Twenty-nine year New Jersey school teacher, Jennifer Vigne, struggled with what she called an “uncooperative digestive system” since she was a child. Over the years, her doctors ordered many tests and performed exploratory surgery looking for the cause of her symptoms but nothing turned up. Finally, about 10 years ago she was diagnosed with a condition her gastroenterologist called irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It got so severe during the last four years that she stopped going out with friends fearing her foods liver symptoms would come on without warning when she wasn’t near a restroom. She was prescribed many different medications but they only provided temporary relief, never a cure. Her symptoms just kept getting worse. “The fear of having a stomach attack in the middle of teaching, driving, or hiking left me limited with things to do and often feeling depressed and desperate”, said Vigne. As it turns out, she was suffering from food sensitivities all along and didn’t know it. She was eating foods every day that were causing her immune system to react and trigger her chronic gut symptoms. After being evaluated for food sensitivities using a blood test called MRT (Mediator Release Test), she started the LEAP ImmunoCalm Diet. In just 10 days her symptoms began to subside and one year later she remains virtually symptom free.
Food Allergy vs Food Sensitivity: what’s the difference?
The main differences between food allergies and food sensitivities are the types of reactions that typically occur, the time frame in which they occur, the amount of food needed to trigger a reaction, and the types of foods that are typically involved in reactions.
Perhaps the best known symptom of food allergy is also its least common and most dangerous – anaphylaxis. When this happens, the airway tightens, the throat swells, blood pressure severely drops, and dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting can occur. People with anaphylaxis can die within minutes of ingesting just a crumb of an allergic food. Fortunately, symptoms of food allergies are not typically this severe. Most people with food allergies usually experience far less life-threatening, albeit bothersome, symptoms including hives, itching, swelling, wheezing, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and dizziness. Regardless of the severity of the reaction, allergic foods are not typically difficult to identify due to the short time frame in which symptoms develop and because the vast majority of cases are attributed to one or more of the following eight foods: peanuts, tree nuts, fish, shellfish, eggs, cow’s milk, wheat, and soy.
Unlike the immediate reaction of an allergy, food sensitivity symptoms can take up to several days to surface. To further complicate the picture, food sensitivities are dose-dependent, meaning that a small amount of an offending food may not be enough to cause symptoms every time. Add to this the complex immune mechanisms involved in food sensitivities, and you have an especially difficult puzzle to solve. For this reason, food sensitivities often go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed for years as was the case with Jennifer Vigne.