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Your body can react to a “troublesome” food in several different ways, and how your body reacts to that food depends on whether you have a food sensitivity, food intolerance, or food allergy. It’s not uncommon for confusion to exist around the fact that allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities aren’t interchangeable. Here, we’ll explore each of these types of adverse reactions to food – starting with food sensitivity.
A food sensitivity may result from a type of immune system response that’s very different than a food allergy. While not entirely understood, research has shown that people may identify symptom-causing foods using the results of IgG testing along with an elimination diet. IgG antibody reactions against those foods may be normal in some people, but in others it may cause symptoms because of the inflammation the immune reaction produces from those interactions. Food sensitivity symptoms reported by our customers include headaches, bloating, stomach pain, indigestion – and more.
What’s really interesting about food sensitivities is that symptoms usually don’t appear as soon as you eat the problem food. Instead, you might have symptoms hours or days after eating that food – which can make it hard to connect specific foods to the symptoms you’re experiencing.
Fortunately, with an elimination diet and EverlyWell’s Food Sensitivity Test, you can discover what foods you may be sensitive to.
When you eat a food you’re allergic to, your immune system responds by activating the IgE (immunoglobulin E) antibodies in your blood. Those antibody-food interactions result in the production of a chemical called histamine. Histamine is a type of substance your immune system makes. When immune cells release histamine in your body, you might experience any number of allergy symptoms. (That’s why many over-the-counter allergy medications are known as “antihistamines” – they counteract the allergic effects of histamine.) With food allergies, symptoms usually appear almost as soon as you’ve eaten the trigger food.
An example of a food allergy is an allergy to tree nuts, one of the most common causes of food-related allergic reactions in the world. (Hazelnuts, walnuts, and macadamia nuts are all examples of tree nuts.)
If you’re allergic to a certain food, you can experience a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction whenever you eat that food. That’s because anaphylaxis can occur within minutes of consuming food allergens. Anaphylaxis can result in death because of a dramatic drop in blood pressure – or because of swelling around the person’s airways, which cuts off the body’s supply of air.
A food intolerance can occur if, for example, you don’t have enough of the right enzymes your body needs to break down a particular food. (Enzymes are special proteins in the body that dramatically speed up chemical reactions.)
An example of a food intolerance is lactose intolerance. Lactose is a type of sugar commonly found in cow’s milk. If you’re lactose intolerant, your body doesn’t produce enough lactase – the enzyme that breaks down lactose. So it’s hard for your body to digest lactose effectively, resulting in unpleasant symptoms when you drink a glass of milk or eat dairy products. Food intolerance symptoms commonly include nausea, bloating, and diarrhea.
Unlike food allergies, food intolerances don’t involve an immune system response - they all take place inside the gut before digestion occurs.
What are some symptoms of a food intolerance?
Some symptoms of food sensitivity and food intolerance can appear similar but can also be different. While both conditions are related to adverse reactions to certain foods, they manifest in distinct ways. Some of the symptoms of food intolerance usually manifest in the digestive system and may include:
- Stomach pain
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
Mild symptoms may include:
- Tingling or itching of your face, lips, mouth, tongue, or throat
- Itchy or watery eyes
- Hives or skin rash or itchy skin
- Runny nose, sneezing, or congestion
- Stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea
Serious symptoms may include:
- Tightening of your airways, wheezing, chest tightness, or being unable to breathe
- Swollen lips, tongue, throat, or sensation of a lump in your throat
- Rapid pulse, dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting
If you have a sensitivity to a particular food, you might experience one or more adverse reactions several hours or days after eating that food. Some reported symptoms from our customers include:
- Stomach or abdominal pain
- Gastrointestinal distress
Related test for bloating symptom: Thyroid Test
Food Sensitivity Tests show IgG antibody reactivity to different foods. IgG and IgE are different types of antibodies. Food sensitivity can cause a wide range of symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, indigestion, and headaches or migraines. These symptoms are generally more delayed in nature than food allergy symptoms. Food sensitivity testing is intended to identify foods in your current diet that might be connected to food sensitivity symptoms. The results can help a person prioritize which foods to consider for a two-part elimination diet.
What is inflammation?
Inflammation is the body’s immune response to an irritant. The irritant could be trauma from an injury, chemicals, or an infection. The body responds with pain, swelling, and redness, which are all part of the initial inflammatory response.
Short-term inflammation is referred to as acute inflammation and is usually self limiting. Acute inflammation is often a sign your body is working to fight an infection or heal itself. In contrast, when inflammation persists, or is in response to the body's own cells, it is referred to as chronic inflammation. In chronic inflammation, your body’s immune system continues to send out it’s main defenders, white blood cells, and other messengers to fight. Sometimes these defenders can end up attacking nearby healthy tissues or cells. This immune system response can persist for prolonged periods of time or even indefinitely. Our inflammatory marker test measures your body’s level of a protein whose levels are elevated when inflammation is present (acute or chronic).
Chronic inflammation has been implicated in a wide variety of disorders, including:
- Cardiovascular disease, including coronary artery disease, a common heart condition that increases risk of a heart attack
- Alzheimer's Disease
- Autoimmune diseases, such as lupus, celiac disease, and rheumatoid arthritis
- Inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
C-Reactive Protein, or CRP, is a protein that increases in the blood with inflammation. The high-sensitivity CRP blood test (hs-CRP) can detect even small elevations of CRP protein as an indicator of low levels of inflammation in the body.
Wondering how to test for inflammation?
An inflammatory marker test measures if you have elevated CRP concentration in your blood and can help you understand if there are inflammatory processes occurring in your body. Our blood test for inflammation can help you identify elevated levels of hs-CRP and is a convenient way to learn about inflammation that may be occurring in your body.
Everlywell has included a vitamin D screen as part of our hs-CRP blood test. Though vitamin D is a valuable marker on its own, there is evidence that low vitamin D levels (such as those seen in vitamin D deficiency) are often seen in individuals with elevated CRP concentration.