Friday, September 18, 2009

*Updated* Food allergy, Food Sensitivity, or Food Intolerance?

Oftentimes in my practice I hear the casual misuse of the term “food allergy”. Therefore, I would like to explain the difference between a food allergy, food sensitivity, and food intolerance.

A type I hypersensitivity, or food allergy is an IgE mediated reaction that involve allergen specific IgE antibodies. It is a severe hyper-reaction of the immune system caused by a massive release of histamine and other chemical mediators from certain types of white blood cells called mast cells and basophiles. Upon each additional exposure to the allergic food, the IgE reacts with the allergen; and this results in the release of histamine, prostaglandins, etc. that result in the symptoms of allergy. Food allergies only affect 1-2% of the population. People suffering from a food allergy can usually identify what foods they are allergic to without testing because the reaction will occur every time and shortly after eating the allergic food. Because these reactions tend to be acute and somewhat obvious, they usually are not that impactful in chronic or degenerative illnesses.

On the other hand, food sensitivities are much more common and are involved in chronic or degenerative illnesses. Food sensitivities are delayed food allergies that manifest themselves in many different ways and can affect any organ system of the body. They can take anywhere from, say 45 minutes to 72 hours for symptoms to become apparent. This delayed onset of symptoms makes it virtually impossible to correctly identify the culprits without the proper lab tests; and thus often go misdiagnosed or undiagnosed.

Food sensitivities cause the immune system to react to foods and cause the release of chemicals called mediators. Examples of these are cytokines, histamine (think runny nose and watery eyes), and prostaglandins (Dr. Barry Sears of "The Zone Diet" fame talks about this at length) from white blood cells. It is these mediators that end up causing inflammation, pain, and a whole host of symptoms that come with food sensitivities. These unrelenting stresses on the immune system result in impaired adrenal glands and a weakened mucosal membrane barrier. Now, the thing that makes food sensitivities complicated is that there are numerous ways our immune system can respond. Because there are different ways it responds, there are different ways researchers have tried to identify reactive foods, food additives, and chemicals.

In my opinion, the most reliable ones to date are the Signet MRT test and the ELISA test. There is additional information about both on my web site, as well as in a Google search. Explaining each test is beyond the scope of this article.

Food intolerances can be similar to food sensitivities except they do not involve the immune system. Instead, the questionable food is not properly digested and then begins to ferment inside the gut. The most common example of food intolerance is lactose intolerance.

Eating the same foods day in and day out *can* lead to food sensitivities. I personally did this with red meat last year and as such I now rotate my meats from pork to lamb, buffalo, dark meat turkey, and then red meat. If you have developed food sensitivities from eating too much of the same foods then it would be advisable to go without them for at least 30 days and then reintroduce them slowly and observe the results. For additional information on what to look for when observing these results please refer to "The Pulse Test" document of the Metabolic Typing® diet documents package that can be found here:

In my practice I find that many people are sensitive to eggs; and I am one of them. Therefore, I only have them a few times a year.

I know there is a lot of information that might be relatively new to you in this "article" so please take your time in reading it, do some additional independent research with the thoughts that spur from my reply, and then email me through my web site or post on my Metabolic Typing® forum with your questions.

Be well,


1 comment:

DropYourAllergies said...

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