Most people are well aware of the danger that some people (estimated to be around 4% of the general population) face from food allergies. Someone with an allergy to peanuts, for example, will almost immediately after coming into contact with one start to experience the typical symptoms: tingling and swelling at the site of contact, breaking out in hives, itching, potential difficulty breathing, nausea and vomiting, and even full-on anaphylactic shock requiring emergency treatment.
What many people don’t realise is that they could be suffering from a different food-related condition. One that is estimated to affect around 90% of the general population, is much less obvious to see, but in the long term has potentially quite serious consequences.
You almost definitely have one or more food sensitivities that you never knew you had.
Food allergies are immune reactions to an antigen (a small section of a protein that is seen and recognised by the immune system) found in a specific foodstuff. They are mediated by a type of antibody known as IgE that is found in your mucosal membranes, e.g. the lining of your mouth, nose, throat and airway. An IgE-mediated immune response is swift and strong.
In contrast, food sensitivities are immune responses stimulated by antigens on foodstuffs that are mediated by so-called IgG antibodies. Food sensitivities are much slower to ramp up, taking around 1-3 days to occur, and present with a very different set of symptoms that are much easier to miss and/or misinterpret: chronic fatigue, weight gain or loss, feeling bloated, acne, migraines, mood swings, ‘brain fog’, and so on.
Every time you eat a food that you are sensitive to, your immune system sees it and recognises it as a dangerous foreign substance that it has to attack and destroy, in the same way as it would be for a bacterium, parasite or virus. In doing so, it creates inflammation as part of the process, primarily in the intestines where it first sees the food. If that foodstuff is eaten regularly, the inflammation never has a chance to go down, potentially leading to inflammation spreading throughout the body.
The foods that the majority of people have sensitivities to are gluten, cow dairy, eggs and nuts, although other troublesome items can often include corn, soy, fish/shellfish, yeast (bakers/brewers), beans and chocolate. Given most of these constitute a majority of many people’s diet, is it any wonder why gut health is so bad in recent times?
There are two ways to find out your food sensitivities
The first method costs no money but takes a lot of time and effort to do properly.
First, you have to go on a very strict elimination diet for a few weeks, to exclude all of the major potentially problematic foods and allow the intestines to calm down and recover. Then, you re-introduce one single foodstuff at a time and wait at least three days to see if any of the previous symptoms reoccur. If they do, then exclude that foodstuff once again, wait until the symptoms disappear, and then restart the process with something else. Continue until you have tested all of the desired foodstuffs.
While this method is certainly possible, it’s not really feasible for most people. The second method is to use an IgG-based food sensitivity test. A good test these days can be run at home, only requires a few drops of blood, and comes back from the lab within a few weeks with results looking at well over 100 different foods.
Food sensitivity tests are easy to read and act upon
The image below is just one section of a food sensitivity test the author of this post ordered for himself recently, illustrating how the test results come back.
For each foodstuff, the test returns a colour-coded result:
- Green: no sensitivity
- Light green: mild sensitivity = eliminate for 6 weeks
- Yellow: moderate sensitivity = eliminate for 12 weeks
- Orange: severe sensitivity = eliminate for 6 months
So as a result of this test, the client knows straight away to avoid cow dairy for at least 6 months, but also that sheep or goat dairy does not cause any problems (at least in terms of IgG-based sensitivity). There was therefore no need to perform long and frustrating elimination and reintroduction diets and instead they could immediately change their diet to reduce chronic inflammation.
Food sensitivity tests are readily available to anyone
If you are lucky to have a very understanding and insightful family doctor or have a good health insurance plan, you might be able to get a food sensitivity test done through them for little or no cost.
If not, or you want to get one of the most comprehensive tests available (i.e. the one pictured above), then you can get more information and order one via the Equilibrium Life website.