What is a Food Sensitivity?

So, your favorite cheese is wreaking havoc on your body. You’ve never had a problem with dairy before, but for some reason, this particular brand of Brie gives you stomach pains and a migraine to rival that one time you had food poisoning. 

It sounds like you may have a food sensitivity. Before you assume that you can’t have a food sensitivity because your throat didn’t close up and there wasn’t a hive to be seen, you should definitely read this article. 

There are some critical differences between a food allergy and a food sensitivity, but because one isn’t life-threatening doesn’t mean that the symptoms aren’t worth fretting about.

Food sensitivity vs. food allergy vs. food intolerance

It’s a common misconception that food sensitivities, allergies, and intolerances are all the same. Food allergies are all food sensitivities, but not all sensitivities are allergies. The best way to tell the difference is by how your body responds to them.

Food allergies: When you are allergic to a particular food, your immune system sees that food as a threat and creates a defense to fight it. In the same way that when you catch a virus, you get a stuffy nose and a fever, the allergic reaction that you experience is your body’s way of battling that invader. 

Food allergies are your immune system doing its job. Even if that job feels like Anakin vs. the Jedi instead of Luke Skywalker vs Darth Vader. 

Food sensitivities: Unlike food allergies, food sensitivities aren’t an intense immune response to a specific ingredient. Food sensitivities can still be immune responses, however, but can also be based in the digestive system. Symptoms can sometimes take hours or an entire day to manifest. 

Because of the delay in the onset of symptoms, most people don’t know that they have a food sensitivity unless they get tested for it. 

Food intolerance: Food intolerances are caused by the body lacking a particular enzyme to digest a certain food. This causes (mainly) gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, diarrhea, stomach pain, cramping, etc. 

The most common food intolerance is lactose intolerance.

Why food sensitivities suck.

Remember when we mentioned that food sensitivity symptoms can take hours or days to manifest? Yeah…that’s why food sensitivities suck. Sometimes the symptoms are so delayed that you associate them with entirely different things. 

It isn’t just the amount of time that it takes for the symptoms to rear their ugly heads; it’s also the symptoms themselves. When you think of a food sensitivity, you probably imagine digestive issues, and while these are definitely part of the club, digestive issues aren’t everything. 

Got acne? Could be those eggs you love to eat every day after your run.
Got anxiety? Could be your favorite baguette.
Got depression? Could be those gummy bears you’ve been snacking on at night.
Got migraines? Could be your avocado addiction.
Almost snapped at your boss today? Could be…well, you get the picture. 

The symptoms are so varied that you may be medicating for something that could be solved with a simple test and eliminating that food from your diet.

How do I know if I have a food sensitivity?

Because of the nature of the symptoms, unless you keep a very detailed food diary with a chart of how you feel every day for months, self-diagnosing is incredibly difficult. Unlike allergies or intolerances, you’re not going to experience the symptoms of a food sensitivity right away.

If your symptoms are really bad, like bad enough that you’re medicating yourself for them on the side, then you should definitely ask your doctor about getting a food sensitivity test. 

There are some at-home options on the market, but when it comes to food sensitivity testing, it’s best left to a company that specializes in it. Want to know exactly what is causing your killer migraines? Take a test that is detailed enough to tell you if it’s the yolk or the egg white that’s sending your body into overdrive. 

Ready to get to know yourself on a whole new level and ditch the Excedrin once and for all? Ask your doctor about our Bloodprint panels at your next visit.

The power of knowing is better than the anxiety of guessing.

Have Questions?