Getting in tune with your body can do wonders for your overall health. It seems we have all experienced a reaction to food, whether it is an allergy, sensitivity or intolerance. Though some may use these terms interchangeably, they are entirely different. Know the difference, and take another step towards a healthier you today.

Food Allergy  

A food allergy occurs when your immune system identifies a particular food as dangerous to your body. Large amounts of histamine are released into the body’s tissues affecting multiple organs, with symptoms ranging from rash and itchy eyes to hives, coughing and vomiting. (1) Severe cases can result in anaphylaxis, a life-threatening reaction resulting from the body becoming hypersensitive. Swelling of the face, tongue, and throat are signs of anaphylaxis and require a shot of epinephrine. Epinephrine quickly opens up the airways, decreases swelling, and prevents the body from releasing more histamines (2).

If you feel you, or someone around you, is experiencing anaphylaxis call 911. People with a known food allergy carry around an EpiPen, which has a dose of epinephrine. According to the official EpiPen website, to administer the injection first remove the Auto-Injector from the carrier tube. “Hold firmly with orange tip pointing downward. Remove blue safety cap by pulling straight up. Swing and push orange tip firmly into mid-outer thigh until you hear a ‘click.’ Hold on thigh for several seconds” then pull back, and call 911. (3) And yes, it can go through your pants. No need to disrobe. And remember, an EpiPen can halt the allergic reaction but its effects can wear off, or the body may experience a second reaction which is why additional attention is required.

Contact an allergist or your healthcare provider to get tested if you suspect you may have developed a food allergy. Avoid the food in question, and any derivatives of that food, until you can be checked to ensure the results are as accurate as possible and to avoid any unnecessary reactions.

Food Sensitivity

A food sensitivity is categorized by the immune system releasing histamines into the blood in response to a specific food. Symptoms of the reaction can take days to appear and can appear anywhere on the body since the histamines are carried throughout the body by the blood. Though often affecting the sinuses and airways much like allergies- rashes, bloating and digestive issues are also common responses. Luckily, the symptoms related to a food sensitivity are much milder than those of a food allergy. 

Since symptoms take longer to manifest, it is often difficult to pinpoint the food that is causing the reaction. If consumed regularly, this can lead to chronic inflammation, pain, skin conditions and digestive issues. If you suspect a food sensitivity, it is best to get tested to isolate which food(s) cause a reaction. Eliminating the food(s) in questions can make a profound impact on your health, energy levels, and day-to-day life.

Food Intolerance

Food intolerance is when an adverse bodily reaction occurs as a result of the body being unable to digest a particular food. Unlike a food allergy or food sensitivity, a food intolerance reaction does not involve the immune system. Instead, it is the lack of digestive enzymes in the digestive system that causes a food intolerance. For instance, someone that is lactose-intolerant cannot properly digest lactose and may suffer mild issues such as cramps, bloating, and gas when they eat or drink something with milk.

Sum it Up

If you suspect that something you are eating or drinking is negatively affecting your body eliminate it from your diet. After a few days, preferably a week, have a significant amount of the food or ingredient in question and see how you feel. A food journal or log can help you understand trends over a more extended period and help you connect the dots. 

You can take a little bit of the guesswork out of the equation and take a test through your allergist or your health practitioner. No matter how you do it, listening and being in tune with your body is essential. Knowing what foods make you feel good, and what foods don’t, will help you make the most informed decisions as you continue on your journey to latch onto your health!