Food intolerance is on the rise: Some estimates say that up 80 percent of people have IgG food allergies. Should you be concerned if you don’t even know? Ignorance is bliss, right? Wrong. Would you believe that food sensitivities can cause or worsen health issues such as irritable bowel syndrome, acne, seasonal allergies, or even hormonal imbalance? This is one of the major issues I help people confront in my private nutrition practice.
When you think food allergy, you probably think of eating something that suddenly causes your throat to close up, sending you to the hospital. This is a true type of food allergy called an IgE response and is classified as a hypersensitive severe immune reaction that may affect the respiratory tract or circulatory system. These food allergies are very serious, and you probably know which foods to avoid if this is you. Most common are nuts and shellfish in this case.
There is another type of food allergy that is more insidious and may take up to 72 hours to surface. This is a delayed food allergy & is technically a food sensitivity, an IgG response, which refers to the IgG antibody, the largest circulating antibody in your system. What happens in this situation is that the IgG antibody marks certain food particles as antigens, and when you eat these foods (take wheat, for example), the body mounts an immune response and attack in response. Anytime you eat wheat, you experience allergic reactions such as bloating, hay fever symptoms, rash, headache, etc. These sensitivities can be passed from mother to child or can develop over time.
Let’s say you have an inborn dairy sensitivity and you don’t know it. The more you consume dairy, the more inflamed your digestive tract becomes. Your digestive tract is very permeable, and holes can actually develop, and food particles can leak through. They are released into your bloodstream, where they are marked as foreign invaders and attacked.
So, every time you eat that food, your body mounts an immune attack, and you experience symptoms. This is one reason why you may develop food sensitivities to foods you eat on a regular basis (more chance they will leak through the gut) and a reason why you should rotate foods in and out of your diet and strive for variety. Don’t eat the same things every day. There is also a connection between food sensitivities & food addictions and cravings–you are often addicted to the foods you are sensitive to because along with the immune response that is launched when you eat said food, your body releases endorphins as a response to the damage taking place. So you literally get a high from eating that food. If you get a pleasurable or drugged feeling from eating certain foods, or you crave them, you could have a sensitivity to those foods.
Common food sensitivity symptoms include gas, bloating, hay fever/runny nose/sinus issues, skin issues, joint pain, fatigue, brain fog, insomnia, rheumatoid arthritis, headache, IBS, Chron’s, heartburn, diarrhea, constipation. Every time you eat a food you’re sensitive to, it creates inflammation in your digestive tract, making you more susceptible to yeast & bacteria overgrowth and parasites, which cause sugar cravings, weight gain, and systemic problems like hormonal imbalance.
To prevent developing food sensitivities
- chew slowly & thoroughly.
- Practice a rotation diet: don’t eat the same things every day. Variety is key!
- Keep your digestive tract in top shape by taking probiotics to foster good bacteria in the gut. Too much bad bacteria causes leaky gut. You can develop food sensitivities over time from dysbiosis in the gut (bad bacteria overgrowth) by eating too much sugar, antibiotic use, too much alcohol or poor diet. The digestive tract gets inflamed from the dysbiosis and food particles can leak through. It can be a vicious cycle: poor diet –>dysbiosis–> leaky gut–> food sensitivities–> further digestive tract inflammation –> worse leaky gut –> more food sensitivities. The good news is that leaky gut can heal & food sensitivities can go away if you remove the food for 6 months or more.
I have mixed feelings about food allergy testing accuracy, but you can also do a self test to save money. Your symptoms are the surprisingly accurate results that indicate if you have a food intolerance! Remove any food you suspect from the diet for 14 days. Add it back in on day 15 and eat as much as you want of that food, then see if you experience any of the above symptoms. The most common food sensitivities are eggs, milk, wheat/gluten, soy, citrus, shellfish, nuts, and sometimes beef. Do you have food sensitivities? If so, how have you worked your diet around it?
Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to rebalance the body. In addition to her 1:1 coaching, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and improve your health. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.