Figuring out Food Reactions
A few years ago I completed an elimination diet to determine if I had any food sensitivities. I was experiencing acne on my chin and bloating after delicious lattes and knew that something needed to change. In all honesty, the diet wasn’t fun — the nightshade family is filled with delicious foods — but it was an eye-opening experience to see which foods were causing symptoms in my body.
What are food reactions?
When we eat particular foods that don’t agree with our system, our bodies can produce an immune response against them in the form of antibodies. These antibodies differ based on whether the food triggers an allergy or sensitivity.
Immediate – this is an IgE reaction. Symptoms will occur within minutes of exposure or ingestion of the food and can even be life-threatening (ie. peanut allergy). You may see: hives, itchy and watery eyes, and even breathing difficulties. Testing for this type of allergy requires a blood draw and diagnosis is made by an allergist.
Delayed – this is an IgG reaction. These are usually delayed reactions to food – meaning that you can experience symptoms days after eating the offending food. Symptoms can vary from person to person but can include migraines, irritable bowel syndrome (alternating diarrhea and constipation), bloating and indigestion, fatigue, weight gain or difficulty losing weight, and even eczema.
Testing for food sensitivities can be done by elimination diets or via an IgG food sensitivity testing (which is actually covered by some insurance providers in Canada).
If you’re wanting results right away, an IgG test is your best bet. Collected via a blood draw, the IgG test can tell you how reactive you are to 120 or 200 foods and herbs. Once you have the results you can stay away from the ‘elevated’ foods, or you can test how exactly they affect you through a diet challenge (where you would consume a serving of food twice in a day, and wait 48 hours to see which symptoms present).
Elimination diets are true to their names – you eliminate allergenic foods for about a 3 week period to clear everything from your diet. Once the elimination phase is over, you would begin to add foods back in one family at a time. For instance, you wouldn’t add back both wheat and dairy products, because then you wouldn’t be able to tell which food caused which reaction. Keeping track of the foods causing symptoms is exceptionally important, as you would ideally eliminate them from your diet if they’re wreaking havoc on your system.
This is a non-immune reaction to food, therefore will not produce any antibodies. Reactions can occur because of enzyme deficiencies (ie. lactose intolerance due to lactase deficiency), and chemicals present in food additives.
If you think that you may have a food sensitivity or intolerance, feel free to contact a naturopathic doctor or another health professional who can order an IgG test and go through the results with you; or even guide and support you through an elimination diet.