Understanding food sensitivities and inflammation

In today's world, where dietary choices abound and lifestyles vary widely, food sensitivities have become increasingly prevalent.


It's estimated that a staggering 100 million people worldwide are affected by food sensitivities, with symptoms ranging from seemingly innocuous skin rashes and headaches to more severe gastric intestinal distress and chronic diseases. As nutritionists, understanding the intricate relationship between food sensitivities and inflammation is crucial in guiding our clients toward optimal health.

Food sensitivities occur when the body's immune system reacts adversely to certain foods. Unlike food allergies, which are typically immediate and involve the IgE antibody, food sensitivities trigger a delayed immune response mediated by IgA or IgG antibodies. This delayed reaction can occur up to 72 hours after consuming the offending food, making it challenging to pinpoint the culprit without proper testing.

The most common food sensitivities include milk, soy, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish, but the list doesn't end there. Individuals can develop sensitivities to a wide array of foods, from fruits and vegetables to spices and additives. Identifying these sensitivities is essential, as they can act as triggers for inflammation and contribute to gut permeability, also known as "leaky gut syndrome."

One key player in the regulation of gut permeability is zonulin, a protein involved in controlling the tight junctions between intestinal cells. When these junctions become loose, undigested food particles and toxins can leak into the bloodstream, triggering an immune response and inflammation throughout the body.

IgG and IgE antibodies are primarily responsible for recognising and reacting to proteins in foods. IgG-mediated reactions, in particular, are associated with delayed immune responses and can contribute to chronic inflammation when triggered repeatedly over time. This chronic inflammation has been linked to a myriad of health issues, including autoimmune diseases, arthritis, and even mental health disorders.

Given the complexity of food sensitivities and their potential impact on health, testing is essential for accurate diagnosis and management. A registered nutritionist can help guide individuals through a personalised elimination diet and reintroduction protocol to identify trigger foods and alleviate symptoms.

An elimination diet involves temporarily removing common allergens and sensitivities from the diet, such as dairy, gluten, and soy, to allow the body to heal and symptoms to subside. After a period of elimination, foods are systematically reintroduced one at a time while monitoring for any adverse reactions.

Throughout this process, keeping a detailed food diary can provide valuable insights into how different foods affect the body. Symptoms to watch for include digestive issues, skin reactions, headaches, fatigue, and mood changes. By carefully reintroducing foods and noting any reactions, individuals can identify their specific trigger foods and make informed decisions about their diet.

In addition to eliminating trigger foods, addressing underlying gut health issues is essential for long-term symptom relief. This may involve incorporating gut-healing foods such as bone broth, fermented foods, and prebiotic-rich vegetables, as well as addressing lifestyle factors like stress management and adequate sleep.

In conclusion, understanding the connection between food sensitivities and inflammation is crucial for promoting overall health and well-being. By identifying trigger foods through testing and personalised dietary interventions, individuals can effectively manage symptoms and reduce the risk of chronic disease. For personalised guidance and support, consulting with a registered nutritionist is recommended to navigate the complexities of food sensitivities and create a path towards optimal health.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London, W1S 1HP
Written by Lucia Stansbie, Registered Nutritional Therapist, Dip CNM, mBANT, mCNHC
London, W1S 1HP

Lucia Stansbie is the founder of Food Power Nutrition.
Lucia is a BANT and CNHC registered Nutritional Therapist and member of the Royal Society of Medicine.

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