Food Allergies Versus Sensitivity

Have you ever wondered about the differences between a food allergy and a food sensitivity?

A food allergy is something that happens within the first two hours after consuming the food. It is typically more immediate, and more obvious. You may experience the following:

  • Hives
  • Anaphylaxis
  • Sneezing
  • Running nose
  • Skin eruptions

You usually know what foods you are allergic to as they are easier to pinpoint.

Food sensitivities are different. They are more delayed in their response time, and more dependent upon the amount and frequency that you eat a particular food. You may find that the more you eat small amounts of that food, the more you eat it, the more you eat it, the more you build that substance in your system. So once you reach your own individual threshold, you react.

So patients will come to me and say "I was fine eating it a few days ago. Why am I not fine now?" 

That's because the more the substance is in your system, when you reach that threshold, the more you will notice the reaction.  

Reactions can show themselves in a variety of ways: 

  • Joint pain
  • Digestive issues
  • Migraines
  • Asthma
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Skin issues
  • Unexplained weight gain or weight loss 
  • Emotional eating

All can be the result of food sensitivity.

When we eat something we are sensitive to, the gut creates an inflammatory response. So, considering the stomach and 20 feet of smaller intestines, and then the brain (Dr. Karlfeldt draws diagram): 

The gut and brain are in constant communication. About 20% of signalling goes from the brain to the gut. The remaining signalling, which is about 80%, goes from the gut to the brain.  

When we eat something that is inflammatory, it creates inflammation in the gut that sends a strong signal to the brain. That inflammatory signal.

As a next step, the brain then sends an inflammatory signal to the rest of the body. It creates an inflammatory response in skin, muscles, joints, blood vessels and other regions. So you can see the cascading effect from eating foods that cause sensitivities.

So what determines what symptom you will generate from eating something you are sensitive to? Why do some have joint pain, their brain may seem to "short circuit", gain weight, develop anxiety, or experience thyroid disorders?

Everyone has what Dr. Karlfeldt terms genetic "weak spots". If there is something that will go wrong, these weak spots will be the first to go. It could be the brain, heart, kidneys, skin, or so on. These "weak spots" are genetically the first regions that will become symptomatic when you have as sensitivity reaction.

So, for example, if you are genetically prone to thyroid disorders, eating food you are sensitive to will generate an inflammatory response that will first impact your thyroid. This response could cause you to feel sluggish, gain weight, slightly depressed, lose hair, or brain affectations such as ADD / ADHD, anxiety, brain fog, etc. 

You can be sensitive to any food. One food that is quite common for sensitivity to occur is gluten.

The following graphic shows the differences between food allergy and food sensitivity. The terms are sometimes used interchangeably, but each have a unique usage and meaning: 

Read more here:

Dietary Elimination of Gluten

11 Reasons your Health has not Improved In-spite of Eating Healthy

Photo by Hector J. Rivas on Unsplash. 

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