symptoms to watch out for include the following:
- Chronic headaches or migraines
- Persistent fatigue
- Muscle or joint pain
- Acne, rosacea, or dark circles
- Hives, a rash, or reddening of the skin
- Gastrointestinal symptoms like abdominal cramps, bloating, or gas
- Constipation or diarrhea
What should you do if you suspect that you or someone you love is experiencing a food sensitivity? If the reaction is severe, seek emergency medical care immediately. For a milder reaction, schedule an appointment with an allergist or nutritional expert as soon as possible to ensure that the issue is properly diagnosed.
Living with Food Sensitivities
There is no cure for food sensitivities, and the only treatment option is to actively avoid the culprit. That’s why scheduling a consultation with a nutritional expert is invaluable if you have a food sensitivity. After the detrimental food has been identified with diagnostic testing, a nutritionist can help you craft a diet plan that includes the healthy foods that you need to thrive while excluding the foods to which your body reacts poorly. Working with a nutritionist allows you to take charge of your diet and your health.
At Loehr Health Center, we’re delighted to provide expert nutritional services to help people who suffer from food allergies fill their plates with confidence. Amongst our services, we provide IgA and IgG testing. Contact us today to learn more about diagnostic testing, schedule a nutrition consultation, or sign up for one of our informative classes.