• Food Sensitivities vs. True Food Allergies
  • Symptoms for Food Sensitivities
  • What happens when we have Food Sensitivity?
  • Why can we have Food Sensitivities?
  • What can we have Food Sensitivities to?

Food Sensitivities vs. True Food Allergies

Food sensitivities, also called delayed hypersensitivity reactions, involve an immune response in which the body produces antibody immunoglobulins, typically IgG, which occurs more slowly than IgE (true food allergies). The delayed sensitivity can make it tough to identify the food or substance that triggered it since the symptoms can appear several hours to several days after exposure.

True food allergies are much more rare and are triggered mainly but not exclusively by eggs, cow’s milk, nuts, shellfish, soy, wheat, and white fish.1 The IgE antibodies are signaled from a food substance that the body is alarmed by and attach to mast cells in mucous membranes and in connective tissue. This stimulates the release of inflammatory cytokines and histamines, creating a quick response a few minutes to 2 hours after the food is eaten. Symptoms can be closing of the throat, fatigue, tearing, hives, itching, respiratory distress, watery or runny nose, skin rashes, itchy eyes or ears, and sometimes, severe reactions of asthma and anaphylactic shock.1

Symptoms for Food Sensitivities1


  • Chronic headaches
  • Migraines
  • Difficulty Sleeping
  • Dizziness

Mouth and Throat

  • Coughing
  • Sore throat/Hoarseness
  • Swelling or Pain
  • Gagging/Frequently Clearing Throat
  • Sores on Gums, Lips, and Tongue.

Ears, Eyes, and Nose

  • Runny or Stuffy Nose
  • Post-nasal Drip
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Blurred Vision
  • Sinus Problems
  • Watery and Itchy Eyes
  • Ear Infections/hearing loss
  • Sneezing Attacks (e.g. hay fever)
  • Excessive mucus
  • Dark Circles Under Eyes/Swollen, Red, or Sticky Eyelids

Heart and Lungs

  • Irregular heartbeat (palpitations, arrhythmia)
  • Asthma
  • Rapid Heart-beat
  • Chest Pain and Congestion
  • Bronchitis
  • Shortness of Breath/Difficulty Breathing

Gastrointestinal Tract

  • Nausea and/or Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Indigestion/Bloating/passing gas
  • Stomach Pain/Cramping
  • Heartburn
  • GERD
  • Ulcers


  • Hives
  • Skin Rashes
  • Psoriasis
  • Eczema
  • Dry Skin
  • Excessive Sweating
  • Acne
  • Hair Loss
  • Irritation Around Eyes

Muscles and Joints

  • General Weakness/Fatigue
  • Aches and Pains of Muscles or Joints
  • Arthritis
  • Swelling
  • Stiffness

Energy and Activity

  • Fatigue
  • Mental Dullness and Memory Lapse
  • Difficulty getting your work done (lack of attention)
  • Apathy
  • Hyperactivity
  • Restlessness

Emotions and mind

  • Mood Swings
  • Anxiety and Tension
  • Fear/Nervousness
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Aggressive Behavior
  • Binge Eating or Drinking (food cravings)
  • Depression
  • Confusion/Poor Comprehension/Poor Concentration
  • Difficulty Learning


  • Overweight
  • Underweight
  • Fluid Retention
  • Insomnia
  • Genital Itch
  • Frequent Urination
  • Bed Wetting (Incontinence)

 *In addition to the above symptoms, children with food and/or environmental sensitivities may have attention deficit disorder, behavior problems, learning problems and recurring ear infections.

What happens when we have food sensitivity?

When sensitivity occurs the antibody IgG is stimulated, which then binds to the antigen (foreign substance causing an immune response), forming “immune complexes,” which are clumps of molecules that the immune system disposes of. The larger complexes can be eaten up by the macrophages (specialized cells that recognize, engulf and destroy target substances/cells) in the immune system, while the smaller complexes can bind to tissues, causing problems. IgG antibodies are fairly long lasting and we continue to produce them as long as we eat the offending foods that are alarming the immune system.

Why can we have food sensitivities?

Food sensitivities are most likely to arise in the digestive system and are usually the result of an inability to absorb or digest particular foods or parts of those foods. Because it often takes much longer for symptoms to arise (sometimes days), it can be difficult to identify the offending food or the person is unaware of the link between the symptoms and what he or she has eaten. Its important to identify which foods you are having a reaction to and what the underlying cause may be, such as parasites, candidiasis, bacterial or viral infection, pancreatic insufficiency, enzyme deficiency, medication or poor lifestyle habits.

What can we have sensitivities to?

Any food can have a sensitivity reaction but the most common ones are beef, citrus, dairy products, eggs, corn, pork, and wheat.1 At our naturopathic clinic we have a test of the 96 most common foods eaten and a more comprehensive test of 186 foods.


1. Lipski, Elizabeth. Digestive Wellness: Strengthen the Immune System and Prevent Disease through Healthy Digestion. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2012. Print.