I have food sensitivities. “Food sensitivity” is when you have a reaction to food, and in many cases this can be a problem since you can’t explain the reason for the reaction.

A food sensitivity is a condition caused by eating a food, or a person’s reaction to a food, that causes an adverse reaction and or symptom to the internal system of the body. Some people have food sensitivities or adverse reactions to certain foods that are commonly avoided by those with food sensitivities.

We digest and assimilate about 97% of the food we eat.  However, our absorption capacity is severely limited when the intestinal lining is irritated or flattened.  This can occur with food allergies, food intolerances and/or inflammatory bowel diseases.  If these problems are not resolved, nutrient absorption will not occur.

What are food allergies?

The immune system is a group of cells that help protect our bodies from infectious agents. An allergic reaction to food involves an immune system response that begins with a protein molecule in the body called an antibody that helps fight off viruses and bacteria.  The antibody can bind and attach to a specific target called an antigen, which is usually found on a virus, bacteria or allergen. By communicating with the invader, it emits the invading allergen as a red alert and causes the body’s immune system to attack.

The mast cell begins to act

The main antibody in most allergic diseases is immunoglobulin E (IgE).  In food allergy, IgE antibodies are produced in response to harmless food molecules.  IgE antibodies are found on the surface of mast cells and when activated cause the mast cells to release various chemical messengers.

Millions of mast cells cover our skin, nose, intestines and bronchi.  In a normal immune response, the combination of IgE and mast cells means bad news for microbes.  If we are. B. overreact to a harmless food molecule, we get the typical symptoms of a severe food allergy. In both cases, these symptoms usually occur in areas where mast cells are numerous: Skin, nasal and respiratory tract, and gastrointestinal tract.

Think of fat cells as one of those loud, irritating car alarms.  This does not always work because it is a real hijacker (hijacker = virus, bacteria and/or parasite).  It can be triggered by a strong wind or a passing jogger (a harmless food molecule).

When chemicals are released from mast cells, a cascade of events occurs, including dilation of blood vessels, lowering of blood pressure, and swelling of the lips, mouth, tongue, and throat.  This combination of symptoms, if severe enough, is called anaphylaxis.  A common example is allergy to peanuts or shellfish. If a person eats one of these foods and develops a true allergy, he or she could die without medical attention.  It is a serious disease with disastrous consequences.

Food allergens can enter the body in one way, but cause symptoms in an entirely different place as they move through the bloodstream.  Since the relationship between the food and the symptoms is not always clear, a positive skin test is usually required to demonstrate immune system involvement with a particular food.  A laboratory test to determine the IgE reaction can also confirm the presence of a food allergy.  However, not all food allergies are IgE-related.

It is estimated that 3-7% of children and about 2% of adults have a food allergy.

The 8 most common food allergens

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Nuts (e.g. almonds, cashews, walnuts).
  • Fish
  • Coquina
  • Soybeans
  • Wheat

What is a food intolerance?

Many people claim to be allergic to foods, when in fact they are intolerant. Food intolerance usually occurs when the intestines react badly to a particular product or ingredient during cooking.  Intolerance may be due to a deficiency of an enzyme required for the complete digestion of food, such as For example, in the case of lactose intolerance.

Food intolerance is not considered a valid diagnosis by much of the medical community. This may be due in part to the fact that the symptoms of food intolerance are milder and generally occur more slowly than the symptoms of food allergy (but not always).  These symptoms may include gas, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nasal congestion, mucus production, nausea, vomiting, headaches, etc. Although some of these symptoms are mild, severe gastrointestinal disturbances are often characteristic of severe intolerance; if left untreated, more serious problems can develop.

