What to do about a Food Sensitivity

Updated: Mar 30

By Dr. Shreya Batra, ND

What is a food sensitivity?

Food sensitivities are different from food allergies. When you have an allergy, you have an IgE immune response, meaning you are having an anaphylactic reaction (similar to someone who may have a peanut allergy). However, an IgG immune response is a slower response and may not be as severe immediately. Instead, it may cause other inflammatory reactions in your body – and that is considered to be a food sensitivity.

What are common triggers and what are common symptoms?

Common food sensitivities include: gluten, eggs, milk/dairy, and yeast. Every body is different, so there might be something that you are sensitivity to, which doesn’t include those that I just mentioned. If someone is sensitive to a food, they may not know immediately that they are experiencing a food sensitivity reaction – but rather may experience symptoms once the inflammation has set in the body.

Some of the symptoms may include:

  1. Bloating and/or gas, abdominal pain, cramping

  2. Eczema, psoriasis, rashes, hives, acne

  3. Constipation, diarrhea, heart burn

  4. Joint pain, headaches, swelling, body fatigue, sinusitis

  5. Foggy memory, anxiety, depression, weight gain

Note: there may be other underlying conditions causing the above concerns.

What is happening in my body when I have a food sensitivity?

Our intestines separate our food from our blood system. When we eat something, only the required nutrients are absorbed from our digestive track and absorbed into the blood stream. If you do have a food sensitivity, the offending food will cause the protective barrier of the digestive track to start breaking down. Since the barrier is compromised, other particles of the food can go into the bloodstream creating an IgG immune DELAYED response. This is when all the inflammatory symptoms will arise. Other things that may aggravate or promote this type of response include: stress, medications, autoimmunity, etc.

How do we address these food sensitivities?

  1. Determine the triggering foods

  2. One way to figure this out is through an elimination diet with guidance with your health care practitioner – this is a specific meal plan which removes common triggering foods and inflammatory foods for 4-5 weeks and then once your body has eliminated all possible remnants of the foods from your body, we re-introduce one thing at a time to assess the reaction. This process is long and challenging, but is very accurate, effective and financially-favorable.

  3. Another method of figuring out your food sensitivities is through a blood test. Although there is not much research for these tests and they have not been studied widely, it has been shown to have great clinical benefit. This blood test assesses for an IgG reaction to foods and provides an individualized report. There are some limitations to these blood tests, with one limitation being that it only tests up to 200 foods and may have cross-reactions to unknown foods. It is also a more expensive option than the elimination diet. However, clinically, it has shown to have great benefit for patients as it is quick, easy, and gives an individualized starting point for further treatment and flags possible foods that you haven’t considered in the elimination diet.

  4. Eliminate the triggering foods and other inflammatory foods from the diet. Once we’ve figured out the triggering foods, it is important to remove them from the diet and also remove other foods that are commonly known to promote inflammation (such as fruits and vegetables from the nightshade family).

  5. Heal the gut. While doing the elimination of the foods, we work on healing the gut lining. This process is so individualized as it depends on many different factors. For some people, it may be important to first remove any bad bacteria and gut flora with antimicrobials. For some, we may need to reduce inflammation, using anti-inflammatories. For others, we may need to do both.

  6. Repair the gut! We introduce healthy bacteria back into the gut lining using appropriately dosed probiotics and appropriate strains. We may using other supplementation such as collagen or L-glutamine as well to heal the gut.

  7. Reintroduce the triggering foods – once we’ve repaired the gut, and introduced healthy bacteria back in, we can see if your body can handle the foods again. Note that sometimes, the gut lining is not the only problem, and some foods may not be reintroduced back in to the diet.

What’s Next?

If you think you have a food sensitivity, book an appointment so we can determine the root cause and get an individualized treatment plan started for you!

References

  1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/how-to-deal-with-food-sensitivity

  2. https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions-dictionary/food-intolerance

  3. https://www.health.harvard.edu/digestive-health/dont-tolerate-food-intolerance

  4. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/food-intolerance/

  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Atkinson+J.+et+al.+Gut+2004%3B53%3A1459%E2%80%931464.

  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Drisko+J.+et+al.+J+Am+Coll+Nutr.+2006%3B25(6)%3A514-22

  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18072008

  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Bentz+S+et+al.+Digestion+2010%3B81%3A252%E2%80%93264

  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Arroyave-Hernandez+C.+et+al.+Revista+Alergia+Mexico.+2007%3B54(5)%3A162-8

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