Gut health is both important and complex. In the last 10 years our understanding has increased enormously, with numerous studies indicating that gut health affects not only how we digest food, but also immunity, mood, sleep, skin, food intolerances and there's even evidence of an unhealthy gut leading to autoimmune issues. Each week, we will focus on one of these to give a more in-depth understanding. This blog focuses on allergies and intolerance and the difference between them.
A food intolerance can occur when the body has difficulty digesting certain foods. When this occurs over time, large food particles (proteins) may enter the blood stream and this can cause inflammation.
When foods and drinks are digested, the proteins within them are broken down into smaller fragments for easy absorption into the body. Larger fragments can pass through without breaking down, and sometimes the body reacts by attacking them using antibodies called Immunoglobulin Gs (IgG).
Food intolerances can cause a wide range of disruptive symptoms such as digestive problems, eczema, migraines and headaches, fatigue, depression and low mood, joint pains and sinusitis.
As a red wine drinker, I noticed that certain wines left me stuffed up at night, regardless of whether it was a sip or a glassful. The food intolerance test let me check which grape it was, and thankfully I can now avoid those particular wines.
For more information, check out our food intolerance test.
The difference between an allergy and intolerance
The term ‘food intolerance’ and ‘food allergy’ are often confused and are two very different things.
Genuine food allergy is relatively rare. Only about 2% of the adult population are affected. A food allergy is a swift response by the body’s immune system to a specific food. In this type of reaction, the body’s immune system mistakes a food for an ‘invader’ which often results in a rapid allergic reaction often within minutes, but generally within a maximum of two hours.
This type of allergic reaction is commonly associated with reactions to peanuts, tree nuts, milk, eggs and seafood. Let’s not forget hay fever season has already started, so allergies aren’t confined to just food, but environmental triggers too. Testing, lets you identify exactly what you’re allergic too.
For more information, check our website.
Food intolerances are quite different to food allergy and whilst the symptoms can impact the person’s quality of life, they are not life threatening.
Food intolerances are much more common than food allergies.
- Reactions up to 72 hours after eating
- Multiple foods can be involved
- Any organ system can be affected
- Very common
- Difficult to self-diagnose
- Symptoms can clear after avoidance (3-6 months)
- Immediate reactions (2 hours or less)
- Rarely more than 1 to 2 foods
- Primarily skin, airways and digestive system
- Trace amounts of foods can cause reactions
- Caused by raised IgE antibody
Taking the guesswork out of the equation, can lead to a plethora of improved symptom health. We often find that our clients wish they’d done the test a long time ago.
We can of course influence our gut health quite simply by eating a more diverse range of foods, eating seasonally, drinking bone broth, eating both prebiotic and probiotic foods and even taking supplements.
Our content contributor, Sophie Namad shares her kimchi recipes for a healthier gut, so be sure to check the blog.
The number one question asked before doing an intolerance test, is whether you need to re-introduce foods that you have stopped eating, either out of fear, or because you’ve read “somewhere” that it isn’t good for you or a particular condition you may have.
My view on this is pragmatic; if you know something makes you feel unwell and you’ve stopped it and want to check if you may introduce it again, then eat it, and see how you feel. If however, you know you feel unwell when it’s managed to creep into your diet, then don’t. Go with your gut!
So why can’t I get this test from my doctor?
Unfortunately, when testing first started many years ago, different tests gave different results, so the reliability of the tests came into question. That belief is still widely held. Whilst teaching at CNM, my third year study group studied the results from different providers, and whilst the range of foods might have varied from 50 to 200, the consistency of results was absolute. So in my experience, both from this small study and in the number of clients I have helped over the years, this is no longer the case.
Lastly, if testing is something not for you just yet, then the top three offenders, are eggs, dairy and gluten. You could try an elimination diet of all three, and then slowly re-introduce one of these per week and see how you feel. There is the possibility that you aren’t intolerant to all three, or that you have an issue with gut microbiome balance. You will need to try it and see, and whilst I am a massive foodie and don’t like omission of anything, sometimes it just makes sense, especially when you get to “know” what feeling well is.