Food Allergies vs. Sensitivities

Food Allergies

“Food allergies” are a common concern amongst those we treat here at Greystones Health. With all the talk about food allergies, we thought we’d address a few frequently asked questions in this blog-style post, and let you know how your Toronto naturopath can help.

What is the difference between a food allergy and a food sensitivity?

These are two completely different processes that occur in your body after ingesting a certain food. Let’s begin with the food allergy. A food allergy has a presentation which I’m sure many of you can imagine. Anywhere from swelling or itching of the tongue, difficulty breathing, hives, and in some severe cases anaphylaxis, a potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. These types of reactions occur quite quickly after eating a certain food, and usually you’re aware of which food it was that caused this reaction.

A food sensitivity is a process that doesn’t occur immediately after eating a food, and the reaction isn’t a very “obvious” reaction (such as difficulty breathing and hives) like with food allergies. Additionally, it can take time for a food sensitivity to actually develop, which is why this is a common complaint amongst adults.

What are some symptoms of a food sensitivity?

Food sensitivities can present most commonly but not limited to: headaches and migraines, fatigue, muscle and joint pain, difficulty losing weight, skin ailments, and changes in mood such as anxiety and irritability.

It is important to rule out other more common causes of the symptoms mentioned above before diagnosing a food sensitivity. This is where both medical and naturopathic doctors can help.

How long does it take for a food sensitivity reaction to occur?

A food sensitivity is a delayed reaction, meaning it can take at least 12 hours for any response to occur, and up to 72 hours (or 3 days).   

Can you develop food sensitivities over time?

Yes. Again, this is why it is a concern mainly amongst our adult patients. What you were once able to eat without any problem, can eventually be something that causes a food sensitivity reaction. There are many reasons that this can occur, and it will be a different for everyone. Medical history needs to be thoroughly examined to deduce why the food sensitivities developed, and this is where a naturopath can help.

What can naturopaths test for?

We do not do “allergy testing”. Your family doctor typically refers you to an allergist (a physician who specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of asthma and other allergic diseases) if an allergy is suspected, and if allergy testing needs to be done. During an allergy skin test, your skin is exposed to the allergens or food, and then observed for signs of an allergic reaction.

Naturopaths are able to test for food sensitivities via a blood test. During this blood test, your immune system is checked for how it responds to certain foods. If the body is creating a high immune response to the certain food, this can lead to inflammation and other food sensitivity reactions.

Have more questions about food sensitivites? We’re here to help!

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