What Are Food Sensitivities?
Sensitivities and allergies are not one in the same. Sensitivities are complex non-allergic, non-celiac inflammatory reactions that can involve both innate and adaptive immune pathways. A variety of triggering mechanisms trigger reactions in various types of white cells leading to the release of pro-inflammatory (inflammation causing) and proalgesic (symptom causing) mediators, such as cytokines, leukotrienes, and prostaglandins. Mediator release and cellular reactivity ultimately results in subclinical and clinical inflammatory effects manifesting in a variety of clinical conditions and symptoms.
Food sensitivities can play a role in many common health conditions. Chronic health complaints such as digestive problems, headaches, joint and muscle pain, and fatigue are all symptoms which can be caused by our immune system’s “reaction” to foods, additives, or other substances in our diet. Sometimes the reactive food is easy to identify, such as milk. Other times it’s a food chemical, like solanine, which can create difficulty in identifying “trigger foods." Even foods that are considered healthy, such as chicken, broccoli, or garlic can cause symptoms. Often, there are many reactive foods or chemicals, not just one or two. In addition, reactions can be delayed up to 72 hours and/or may be dose-dependent. This means we may not feel the effects of a reaction until many hours or days after we’ve eaten the reactive foods, or unless we eat too much of a specific food.
Food and food-chemical sensitivities have clinical characteristics that make it very challenging to identify trigger foods. For example, symptom manifestation may be delayed by many hours after ingestion; reactions may be dose dependent; because of a breakdown of oral tolerance mechanisms, there are often many reactive foods and food-chemicals. Even so-called anti-inflammatory foods, such as salmon, parsley, turmeric, ginger, blueberry, and any “healthy” food can be reactive.
For all these reasons, food sensitivity testing can be difficult to navigate on its own—unless you are able to work with a LEAP Certified Registered Dietitian such as Nicole!
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