The differences between food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities
Allergies are an immune response to certain antigens the body comes in contact with. These are often fairly benign substances which cause no reaction in most people. However, in some people, the immune system treats these substances as a foreign invading substance and promotes certain responses which are designed to remove or eliminate the cause. This response is generally a secretion of histamines in cells and tissues of the body which can cause nausea, itching, inflammation, hives and rashes, bronchial constriction, shortness of breath, vomiting, diarrhea, or anaphylaxis among others, all in an attempt by the body to remove the foreign object and prevent further re-entry. These reactions are caused by immunoglobulins or T-cells and occur in a matter of minutes up to an hour after exposure. Most people learn very quickly to avoid foods that cause this kind of reaction.
Intolerance is the complete inability of a body to metabolize or digest a certain chemical. This is most often seen with gluten, lactose and fructose. It often manifests externally with extreme flatulence and bloating, vomiting, diarrhea and extreme discomfort. People with Celiac disease cannot digest gluten, fructose malabsorption disorder prevents uptake of fructose, and lactase deficiency causes the inability to digest lactose due to lack of an enzyme that breaks it down in the intestine. Someone with one of these intolerances will have an extreme response as their body tries to allow the offending chemical to pass thru the system.
Food sensitivities, on the other hand, are foods that don’t promote an immune response, but still have an adverse affect on your body. They tend to cause lethargy, malaise, headaches, flatulence and bloating, depression, anxiety, and reduced immune function. When these substances are removed from the diet and the body given a chance to recover and flush them out, people tend to note how much more energy they have and how other maladies have started to recede.
The four most common food sensitivities are wheat, corn, soy and dairy. These items are also found prevalently throughout the average American diet. It’s not surprising that there are so many people out there complaining of lethargy and constant discomfort. If these foods are eliminated from the diet your body will start to function much more efficiently. This is one of the reasons several diet plans work so well, they remove the main food sensitivities from your diet and allow your body to process nutrients better. When your body isn’t overloaded with foods and chemicals it considers irritating or harmful, it doesn’t expend energy that should be used for growth and repair.
The easiest self-test that can be done to determine which foods you may have a sensitivity to would be a dietary cleansing followed by reintroducing possible irritants one at a time. To do this, you would need to eat a fairly Spartan diet for about a month. This will give your body a chance to clean out any residual chemicals in all your tissues. Following this one month detoxifying period, you can then reintroduce the possible or example, if you wanted to go all out and remove the four biggest offenders (wheat, corn, soy & dairy) first, you would spend a month without any of them in your diet. Following the cleansing period, you could then eat a meal with one of the four elements and monitor your body functioning. If there is no significant change, that item is most likely not an irritant to your system. You would then try to reintroduce another food item. If you found that you were becoming lethargic following meals again, and possibly had headaches or stuffiness, you would remove that irritant, let your body go a few days to a week without it again and reintroduce a different food. By the time you’re finished, you will have a good idea what sensitivities you have.
Ideally, we should all know which foods our bodies can process and what causes us discomfort. Proper nutrition isn’t simply a matter of eating the right foods, it’s also important to eat the right foods for yourself as an individual.