Food Sensitivities vs. Food Allergies

Food sensitivities are often confused with food allergies, but they are actually very different. A food allergy causes an immune system reaction that (usually immediately) affects organs in the body. It can be mild to severe, and sometimes even life-threatening, causing a variety of symptoms anywhere from hives to anaphylaxis.

On the other hand, food sensitivity is usually a delayed reaction to certain foods and the symptoms are less serious. The symptoms can be everything from a runny nose to behavioral issues to dark circles under the eyes to eczema and can appear up to 36 hours after ingesting the food.

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Since food sensitivities can take days to cause any visible reactions, it can make them difficult to diagnose. Determining a food sensitivity can dramatically change your life by helping with symptoms such as migraines, bloating, indigestion, eczema, acne, fatigue, or joint pain.

It’s important to know that just because you’ve tested negative to food allergies, doesn’t mean certain food groups aren’t still causing your symptoms! So find a local integrative doctor or learn how to conduct your own elimination diet to get the root cause of your issues.

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27 thoughts on “Food Sensitivities vs. Food Allergies”

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  1. Cheryl A Beckerman

    Just curious, now that it has been over a month since this test, have you avoided your sensitive foods and have you seen noticeable results?

    1. I have not tested it out yet. If I had any unpleasant “symptoms” I was trying to get rid of this would be the first thing I’d try though!

  2. It was a great post! If you suffer from food allergies or food sensitivities, you can include some organic juices to maintain a balance in your diet and remain healthy.

  3. Oh, I forgot to say: the cost of that saliva test was about $300 but her health insurance covered all but around $60 or $80 of it.

    The amazing improvement in her health meant it was worth every penny – even if I would have had to pay the whole thing for the Hemopet Nutriscan test – we did it all via the mail too.

  4. I wonder if there is a food-sensitivity test available (and hopefully reliable) like the one done for my dog through Hemopet. All that was required was her saliva and they found out she was allergic to turkey, venison, wheat, and white fish. When I stopped feeding her those foods, her health took an amazing turn around (and if anyone is familiar with Chinese Shar-Pei dogs you know they need all the help they can get).

    I wanted to chew on Lucy’s test strip myself, but the company doesn’t do humans. Is there one for humans that uses saliva?

  5. If it says bakers yeast, does that mean commercial yeast. If so could you tolerate naturally occurring yeast. Then you could experiment with making your own sourdough bread, which actually sounds like a fun project.

  6. Curious to how you are going to use your results. It says bakers yeast. Does that mean that you shouldn’t eat yeasted bread? Are you planning to cut that out of your diet along with lemons, oranges and grapefruits?

    1. If I were having a health issue I wanted to fix I would start by eliminating each item one at a time to see if I saw a difference. And yes, yeast is in a lot of things!

  7. Lindsay Untherbergus

    Nice to learn about this! I have eczema as well and when I cut out dairy six months ago, it started getting a lot better. Would be interesting to see if it’s all dairy or just some dairy that causes my reactions.

  8. I did a similar test recently (different brand- done at a physicians office and mailed off). I got my results and I, too, came back with many hits that included yeast, sesame and sunflower oil. Sunflower oil is in everything! I also have sensitivity to a few other things, but what my doctor told me is that many times these issues are related to a leaky gut so you not only need to cut out these foods, you need to fix the gut with probiotics, fermented foods, amino acids, etc. and that often after a few months you may be able to reintroduce foods back in. The reason? Because they won’t be leaking through the gut and confused as bad substances your body is trying to fight against (hence the antibodies that show up in your blood and how the tests are read). Pretty interesting!

  9. I too have read about these tests having little validity but I think there’s a difference between taking this test and using it as a starting place for elimination tests for existing issues and using as a “I’m never going to eat any of these foods again” list. I have had several allergic reactions over the last year and the allergist said after looking at my food diary that it is likely additives rather than actual food. I want to take the test to use the results as a place to start eliminating foods to see if that helps. Knowing if there are foods that might be contributing to the reactions will help target my elimination trials instead of the nearly random trials I’m doing now. It’s important that I have some idea as there are occasions several times a year in my life when, in order to participate in my passions, I have to eat food where I don’t control the ingredients and packing all of my own food isn’t completely possible. Right now I have significant anxiety over participating in these events but my life would be considerably poorer if I give them up. Getting a better handle on the food part will help me figure out how to make it all work. I discussed it with the allergist who said that it won’t hurt to do it and that I can bring the results to him if I have questions or see something I would like him to follow up.

  10. I know that MDs often discount these tests, but I have found from experience that they can be very helpful. My mother in law has horrible GI issues and over many years, doctors can’t find anything wrong. She’s not celiac but she can have a tiny amount of wheat and be sick for days. She tried a similar test and found out she was intolerant to yeast, onions and garlic (all of which are in everything). When she cuts those things out, she is so much better. Those aren’t typically things you would think of for an elimination diet, but it explains why even eating gluten free bread she was getting sick. I have had a similar experience with the testing – I had to cut out eggs. We both took our tests under the supervision of a licensed Naturopath – and I have found that Naturopath’s are often willing to look at diet before resorting to heavy drugs for things like GI problems, eczema, migranes, etc. (not that there isn’t a place for MDs and heavy drugs for these problems).

  11. I echo Marie’s sentiments here. I’m a longtime follower of your blog and you’ve completely changed how my family eats! However, I have several GI issues and my doctors always tell me that these food sensitivity tests have little scientific validity and can’t even pick up on foods you haven’t eaten recently. I’m disappointed that this is being promoted as a legitimate test. While there may be no harm done, it costs people money (in fact, hundreds of dollars) and may cause people to unnecessarily eliminate large amounts of foods.

    1. I understand your concerns, but tests at the doctor’s office can be in the thousands and also not give you any solid answers when you are trying to chase a diagnosis. Again, if I was really desperate to solve a health issue I think this would be worth trying. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  12. I think this is a great idea! My son has been on an elimination diet a few times trying to find triggers to his behaviors..Gluten free, dairy free, sugar free(we all need that If I can narrow it down to specific foods that bother him I’d say it’s a miracle! Thank you for sharing!!

  13. Thank you for this I just put this a few days ago on my to-do list. Just ordered with your code. I’m so tired of feeling miserable after eating some foods. I’ve figured out a few of them but if this test can help my process out I’m all in

    1. Marie – This is just one step on a journey to alleviate symptoms. So many are suffering and have tried everything to no avail. I’m glad you shared that article because it actually has a story about a woman who used EverlyWell and the changes she made based on their recommendations changed her life. These companies are not promising this result for everyone, but it CAN help people who cannot otherwise solve unpleasant symptoms. The test was SO easy and painless – there is absolutely no harm in taking it and experimenting with eliminating your high reactivity foods to see if it makes a difference. No harm whatsoever and I tell you what if I had eczema so bad I wanted to scratch my skin off I would be willing to try all sorts of things until I figured out the root cause.