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How do you know if you have a food sensitivity, food intolerance or food allergy, what’s the difference between them and what can you do about it?

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How to know if you have a food sensitivity, food intolerance or food allergy

Updated: August 15, 2019

You may suffer from food sensitivities, food intolerances or food allergies and not even know it. Alternatively, you may be aware that you suffer from one of the above but you are unsure if it is a sensitivity, an intolerance or an allergy.

So, what is the difference between them, how can you tell if you have one and which one you may have, and what can you do about it?

* You can watch my video instead. Also, see my experience with food intolerances and sensitivities below (not included in video).

Common health problems associated with food

More and more people are developing food sensitivities, food intolerances and/or food allergies. I believe this is due to the overload of toxins in our food, in personal care and cleaning products, in the air and in the environment.

The health problems triggered by food are extensive. Here is a list (source):

Skin: Itching, burning, hives, red spots, acne, eczema, psoriasis, rashes.

Ear, nose, throat: Sneezing, runny nose, sore throat, hoarseness, ringing in ears, dizziness.

Eyes: Blurring, spots before eyes, watering, pain, twitching, sensitivity to light, redness, swelling.

Respiratory: Wheezing, mucus formation, shortness of breath, tightness of chest, asthma.

Cardiovascular: Pounding heart, increased heart rate, flushing, tingling, faintness.

Genitourinary: Frequent, urgent, painful urination; urinary incontinence, itching, discharge.

Musculoskeletal: Fatigue, weakness, pain, swelling, stiffness of joints, backache.

Nervous system: Headache, migraine, drowsiness, inability to concentrate, depression, irritability, restlessness, hyperactivity, dizziness, numbness, tremors.

What is the difference between a food sensitivity, food intolerance and food allergy?

Food sensitivities

Food sensitivities elicit an immune response. However, unlike food allergies, symptoms are often delayed until two to three days after the food was consumed. This makes it very difficult to pinpoint the source.

Furthermore, reactions can vary dramatically, even upon consuming the same food. Food sensitivities can, and do, change over time depending on stress levels and the overall health of the body (especially the digestive tract) (source).

I can attest to this as there was a time when I was sensitive to hummus and peanuts but once I reduced the stress on my liver (with an elimination diet and supplements), I was no longer sensitive to either.

Symptoms of food sensitivities include digestive issues such as acid reflux, gas, bloating, cramping, diarrhea and/or constipation. Other common symptoms include: fatigue, sleep disturbance, hormone disruption, mood disorders, anxiety, depression, headaches/migraines, joint pain, allergies/asthma, acne and weight issues.

However, food sensitivities can be overcome by removing the trigger foods from your diet thus giving your body time to heal (source).

Food intolerances

Food intolerances occur when you are unable to properly breakdown certain foods. Food intolerances can be due to enzyme deficiencies (e.g. those who are lactose intolerant lack the enzyme lactase), sensitivity to food additives (such as red dye) or reactions to naturally occurring chemicals in foods (such as mercury in tuna). Often, people can eat small amounts of the food without causing problems (source).

Symptoms of food intolerances are typically delayed and include bloating, migraines, headaches, cough, runny nose, feeling under the weather, stomach ache, irritable bowel and or hives (source).

Food allergies

Food allergies involve an immune reaction upon which exposure to a trigger food typically causes immediate symptoms (or within two hours) (source). Symptoms range from eczema, hives, stomach cramps, diarrhea and vomiting to more severe and dangerous symptoms such as wheezing, chest pain, difficulty swallowing due to swollen throat and difficulty breathing (anaphylaxis). If anaphylaxis occurs, the individual should seek medical assistance as soon as possible (source).

It is possible to overcome food allergies by ingesting a small portion of the allergen and increasing the amount daily. However, you should not attempt this alone, especially if you have a severe food allergy. Learn more about this HERE.

How can you tell if you have a food sensitivity, food intolerance or food allergy?

Food sensitivities or food intolerances can be detected through an elimination diet or a Meridian Stress Assessment.

  1. Elimination diet – This involves removing problematic food(s) from your diet for a period of time, reintroducing the food and monitoring your symptoms. This can be difficult because it takes commitment and willpower but it is totally worth it, I promise.
  2. Meridian Stress Assessment (MSA) – This involves an unobtrusive test whereby an Acupuncturist (typically) or a Naturopath uses a metal tool (kind of resembling a pen) to test meridian points on your hands and feet. The results are immediate and you will also discover which organs are stressed (overloaded/not working properly) and any vitamins or minerals in which you are deficient. This test is a bit expensive but you may be covered through health insurance.

A food allergy can be detected through one of two methods: a skin prick test or blood tests.

  1. Skin prick test – The Doctor places a drop of solution containing the food allergen (or the food itself) on your skin. The Doctor then gently pricks or scratches the skin with a small plastic probe or needle to allow a tiny amount of the solution to enter just below the surface of the skin. The test is inexpensive and the results are immediate (source).
  2. Blood test – Blood tests measure the presence of IgE antibodies (short for “immunoglobulin E) for specific foods. IgE is the antibody that triggers food allergy symptoms (source).

My experience

I have food sensitivities, food intolerances and food allergies. However, since completing an elimination diet and a Meridian Stress Assessment and since removing problems foods from my diet, I have healed eczema, joint pain and digestive issues. I feel so much better.

If you would like to eliminate your symptoms and feel better too, grab my food-elimination toolkit to help you get started.

Please share if you know someone who might find this helpful. Thanks! 🙂

Do you have a food sensitivity, food intolerance or food allergy? Have you tried an elimination diet or a Meridian Stress Assessment? Share your comments below.

I wish you health and happiness,


Do you have a food sensitivity, food intolerance or food allergy? Find out and learn what you can do about it.










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