The Difference Between Food Allergies, Intolerance, & Sensitivities

What the what?

Confused by the different terminology associated with food triggers? And what the heck is a food trigger anyway?

A food trigger simply refers to a food that causes a negative reaction in an individual. 

Now that we've got that out of the way, here's a quick run down of the differences between between the types of reactions and the ways in which they're diagnosed.


Food Allergy (Type I):
Food allergies cause immune system reactions that typically occur within a few minutes to two hours. Symptoms range from mild to severe and include hives, dizziness, trouble breathing, swollen tongue, and anaphylaxis (which can be life-threatening). Food allergies can only be (and should only be) diagnosed and treated under the care of a physician.

Celiac:
Celiac is an autoimmune disorder where ingestion of gluten leads to damage of the small intestine, which can lead to serious health problems. Diagnostic testing for celiac is done only through your physician. (Just a helpful tip: If you suspect you may have celiac, talk to your doctor and get tested prior to cutting gluten out of your diet. This will give you the most accurate results).

Delayed Food Allergy:
Delayed food allergies typically cause symptoms anywhere from a few minutes to 72 hours after ingestion. Delayed food allergies can cause the same symptoms as Type I food allergy, but without an immune system reaction or anaphylaxis. This type of reaction is most commonly discovered through an elimination diet, which can uncover both permanent and temporary delayed food allergies. 

Food Intolerance:
Food intolerance can be caused from a lack of enzymes needed for proper digestion (lactose or gluten) which can be diagnosed through your doctor with medical testing. But food intolerance can also be caused from foods that irritate your stomach or a sensitivity to common food ingredients. Food intolerance can be permanent or temporary (due to illness, stress, medications, etc) and can be discovered through an  elimination diet. The Pinnertest can also be used to uncover permanent food intolerance.  

Food sensitivity:
Food sensitivity is a general term for unpleasant (but not serious) reactions to foods. Currently there are no medical tests to determine food sensitivities and an elimination diet is the only way to uncover them. 

Depending on which study you read, it's predicted that anywhere between 40% and 90% of the population has food sensitivities. Crazy, right? (Personally, I think it has everything to do with our food supply, but we can debate that in another post!).

If you suspect that the foods you eat are making you feel sick and would like to explore the possibility of food triggers, please feel free to reach out to me and/or check out my programs . And if you already know you have food triggers, I invite you to stick around and join me as I navigate life without the eight major food allergens (#8SAFE). It's proving to be quite the adventure. ;)