In general, the culprits of food intolerance are foods that are consumed on a very regular basis, such as wheat, milk, corn and, more recently, soy.  Lactose intolerance is a common example.  In people with insufficient activity of the enzyme lactase, the undigested lactose from dairy products passes from the stomach to the intestine, where it must be fermented.  This process produces a lot of gas that causes stomach cramps, bloating, flatulence and diarrhea.  To make matters worse, other symptoms may result from a sensitivity to milk proteins.  Although casein protein is involved in more cases of milk protein-related problems than whey protein, both milk proteins can cause similar problems.  In fact, both casein and whey can cause an excessive inflammatory response in some people, leading to a buildup of mucus.  Large amounts of mucus mean a blocked airway, a stuffy nose and throat.  Unlike allergies, where sensitive individuals may react to small amounts of food (or even smells), food intolerances usually require the consumption of larger amounts of food before symptoms appear.

Intolerances are much more common than food allergies. But because the symptoms are milder and often not immediately noticeable, people sometimes don’t know which food is causing the problem. That’s why food intolerance tests are becoming more common.  Eliminating and reintroducing the suspect product into the diet is a reliable means of assessing food intolerance.

The most common types of food intolerances are:

Type Found in
Lactose or milk protein Dairy products (mainly cow’s milk)
Yeast (Candida albicans) bread and pastries; can be aggravated by sugar
Gluten (including celiac disease and wheat sensitivity) Cereals such as wheat, barley and rye
Fructose Fruit; foods sweetened with fructose (as well as sorbitol)

Others may be:

Type Found in
Food additives processed foods
Amine Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, pickles and cheese.
Salicylate Fruits (e.g., apples, avocados, blueberries, dates, kiwis, peaches, raspberries, figs, grapes, plums, strawberries, cherries, grapefruit, and prunes) ; vegetables (e.g., alfalfa, cauliflower, cucumbers, mushrooms, radishes, beans, eggplant, spinach, zucchini, broccoli, and hot peppers); some cheeses; herbs, spices, and condiments (e.g., palm oil, olive oil palm oil, olive oil) e.g. dry spices and powders, tomato pastes and sauces, vinegar and soy sauce, jams and jellies); beverages (e.g. coffee, wine, beer, orange juice, cider, common tea and herbal teas, rum and sherry); certain nuts; mint; artificial flavourings.
Nitrates Processed foods such as canned meat
Monosodium glutamate processed foods
Propionate Preservatives in industrial bread
Some antioxidants Processed foods (to protect from deterioration)

An estimated 3 in 4 people have some form of food intolerance, whether mild or severe.  And these intolerances are only individual.  Everything from the nutrients and chemicals mentioned above to specific minerals and supplements can cause different symptoms. Consider that the PN method, a low processed food diet, can help eliminate many of these offending foods.

Another common form of food intolerance is leaky gut syndrome (LGS). LGS is poorly recognized and rarely tested, but is fairly common.  In LGS, the intestinal wall becomes extremely permeable, allowing large molecules and toxins to enter the body undigested.  This can happen when the lining of the intestine is inflamed or damaged, disrupting the normal functions of the intestines.  This creates openings between the cell walls where macromolecules (including histamine from food), antigens and toxins can enter.  As these molecules, which should not be allowed to penetrate, invade the gastrointestinal wall more and more, further damage occurs, making the problem worse.

In addition to damaging the intestinal mucosa, these molecules (which are much larger than the body prefers to absorb) can be considered foreign invaders and trigger the body’s immune response.  It initiates a cascade of antibody production. The body defends itself against healthy food and perhaps even against its own cells, although this is speculative.  Worse: When the intestinal mucosa is damaged, the carrier proteins are also damaged, resulting in a nutrient deficiency.  Symptoms of LGS are numerous, including gastrointestinal symptoms (bloating, flatulence and abdominal pain), immune reactions (including hives and mucus production), nutritional deficiencies, etc.  The symptoms of LGS are similar to those of a food intolerance.

Other information relevant to food intolerances

Food allergies usually develop over a period of years or even a lifetime.  The food intolerance may disappear after a few months and only reappear with regular consumption of the product.

