Updated: May 2019
When learning about histamine intolerance and mast cell activation, it helps to step back and take a look at the big picture of food sensitivity. In the last few decades, knowledge about food sensitivity has grown tremendously. This knowledge has provided some answers but has opened up many more questions. Food sensitivities are more complicated and diverse than once thought.
Knowledge is Like an Iceberg
Icebergs have a small part above the surface and a large part, hidden under the water. I’ll explain how this relates to food sensitivity knowledge in the following video.
Searching For Answers That Are Below the Surface
Clients with mysterious food sensitivity symptoms, are often searching for exact answers about the cause of their symptoms and exact treatment. But in most cases, we don’t have those answers and clients are searching for answers that don’t exist. The search for these illusive answers can cause more stress and suffering than the physical symptoms. Accepting that you may be suffering from a condition that is largely “under the surface” and that you may not find exact answers, can help you let go of a frustrating search. The good news is that you can find helpful treatments or lifestyle changes through systematic experimentation - even if you don’t know the exact cause.
Frustrated clients often turn to food sensitivity testing to get answers, but for reasons discussed in the next article, I would not suggest this.
Food Allergy and Food Intolerance
It’s important to remember that food sensitivity is a reaction to a compound within the food, not the food itself. The best example is the difference between milk allergy and milk intolerance (lactose intolerance). With an allergy, the immune system is reacting to a specific milk protein (but everything else in the milk is okay). With lactose intolerance, the milk sugar (lactose) is the problem.
I’ve listed the most common food sensitivity conditions below. Coming back to our iceberg analogy, this is the “above the water” information. If your food sensitivity symptoms do not fit into one of these categories, you may be suffering from a “below the surface” condition. Hopefully, we will know more in the future. Even if you don’t know the exact cause of your symptoms, you can find helpful treatments or lifestyle changes through systematic experimentation
Food allergies are an adverse reaction to a food that is mediated by the immune system. Our immune system protects us with inflammatory chemicals to kill harmful germs. If the immune system mistakes a food protein as harmful, inflammatory chemicals are released and cause inflammatory symptoms. I’ll briefly describe the most common food allergies below.
Food allergy symptoms are usually consistent (e.g. you react with similar symptoms each time you eat the food).
Food intolerance is an “umbrella term” for many different adverse food reactions that are not mediated by the immune system.
Food intolerance is often inconsistent (you react differently on different days).