Identifying Food Sensitivities

Food sensitivities can be hard to narrow down for a few reasons:

  1. Symptoms can show up anywhere in the body, which is why it is often difficult to associate something you ate with what you feel physically, mentally, or emotionally.
  2. It can take up to 72 hours for a symptom to appear, which means you might not always make an association between a specific food and something you experience in your body.
  3. Other factors in your life can also impact how your body handles a certain food. If you are stressed, tired, over- or under-exercised, exposed to toxins, celebrating a lot, etc., your body may not be able to handle a food to which you have a mild sensitivity.
  4. Although there are some common foods to which people are sensitive, the fact is that any given person can be sensitive to absolutely any food. For example, rice is supposed to be the least allergenic (ie, reactive) food, but there are some people who have sensitivities to it. So you may simply not think of a food as being a problem because “everyone” says it’s not.
  5. If you eat the same foods all the time, the immune system gets primed toward that food and you may become more sensitive to it. In fact, if you eat the same food over and over, your body will likely develop IgG antibodies against that seemingly and normally harmless food. This doesn’t necessarily mean your immune system will react to the food, just that it could.

Symptoms of food senstivities

Symptoms of food sensitivities include (but are not limited to): headache, brain fog, hangover-like symptoms, itchy red eyes, sinus congestion, runny nose, itching or tingling lips/tongue/mouth/throat, mouth ulcers, sneezing, wheezing/shortness of breath, belching, bloating/abdominal distension, heartburn, flatulence, abdominal cramps, constipation, diarrhea, infertility, joint pain, swelling of feet/hands, psoriasis, eczema, dry skin, pruritis (itchiness), irritability, sleep disturbance/insomnia, dehydration, hives/rash/urticaria, hot flashes, and tiredness.

Of course, there are other things that can cause these same symptoms; so I’m not suggesting that, if you have one or more of these symptoms or other symptoms for which you haven’t identified a cause, then you definitely have a food sensitivity.

Identifying food sensitivities

As mentioned in this blog post, there are several tests that can be done be done for identifying food sensitivities. However, none of these tests are 100% accurate.

A good example of the inaccuracy is of food sensitivity testing is for gluten. In this test, blood levels of IgG and/or IgA antibodies against gluten are measured, and the results are ~80% accurate. To explain why, let’s pretend the gluten molecule is a teddy bear. Most tests will only check if you are producing antibodies against the teddy bear’s ear and right arm; one lab also looks for antibodies against the left arm, right eye and right foot. If you are producing those specific antibodies, the test will be positive and it will be clear that you are sensitive to gluten. But what if your body is producing antibodies against its nose or left leg? The test will never pick that up. The test will be negative, but your body will still be sensitive to gluten.

In addition to the inaccuracy of the tests, these tests (which aren’t even allowed in all states) require a blood draw and many of them are not covered by insurance.

This is where an elimination diet can help, and exactly why I did my own elimination diet. The goal is to follow an elimination protocol and check for symptoms upon reintroduction. It’s essentially a controlled experiment in which you are the only participant. And this is perfect! Because in this situation, you are the only person that matters.

If you believe you have food sensitivities that you haven’t been able to identify, I can help you via one-on-one nutrition coaching.  Or, if you are ready to do an elimination program and want guidance, join my group Elimination Diet.

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