Understanding the full picture is key. Removing foods from our diet long-term can be detrimental. But in some cases, such as a diagnosed allergy or coeliac disease, it is essential. Getting to the root cause of symptoms and using testing where necessary can help give clear guidance and reassurance. And as always, the goal is to be able to include as much variety as possible in our diet.

Deciphering the definitions

The terms food allergy, intolerance and sensitivity are sometimes used interchangeably but are very different reactions in the body. A food allergy is an IgE immune response that is an immediate, often strong and sometimes life-threatening response to a food, for example a peanut allergy. Food sensitivities, however, are an activation of the IgA or IgG immune response and are a delayed response that can display symptoms between 12 to 72 hours after eating, making them harder to pinpoint. Food intolerance differs from food allergy and food sensitivity as it is not an immune response; it’s a reaction to certain foods or an inability of the digestive system to digest certain foods. In the case of lactose intolerance, for example, the enzyme lactase needed to break down lactose in dairy may be deficient. Working with a practitioner and looking at your symptoms in the context of your wider health with the support of testing can help to identify the root cause of your reaction to certain foods.

Why now?

Are you finding that foods that you previously enjoyed and have eaten freely are now causing you issues? This could happen at any point in life and with digging can be traced back to specific reasons, for example a period of high stress, imbalance of bacteria in your gut, low stomach acid, infection or nutrient deficiency. But additionally, midlife is a time of change and women may be more susceptible to food sensitivities due to hormonal fluctuation and changes in the integrity of the gut lining (1, 2). If the gut wall becomes permeable, toxins and food particles can pass into the blood stream, causing the immune system to react and food sensitivities to develop.

Some possible symptoms of food sensitivity:

-Low energy
-Bloating
-Stomach ache
-Migraines
-Headaches
-Anxiety
-Low mood
-Sinus congestion
-Skin conditions like rosacea, eczema
-Aches and pains
-Difficulty losing weight

Is it a food sensitivity?

The symptoms you are experiencing may not be due to food sensitivities. Working with a practitioner can help decipher the root cause of your symptoms and advise whether food sensitivity testing may be useful in your case. Testing can look at over 150 different foods as well as key markers for your gut wall integrity which can really help determine your next steps. And of course, it will be different for everyone so developing a personalised plan to resolve your symptoms is important.

Important to note…

– Food sensitivities may just be one part of the picture. Supporting your body as a whole, identifying any other areas requiring support for example stress levels or nutrient deficiences will be a necessary part of the process.
– Not all food sensitivity tests are created equal. Understanding what’s being measured and why is important and which test will deliver robust results.
– Where food sensitivities have been identified, removing those foods for a period of time may be useful. But just as important is looking at the foods that you can add in to support your health. Working with someone to help you to make these changes, without them becoming too restrictive or life-limiting can be really helpful.
– Foods that may be reactive for now may be able to be reintroduced at a later date and that is the goal so that you can enjoy as much variety as possible in your diet.

If you would like to find out more about food sensitivity testing and whether it might be useful for you, do book in for a complimentary discovery call.

1. Becker, S. & Manson J. (2021). Menopause, the gut microbiome and weight gain. Menopause, 28(3), 327-331. doi: 10.1097/GME. 0000000000001702
2. Peters, B., Santoro, N., Kaplan, R. et al. (2022). Spotlight on the gut microbiome in menopause: current insights. Int J Womens Health, 14, 1059-1072. doi: 10.2147/IJWH.S340491

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