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Allergies, Sensitivities and Intolerances

It is important to understand the differences between these terms, especially with regard to food.True food allergies can result in a life-threatening immune response and usually show up in childhood. However, many people identify with having allergic reactions that occur later in life and may have allergies, sensitivities or intolerances.

With allergies and sensitivities, the immune system senses a food or environmental trigger as a foreign object and then has an antibody response to protect you.

In true allergic reactions, IgE antibodies are made, which then trigger a severe histamine release and can result in the rapid onset of itching, swelling, hives, diarrhea, cramping, vomiting, shortness of breath, throat swelling, difficulty breathing and a drop in blood pressure which can be fatal. Some of the common causes of true allergies are milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat (Celiac Disease), soy, fish, shellfish and sesame. A small dose of these foods are able to trigger an immediate allergic reaction. These are diagnosed with pin prick tests or blood tests. Avoidance of these foods is essential and rapid treatment with an antihistamine drug is needed to treat this.

With sensitivities, IgG antibodies are produced which can cause much more delayed, subtle and long-lasting effects in many parts of the body such as skin problems (rashes, breakouts, eczema, etc), chronic stomach problems (gas, bloating, abdominal aches, IBS), joint pain, nasal congestion or headaches. Many physicians have difficulty diagnosing and treating these sensitivities, but this is where functional medicine comes in!

There are a wide range of foods that can cause sensitivities. Food sensitivities are usually associated with a “leaky gut.”

Blood tests to distinguish the culprits combined with an elimination diet can help to heal the “leaky gut,” which can help to reverse many of these symptoms.

Food intolerances tend to affect the gastro-intestinal system with abdominal pain, cramping, vomiting, diarrhea, gas and nausea. A good example is lactose intolerance, where eating a large amount of dairy creates a gut reaction, as the enzyme needed to break down the dairy is deficient and the excess lactose in the gut creates a cascade of gut reactions. Intolerances can also lead to micro-inflammation in the intestines and thus cause more wide-range symptoms. Gluten and caffeine are common culprits. For some people, gluten and caffeine digestion are inadequate, and can cause a wide range of symptoms from rashes to nasal congestion to jitteriness. Identifying the correct issue can help to modulate these symptoms.

Our healthcare providers have a wide array of tests and treatments that are used to understand these “root causes” and can then create a plan to reverse these symptoms-for good!

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