When you think food allergies, your mind might jump to allergies and stories of immediate hives, anaphylactic shock, and epi pens. However, food sensitivities (low-grade allergies) are much more common than these severe food allergies, affecting a larger percentage of the population, and they tend to go undetected in people throughout their lives, contributing to a host of body disturbances.
Severe food allergies are easier to diagnose because you immediately see a reaction to the food being eaten. Doctors perform an IgE blood test to find out which fast-reacting allergies someone may have.
Food sensitivities, on the other hand, activate the IgG antibodies, creating delayed symptoms to the trigger food up to 72 hours after ingesting it. Because of this delay of onset symptoms, it can be difficult to associate a certain food to the weakening of the immune system that may lead to symptoms such as feeling uneasy, inflammation, headaches, nausea, body swelling, bloating, constipation, weight gain, inability to lose weight, weight loss, inability to gain weight, low mood, depression, allergy “shiners” (puffy eyes), and arthritis, among others.
These food sensitivities can occur at any point in life once the lining of our gut becomes inflamed. This inflammation creates “holes” in our gut through which small partially food particles can squeeze through and enter the blood stream. Being a foreign object, our bodies go on full alert and activate our immune systems to attack these particles. Our immune systems create a catalog of antibodies for these particles, creating an immune response towards them every time they are encountered within the body from then on.
Here are three ways to determine if food sensitivities are creating havoc in your body and, in turn, keeping you from your health and fitness goals.
1. Keep a food diary
Keep a food diary for at least 30 days. Write down everything you are eating and any symptoms you experience afterwards. Note if any specific brands cause a symptom.
2. Elimination diet
Eliminate any and all potential food allergens for at least 6 weeks) and take note of how your body feels. You can start with eliminating one or two potential allergens or all of them at the same time. Common allergy foods are gluten, wheat, dairy, nuts, nightshades, eggs, fructose, and corn. Letting your body rest from the constant intake of allergenic foods will reduce inflammation and allow your gut to heal. Slowly introduce one food back into your diet, eating it at least 3 times a day for 3 days, taking note of any changes that occur (remember doing this when introducing new foods with your infants?). Remember that it can take up to 72 hours for symptoms to occur.
3. Get an IgG blood test
This blood test can be a guide to understanding what may be going on as it tests a wide array of potential low-grade food allergens. Be sure to work with someone trained with food allergies in order to interpret the results with the overall context of your well-being.
Do you suffer from food intolerances? How has eliminating them changed your health?