Both food sensitivities and food allergies are ways of describing immune system reactions to eating certain foods. But what is a true food allergy? And what is the difference between a food intolerance and a true allergy?

What Is The Difference Between Food Allergies & Food Intolerance?

The answer lies in immunoglobulins. Immunoglobulins are proteins that serve an important purpose for our immune system.  These immunoglobulins or antibodies are circulating around our body looking for a fight. What are they looking for? Anything that they have been programmed to attack.  Our immune system is set up to attack and eliminate anything it considers to be dangerous like a virus or a parasite. It uses different types of antibodies (immunoglobulins) to attack in different ways. Think of it like the US armed forces. You have the army, navy, airforce and marines. They all have the same end goal, to keep us safe, but they use different tools and strategies. So does our immune system. We have different antibodies/immunoglobulins including IgG, IgA, IgM and IgE. They all destroy their target using different tools.

IgG and IgA tend to be associated with food sensitivities and IgE are associated with allergies. Allergies (IgE) are thought of as “worse” because they are usually associated with something called a histamine response.  There are these cells called mast cells that are filled with histamine. Let’s say you sent an IgE antibody to kill off an invader.  IgE’s favorite weapon is a histamine-filled mast cell. Using a mast cell is like dropping a gigantic bomb on an invader. There is shrapnel (histamine) that gets released.  Histamine tends to cause common allergy symptoms like redness, itching, pain and swelling. So if we have an IgE response there is more to be concerned with. IgA and IgG responses are much more subtle. They act more like snipers than bombs, so there are fewer “casualties” in the body.  

Problems occur when you have a lot of invaders and a lot of IgAs and IgGs.  No matter how good a sniper is at keeping things clean, if you have thousands of them firing every day, there is going to be a problem.  The problem is too much inflammation. Inflammation is not bad–it’s just the reaction of our body to a problem. We need to have inflammation regulated.  When our body starts to recognize things that we are eating as foreign invaders we have a problem. We can’t stop eating, so we have to figure out which foods are causing reactions.


Why Do We Develop Food Allergies & Food Sensitivities?

Food sensitivities and food allergies have probably been around forever, but they are a lot more widespread now than they’ve ever been before. The main reason why is the prevalence of Leaky Gut. Leaky gut or intestinal hyperpermeability is a prevalent problem because of the the emotional stress that we experience and the poor quality of the foods that we are exposed to in the U.S. Read my article about Leaky Gut to learn more.

When the gut is “leaky” it means that we are allowing toxins and unwanted microorganisms to pass through our gut lining and create inflammation. Our immune system can learn to associate certain foods with these toxins and start to react to the foods by mistake. If your body sets up an immune response to a food particle, even a single time, it recognizes that food as an enemy and will keep targeting it for the rest of your life, “attacking” that food every time it “invades” the body. If you keep exposing your body to this food over and over again, you can become even more sensitive to it over time. This is why we can develop food sensitivities after years of eating foods that we felt fine with in the past.

Symptoms of Food Allergies & Food Sensitivities

If you are chronically inflamed because of the foods that you are eating, symptoms can present in so many ways. Here are some common symptoms of food sensitivities:

Symptoms of true food allergies, when mild, can be similar to those outlined above. Moderate to severe allergic reactions can also include hives, rashes, swelling, coughing, trouble breathing or swallowing and–at worst–a potentially deadly condition known as anaphylaxis.

Natural Remedies for Food Intolerance

My approach to eliminating food intolerance involves three simple steps:

  1. Figure out what foods bother you
  2. Eliminate problematic foods
  3. Heal your leaky gut

To achieve steps one and two, I utilize the Leaky Gut Diet protocol. This protocol helps people to heal from food sensitivities and intolerances using a version of the autoimmune (or AI) paleo diet. You can learn more about the diet and download the protocol for free here.

The vast majority of people who follow this plan do feel better. My patients have reported feeling less bloated, having more energy and fewer aches and pains. The best part is that the protocol does not mean you need to avoid many food groups for the rest of your life. You can use the Leaky gut diet as a baseline to determine which foods are good and which are bad for you. Once you know what foods your body uses as fuel—and doesn’t react to—you’re well on your way to improving your health.

After my patients go through the Leaky Gut Diet protocol, I also introduce specific herbs and nutrients to aid in healing the gut. Some of my favorite to use are:

  • L-Glutamine
  • Aloe
  • Licorice (DGL-deglycerized)
  • Digestive enzymes
  • Probiotics

Every patient is different and there is no one-size-fits all approach to healing.  It is best to work with someone experienced. If you want help healing your gut and getting to the bottom of your food sensitivities book an appointment with me today.


Dr. Jason Piken is a Chiropractor, Certified Nutrition Specialist and Health Coach in NYC offering a unique holistic and whole body approach to nutrition and wellness. Since starting his practice in 1996, Dr. Piken has taught people how to heal from various problems ranging from chronic pain to digestive disorders. When you walk into his office, you know you are in an environment where you are going to be personally cared for. His midtown Manhattan office, Innate Wellness Group, functions as a primary source for healthcare without the use of drugs or surgery.


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