Ask Dr. Doni: What’s the Difference between Food Intolerances and Food Allergies?

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Ask Dr. Doni: What’s the Difference between Food Intolerances and Food Allergies?

Food Intolerances and Food Allergies?

In practice over the past 10 years, the most common question related to food intolerances is “what is the difference between food allergies and food intolerances?”

For me the answer brings me back to a research project and presentation on food intolerances that I completed during my residency at Bastyr University. Food allergies (as classically defined) are caused by IgE antibodies. Food intolerances are caused by IgG antibodies. Allow me to explain this science talk.

“Ig” is scientific shorthand for Immunoglobulin, which is another name for antibodies, the messengers of our immune system. The letters “E” and “G” are assigned to each antibody based on their unique characteristics. (Wouldn’t it be fun to rename them something more descriptive?)

IgE antibodies work quickly and cause severe reactions, such as hives, swelling and anaphylaxis. When a person is exposed to a food or substance that causes such a reaction, emergency care is often needed. This is the classic “food allergy,” such as to peanuts or shrimp, that are tested for by allergists with a skin prick test.

IgG antibodies, on the other hand, work more slowly, taking even up to 72 hours to cause much more subtle or mysterious symptoms, as fatigue, sinus congestion, digestive upset and/or uncomfortable, yet non-emergency, symptoms throughout the body. Unfortunately, from my perspective, conventional medical care has not integrated IgG testing into the standard of care. That is why this may be the first you are hearing of it.

While many people know about “lactose intolerance,” what I am describing is much more broad based then an inability to digest the sugar in milk. I am talking about the immune system launching a full attack on the foods you are eating, which then leads to deleterious effects in any number of areas of your body.

The most common symptoms related to IgG food intolerances include: headaches, fatigue, constipation/diarrhea, eczema/psoriasis, urinary frequency/urgency, susceptibility to infections (anywhere in the body), anxiety/depression, and weight gain/loss. These symptoms can potentially cause, and be labeled as, much more serious conditions, such as autoimmunity, chronic fatigue syndrome, and cancer, to name a few. The food types that are most likely to be involved in this condition are: dairy, gluten (the protein in wheat products), eggs, and nuts.

While practicing in an allergy specialty clinic I started to notice that people who are intolerant (“sensitive” is another word used) to gluten tend to be intolerant to many other foods as well, such as certain fruits and vegetables, as well as the foods that are most common in their diet.

This phenomenon is referred to as “Leaky Gut,” or medically referred to as Intestinal Permeability. One way to think of it is as if the intestinal lining looks like a colander instead of bowl.

As I originally learned during my undergraduate training, in a healthy digestive tract food particles must be fully digested and pass through the cells that line the intestine in order to get into the blood stream. In which case the immune system, which sits between the lining of the intestine and the blood vessels, is only exposed to nutrients, never actual food particles.

In order for IgG antibodies to be created, the immune system must be exposed to food particles, which means that the intestinal lining has been compromised, allowing partially undigested food to get between the cells. Thus the sieve effect, called Leaky Gut.

A frequent culprit in causing Leaky Gut is gluten, which explains why people who are intolerant to gluten are often intolerant to many other foods. In fact, most often the very foods that are coming down through their digestive tract frequently. (It’s not unusual for people to eat the same foods over and over again). Another common cause is too-frequent exposure to antibiotics and/or disruption of the balance of healthy bacteria in the intestines.

So how can you tell if your immune system is attacking the foods you eat and wreaking havoc each time you have a meal?

Thankfully a highly refined antibody testing device, known as ELISA testing, can be used to determine which antibodies, to which foods, are being produced in your bloodstream. And it only requires a few drops of blood to test for close to 100 foods.  Click here to order the test.

With this test result you’ll get answers and insights into what’s going on within your body. And with the right guidance, you’ll know exactly what to do with this information.

If you’re ready to get answers to your most perplexing health challenges then consider booking a Health Breakthrough Session with me. I would be honored to help! Click here to find out if this is right for you.

To your health and wellness,

–Dr. Doni

For a more complete view of leaky gut—what is is and what you can do about it, please see Dr. Doni’s Series on Leaky Gut:

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