Food sensitivities are inappropriate immune reactions to food components. They occur when the immune tissue in the digestive tract erroneously identifies a food molecule such as a peptide as a dangerous foreign substance and initiates an immune attack against it. Many factors such as genetics, digestive function, intestinal bacterial composition and others may contribute to the risk of developing a food sensitivity.
Unlike food allergies, food sensitivities are delayed onset reactions making them much more challenging to diagnose. Food sensitivities are also caused by another part of the immune system than allergies are, so skin testing will not isolate them.
The most common symptoms of food sensitivities are in the digestive tract itself. They may include indigestion, reflux, abdominal bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea. However, many other symptoms may occur involving the skin, joints, muscles, hormonal system and the brain. The reason for these symptoms that are common outside of the digestive tract is that immune reactions typically begin locally (digestive tract) but respond systemically (throughout the body).
A noted gluten researcher begins his professional presentations with the comment that the gut is not Las Vegas. He is referring to the slogan that what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas. Immune reactions such as inflammatory activation begin in the gut, but they do not stay in the gut.
The digestive symptoms from food sensitivities include:
- Abdominal pain and bloating
- Excessive gas
- Stomach pain
Other common problems caused by food sensitivities:
Fatigue, aches and pains
- Unexplained fatigue
- Sleep difficulty
- Adrenal fatigue
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Brain fog
A peptide in gluten called gliadin and one in dairy called beta casein are the two most common food sensitivities. However, many different food molecules can cause a sensitivity reaction in any given person. For more in depth information on food sensitivities it is helpful to read our e-book, Could My Problem Be From Gluten?. While the focus of this book is on gluten, it explains all of the aspects of food sensitivities which are common to all food sensitivity reactions.