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Food Allergies vs Food Sensitivities Part 1 of 3
What is the difference between food allergies and food sensitivities and why is it crucial to find out if your child is affected?
When your child is not sleeping soundly, behaving well, concentrating in school, or is experiencing colic, constipation, eczema, recurrent ear infections or asthma, your child’s body is signalling to you that aspects of his or her environment are not agreeing with him or her; they may have a food sensitivity or allergy. The earlier you can uncover the culprit food or foods, the better. Our bodies will keep communicating with us whether we listen or not. An ignored reaction to a food becomes a “symptom” and an ignored symptom becomes more ignored symptoms and more ignored symptoms turn into conditions and then, often, in adulthood, conditions turn into disease.
You’ll find that there are many differences of opinion among experts as to the meaning of the terms allergies and sensitivities. I won’t explain this controversy in detail but I think it’s important for you to know that it exists. In one sense, it doesn’t matter whether we use food “sensitivity”, “intolerance”, “allergy” or some other name; what is important is that physicians, other health professionals and parents realize that commonly eaten foods and other substances cause a wide variety of abnormal reactions or symptoms in children. Moreover, such symptoms often go unrecognized.
Allergies are adverse reactions to a substance involving the immune system i.e. classic allergy Immuno-Globulin E (IgE) antibodies are formed. If a child only consumes a small amount of a food and has a reaction, he or she has an allergy to that food. Classic allergic (IgE) reactions are immediate, meaning that they occur within minutes and up to 2 hours from consumption, making them easy to detect. Foods like peanuts, shellfish, eggs and strawberries can cause immediate severe reactions such as hives, swelling, changes in breathing and anaphylactic shock. In babies, the most common symptom of allergy is chronic diarrhea. Examples of others include vomiting, colic and constipation. Not all allergies produce severe reactions in children however.
In 1965, Dr. Randolph Moss, along with other doctors, founded The Society for Clinical Ecology. These doctors recognized the link between food and many medical problems even though the IgE antibody did not show up in test results i.e. scratch tests. In other words, they recognized food sensitivities. The rest of the medical community did not endorse clinical ecology and this remains the case to this day, which is why you have probably never heard of clinical ecology. Today, many physicians are aware of the existence of “delayed” allergies, involving the IgG antibodies but have no accurate way of testing for these allergies.
Food sensitivities, also called food intolerances are adverse reactions to a substance that begin in the intestines and can affect any part of the body. If your child doesn’t react to a small amount of a food but does react to a larger amount, your son or daughter has a food sensitivity. Food sensitivities cause inflammation in the body but classic allergy antibodies are not involved in these reactions. A child develops a rash i.e. inflammation 40 hours after eating cheese but a scratch test (performed by medical doctors, using needles in search of allergies i.e. IgE antibodies) for cheese comes up negative for the IgE antibody. Then the rash, even if it occurs every time the child eats cheese, is not caused by an “allergy” to cheese. It is caused by a “food sensitivity”.
Please stay tuned for the rest of this crash course on allergies and sensitivities. My next two blog posts will help you understand a lot more on this important topic!
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Until next time,