People are very bad at recognizing foods that cause non-acute, long-term illness.  It took a famine in the Netherlands at the end of the Second World War to ban wheat from the diet, and a cautious doctor to establish that his celiac patients were cured.

Some foods contain large amounts of histamine, the actual inflammatory mediator released by mast cells.  This can cause unpleasant symptoms, such as those mentioned above, as well as neuropathic symptoms (tingling, pins and needles), redness of the skin, palpitations, and other symptoms of anxiety and restlessness (perhaps what scientists technically call ants in the pants).  Well-ripened cheeses and cold meats are the main culprits, as are certain types of fish, sauerkraut and alcoholic beverages.  The liver can metabolize histamine, but the drug isoniazid (used to treat tuberculosis) may limit the liver’s ability to break down histamine.  Therefore, anyone taking isoniazid should avoid foods that contain histamine.

Babies born by caesarean section are at increased risk of food allergies.  The low compression of the child during a cesarean section can slow down the growth of normal intestinal flora.

Of all allergies, food allergy is the leading cause of emergency room visits in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, France and Australia.

Summary and recommendations

If you suspect a food sensitivity, it is important to first rule out a true food allergy.  This can be done in consultation with your doctor.  If you think you have a food intolerance, keeping a food diary/reaction log will help you quickly find and eliminate offending foods.

Because so much time passes between ingestion of a food and the reaction, it is easy to ignore the symptoms of food intolerance or accept them as part of life.  If one or more of the symptoms listed in this article are part of your normal routine, you may want to take a closer look at your diet to see what might be causing the problem(s).

Measures to prevent food hypersensitivity

  • Different diets
  • Avoid eating large quantities of risky foods
  • Breastfeeding in the first year of life
  • Limit excessive amounts of caffeine
  • Avoid substances that increase intestinal permeability, such as. B. Alcohol, spicy foods, raw pineapple, raw papaya, aspirin and other NSAIDs.
  • Reduction of exposure to pesticides, herbicides and fungicides used on food crops

Additional equipment

Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network

Gluten intolerance and celiac disease

Lactose intolerance and allergy to milk and casein

Fructose intolerance/malabsorption

Yeast/Candida infection


Click here to see the sources of information referenced in this article.

Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism, 3rd edition. Traffic.  Groff JL, Gropper SS.  1999.  Delmar Publishers, Inc.

Anatomy and physiology, 4th edition. Traffic.  Thibodeau GA, Patton KT.  1999.  Mosby, Inc.

Nutrition, dietetics and dietetic therapy, 11. Traffic.  Mahan LK, Escott-Stump S.  2004.  Saunders.

Nutrition and Specific Care in Diagnosis, 5th edition. Traffic.  Stamp Escott S.  2002.  Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Merck Manual, 17. Traffic.  Beers MH, Berkow R.  1999.  Merck Research Laboratories.

Food allergies and intolerances.  Brostoff J, Gamlin L.  2000.  Publication of Medicine.

On the nature of food allergies.  Hannaway PJ.  2007.  Lighthouse Press.

A field guide to food allergies.  Willingham T.  2000.  A pleasure for the palate.

Eggesbo M, et al.  Is a caesarean section a risk factor for food allergies?  J Allergy Clin Immunol 2003;112:420-426.

is personal to you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What problems can food sensitivities cause?

Food sensitivities can cause a variety of symptoms, including: Headaches Migraines Fatigue and/or sleep disturbances Digestive problems, such as bloating, gas, diarrhea or constipation. Skin problems, such as acne, eczema or hives. Hair loss and/or thinning. Mood changes, such as depression or anxiety. Weight gain and/or weight loss. What are the symptoms of food sensitivities? The most common symptoms of food sensitivities are: Headaches, migraines, fatigue and/or sleep disturbances. Digestive problems, such as bloating, gas, diarrhea or constipation.

What the 5 most common food intolerances are?

Gluten, lactose, soy, eggs and peanuts.

What are the 3 most common food intolerances?

Gluten, lactose, and soy.

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