An Honest Discussion About Food Allergies & Sensitivities

An Honest Discussion About Food Allergies & Sensitivities

Food Allergies & Sensitivities

Bringing treats to school is now a thing of the past, as more and more children are affected by various allergies. True food allergies occur in an estimated three to four percent of adults and six to eight percent of children, but sensitivities to foods continue to become more prevalent, affecting 15 million Americans.

As a child I suffered from random stomachaches. By the time I reached medical school, I had been to the emergency room three times with pain so severe my doctor thought I had appendicitis. Each time, my tests were clear and I was sent home with no answers.

In naturopathic medical school, my doctor suggested a diet free of gluten. During the six weeks of elimination, I never experienced a stomachache.  I experimented by adding gluten back into my diet and I was bent over in pain again with terrible brain fog.  I am not allergic, but definitely sensitive. And many people experience similar reactions to various food ingredients.

Why Are We So Sensitive Now?

Times have changed and, unfortunately, so has our food. For example, gluten has increased by 50 percent in wheat today because hybridized plants are favored for their ability to resist pesticides and grow faster. (After spending some time in Europe, I realized how different our wheat products are in the United States. I had absolutely no sensitivity to gluten in Europe.)

As for dairy, we did not start drinking milk until the early 1900s when the dairy industry sold us on its calcium content. Calcium sources from dark green vegetables like spinach and broccoli are actually higher and easier for our bodies to assimilate than animal sources.

Studies, too, have correlated food sensitivities with higher levels of additives in the body like dichlorophenols, a chemical used in pesticides found in food and to chlorinate drinking water.

Our easy accessibility to any food also has led to overexposure. Today, you can eat a loaf of bread or a pineapple a day if you choose. In the old days, you had to pick the wheat, grind it, process it, and bake it just to get one loaf for the entire family. Fruits and vegetables were available only when in season, but today we can access anything — much of it processed — year round.

Food Allergies + Sensitivities

There are two types of allergic reactions:

  • IgE immediate allergic reaction
  • IgG delayed allergic reaction

Immediate reactions are symptoms you notice right away and can be life threatening. For example, a person eats peanuts and breaks out in hives or experiences throat tightness. It is easy to make the correlation between a food and an immediate symptom.

Delayed reactions are not as straightforward and are addressed differently. With this type of sensitivity, you could eat a trigger food on Monday but not experience symptoms for up to three days. This makes it difficult to discern which food is causing your symptoms. These reactions are not immediately life threatening; however, they can significantly affect quality of life and development of chronic disease.

The rise in food sensitivities are linked to chronic inflammation and are correlated to increased rates of autoimmune diseases, skin disorders, and developmental disorders like the autism in children. Aside from contributing to chronic conditions, more subtle symptoms of food sensitivities include:

  • Constipation/diarrhea
  • Gas and/or bloating
  • Heartburn
  • Abdominal pain
  • Brain fog
  • Fatigue
  • Asthma
  • Eczema
  • Hives
  • Congestion
  • Productive cough
  • Anxiety
  • Acne
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Muscle and/or joint pain

The most common foods that cause these symptoms include gluten (the protein found in wheat), dairy, eggs, corn, nuts, and soy. Discovering food allergies and avoiding them can make significant changes in your health and well-being. Food is the core of our health. If we are feeding our bodies something it considers an offender three times per day, our immune system goes awry.


Immediate reactions: This skin-prick test administered by an allergy specialist exposes a person’s skin to a solution containing a potential allergen by pricking the skin with a needle to allow the solution to penetrate. If the skin develops a red, raised itchy area, the patient is considered to have a positive allergic reaction to that substance.

Delayed reactions: This food allergy panel via a finger prick blood sample is usually ordered by alternative healthcare providers and typically not done by a conventional doctor. The finger prick is relatively non-invasive for children. The IgG test I use in my practice tests at least 95 foods, including the most common allergens.

With any kind of allergy or sensitivity testing, false negatives or positives are common. The tests merely act as a guide in treatment; the gold standard is eliminating exposure to the potential allergens to see if symptoms resolve.


After you have completed testing, you will work with your health care provider and, following his or her guidelines, eliminate the foods you reacted highly to for four to six weeks. Then, they often have you systematically reintroduce those foods back into your diet one at a time. Keep a diary of the changes you experience, and leave a few days after trying each food to clearly distinguish reactions. If you notice your symptoms return during the reintroduction period, you are very likely sensitive to that particular food and should discuss this with your doctor.

Children are relatively simple and straightforward and if their complaints are caused by food sensitivities, they clear up quite quickly.  By removing sensitivities, children are able to develop and thrive without an inflammatory barrier in their way.

- Dr. Thalia Farshchian, Naturopathic Doctor

This post is solely for informational purposes. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for medical advice. Before undertaking any course of treatment or dietary/health changes, you should seek the advice of your physician or other health care provider.

We aim to provide you with the most honest and credible information possible. This article was reviewed for accuracy by The Honest Team and was written based on trusted sources that are linked at the bottom of the article.