Your skin is whacky, you’re fatigued all the time, and let’s not even start on your stomach! At The Center for Fully Functional® Health, we work to discover the root cause of your symptoms, and this search often starts with determining whether you have food sensitivities.
While the symptoms above could have myriad causes, they’re also a few prevalent examples of the downstream effect of a delayed IgG reaction — what is commonly referred to as a ‘food sensitivity.’
When we test for these reactions with a food sensitivity panel, we’re really testing for an immune response to certain foods. That means a food sensitivity panel can help us not only Identify and Reduce our trigger foods but Optimize and Support our gut and immune health as well, making it one of the most important tools in our Fully Functional toolkit.
If you have a young child in school, you’re probably familiar with the prevalence of food allergies. Many children, in particular, suffer from food allergies that prompt an anaphylactic response, such as an itchy or swollen throat, when they eat an allergenic food.
This anaphylactic response is called an IgE reaction, named for Immunoglobulin E, the antibody that immediately reacts to a foreign substance in the body and causes this type of reaction. We refer to it as a “food allergy.”
A “food sensitivity” differs from a “food allergy” by the type of antibodies produced in this reaction. When a person with a particular food sensitivity eats that type of food, their body may produce IgG (Immunoglobulin G) antibodies in response.¹ Unlike IgE-mediated responses which are truly allergic in nature, IgG-mediated responses are delayed hypersensitivity reactions and can cause tricky symptoms many days after the exposure. For this reason, food sensitivities are difficult to identify and reduce. Many of our patients are unaware that they are reacting to certain foods and their symptoms can range from stomach discomfort to migraines to eczema and more, for years without an explanation.²
When we eat food to which we’re sensitive, we might notice symptoms for days or even weeks afterward. But what’s really behind this reaction?
The answer (as usual!) begins in the gut. Under normal conditions, our intestinal lining forms a barrier between the food that passes through our digestive tract and our immune system. This thin barrier is designed to keep food where it should be while absorbing nutrients that help us stay Fully Functional®. But when we are living with gut permeability, or what’s commonly known as “leaky gut,” larger-than-normal particles of this food make a pass through our gut barriers. When this happens, our bodies recognize “foreign invaders” and move to attack them the same way they would attack bacteria or viruses, producing an IgG reaction.
This is why the symptoms of having a ‘leaky gut’ and related food sensitivities extend far beyond digestive distress. From fatigue and joint pain to dry skin and breakouts, our immune system is so important that it can produce symptoms we may never associate with an “irritating” food.
Working with a Functional Medicine practitioner is key to identifying these sensitivities, but also to untangling the web of root causes that may be contributing to your nagging symptoms.
A food sensitivity test will identify immune reactions to hundreds of foods, giving you an idea of your body’s response to many common and even uncommon ingredients.³ Nearly all of our patients have at least a few food sensitivities, and they aren’t always to something surprising or uncommon.
In fact, one of the unfortunate effects of a leaky gut is that the foods we eat most often are the ones our bodies will most likely have an immune response to. In order to deal with food sensitivities, it’s important to reduce their presence in our diets while we work to heal our gut and regulate our immune system.
Since IgG reactions begin in the gut, healing them is a matter of optimizing gut health. That means eating an anti-inflammatory diet that’s devoid of IgG triggers (and other inflammatory foods) and full of healthy fats and fiber, remembering to “eat the rainbow” when it comes to vegetables.
If a gut microbiome test and small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) test were not part of our initial panel, I often recommend them as a further step toward Identifying the underlying causes of gut permeability. If a parasite, bacterial or fungal overgrowth, or other underlying condition is contributing to leaky gut, treating that condition will be key to reducing food sensitivities. In almost every case a regular routine of probiotics and the fiber necessary to feed good bacteria is an important step in restoring gut balance.
Finally, an overactive immune system may contribute to food sensitivities, making them of particular concern to my patients with autoimmunity. Reducing inflammation and restoring immune function, often with the help of a personalized supplement routine, is a key piece of the food sensitivity puzzle, and one your Functional Medicine practitioner can help you navigate.
Food sensitivities can be tricky and frustrating, but a positive IgG antibody test doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be sensitive to a particular food forever. In many cases, healing can lead to a Fully Functional® life without food sensitivities.
The key is to work closely with a practitioner who understands the root cause of your symptoms and can address them individually. Eliminating foods to which you’re sensitive, focusing on gut health, and calming an overactive immune system are all key to reducing and even eliminating food sensitivities altogether.
When you’re ready to uncover the root cause of your most annoying symptoms, you can book an appointment by clicking here. We are also happy to speak with you at (317) 989-8463, Monday-Thursday, from 8AM – 5PM Eastern time.
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The Center for Fully Functional Health® is led by a team of award-winning, internationally recognized physicians, committed to providing personalized, life-changing care.