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Food Allergies vs. Food Sensitivities

The differences explained and how we can test for them.

The term food allergy and food sensitivity seem to be used interchangeably, but they are actually two very different reactions that a person can have after the consumption of certain food items. The major difference between the two are the antibodies that the immune system will produce in response to the food.


A food allergy is an anaphylactic type of immune response to certain foods. Think of people who are allergic to peanuts for example. If their body comes into contact with peanuts, the immune response will quickly release IgE antibodies, which will trigger a cascade of immune cells that create an instant response to the food. This is a clear and quick response that the body views the food as foreign and attempts to “fight” it off.


The most common symptoms of a food allergy reaction include:

- Quick development of symptoms (seconds to minutes after consuming the food)

- Shortness of breath or throat swelling

- Rash or Hives

- Clammy skin

- Racing heart rate


A food sensitivity is a much different reaction; however some food sensitivities can be so severe that people may think it is a food allergy. A food sensitivity reaction will trigger the release of IgG antibodies instead of IgE. This type of reaction is more long term and the antibodies stick around in the system for a lot longer, wreaking havoc on the system for days or even months.


Common symptoms of a food sensitivity include:

- Chronic Fatigue

- Brain fog/memory difficulties

- Chronic headaches/migraines

- Unexplained skin issues

- Gut issues: constipation, diarrhea, indigestion, heartburn, bloating

- Joint Pain

- Skin issues: acne, eczema, psoriasis


In a perfect world, no food would create an immune response, but in this day and age, it is not uncommon to have either food allergies, food sensitivities, or even both.


Here at JNM, we have the capacity to test for both food allergies AND food sensitivities through a simple blood draw. Food allergy panels can usually be run through your insurance plan although each insurance provider is different so we advise that you check with your insurance first before having the test run. Our food sensitivity test options are run through either US Biotek or MRT Labs. These specialty tests are not covered by insurance and require you to pay an out-of-pocket cost at the time of your blood draw. The cost of each panel varies depending on how many food items are tested, but can usually be charged to an HSA/FSA account if available.


If you are interested in having this test done, please schedule with a JNM provider to discuss if you may be suffering from food related reactions and what your options are for testing and treatment.

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