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Did you know that more than 32 million people in the US are living with at least one diagnosed food allergy? Perhaps you are one of them... The 9 most common food allergens are Milk, Eggs, Peanuts, Tree nuts (such as almonds, cashews, walnuts), Fish (such as bass, cod, flounder, salmon), Shellfish (such as crab, lobster, shrimp), Soy, Wheat (source) and increasingly Sesame (source). In the United States, from 1997 to 2007, food allergies in children rose 18%.

So what is a food allergy? According to Mayo Clinic, a food allergy is an immune system reaction that occurs soon after eating a certain food. Even a tiny amount of the allergy-causing food can trigger signs and symptoms such as digestive problems, hives or swollen airways. It can be bothersome or even life-threatening.

You may have also heard about food intolerance... This is when the body has difficulty digesting certain foods resulting in unpleasant reactions like bloating or cramping within a few hours after eating the food. The main reason someone may suffer a food intolerance is due to a lack of digestive enzymes needed to fully digest or break down the food. An example of this would be lactose intolerance (lacking the digestive enzymes to adequately break down the lactose in dairy products). Another reason for food intolerance is irritable bowel syndrome - a chronic condition causing stomach cramps, constipation and diarrhea. Finally, sensitivities to food additives like sulfites used to preserve dried fruits, canned foods or even wine can cause a food intolerance. If you have a food intolerance (aka food sensitivity), you may be able to eat a small portion of the offending food without noticeable symptoms. I should also mention here, Celiac Disease. It is similar to food allergy because it involves multiple organ systems having an immune response, specifically gastrointestinal distress, joint pain and headaches, but without the risk of anaphylaxis. With Celiac Disease, the small intestine's intestinal villi are being attacked and worn down which leads to malabsorption, among other medical complications. In contrast, non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity causes many of the same symptoms of Celiac Disease, only no destruction of the intestinal villi.

It's important to know if your reaction is due to a true food allergy or a food intolerance/sensitivity as you should be prepared for how to address these issues with either complete avoidance (in the case of an allergy) or through a more therapeutic response that includes addressing digestive enzyme issues and intestinal permeability (leaky gut). Not producing enough enzymes or having leaky gut have also shown to increase the risk of food sensitivities. I highly recommend addressing leaky gut, even in the case of Celiac Disease, as increasing the integrity of the gut lining and improving the balance of the gut microbiome leads to better health outcomes.

If you need support getting to the root of your issues, please consider reaching out to me, a Certified Functional Nutrition Counselor, Certified Gluten-free Practitioner, and National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach living with food allergies and non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, as well as having successfully eliminated other food sensitivities by addressing leaky gut. I would be honored to guide you on your journey to optimal health and wellness!



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