If you’re one of the 15 million Americans that suffers from food allergies, then you know the struggle of having to avoid certain foods in recipes, at restaurants, and at special events. Whether it’s nuts, meat, fish, or certain fruits, it can be frustrating to have to constantly worry about what you’re consuming.
Food allergies can be a serious problem and reactions can range from minor discomfort to full-blown moments of anaphylactic shock. It’s easy to lump such reactions into one category and say that no matter what level of reaction you’re having, it’s a food allergy. However, reacting to certain foods doesn’t always mean someone is allergic to them, they could just be sensitive.
When you have an allergic reaction to something, your body creates an immediate immune response to the food you’ve just eaten. When you have an allergy, that food forces the body to produce an antibody called IgE and the chemical histamine. During a classic allergy attack, symptoms can be anything from an itchy mouth, itchy ears, runny nose, sneezing, hives, coughing, rashes, irritated eyes, or anaphylaxis.
Most of us have heard about anaphylactic reactions or have seen interpretations of them in movies and TV shows, so developing hives, lip and tongue swelling, trouble breathing, vomiting, confusion, pale skin, and passing out aren’t new. If you’ve actually experienced an anaphylactic moment, then you’re certainly going to be mindful of the foods you eat.
Many doctors diagnose classic food allergies BY performing a skin or blood test, but there are other ways. To determine what foods you’re sensitive to, a doctor will look at your immune response to see if the food has triggered an IgG or IgA antibody instead of an IgE. When you’re sensitive to foods but not allergic to them, your body won’t produce histamine. Instead, it will create a rush of inflammatory chemicals that result in uncomfortable symptoms such as inflammation, headaches, and constipation.
Identifying food sensitivities can be tricky, however, because your doctor will need to do a blood test in order to detect any IgG antibodies. The best method of checking for sensitivities is to eliminate the food from your diet until all of your symptoms are gone and then eat the food to see if they show up again.
Working with a functional medicine physician
Though you may have some luck working on your own to determine if you have a true allergy as opposed to a sensitivity, the best (and safest) thing to do is work with an experienced physician. Someone who practices functional medicine, for instance, can help you determine if you have a sensitivity or allergy based on your symptoms. Your functional medicine physician will also help you address any other dietary concerns along the way. Certain foods can produce adverse effects when you have a medical condition, so it’s best to get at the heart of the problem right away.
To find out if you’re experiencing a true food allergy or just a sensitivity, as well as what foods serve you best, schedule a consultation with Dr. Teggatz at The Teggatz Clinic. As an experienced functional medicine physician, Dr. Teggatz will help you look at everything you’re consuming, how you feel, how you react to certain foods, and what you can do to avoid the ones that trigger you.