There are 3 primary categories that we look at when exploring issues with food. Two are related to abnormalities in the immune system function (food allergies and food sensitivities), and the final is a non-immune mediated reaction (food intolerances).
This is the “my throat is swelling, and I’ve got hives” reaction to foods. If you have an allergy to a certain food (or non-food, like cat dander), your immune system creates antibodies (IgE) to that specific protein. When your body is exposed to that protein, the immune system releases pro-inflammatory mediators (histamine) from the mast cells. These symptoms usually occur quickly after exposure and can be life threatening (think anaphylactic response after exposure to peanuts). Skin prick testing helps to determine IgE-mediated food allergies.
Sensitivities also involve the immune system, but different parts (not IgE). Sensitivities can be trickier to identify, because you might not get classic allergy reactions and they are often more global in nature (ie- the affect more of the body).
Symptoms of a food sensitivity:
- Brain fog
- Excess mucus production
- Mood swings
- Anxiety or depression
- Decreased ability to handle stress
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Needing to clear throat
White blood cells are responsible for non-IgE mediated food sensitivities, including the lymphocytes (responsible for production of antibodies like IgG), eosinophils, basophils, monocytes, and neutrophils. In response to an “attack” from an offending food, these cells release a myriad of chemicals including cytokines, leukotrienes, histmaines, ECP, MPE, aminies, prostaglandins, and more. These chemicals, when acting on the cells, are what can cause systemic system response. Reactions are often delayed (can be up to 72 hours after ingestion) and can be difficult to pinpoint which item caused the issue. They are also often dose dependent for symptomatology. To assess food sensitivities, blood work can be done to assess elevation in immune markers (either elevated IgG or elevation in release of mediators). We currently offer Genova IgG and LEAP MRT to assess for food sensitivities.
Intolerances can be related to a lack of an enzyme needed for digestion (think lactose intolerance or low bile salt). Intolerances are not related to the specific food triggering the immune system, but the body’s inability to digest the proteins appropriately causing inflammation in the GI tract. Often symptoms are rapid onset and usually are digestive in nature (bloating, gas, abdominal pain, or diarrhea). People can also have intolerances to certain chemicals in foods. Examples would include amines in some cheeses, caffeine, and histamine. Some people are more sensitive to these chemicals, and they also tend to be dose dependent. Often discovering the mechanism of intolerance, foods can be added in with the addition of a medication or supplement to help support your body’s digestion of the items.
If you suspect food is causing symptoms, contact us today to discuss the best testing options for you.