What the heck is the difference?

More and more people these days are developing one of these issues it seems. The difference between the three involves the bodies reaction and its severity, and the antibodies produced during these reactions.

Food Allergies

An allergy is defined as a severe reaction to or response to a specific food. This reaction is immediate and can be severe and, in some cases, deadly. The specific food causes an immediate histamine reaction in the body and involves the IgE mediated immune response. Peanuts and shellfish are two examples of a food allergy causing severe reactions in some people.

Food Sensitivity

Unlike food allergies, a sensitivity can take anywhere from 1 hour to 48 hours to display any type of reaction, making it difficult to determine the source. The reaction itself is not life threatening but can lead to minor ailments throughout the body. Unlike a food allergy it is the IgG mediated immune response that is activated in the case of food sensitivities. I have listed some of the more common symptoms below.

  • Acne
  • Fatigue
  • Mood Swings
  • Depression
  • Brain Fog
  • Joint Pain
  • Dark Circles under the eyes
  • Dry, itchy skin
  • Reflux
  • Sleep Issues
  • Migraines
  • Bloat
  • Diarrhea
  • ADHD

The most common causes of food sensitivities are soy, eggs, dairy, corn, shellfish, gluten (wheat, barley and rye), pork, beef, lamb and sulfites.


Like sensitivities and allergies, there has been an increase in the number of food intolerance causes over the last decade. Our bodies need specific enzymes in order to properly break down and absorb the nutrients in our food.  One of these enzymes is Lactase. Lactase is needed for the absorption of the sugar lactose found in dairy products, and is probably the most common intolerances that we hear of. Signs of lactose intolerance include, bloating, diarrhea, nausea, stomach pain, gas, constipation, eczema, headaches, muscle pain, and fatigue. These symptoms will usually appear 30 – 45 mins after consuming dairy.


Allergy testing can be arranged through a referral from your family doctor and usually involves a skin scratch test. Various food and environmental allergens are placed on the skin and then the outer layer of skin is lightly scratched. The severity of the site swelling will determine the severity of the allergy. (no swelling, no allergy) I have had this test done several times, and I assure you there is no pain involved! Blood testing can also be done for allergies, but the result can take few days to get.

Food sensitivity and food intolerance testing can both be performed by the elimination diet and or through blood testing. The elimination diet, although helpful, can take a considerable amount of time. Blood testing can check for the IgG antibodies for over 200 common foods and involves a finger prick and approximately 12 drops of blood. Usually the results are available within 5 business days, and the tests are generally available through a Nutritionist or Naturopath.

The Elimination Diet

For those of you who have the time and the patience, the elimination diet can be a very helpful tool in determining which foods are causing you problems. It involves keeping a detailed diary of what foods you have eaten, and the response your body has to these foods. You would begin by eliminating one food at a time for a period of approximately three to four weeks, and then slowly begin reintroducing that food back into your diet, if your symptoms have improved. The food is introduced for one day only. If the symptoms resurface, that item needs to be eliminated from your diet for at least six months. This gives your intestinal tract time to repair itself from the inflammation caused by that specific food. Generally, the diet begins by eliminating dairy, then soy and gluten products.  In the case of dairy, a probiotic supplement can be taken in place of yogurt, to maintain the health of your gut flora. All coffee, tea (including herbal tea), and alcohol need to be eliminated during the diet, as these can also be the cause of sensitivities.

As you can see there are many symptoms that arise from unrecognized food sensitivities and intolerances, and long-term exposure can cause unnecessary discomfort and pain. Listening to our bodies, recognizing, and admitting, that there may be an issue is the first step in dealing with these symptoms. The tests are simple, pain free, and well worth having done if you think you may suffer from one of these issues.

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