Understanding Food Sensitivities
Updated: Mar 27, 2019
Many people say they are “allergic” to foods when they are actually intolerant. to that food.
Food sensitivities (intolerances) usually occur when the gut reacts poorly to a specific food or ingredient used in food preparation. Sensitivities can result from the absence of an enzyme needed to fully digest a food, such as with lactose intolerance.
Food sensitivity is not regarded as a sound diagnosis by much of the medical community. In part, this may be because symptoms of food sensitivity are milder and usually have a slower onset than food allergy (but not always).
These symptoms can include gas/bloating, diarrhoea, stomach cramping, stuffy nose, mucus production, nausea, vomiting, headaches, etc. While some of these symptoms are benign, serious gastrointestinal complaints are often characteristic of severe intolerance; if left un-investigated, more serious problems can result.
Common culprits in food sensitivity tend to be foods eaten very regularly, like wheat, milk, corn, and more recently, soy. Lactose intolerance is a common example. In people without enough lactase enzyme activity, undigested lactose from dairy products passes through the stomach into the intestines, where it must be fermented. Through this process, lots of gas is formed, causing stomach cramps, bloating, flatulence, and diarrhoea.
Compounding the problem, other symptoms can be a result of milk protein sensitivity. While casein protein has been implicated in more cases of milk protein problems than whey, both milk proteins can cause similar issues. This is because both casein and whey can cause an excessive inflammatory response in some individuals, leading to mucus production. High mucus means blocked airways, stuffy noses, and thick throats.
Unlike an allergy, in which sensitive people can react to minute quantities (or even odours), a food sensitivity usually requires a larger quantity of food to be consumed before symptoms arise.
Food sensitivities are much more prevalent than food allergies; however, because the symptoms are milder and often not immediate, people can be unsure which foods are causing the problem. Thus, food sensitivity testing is becoming more frequent. .