If you have ever wondered what the difference is between a food sensitivity, a food intolerance, and a food allergy, this post is for you! Determining if you have a food sensitivity, a food intolerance, or a food allergy is often the first step in knowing what to do so that you can start  feeling better. Let’s break them down.

Food sensitivities:

These are very common. Most people are walking around with a handful of sensitivities. Some have been able to determine many of the foods they are sensitive to by utilizing trial and error, but the majority of people have no idea that food sensitivities are at the root their symptoms. One of the problems with food sensitivities is that they are generally delayed, only showing up a day or two AFTER you have eaten the offending food. This makes it hard to trouble shoot which foods are causing your symptoms. 

Don’t be discouraged if you have food sensitivities! They can often be resolved by short term removal of all offending foods, healing the digestive system (including the intestinal lining), and rebalancing the microbiome. 


Symptoms that can be caused by food sensitivities:

  • headache
  • weight gain
  • brain fog
  • dry skin
  • constipation
  • diarrhea
  • breakouts and acne
  • fatigue
  • joint pain
  • digestive discomfort
  • bloating
  • gas
  • stiffness
  • migraines
  • hormonal irregularities


Food Sensitivities, Intolerance, and Allergies


Most common food sensitivities:

  • gluten
  • dairy
  • eggs
  • peanuts
  • corn
  • soy
  • nightshades
  • yeast
  • shellfish
  • tree nuts


Food intolerances:

This is when your body has lost (or never had) the ability to digest a particular food. Lactose intolerance is the most well-known example. Some other common foods that people may have lost tolerance to are things like beans, garlic, or wheat (this is different from a gluten sensitivity that is described above.) When someone loses tolerance to a food, we look to the digestive system and the microbiome. Either there is a lack of the bacteria that is needed to help digest these foods, or a lack of the needed enzymes. When someone is lacking enzymes, it is generally is due to nutrient deficiencies or an organ that needs support. Symptoms usually show up quickly after eating or drinking the offending food and include bloating, gas, and intestinal discomfort. This makes it much easier to determine an intolerance than it is to determine a sensitivity. 

Many food intolerances can be resolved by healing the digestive system and rebalancing the microbiome!!


Common Food Intolerances:

  • Lactose (milk)
  • Legumes
  • Garlic and onions
  • Sugar
  • Fruit (fructose)


Food allergies:

Most people know what a food allergy is and most who have food allergies know which foods they are allergic to due to the severe reactions. The reaction with food allergies happens in your tissues (rather than the blood) and this means that the reactions are immediate and often severe. Hives and anaphylaxis are two of the most common. To discover if you have food allergies, you visit an allergist for a skin test. 

Common Food Allergies:

  • Peanuts
  • Shellfish
  • Dairy
  • Berries
  • Tree nuts


Ok, so now you know the differences between food sensitivities, intolerances, and allergies. Now, what should you do? 


  • If you suspect you have food sensitivities, keep checking back here because this is the first post in a series on food sensitivities. (You can sign up for the mailing list below to be sure you don’t miss them if you like.) 
  • If you believe you have food intolerances, you should check out my post on Protecting Your Microbiome.
  • If you think you have food allergies, you should make an appointment with an allergist for a skin test. 

Do you suspect you have food sensitivities? A food intolerance? What are your clues?


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