Food allergies and poor digestion

It’s not just “bad” food that causes problems with digestion and absorption. Any food, including “good” foods have the potential to be an allergen in the body. Food allergies are very common and very often overlooked. In fact, many medical professionals don’t look for food allergies because they fundamentally don’t believe in them. However, the evidence for food allergies is overwhelming and most private labs offer food allergy testing.

There are four main categories of food allergies to become aware of so you can identify them. When most people, including many medical professionals hear the word “allergy” they think of the typical symptoms like skin rash, hives, swollen throat, itchy watery eyes, and nasal discharge. However, this really only reflects one type of allergy, the IgE-mediated Immediate Sensitivity reaction. The chart below describes the differences between the four categories of food allergies you should distinguish between.

IgE-Mediated Immediate Sensitivity

IgG-Mediated Delayed Sensitivity

Food Intolerance

Food Sensitivity

Symptom Onset

Within minutes after exposure

2-48 hours after exposure

Most likely 30 min to 2 hours after exposure

Most likely within minutes after exposure


Skin prick testing

Blood draw for IgG levels

Elimination diet

Electrodermal testing


IgE and histamine release from mast cells

IgG released from white blood cells

Deficiency of an enzyme to break down the food




Elimination diet

Digestive enzymes

Elimination diet

IgE-mediated immediate sensitivity allergies occur when a protein triggers the release of histamine from de-granulated mast cells. The symptoms usually occur within minutes and are usually relatively severe and sometimes cause anaphylaxis. This type of allergy is most commonly induced by nuts, peanuts, shellfish, citrus, and environmental allergens like pollen, dander, and mold. IgE-mediated allergies are relatively uncommon for most other foods. The best way to test for IgE-mediated allergies is through skin prick testing. Anti-histamines provide relief for this type of allergy.

IgG-mediated delayed sensitivity allergies occur when a protein triggers the release of immunoglobulin G (IgG), an inflammatory product from white blood cells in the digestive tract. The symptoms usually occur anywhere from 2 to 48 hours after exposure and are of a more chronic and inflammatory nature. Common signs and symptoms include indigestion, gas, bloating, cramping, eczema, psoriasis, headaches, physical fatigue, mental fatigue, and edema. Anti-histamines do not improve these symptoms because histamine production is not involved. The best way to test for IgG-mediated allergies is to examine a blood sample for immunoglobulin G production from the white blood cell population.

Food intolerances are not a true allergy because they do not involve an immune-mediated response. Food intolerances occur when the body lacks an enzyme to break down certain food molecules. The most well known example is lactose intolerance where the body is deficient the enzyme lactose. Therefore, whenever dairy products are consumed lactose is not broken down and causes digestive upset. Enzyme deficiencies can occur for almost any food and are not actually a true allergy but nonetheless cause digestive symptoms.

Like food intolerances, food sensitivities are technically not a true allergy because there is no known measurable immune system response. In fact, we understand very little about the causes and mechanisms of food sensitivities. The best way to test for food sensitivity is through an elimination diet and ruling out IgE allergy, IgG allergy, and food intolerance. The treatment for food sensitivity is elimination or rotation diet.

To learn more about Dr. Barlow’s treatments or to schedule an appointment contact Dr. Barlow’s office at 250-448-5610 or via email at [email protected]

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About the Author

Dr. Brent Barlow is a Naturopathic Physician practicing at The Kelowna Wellness Clinic in downtown Kelowna. Dr. Barlow has been in practice in Kelowna since graduating from the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine in Vancouver in 2009.

Naturopathic Doctors are trained as primary care physicians, and primarily use natural medicine to treat disease and promote wellness. Dr. Barlow believes strongly in identifying and treating the causes of disease rather than focusing on the treatment of symptoms.

Naturopathic medicine utilizes diet therapy, botanical medicine, nutritional supplementation, acupuncture, spinal manipulation and other physical medicine treatments to treat the causes of disease. Dr. Barlow also trained in the specialized treatments of prolotherapy, neural therapy, intravenous nutrient infusions, and chelation therapy.

Dr. Barlow is in general practice and welcomes all individuals and families. As a naturopathic physician he is trained to treat all health conditions in the manner that best suits the goals of each individual patient. He also has special interests in natural treatments for pain management and digestive health.

To learn more about Dr. Barlow's treatments or to schedule a consultation, visit his website at www.drbrentbarlownd.com or call 250-448-5610.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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