We all know about the anaphylactic reactions that some people have to food, but were you aware that most people can have a different and less severe reaction? Although the symptoms are not life threatening, they can be extremely debilitating.
Let’s compare the 2 types:
Type 1 hypersensitivity reaction is the anaphylactic response we’re all familiar with. If you have this reaction, you probably already know about it. When you consume an allergen from food that your body recognizes as “bad”, your immune system matches IgE antibodies to the allergen, which triggers a massive release of histamine. This histamine is responsible for all the symptoms we know: asthma attack, swelling of the throat, hives, running nose, etc.
A masked hypersensitivity reaction is a lesser immune response, often called a food sensitivity, and is mediated by the IgG antibody. These antibodies do not cause the release of histamine, but do trigger other immune responses that are not as well understood in all cases, yet have been shown to cause a vastly different set of symptoms in every individual. Because of the lack of understanding of the process, and the myriad of symptoms, these reactions are often misdiagnosed.
What should this mean to you?
Some of the systems and symptoms that can be involved:
- Digestive symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating, nausea, pain, etc.
- Neurological symptoms such as depression, mental fog, mood swings, pain, etc.
- Hormonal symptoms such as fatigue, insulin resistance, hypothyroidism, increased stress response, pre-menstrual and menopausal symptoms, etc.
- Immunological symptoms such as increased sickness, other allergies, etc.
- Skin symptoms such as eczema, psoriasis, etc.
- Respiratory symptoms such as asthma, rhinitis, sinusitis, etc.
- Circulatory symptoms such as migraines, rosacea, etc.
If you have any symptoms in any system, even if not outlined above, causing you discomfort it is worthwhile to investigate the role of specific food sensitivities and removing them for a 1 month trial.
How can you uncover your specific sensitivities?
I have used 3 methods (or some combination of them) with my patients, all with pros and cons, but all remarkably reliable.
- Blood draw. With a doctors requisition (ND or otherwise) you can go to a lab and have them take a blood sample. Your blood is then exposed to various food antigens and examined for IgG antibodies and results are sent back to your doctor.
- Pros: quick, fairly accurate, most science to support its use
- Cons: most expensive, not covered with benefits
- Electro-dermal testing (aka bio-meridian testing). It’s performed in a doctor’s office with a trained technician who uses a machine to test resonating frequencies of various foods with your baseline. The report is then given to your doctor.
- Pros: better accuracy with trained technicians, other antigens beyond food can be tested (bugs, environmental allergens, etc.), may be covered with benefits, cheaper than blood draw
- Cons: minimal science backing its use (yet clinical experience would argue this point), requires 30-60 min to perform
- Elimination diet. Generally high antigenic foods are removed from your diet for 4-6 weeks. Ideally symptoms resolve and individual foods can be reintroduced and monitored for returning symptoms.
- Pros: cheapest, new dietary habits are formed
- Cons: least accurate for identifying specific antigens, most time consuming
Are there foods that tend to cause sensitivities in a lot of people?
Absolutely. Regardless of the reasons why these foods show up, I see that the vast majority of patients with any symptoms react to all or some of the following:
Wheat and related grasses containing gluten.
Dairy products, specifically from cows. Interestingly, goat and sheep products do not have similar reactivities.
Sugar and any added sweeteners. The best versions, if adding sweetener is necessary, is molasses, local honey and maple syrup.
Corn in the form of starch, flour, popcorn, syrup, niblets or off the cob.
Soy in the form of soy milk, miso, tofu, edamame, etc.
What is your next step?
Sit down and really think about any symptoms you might have, even if it’s just fatigue, and ask yourself if what you’re putting in your body might be contributing.
Then, talk to a healthcare professional about it and see if you can come up with a plan to identify and remove your specific sensitivities.