Food Allergy vs. Food Sensitivity 

By: Alletess Medical Laboratory

Have your patients ever found themselves feeling uncomfortable or nauseous after eating certain foods? Do they have unexplained fatigue or difficulty concentrating? Do they get headaches, migraines, skin irritations or unexplained weight loss or gain?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, your patients may have a food sensitivity, which is a non-life threatening reaction in response to digesting a problematic food. Although it is not completely understood where food sensitivities come from, causes may include: lack of digestive enzymes, stress, infections, overeating, artificial preservatives, additives, and many others.

A person may experience symptoms such as gas, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, which can severely impact their quality of life. These symptoms may take up to 72 hours to develop after a food is ingested, making food sensitivities quite hard to identify. Individuals around the world have sensitivities to a large variety of food, common triggers being both lactose and gluten, which can sometimes take years to understand the root cause. 

Food sensitivities may exacerbate symptoms in conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), migraines, autoimmune disorders, and can even impact mental health. As such IgG panels have been correlated to identifying specific food items that may cause these symptoms. In the case of autoimmune disorders, addressing food sensitivities can reduce the amount of inflammation throughout the body. In addition, based on a  2010 study, it was found that elimination diets decreased migraine frequency and reduced the need for medication. 

So what is the difference between a food sensitivity and an allergy?

While food sensitivities have a delayed reaction, a food allergy is usually an immediate reaction, where symptoms may last for a few hours. Allergies can be life threatening and lead to a condition called anaphylaxis. If anaphylaxis is not treated with epinephrine, it may lead to death. Allergies occur when an individual has antibodies against epitopes found in certain proteins and compounds that produce a large and usually immediate immune response. 

Since food sensitivities are hard to identify, you may be wondering what you can do to help your patients that are experiencing some of these common symptoms. 

In order to put an end to these symptoms, a simple blood test can help to identify which foods may be problematic to you specifically by examining IgG levels of common food sensitivities. With the results of this test, it can then be followed by an elimination diet, which is a highly effective form of identifying and getting rid of food intolerances. 

At Alletess Medical Laboratory, we understand that food elimination diets can be difficult to adjust to, which is why we also offer on site dietitians to help your patients through their health journey.

Reach out today to see how we can help you set your patients up for success!