Experiencing physical discomfort such as pain, stomach upsets, sinus pressure and skin irritations can make us feel at war with our bodies. Though exceptionally painful, these unfavorable reactions are often our body’s natural defenses to foreign bodies or dangerous substances. Reactions resulting in pain, rashes, or pressure are in fact fighting these substances and signal that something’s not quite right.
Is it an allergy, a sensitivity or an intolerance?
You can be allergic to any food but some of the most common sensitivities are to peanuts, corn, wheat, dairy, sugar, meat (particularly beef), soy, and citrus. Before you start questioning whether you have allergies and spending a small fortune on an allergy test, experimenting with the newest hypoallergenic diet, or cutting out specific food groups, consider this: there is a difference between being allergic, sensitive and intolerant. To complicate matters further, a reaction can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few days to manifest. Such sneaky, hidden, annoying little symptoms.
True food allergies only affect 1 to 5 percent of the U.S. population with the most common culprits being peanut, tree nut, fish, shellfish, milk, and egg. They always involve the immune system and symptoms manifest quickly after exposure, can cause anaphylaxis which is a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. Some dangerous symptoms include hives, vomiting, swollen lips, tongue, or throat, and difficulty breathing. If you eat a food that makes it makes your mouth (or tongue) swell or makes it difficult to breathe, please seek immediate medical help.
Food sensitivities are seen in about 10-20 percent of the population and tend to have a delayed reaction, surfacing their irksome symptoms a few hours to a few days after exposure. This makes it extremely difficult to track the offending food source. Almost any food can cause a sensitivity but beef, citrus, dairy, egg, corn, pork and wheat provoke 80 percent of them. Intolerance means that you lack the enzyme needed to break down certain carbohydrates in foods, the more you eat, the worse the symptoms. The most common intolerances are gluten, lactose and fructose, all which impact 25 percent of Americans.
It gets trickier
How could this get even more complicated, you ask? Well, have you ever noticed that craving for bread with you meal or dessert immediately after? About 50 percent of people with food sensitivities and intolerances crave the foods that provoke reactions — meaning you crave what’s bad for you and, in some cases, even dangerous. This due to the fact that foods such as wheat and dairy, produce protein molecules that are very similar to natural endorphins, so they give you a little high before they hit you with a negative reaction.
How to uncover allergies, sensitivities and intolerances
Becoming frustrated with your body’s cravings and reactions is very normal, however perhaps a more useful way to reframe these reactions is to see it as your body communicating with you. Knowledge as power, so if you’re experience ongoing fatigue, muscle or joint pain, stomach upsets, brain fog or headaches, mood swings, or intense cravings, play detective and discover which food may be the culprit. Track your symptoms and what you eat, then eliminate common allergens like corn, wheat, dairy, sugar, beef, soy and citrus for at least a week. Once you’ve done that, then slowly reintroduce each food, one at a time and notice how your body reacts.
If you’re overwhelmed, you can always consult an allergist who will conduct tests to help identify any allergies. After you have established what’s triggering your reactions, you can learn to make healthy meals minus these foods by simply excluding them from or replacing them with alternatives in your 8fit meal plan.