Allergy or Sensitivity, Maybe Neither. Which Do you Have?
I have found some topics to be far more confusing than they should be when talking to my patients. There is no better example of this than deciphering an allergy or sensitivity. The lack of understanding I have come to understand has nothing to do with the person I am trying to educate. Instead, it is related to misinformation they have received. In short, they have been told their reactions are either an allergy, or nothing. But there has to be more. How can the extremely complex immune system not be reacting if you are experiencing symptoms?
This conversation does not have to be be complicated. I have two goals in sharing the following information, both of which benefit you.
- Make the complexity of the immune system so easy a kid could understand it.
- Show you why you are far more likely to have a sensitivity than an allergy.
How to Know if You Suffer From Allergies
Sneezing, runny nose, puffy eyes, all happening around the change of seasons is the classic allergy presentation. Is it necessary to have these symptoms to have an allergy? No. However, we still associate those symptoms to allergies for one reason. Pay attention here. This is a key point for you to take away. Allergies are associated with those symptoms because you start reacting as soon as you come into contact. You encounter the allergen and it stimulates the allergy. It all happens quickly. Allergies are immediate. This is the first differentiating point of an allergy or sensitivity.
Keep in mind I mentioned traditional allergy symptoms are not required to have an allergy. So simply being free of the classic symptoms does not imply you are allergy free. There are many non-traditional allergy symptoms. Here are just a few that I have observed; heartburn and reflux, temporary rashes that come and go, brain fog and gut symptoms like constipation, diarrhea, bloating and gas. Pinpointing the allergen can be difficult, even though the response time is quick.
Some find the allergen identification process easy. You drink milk, you develop phlegm and congestion. The reaction is easily associated. However, this is not everyone. When isolating your allergen becomes problematic, I have one option for you. That is testing. An appropriate blood test will determine what you are reacting to. Notice I said blood, not skin prick. Skin prick testing is an option, but if you want to observe the response of the immune system to illusive symptoms, blood is a better option.
Key Point: Allergies are Immediate
Have you Become Too Sensitive?
Nope, I am not referring to your emotional state. Are you becoming too sensitive to triggers in your environment? Triggers in your environment can make you sensitive. Such things include foods, food additives, molds, chemicals and metals. You can even become sensitive to medications and healthy herbs like turmeric. I want you to think about that for a minute. The medication or herb that you are depending on to make you healthy could actually be making you sick. That’s a problem!
Sensitivities are not even a consideration for most. How can you decide whether you are dealing with an allergy or sensitivity when you don’t even know sensitivities are a consideration? If you are new to the topic of sensitivities, let me quickly bring you up to speed. Here are a few key points to consider.
- The immune system is more likely to react via sensitivity than allergy
- Sensitivities are hard to detect via symptoms and create a lot of frustration
- Sensitivities tend to develop slowly and linger
- Allergies do not correlate with sensitivities, they are different
You Suspect Sensitivities, Next Step
Allow me to share my observations in an effort to prevent future headaches for you. Attempting to isolate sensitivities by eliminating food is a recipe for failure (pun intended). You may be able to identify some of the substances you react to, but not all of them. There is one simple reason this is the case. Sensitivities are delayed. They do not happen immediately, but take time to manifest, sometimes even days. By the time you develop a sensitivity caused symptom, you have encountered a list of possible allergens too long to decipher through. It becomes confusing.
Would you prefer to be frustrated and confused or instead have a simple way to tell you what you are sensitive to? I am going to assume you are a person that prefers simplicity and quick answers. So here is the solution that I have recommended to several patients with great success. Test for sensitivities. Don’t spend time fooling around with diets attempting to eliminate a series of foods over time. Instead, get the answers you need. With a blood test for sensitivities, you get a detailed view of what your immune system thinks is important for you to avoid.
How Can I Be Sensitive to That?
When I do lab testing to assess for an allergy or sensitivity, there is always one question that comes up. I have heard it so many times that it is almost comical now. “How can I be reactive to that, I eat it all the time?” This one question is the essence of how we should eat. Patients are routinely eating the very thing that is creating their health problems. The most commonly consumed foods are often the ones that show up. Is this you? If you eat a routine diet with little to no variation, I would encourage you to ask yourself which of these commonly consumed foods have you become reactive to.
Key Point: Sensitivities are Delayed (and more likely to be present)
Allergy or Sensitivity, Maybe Neither?
When unexplained symptoms persist, allergy or sensitivity should be your first consideration. However, sometimes it is neither. Intolerances, where your immune system is not even a factor, are the issue at times. This is often the result of a defect or limitation of the body to support digestion and assimilation of a food.
Yet, the most common cause of unexplained symptoms that is not an allergy or sensitivity, but can promote an allergy or sensitivity is dysfunction in your gut. When the probiotics are imbalanced, the door is opened for the immune system to become hyperactivity. A hyperactive immune system can contribute to many unexplained symptoms and even autoimmunity. As the balance of bacteria in the gut shift in your favor, the likelihood of an allergy or sensitivity decreases. Having a particular bacterial profile can even increase your risk of certain food allergies.
So What Do You Have?
Are you dealing with an allergy or sensitivity, or maybe neither or both? Wow, is it just me or can this get confusing quick. Here is your important take way. Allergies are immediate reactions and sensitivities are more delayed. They can occur independently or together. If you have unexplained symptoms that are making it difficult to find answers, do yourself the favor of not guessing and take the prudent action of completing testing that can help you isolate what you are reacting to with confidence.
Good article! Thank you for the refresher.