Food Allergies, Intolerance, and Sensitivity: What’s the difference?

Food Allergies, Intolerance, and Sensitivity: What’s the difference?

All three of these words are thrown around often and at times, interchangeably, but there are big differences between these terms and in the responses your body makes to them.

Food Allergies

These immune reactions to food are confirmed by an IgE immune response. IgE is an important part of the “first line of defense” against pathogens that enter the body. Reactions due to allergies cause acute or immediate responses once a trigger food is ingested.

Symptoms can range from mild to severe, and may include:

  • rash
  • swollen
  • itchy tongue
  • runny nose
  • hives
  • abdominal pain
  • vomiting
  • trouble breathing
  • coughing
  • wheezing
  • closed airway

Common sources of food allergies include:

  • peanuts
  • tree nuts
  • wheat
  • soy
  • milk
  • fish
  • shellfish

Food Intolerance

Food intolerances are non-immune reactions to certain food components such as lactose, histamines, alcohol, and gluten that occur when a person is lacking the digestive enzyme or nutrient responsible for breaking down these food components.

Intolerances can cause:

  • flushing
  • cold or flu-like symptoms
  • inflammation and general discomfort because the body lacks the appropriate tools to break down trigger foods

Common trigger foods or ingredients are:

  • dairy products
  • sulfites
  • histamines
  • lectins
  • preservatives
  • artificial colors
  • fillers
  • flavorings
  • chocolate
  • citrus fruits
  • gluten
  • acidic foods

Food Sensitivities

Food sensitivities are IgG immune responses that can cause reactions that are delayed by hours or even days so it is difficult to find the culprit. These are chronic food reactions and are usually caused by an imbalance in the gastrointestinal system that is affecting the immune system. Most common is intestinal permeability, or “leaky gut.” This is when food particles get through the lining of the small intestine and into the blood stream where they do not belong, and therefore cause an immune response.

Symptoms of food sensitivities differ from person to person, and can depend on the type of food eaten.

Some symptoms of food sensitivities are:

  • migraines
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • difficulty sleeping
  • mood swings
  • depression or anxiety
  • unintentional weight loss or gain
  • dark under-eye circles
  • asthma
  • irregular heartbeat
  • irritable bowels
  • bloating
  • wheezing
  • runny nose or sinus problems
  • ear infections
  • food cravings
  • muscle or joint pain/stiffness
  • indigestion
  • nausea or vomiting
  • bladder control issues
  • fatigue
  • hyperactivity
  • hives or rashes
  • dry skin
  • excessive sweating
  • acne or rosacea

Common sources of food sensitivities are dairy products, eggs, gluten (from wheat, rye,
spelt, and barley), soy, shellfish, and tree nuts.

BeWell offers functional nutritional testing to help you find these food sensitivities as well as a plan of action to feel better and heal. Contact us today to get started.

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