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  • Writer's pictureTina Shiver

Food Allergies, Sensitivities and Intolerances

scrabble letters that spell allergens with assortment of foods

How do you distinguish between a food allergy, sensitivity or intolerance?

A food allergy according to the National Institute of Health is an “adverse health effect arising from a specific immune response that occurs reproducibly on exposure to a given food. It is an immunologic IgE-mediated type 1 hypersensitivity.

There are a couple of tests used to determine IgE – food allergies. One is skin prick testing which has pretty good outcomes. The only negative is time-consuming and it has a higher sensitivity.

An IgE blood test can be helpful and in a lot of cases, it can point in the direction of intestinal permeability/leaky gut. The one key piece to remember is that a skin or blood test does not necessarily determine a clinical allergy.

What are the triggers involved in food allergies?

Obesity, stress, a person’s microbiota genetics, hypochlorhydria, nutrient deficiencies like vitamin D, Omega 3, and not enough antioxidant nutrients. Also, environmental toxin exposure like GMO’s or pollution. Overuse of antibiotics, vaccines, NSAIDs, and acid blockers can also be triggers.

Hypochlorhydria which can be caused by the overuse of PPI’s has been shown to increase IgE reactions. IgE-mediated allergies are immediate and can last from minutes to hours. They have a circulating half-life of 1-2 days. They are permanent allergies and they can stimulate a histamine release. Symptoms could be hives, stuffy or itchy nose, sneezing, itchy teary eyes, vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea, shortness of breath or wheezing, and anaphylaxis.

When should you consider testing for IgG food antibodies?

A food sensitivity is an immunologic reaction to food (IgG-mediated delayed hypersensitivity).

If a person has IBS, depressive disorder, migraines, eczema, joint aches, autoimmune disease, Crohn’s disease and/or obesity then it would be important to rule out food sensitivities.

If you have circulating IgG antibodies your gut may be permeable which is called a “leaky gut”. If the tight junctions forming the barrier of the gut don’t work, then larger substances can “leak” through causing an immune response.

The immune response may result in the production of IgG antibodies to foods. IgG-mediated sensitivities from food and spices have a delayed onset from hours to days. They have a circulating half-life of 21 days and they are temporary. They do not stimulate a histamine release and symptoms include gastrointestinal symptoms, headaches, joint aches, rashes.

Food intolerance is a non-immunologic reaction to food.

The following are considered food intolerances:

  • Lactose intolerance.

  • Histamine Intolerance usually develops secondary to SIBO and dysbiosis.

  • Lectins – can be toxic, inflammatory, or both, and present in a lot of our food.

  • Nightshades – eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, potatoes are some of them. Often avoided in auto immune and interstitial cystitis.

  • Oxalates – calcium oxalate kidney stones, oxalate arthritis, consider lowering if you have bladder pain syndromes.

Food additives – for example, MSG, carrageenan.

Salicylates – symptoms that can occur include:

  • Bronchial asthma

  • GI pain

  • Tinnitus

  • Urticaria

  • Headaches

  • Nasal and sinus polyps

Food intolerance symptoms can include diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, chronic muscle or joint pain. The best way to test for food intolerance is to remove it for at least 30 days and then reintroduce it back into your diet.

I encourage you to work with a functional medicine practitioner that can help you determine if you have food allergies, sensitivities or intolerances especially if you are experiencing any of the symptoms discussed above.

Until next time…eat healthily and move.


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