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Food Sensitivity vs Food Allergy & the IgE Biomarker

Sep 2, 2020
Nov 24, 2020
5 minutes

Medically reviewed by

Erica Dermer
Erica Dermer
Consumer & Patient Engagement at imaware™
Erica is as a food & wellness expert with an established reputation as a celiac & autoimmune disease influencer. Writing, editing, appearing on TV and publishing her own book, Erica campaigns and supports those with autoimmune diseases using everything she has learned through her career and living life with celiac disease.

What are Allergies? 

Allergies are a common condition, where an allergen triggers an adverse reaction in the body. According to AAAAI, "an allergic reaction typically triggers symptoms in the nose, lungs, throat, sinuses, ears, lining of the stomach or the skin." Our immune system overreacts to something to produce IgE antibodies that travel to cells and create an allergic reaction by releasing histamine. While some allergies just make your spring time a little more sneezy, some can be so serious that they put your life at risk.

When you think of allergies, you might think of food allergies, or sneezing at the mere sight of pollen - but you can be allergic to so much more. You can also be allergic to dust, insects, animal dander, and environmental issues like mold.

Food Sensitivities vs. Food Allergies

What happens when a food you love doesn't love you back? Do you get a stomachache or troubling gastrointestinal issues when you eat something in particular? Or maybe it's a migraine or a skin rash when you eat something? Sometimes it's difficult to understand what's happening when you eat something and your body goes haywire.

Chances are, we all have an offending food that just doesn't sit right with our body. But do you know if it's a food intolerance or a food allergy? And what's the difference

Food Sensitivities

A food sensitivity, or what some may call a food intolerance, causes the body to have difficulty digesting specific foods.

Symptoms of food intolerance include:

  • Headaches/migraines
  • Runny nose
  • Bloating
  • Irritable bowels
  • Stomachache
  • A general feeling of being unwell

The main difference between the symptoms with a sensitivity and an allergy is that with food allergies, even a small intake of food will cause a reaction. On the other hand, if you are intolerant to specific foods, you probably won't see any visible signs right away after you eat, and larger amounts of the questionable food are needed before a reaction ensues. Symptoms of food intolerance take much longer to develop. One may not realize that there is a problem for a long period of time.

There are several causes of food intolerance. The most common factor is the absence of enzymes needed to digest foods which in turn will cause improper digestion. Almost all foods require enzymes to break them down. With a lack of appropriate enzymes, the digestive tract will be unable to break down foods and cause gastrointestinal irritation (i.e., gas, bloating, diarrhea, headaches). Some drinks containing certain chemicals (especially drinks high in caffeine) may trigger an adverse reaction. Even histamine can spark an intolerance-type of reaction in highly sensitive people.  

Food Allergies

A food allergy can be defined by the activation of antibodies to specific foods that cause the body to react in different ways ranging from mild to very serious reactions.

Symptoms of a food allergic reaction include:

  • Itchy, uncomfortable feeling
  • A red, itchy rash
  • Swollen tongue, throat, lips, roof of mouth and general face swelling
  • Possible vomiting

A severe food allergic reaction might also involve anaphylaxis - a serious, life-threatening allergic reaction.

Food allergies can develop at birth or arise in adulthood. Scientists do not currently agree on how an allergy starts and why. The cause of a food allergy comes from a weakened immune system where the body mistakes a food protein for an infectious threat. Anyone can be affected by a food allergy. Allergies are not specific to certain types of foods. However, eight types of food are the most common allergenic foods - dairy, wheat, soy, eggs, fish, shellfish, peanuts and treenuts.

Unlike a food sensitivity, symptoms of an allergy are usually with small amounts of a food, and are brought on very quickly. One in 13 children currently have a food allergy.

The Problem with IgG

While intolerances and allergies to foods are common, sometimes the testing for these issues are harder than it might seem. Sadly, too many online companies are promoting using an ineffective testing method to diagnose food allergies or sensitivities. We're seeing many online testing companies, even at-home testing companies, offering sensitivity tests utilizing IgG biomarkers. Unfortunately, these IgG biomarkers are not recommended for the use of testing for food intolerances or food allergies. In fact, a high IgG reading might even suggest a tolerance to an often-eaten food. These tests unfortunately tell the user very little, for a lot of money. We're seeing far too many people taking the results from an IgG test and thinking that they have life-long allergies.

Using IgE Biomarkers

Unlike IgG biomarkers, IgE biomarkers are commonly used by trusted doctors and allergists to screen for true food allergies and environmental allergies.

At imaware™, we're proud to now offer at-home screening for food and environmental allergies using IgE trusted biomarkers. These tests are highly accurate and precise. This new at-home blood test will screen for over 60 allergies that cover environmental allergens, food allergens, and danders, along with total IgE.

Total IgE - What Does It Mean?

Along with over 60 individual IgE allergens, you'll also get a total IgE reading. Elevated concentrations of total IgE may be found in a variety of clinical diseases, including allergic diseases, certain primary immunodeficiencies, infections, inflammatory diseases and malignancies. A normal concentration of total IgE does not eliminate the possibility of allergic disease.

imaware™ IgE Testing

After a simple at-home blood test, send off your sample to our lab, and within 7 days, you'll receive a comprehensive report. Your report will showcase any elevated levels of IgE in a class based system - from no to low sensitivity to very high sensitivity. Each of the following allergens are tested and classified:

  • Dust mites (3)
  • Animal dander (dog, cat)
  • Mold (4)
  • Insect
  • Grass (5)
  • Tree (15)
  • Weed (7)
  • Food (28)

Based on these results, you can work with a board certified allergist for allergy management and/or possible treatment.

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