Food Allergies vs Food Sensitivities

Food Allergies vs Food Sensitivities

Food Allergies vs. Food Sensitivities


Are you feeling groggy after your last meal? Feel like you always have a cold coming on, or your energy is running low? Have you ever considered that your symptoms could be related to the foods you’re eating? There is growing recognition in North America about the effects of certain foods on our health. Food allergies and sensitivities can manifest themselves in many different ways. Here is what you need to know to navigate the world of food allergies and sensitivities.

Food Allergies

Even though a small percentage of people have food allergies, food allergies are  more common than intolerances, and have the potential to be more severe.1 Allergies evoke an immune response in your body from the proteins in food. Rather than recognizing the protein as nourishment, your body sees the protein as a threat, creating antibodies called immunoglobulin E (IgE). The next time you eat these proteins – even a minimal amount – your body will release antibodies, causing a reaction. The top 10 common allergens today are: eggs, dairy, mustard, peanuts, seafood, sesame, soy, sulphites, tree nuts, and wheat.2

American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that 5.1 percent of American children have food allergies.3 5 to 6 percent of Canadian children have a self-reported food allergy and 3 to 4 percent of Westernized adults have a reported food allergy.1However, if you know the symptoms, there are proactive steps you can take to feel well and avoid potential allergens.

Symptoms of a food allergy:

  • Hives
  • Rash
  • Digestive issues
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Inflammation and swelling
  • Asthma or inhibited breathing
  • In some cases, anaphylactic shock.

What you can do:

  1. If you are suspicious of an allergy, make an appointment for an allergy test with a health care practitioner.
  2. Alter your diet by removing potential allergens.
  3. Read labels! Allergens you may test positive for, like soy, dairy, corn or gluten, are in a myriad of things as fillers, emulsifiers, or blended with spices. Read the labels on food packages to be sure.

Food Intolerances

A key difference between food allergies and intolerances is that an allergy immediately causes a reaction with even the smallest amount ingested, whereas intolerances often express only when a larger amount is eaten.1 With food intolerances, the reaction is often not an immediate response, but may be delayed a few hours, even the next day.

Lactose intolerance is a one of the most common forms of food intolerances.  If you are lactose intolerant, your body does not produce enough lactase enzymes to digest dairy. This can cause digestive upset, gas, and discomfort.

Symptoms of food intolerances

  • Digestive upset: gas, gastrointestinal issues, bloating, discomfort
  • Dry skin
  • Fatigue after eating certain foods
  • Mood change after eating certain foods, poor concentration, stress and anxiety

What you can do:

  1. Eat a clean diet and possibly consider an elimination diet.
    By working with a health care practitioner, you can eliminate foods that you think may be aggravating your intolerances. These health care practitioners can specialize in food intolerances: allergists, dieticians (FODMAP or LEAP certified), registered holistic nutritionists, and naturopathic doctors.
  2. Use food alternatives to substitute any eliminated foods.
    For example, try almond or rice milk in place of dairy milk. This will set you up for success, without any major changes to your daily routine.
  3. Stay hydrated.
    This is essential for proper mineral balance,  and digestion. Besides plain water, drink tea, lemon water or Vega Electrolyte Hydrator throughout the day.
  4. Focus on nutrient-dense foods.
    Make sure you are getting the vitamins and minerals you need to support energy, digestive function and longevity. You can also try soaking or sprouting seeds, nuts and legumes to improve their digestibility and to utilize their enzymes, helping your digestive process.
  5. Minimize stress.
    Mental or physical stress can limit digestive function and potentially create imbalance in your gut.4 During periods of stress, your body goes into a fight-or-flight mode, diminishing digestive fire. Calm down with daily yoga or meditation.
  6. Choose whole food based alternatives.
    Allergen/ sensitivity-free foods are becoming more common; however, many are not nutrient-dense. Fillers and refined foods are often used to make up for what’s been taken out, so look for alternatives that use whole food-based ingredients. Vega products are minimally processed plant-based supplements that are free of dairy, gluten and soy.

Knowing where to start is the first step on your road to health and longevity. Luckily finding nutrient-dense, allergen-free foods has never been easier. All the best in your journey towards health.

References (APA Format):

  1. Health Canada. (2012). Food and Nutrition: Food Allergies and Intolerances. Accessed on 5/20/13 from:
  2. Health Canada (2012). Food Allergies. Accessed on 5/20/13 from
  3. Branum, A., Lukacs, S. (2009).Food Allergy among Children in the United States. American Academy of Pediatrics. 124 (6). Accessed on 5/20/13 from
  4. Kiecolt-Glaser, J. (2010).Stress, Food, and Inflammation: Psychoneuroimmunology and Nutrition at Cutting Edge. Psychosomatic Medicine: Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine. 72 (4). Accessed on 5/20/13 from
June 11, 2013

Photo from: