When we think about eating and drinking there are many thoughts and feelings that can come to mind. Most are positive, enjoying a delicious meal with friends or family, sharing experiences, trying out a new recipe, comfort food on a chilly day, to name a few.
For some of us though who either have a food sensitivity or, less likely, a food allergy our relationship with food is not always positive. Most of us refer to any reaction to foods as a “food allergy” but it is important to remember that food allergies and food sensitivities are totally different and must not be confused.
Food allergies are serious, potentially life-threatening, and can cause immediate and severe swelling, rashes (hives), vomiting and more. If you have a food allergy you need specialist medical help and support so that you can manage any reactions and keep yourself safe.
Food sensitivities are very different and affect many of us with symptoms that we often take for granted. Food sensitivity symptoms can include bloating, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), digestive upsets, fatigue, headaches, low mood and skin reactions (e.g. acne, eczema). Food sensitivity reactions are not life threatening or immediate, but they do cause distress and can impact daily life. Food sensitivities are far more common than allergies; it is thought that up to 45% of the population suffer from food sensitivities but in practice this level may be even higher. Once detected, food sensitivities are best managed with lifestyle changes supported by a nutritional expert.
The science of food sensitivity is different to the science of food allergy which means that you need a different type of test for a food sensitivity than you do for a food allergy. Allergies involve IgE antibodies and food sensitivities involve IgG antibodies. If you have an allergy you very quickly (within minutes) produce IgE antibodies and the reaction is severe. If you have a food sensitivity then reactions develop more slowly, over hours or days, and IgG antibodies are produced.
If you think you have a food sensitivity it is difficult to pinpoint exactly which foods you are sensitive to as you will consume many different types of foods each day. Many people try and “second guess” which foods are the problem and try and remove them from their diet but this often ends in failure. You may think you react to bread, but it could be a reaction to the yeast, gluten, wheat, rye and/or other ingredients such as milk, seeds, olives or herbs. You may not have considered that you can react to foods thought of as healthy such as lentils, beans, fruit and vegetables. In order to start an effective elimination diet you need to determine the exact combination of trigger foods that are relevant for you.
By measuring food-specific IgG antibodies, using a food sensitivity test, you can determine which foods your IgG immune system has registered as a “threat” so you know which foods to try and remove from your diet. The good news is that, unlike allergies, food sensitivities are not necessarily for life. Once identified and eliminated foods can sometimes be reintroduced. The whole food sensitivity test process is best supported with nutritional advice to help you get the best outcome.
Food sensitivity expert Dr Gill Hart, Biochemist and Scientific Director at YorkTest says “Many people confuse food allergy and food sensitivity but scientifically they are not the same. YorkTest have offered food sensitivity testing for over 20 years and our extensive evidence base shows that we have helped many thousands of individuals to feel better; our recent independent survey data shows 81% report feeling better after changing their diet with one of our nutritional expert-supported testing programs”.
Food Sensitivity Food sensitivity IgG tests are not allergy tests, nor do they test for celiac disease or lactose intolerance. If you have a known allergy, or suffer from celiac disease or lactose intolerance, you should be guided by your doctor in managing that allergy or condition and how best to stay safe, regardless of your food sensitivity results.