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  • Dr. Melyssa Hoitink, ND

Could food sensitivities be causing your pain?

Updated: Aug 10, 2022

March is Nutrition Month! Bonus: It's also the first Friday of the month, meaning it's "Fibro Friday"!

The topic today is:

Food sensitivities are different from food allergies and food intolerances. Food allergies are reactions that occur within minutes of eating a particular food and can be very serious. Examples of food allergies include allergies to peanuts or seafood. Symptoms related to a food allergy often requires emergency medical care and may include hives, skin rashes, difficulty breathing, swelling of the tongue or lips, stomach pain, nausea, or diarrhea, among others. Food allergies are caused by a part of your immune system called IgE antibodies that react with a specific food.

Food sensitivities differ from food allergies in that they involve a different part of the immune system, called IgG antibodies. Symptoms related to food sensitivities are delayed and can take hours or days to show up. Because of the delay between when a food is consumed and when the symptoms of food sensitivities occur, pinpointing causes can be difficult. In contrast, food intolerance does not involve the immune system at all. Instead, food intolerances are caused by a deficiency or complete absence of a specific enzyme required to digest and absorb a particular food component. An example of food intolerance is lactose intolerance, where there is a deficiency in lactase, the enzyme required to break apart the lactose.

Food sensitivities can cause a number of symptoms throughout the body, which could include fever, fatigue, sweating, feeling weak, skin itching and rashes, mood and memory disturbances, migraines, asthma symptoms, joint pain, or muscle stiffness. Digestive symptoms are also common with food sensitivities and may include abdominal pain, gas, bloating, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Many of these symptoms overlap with fibromyalgia and can make the symptoms of fibromyalgia much worse.

There are two ways to investigate for food sensitivities. You can either do an elimination diet of all suspected food sensitivities or complete a test for food sensitivities. The food sensitivity test I use in my practice requires a small sample of blood collected at a lab. This blood sample is used to measure the levels of IgG antibodies to a number of different foods. There are several different panels, depending on which foods you would like tested. Different tests will likely present the results differently. The results of the test I use are presented in three categories. Foods with lower levels of IgG antibodies produced are considered non-reactive foods. Foods with a moderate level of IgG antibodies produced are considered borderline. The last category is foods with elevated IgG antibody levels. These foods are considered reactive foods. I generally advise my patients to avoid the foods that fall into the borderline and reactive categories, as these foods are generating inflammation within the body. Avoidance of all borderline and reactive foods is not always possible if these categories contain a large number of foods. Always seek individualized dietary advice based on your food sensitivity results to ensure you are not excluding important nutrients from your diet.

Wondering if food sensitivities may be contributing to your symptoms? Schedule your Complementary Discovery Session and let's get it figured out!


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