Stop Stubborn Symptoms
Discovering Underlying Food Sensitivities
by Chrysanthi Kazantzis
Most people know if they have an allergy to a food such as shellfish or peanuts, but food sensitivities are another matter. Persistent symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, acne, eczema, psoriasis, anxiety or depression could be the result of an underlying food sensitivity.
A food allergy is an immediate reaction of the immune system, also called an IgE reaction, which occurs after eating a particular food. Adverse reactions such as wheezing, flushing, or anaphylaxis can occur anywhere from a few minutes to up to a few hours after ingestion of the food.
A food sensitivity is a delayed reaction which can result in low-grade symptoms occurring from hours up to days later, ranging from digestive symptoms to skin symptoms. The body reacts to the food by activating the immune system with an IgG mediated immune response, which is called a delayed hypersensitivity reaction. When the same foods the body is reacting to are continuously eaten, the immune system remains continually activated which can lead to chronic inflammation and chronic diseases. The most common foods that cause food sensitivities are wheat, gluten, dairy, corn, soy, eggs, nuts, sugar, yeast and citrus fruits.
A third category of food reactions does not involve the immune system, but rather the digestive system. Food intolerance is classified when the body lacks a specific enzyme to break down a certain food. A common intolerance is lactose intolerance where individuals lack the lactase enzyme to break down milk proteins, causing an immediate digestive reaction such as diarrhea.
How to test for food sensitivities
There are two ways to determine if food sensitivities are present. The first is by conducting an elimination challenge diet in which the most common food sensitivities— wheat, gluten, dairy, corn, soy, eggs, nuts, sugar, yeast and citrus fruits—are eliminated from the diet from four to six weeks. After this phase, foods are reintroduced one at a time to determine if a reaction occurs.
Another way of determining food sensitivities is through a blood test conducted by a naturopathic physician. This comprehensive test can determine sensitivities from up to 200 foods. Individuals experiencing any digestive disturbances, urinary irritation such as urinary tract infections, bladder spasms, interstitial cystitis, rashes, chronic sinus or ear infections, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), headaches, brain fog, fatigue, mood disturbances or joint pain, may discover food sensitivities as the culprit.
Identifying food sensitivities can be an invaluable part of any healing journey. Individuals living with a chronic condition or experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned above would be wise to make an appointment with a naturopathic physician to conduct a blood test for food sensitivities.
Find out more about naturopathic physicians in Rhode Island by visiting RIANP.org and by liking the state association on Facebook: Rhode Island Association of Naturopathic Physicians.
Dr. Chrysanthi Kazantzis is a naturopathic physician at Avena Integrative Medical Center in Putnam, CT.