Food nourishes the body and gives us the energy we need to get through each day. However, for people living with food allergies, intolerances or sensitivities, food can also be a source of pain and discomfort. Dealing with these issues can be daunting, but there are things you can do to help manage your your condition and approach it from a place of empowerment and understanding.
1. Know what you’re dealing with.
Many people confuse allergies for intolerances or sensitivities and vice versa, so let’s set the record straight.
Food intolerance is the inability to digest or absorb certain foods. For example, someone with lactose intolerance does not have enough of the enzyme lactase to break down the sugar (lactose) found in dairy products. This can cause symptoms like intestinal gas, painful abdominal cramping or diarrhea. While these symptoms can be pretty uncomfortable, they’re generally not life-threatening.
An allergy, on the other hand, can be quite serious. A food allergy occurs when the body’s immune system sees a certain food as harmful and reacts by triggering an allergic reaction. There are two categories of food allergy:
- Immunoglobulin E (IgE) mediated – this is where symptoms result from the body’s immune system making antibodies called IgE. Eating even a small amount of the food or ingesting particles of the food could potentially trigger a life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis.
- Non-IgE mediated – this is where other parts of the body’s immune system react and cause symptoms, but this reaction does not involve the IgE antibody. Symptoms of this kind of allergy may include vomiting and diarrhea, but it is generally not life-threatening.
Food sensitivities are reactions to specific foods that are triggered by Immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies. Compared to an allergic reaction, which can occur within minutes of eating a reactive food, food sensitivity reactions are quite delayed and can take hours or days to develop. They can cause symptoms like fever, fatigue, itchy rashes, mood and memory disturbance, joint pain, and digestive issues like nausea, abdominal pain, and bloating. They can also lead to more chronic conditions like digestive disorders, migraines, and mood/attention deficit disorders.
2. Get tested.
If you suspect you may have a food allergy or intolerance, you need to know where you stand. Getting tested by a licensed health care provider will help you determine the underlying cause of your sensitivity as well as what that sensitivity may actually be so you can make sure you’re addressing everything you need to. Some common tests include:
- Skin prick test: measures the presence of IgE antibodies for suspect foods. Results usually appear within 30 minutes.
- Blood test: also measures the presence of IgE or IgG antibodies for specific foods, but results take several days to arrive. Learn more about IgG Food Sensitivity Testing.
- Elimination diet: temporarily eliminating specific foods from your diet to see whether your symptoms are eliminated.
Think you might have a food allergy or intolerance and want to know your options? Book a FREE 15-minute consultation with us today to chat with one of our Naturopathic Doctors.
3. Create an allergy action plan.
Living with an allergy, intolerance or food sensitivity doesn’t have to be a pain in the gut. Here are some healthy habits you can adopt to manage your condition:
- Eat gut-friendly goods. Once you find out what foods you need to be eliminating, you can incorporate foods like bone broth and probiotics to help support your digestive health.
- Always read labels. Most food labels include important allergy information such as whether any additives contain milk protein or wheat byproducts, or whether a food was produced in a facility that processes nuts. Make sure you read every label, every time – manufacturers frequently change up the recipes of their products.
- Be careful when cooking. All your dishes and utensils should be thoroughly washed in hot, soapy water between uses. It might even be a good idea to have different sets of utensils for yourself and the rest of your house.
While food allergies or sensitivities are not ideal nor enjoyable, they can help you become more in tune with your body and what it needs. There’s no need to feel deprived – instead, see it as an opportunity to gain more knowledge and awareness of your health.