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Understanding Food Sensitivities

Each system in the body is important, performing essential functions for the health of the body. But I believe the digestive tract is one of the most important, because it provides every other system with nutrients for optimal function. If the digestive tract isn’t functioning well, every other system in the body will suffer.

Food sensitivities are a common cause of digestive discomfort and testing for these sensitivities can allow for healing to occur and improve not only gut symptoms, but overall health as well.

Symptoms of Food Sensitivities

Food sensitivities can result in digestive symptoms, but also have an incredibly wide range of symptoms throughout the body including:

  • Indigestion, gas and bloating
  • Diarrhea and/or constipationdigestive problems in teens
  • Acid reflux or heart burn
  • Migraines and headaches
  • Irritability, depression, anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog, difficulty concentrating
  • Hyperactivity and ADHD
  • Acne, psoriasis, eczema
  • Joint pain
  • Chronic or recurrent infections
  • Sinusitis

What is a Food Sensitivity?

One little known fact about our bodies is that the majority of our immune system is found in our digestive tract. When we consume a food our immune system assesses it for the potential to cause us harm. If the immune system considers the food to be a potential threat it initiates a chain of reactions that results in the release of powerful chemical agents – such as histamines, cytokines, lymphokines, interferon and immunoglobulins (antibodies). These hormone-like substances can influence the function of our digestive tract, hormone system, immune system and mood. This is what occurs in a food sensitivity.

Over time, exposure to food sensitivities can damage the lining of the digestive tract, leading to greater immune response, decreased nutrient absorption and worsening of symptoms.

Food Allergies and Food Sensitivities

PeanutsBoth allergies and sensitivities are immune reactions that result from exposure to specific foods, but there are some key differences between these two conditions.

A food allergy is an acute onset hypersensitivity reaction that results in an increased production of an immunoglobulin, IgE, in the body. This triggers a cascade of reactions, that may result in airway closure, throat swelling, tongue swelling, hives and other severe symptoms leading to anaphylaxis. Food allergies can be life-threatening.

A food sensitivity is a delayed onset hypersensitivity reaction that results in an increased production of an immunoglobulin, IgG, in the body. This too triggers a cascade of reactions that are more mild but predominantly inflammatory in their origin. Food sensitivities are not life-threatening, they can develop at any age and may or may not be present for life. 

Testing for Food Sensitivities

The most accurate way to diagnose food sensitivities is through a blood test that measures levels of the IgG immunoglobulin in the body. The IgG immunoglobulin is produced for several hours or days after exposure to a sensitive food and persists for several weeks to months.

This method of testing allows us to test for IgG response to up to 200 different foods, giving an understanding of what food sensitivities are present, and the severity of the sensitivity.

Treatment of Food Sensitivities

Once food sensitivities are identified, successful treatment requires five essential components:

  1. Avoidance of identified sensitivities/ intolerances
  2. Supporting balanced immune function
  3. Re-establishment of proper intestinal flora
  4. Healing the damaged intestinal mucosa
  5. Correction of underlying cause (e.g. maldigestion, insufficient enzymes)

Nutritional and botanical supplements are used to support the body as it repairs damaged tissue.  Supplemental enzymes may be used short term to support digestion as the body works towards correcting imbalances.

Why should I have food sensitivity/ intolerance testing done?

As I mentioned, the digestive system is one of the most important organ systems in the body. If you are suffering from any of the symptoms listed above, understanding the reaction of your body to foods you consume regularly can provide you with valuable information on the function of your body and empower you to improve your health.

One of the best reasons to have food sensitivity/ intolerance testing done is because you can cure the intolerance.  When you consume foods that you are intolerant to you are creating a state of inflammation (a product of immune system activation) in your digestive tract and other systems in your body.  When you take out the food intolerance, and give your body time and support to heal the damaged tissues in many cases (up to 80%) you can resume eating that food in moderate quantities. 

Learn More About Food Sensitivities

To learn more about food sensitivities, you can read my article comparing the three most common methods of food sensitivity testing here. Rocky Mountain Analytical provides information on the IgG food sensitivity test here. You can also book a free 15 minute meet and greet appointment to discuss your questions and learn more about food sensitivities and learn how to live a vibrantly, healthy life.


The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only.  It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider.  Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.



Lisa Watson

Dr. Lisa Watson is a Naturopathic Doctor practicing in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She is a passionate writer and speaker and encourages her patients and readers to embrace their full, amazing, health potential. You can follow Dr. Watson on twitter at @drlisawatson or contact her at

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