Is your Food making you Sick?

Often people are reacting to food in one way or another and never realize it.

Why? Because sometimes the symptoms can be delayed up to 48 hours after eating the food, or because there are several ways we can react to food.

There are levels of reactivity to food, such as the difference between a food allergy and a food sensitivity, the latter being less severe.  Here’s a brief tutorial on this confusing topic.

We have all heard the stories of dramatic reactions with food allergies, such as to peanuts and strawberries: lips swell, throats close, and people are rushed to the ER.  There is also increasing evidence that Celiac Disease is “real”, effecting anywhere from 1 to 3 percent of the U.S. population.  Celiac Disease is an extreme reaction to gluten—the major protein in wheat, barley and rye—in the lining of the small intestine.

The two examples I have described above are two different types of reactions in two different parts of the body. Truth is, there are many ways we can react to foods. The symptoms we manifest and how we react to a food depends on the type of antibody we make, and where in the body we are reacting.

So let’s discuss the major ways we react to foods, keeping in mind that this is an emerging science with many theories.

  • IgE:  These are the immediate and acute reactions, such as the ones that people have to shellfish and peanuts, where the throat swells shut, lips get puffy and hives might appear. Allergists test for these reactions using skin scratch testing.
  • IgA: These are reactions that occur in the lining of the digestive tract, mostly in the small intestine. Gluten allergies (to wheat, barley and rye) are almost always IgA reactions.  IgA reactions tend to be digestive, such as bloating, constipation and diarrhea, although IgG symptoms can also manifest in the intestines.
  • IgG:  The “hidden” allergies that often don’t show a reaction until up to 48 hours after a food has been ingested, so it is hard to connect a certain food with a reaction. The symptoms tend to be low grade and chronic rather than acute, and show up as fatigue, headaches, muscle pain, foggy thinking, etc.

The tricky thing is that we can develop different types of reactions to the same foods.   For example, dairy can be an IgA, IgG, or IgE reaction.  Eggs, soy and corn are other common foods that can trigger various types of antibodies and therefore react in different ways.

Not only do we develop different types of antibodies but we also react to foods in varying degrees, labelled food sensitivity versus food allergy.

Let’s take Celiac Disease, for example. Celiac Disease is a condition that affects the intestines.  The villi, which are the small fingerlike projections in the small intestine, have lots of surface area for nutrients to be absorbed. Think o