Glossary of Terms and Food Sensitivity FAQ

What is the difference between food sensitivity, food allergy, and food intolerance?

60-80% of the immune system is in the gut, protecting us from unwanted bacteria and viruses. However, if the immune system decides that a food or chemical is harmful it can result in an immune system reaction (hypersensitivity) with the release of mediators, which cause pain and inflammation throughout the body. Different from food allergy, food sensitivity is typically dose dependent and delayed response. As a result, food and chemical triggers are difficult to identify by symptoms alone.

Food allergies, food sensitivities and food intolerance are often used interchangeably and inappropriately. Generally, food allergy can be defined as any adverse reaction to food that involves our immune system and further classified as either food allergy and food sensitivity. Food intolerance does not involve the immune system.

Food Allergy

A food allergy is a Type I Hypersensitivity reaction that occurs when the immune system mistakes attacks a food protein, producing IgE antibodies in response. IgE causes a sudden release of chemicals, including histamine, from certain types of white blood cells (mast cells and basophils), which results in symptoms of an allergic reaction. The symptoms typically appear from seconds and up to 2-hours after the food is eaten and can be mild (rashes, hives, itching, swelling, etc.) or severe (trouble breathing, wheezing, drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness, etc.). Milk, egg, peanut, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, wheat, and soy account for 90% of food allergic reactions. Positive skin prick tests (RAST) or immunoassay (blood) tests (ELISA) will show that IgE is present in the body, and these results, combined with symptom history or food challenge to confirm whether a food allergy exists.

A Type 3 Immune Complex Hypersensitivity is marked by the release of IgG antibodies, which can either be good (suppressing immune response) or bad (causing immune response) however testing does not confirm the direction of the response.

Food Sensitivity

Food sensitivity is a Type 4 Cell Mediated/Delayed Hypersensitivity Reaction that occurs when the immune system reacts to foods and food chemicals we eat by releasing cell mediators like histamines, cytokines, prostaglandins etc., that cause systemic inflammation. The delayed onset of symptoms can take from 45 minutes to several days to appear and as a result often go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. Common symptoms of food sensitivities are fatigue, sleepiness after eating, insomnia, mental fog, anxiety, depression, irritability, headaches/migraines, acne, eczema & other skin disorders, weight problems, sinus issues, joint & muscle pain, constipation/diarrhea, gas & bloating, acid reflux, mouth sores, coughing, food cravings, high blood pressure and more. Many chronic conditions may be made worse by food and chemical sensitivities. Examples include, but are not limited to, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Migraines, Fibromyalgia, Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD), Arthritis, and Autism Spectrum disorders.

Food Intolerance

Food intolerance can produce some digestive symptoms that are similar to food sensitivity but it does not involve the immune system. Food intolerance’s are often due to an enzyme deficiency causing incomplete digestion of certain foods. When the food consumed is not properly digested and it begins to ferment inside the gut, the intolerance is characterized by bloating, loose stools or diarrhea and gas, which lasts until the food and byproducts are expelled.

Lifestyle, Eating and Performance (LEAP)

Mediator Release Testing (MRT) is a non-fasting blood test that checks your immune system response (hypersensitivity) to 150 commonly eaten foods and food chemicals. It is a functional live cell analysis that identifies which foods and chemicals trigger the release of multiple mediators, which cause pain and inflammation in your body with 94.5% accuracy in sensitivity and 91.8% accuracy in specificity.  A quantitative test, it also measures the degree of the reaction (dose dependent), the food causes in your body. The body can respond with many different types of mediators in a delayed food hypersensitivity reaction.

LEAP ImmunoCalm Nutrition Program is a scientifically based, targeted dietary protocol designed for you by a specially trained Registered Dietitian. Using your MRT results, your dietitian creates customized, anti-inflammatory meal plans to eliminate reactive foods and chemicals while systematically reintroducing your safe foods over 4-6 weeks. Together you will plan weekly and rotating menus to satisfy your appetite and food preferences, so that you can eat a wide variety of foods, confidently.

A Certified LEAP Therapist (CLT) has received advanced clinical training in adverse food reactions including food allergy, food sensitivity and food intolerance. CLTs are specialists in addressing inflammatory conditions and symptoms caused by non-IgE food sensitivities, assisting clients with the LEAP ImmunoCalm Diet Protocols, based on the Mediator Release Testing (MRT) blood test. CLTs have a minimum education of a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nutrition. Most are Registered Dietitians and many, like Miranda, have post-graduate degrees.

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