At times an allergy which has not yet completely manifested is labelled a “sensitivity” as it does not generate the same immunological response from your body as a “full-blown” allergy would. A sensitivity can also be caused by many underlying factors such as: IBS, stress, candida growth, immune system overload and is often misdiagnosed or undiagnosed. One of the difficulties with diagnosing food sensitivities is the possible delayed reaction time of the symptoms. Another is the wide variety of possibilities for your symptoms. For instance, in the case of food allergies/sensitivities – you’ve eaten a full meal and the next day wake up feeling bloated, stuffy, stiff or just plain terrible, how will you determine what in the meal, or if it even was the meal, made you ill? It might have even been a food item, an herb or additive in the food, a mild case of food poisoning, an ulcer forming, the flu, or … so many possibilities. One clue that it may be an allergy or sensitivity is; recurrent, similar symptoms, corresponding with the same action. If you sneeze/get itchy every time you pet your friends cat, if you bloat, break out in a rash/hives or feel nauseous when you eat and so on.
An allergy is an oversensitive response of your immune system to common allergens that don’t affect most people. The response can be mild, a bit of sneezing or it can be a life-threatening, anaphylactic shock. My mom discovered (skin-prick test), at the age of 55 that she was allergic to household cleaning fluids (wasn’t the food, it was the clean-up!), dad at age 75 found he could no longer eat oregano (and he’s Greek!), a friends son is allergic to nightshade which includes potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, tomatillos, and eggplant, I, gradually, had an anaphylactic reaction to dairy. Some friends cannot eat strawberries, for some it wasn’t an allergy/sensitivity but Colitis, Crohn’s, Celiac or Diverticulitis that was the underlying cause of their symptoms. Some people, like my brother, have airborne allergies, the list is endless! The most common medical test for allergies is the skin-prick test which appears to be a good indicator for airborne allergies but is not always 100% accurate in determining food allergies.
Generally speaking, food, fresh, whole food, should make you feel energetic, full but not stuffed, healthy and not bloated, constipated, nauseous, etc. If you regularly feel ill after eating, whether it is minutes after or the next morning … what do you do? Keep a food diary of everything you eat, write down at what time and what type of symptoms arise. Take this diary to your medical doctor. With this diary in hand, when you are being examined by your doctor, it will be so much easier to answer questions accurately, which will help determine what tests are needed to pinpoint what is occurring in the inner workings of your body. Because allergies, sensitivities and auto-immune diseases can sometimes present in similar ways, keeping a record of any unusual symptoms which arise and when they arise, will help in your diagnosis. It is difficult to accurately remember exactly when and what happened at the best of times, let alone when you are not feeling well but accuracy, in this case, is essential for your doctor to help you discover the cause of your distress.
Sometimes tests will be inconclusive, there are many reasons for this, some of them are – “wrong” test (not definitive enough for you), allergy/disease hasn’t manifested yet, drugs/vitamins you are taking skewed the results – discuss this with your doctor. Should you both agree that the cause of your symptoms is most probably food related, and Celiac Disease has been ruled out, begin by eliminating the most common allergens in your diet – eggs, dairy, nuts, shellfish and reintroducing them, one at a time, per week, noting if and when any symptoms appear as each is introduced. Then continue with other, not so common, allergens. If you have experienced anaphylaxis, this elimination and re-introduction should be done under your doctor’s care.
Crohn’s, Colitis, Celiac, these are just a few in a very long list of Auto-Immune Diseases. An auto-immune disease/disorder is caused by your body’s immune system attacking its own tissues. Some are more severe than others but most can be treated. Generally auto-immune diseases run in families – one of my children is currently awaiting test results for Celiac Disease, which I have. A cousin has Lupus, another Graves and the list goes on. If someone in your family has any auto-immune disorder, don’t immediately assume you do too but it should give you the heads up to check on it, if any “ailments” should arise!
Diagnosing Celiac Disease is usually a two step process, the IgE blood screening is commonly the first step in determining a Celiac diagnosis and you must continue to eat gluten for this test. An endoscopy is the next step and also requires that you are ingesting gluten on a daily basis to obtain an accurate reading. Depending on how quickly you are able to have these tests, you could be feeling bad for a while. In my case, once the IgE results, which were not definitive but showed a high probability that I was Celiac, were returned and since auto-immune diseases abound in my family, I immediately eliminated all gluten from my diet. Yes, I feel much better but two other allergies have manifested since then. Relying on past experience and knowledge, these were pinpointed and eliminated easily and quickly.
Confusing, yes! In short:
Sensitivity – symptoms which could be arising due to a wide variety of causes.
Allergy – Over eager immune system reacting to a UFO (Unidentified, Floating Object) – even if it is common, your immune system seems to believe it needs attacking, ergo histamine levels rise, stomach reactions to eliminate the offensive particle can occur, sneezing, etc., all in a synchronized effort to get rid of the “alien”.
Auto-Immune Disorder/Disease – immune system is confused as to what should and should not be allowed to exist in your body, mistaking your own tissues as the “alien” intruders and attacking them with gusto and determination.
Misleading claims and marketing, symptoms that can be attributed to many other illnesses, tests that are inaccurate or not definitive, can all leave you frustrated and confounded … what to do? Stick to sound, proven medical resources and your own awareness of your body or your child’s awareness of his/her body. There are millions of claims offering help, some work, some don’t but first you must determine exactly what is wrong. In my experience, relying on medical diagnostics and my own intuitiveness helped me to discover the cause of my distress. Then I began to research what I could do to help ease the symptoms of my “dis-ease”. To this day, I continue to read and research, asking questions of natural health practitioners and my doctor, discovering that the more I learn, the more I need to learn. “Discoveries” are made every day but not all are applicable, helpful nor financially viable, for me and not all have proven results. Hawkers and talkers of “proven cures” have been around for centuries and their claims have not always been legitimate. Be aware and trust in your own senses. It is a long road but with a little effort and medical help, you can have a happy ending by discovering and eliminating/treating your “dis-ease”!
These are my own experiences and researched findings. I am NOT a medical doctor and strongly suggest, as a first step, you seek medical help, working together with your health practitioner, to determine the cause of your illness.