How can you tell if you have Food Allergies & Sensitivities?

How can you tell if you have Food Allergies & Sensitivities?

July 20, 2016 by Dr Ali Nurani2
What if the foods you love to eat are the exact foods that are making you sick?

Food Allergies and Food Sensitivities are not the same thing…

Every single day our bodies break down, process and extract nutrients from the foods we eat without any problems and most of us give very little attention to this spontaneous process. Unfortunately, in some cases, our relationship with food may not be this straightforward and may even be causing health problems. Food reactions are becoming increasingly common nowadays and more people are starting to pay attention to what they are including in their diets.

Gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, gas, bloating, diarrhea, heartburn, constipation, nausea, rectal itching and undigested food may be some of the telltale signs that you may be experiencing an adverse reaction to food. However, the signs may not be so obvious and the absence of gastrointestinal symptoms doesn’t mean you have no food sensitivities.

Food allergies and sensitivities have been associated with numerous health problems affecting almost every body system. Some of the more common health problems associated with food include:

  • SKIN: Itching, burning, hives, red spots, acne, eczema, psoriasis, rashes.

  • EAR, NOSE, THROAT: Sneezing, runny nose, sore throat, hoarseness, ringing in ears, dizziness.

  • EYES: Blurring, spots before eyes, watering, pain, twitching, sensitivity to light, redness, swelling.

  • RESPIRATORY: Wheezing, mucus formation, shortness of breath, tightness of chest, asthma.

  • CARDIOVASCULAR: Pounding heart, increased heart rate, flushing, tingling, faintness.

  • GENITOURINARY: Frequent, urgent, painful urination; urinary incontinence, itching, discharge.

  • MUSCULOSKELETAL: Fatigue, weakness, pain, swelling, stiffness of joints, backache.

  • NERVOUS SYSTEM: Headache, migraine, drowsiness, inability to concentrate, depression, irritability, restlessness, hyperactivity, dizziness, numbness, tremors.

The above list is only a partial list of symptoms that may respond to eliminating food allergies and/or sensitivities. Many times it may be difficult to connect our health problems to food, which is why it is important to seek professional help. Getting to know what foods we can and cannot eat is very important for our health and wellbeing.


When someone complains of an adverse reaction to food, it is likely due to one or more of the following:

  1. Food toxicities (such as microbial contamination of food by E. coli causing gastroenteritis)

  2. Psychological food sensitivities (such as taste and texture aversion when pregnant)

  3. Chemical food sensitivities (such as histamine found in Swiss cheese causing headaches)

  4. Metabolic food sensitivities (declining levels of lactase enzymes – lactose intolerance)

  5. Physiologic food sensitivities (breakdown of certain foods such as legumes causing gas)

  6. Immune-mediated food sensitivities (Type I, II, III or IV hypersensitivity reactions)

In this article, I will focus mainly on immune-mediated food sensitivities as defined by any response to food that is immune-mediated, including antibody responses well as cell-mediated food reactions.

There are primarily 4 types of immune reactions that occur when our body’s immune system is called into action. For the purpose of this discussion we will consider two main types that are related to food sensitivities:


Immediate or Type I hypersensitivity reactions are the most commonly recognized type of food allergy. It turns out that eight types of food account for about 90 percent of all Type I reactions. These include: Eggs, Dairy, Peanuts, Tree nuts, Fish, Shellfish, Wheat and Soy. Type I reactions typically involve a specific antibody referred to as Immunoglobulin E or IgE. The binding of IgE to specific molecules present in a food (antigens) triggers the immune response. The response usually occurs soon after ingesting the food (within hours) and may be mild or in rare cases it can be associated with the severe and life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis. Some of the more common symptoms associated with IgE mediated immune responses include:

  • Hives

  • Itching in your mouth, swelling of lips and tongue

  • Tightening of the throat or trouble breathing

  • Gastrointestinal symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal cramps

  • Drop in blood pressure

Since this type of immune reaction occurs soon after ingesting the allergic food, it is fairly easy to single out the culprit food but you can easily get a skin prick allergy test for numerous foods and/or an IgE blood test to confirm the allergy.


Delayed or Type III hypersensitivity immune reactions typically occurs over several hours or days. Type III reactions typically involve immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies whereby the antibodies involved attach to food antigens and form complexes. In most cases, our body gets rid of these immune complexes regularly but if a certain food being is ingested frequently IgG activity is increased and these complexes tend to accumulate. Deposition of antibody-antigen complexes can cause inflammation and tissue damage anywhere in the body and may contribute to specific health issues many of which are chronic in nature including:

IBS & Food Sensitivities

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Migraines & Food Sensitivities


Weight Gain & Food Sensitivities

Weight Gain

Atherosclerosis & Food Sensitivities


Arthritis & Food Sensitivities

Rheumatoid Arthiritis

Eczema & Food Sensitivities


ADHD & Food Sensitivities


Clinically, it is common to see people that have a history of fatigue, mental fog and pain to report drastic improvements after eliminating foods that are causing inflammation due to elevated antibody activity.

Identifying offending foods to eliminate may not be very easy to do given that the negative food reactions do not occur soon after eating the offending food. You may want to run a Food Sensitivity Test that can help you determine all your sensitive foods so that you can systematically exclude them from the diet. For more information on Food Sensitivity Testing, CLICK HERE.


  1. Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States
  2. Pizzorno, J. E., & Murray, M. T. (2013). Textbook of natural medicine. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier/Churchill Livingstone.
  3. Rocky Mountain Analytical

Dr Ali Nurani


  • Sheena

    September 7, 2016 at 11:03 PM

    Thank you Dr. Nurani for this very informative article. It sure helps to know how to eat right and look out for symptoms that affect our health!


  • Michael

    January 11, 2019 at 12:35 AM

    A well spoken professional explanation on the subject of food sensitivities.


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