The incredibly complex immune system has many ways to mount defenses against both truly dangerous invaders (or pathogens) as well as seemingly harmless substances, including healthy foods. I never claim to be an expert on the immune system, but as much of the population understands, consuming seemingly harmless foods, for instance a strawberry, can sometimes create a very dangerous situation, such as anaphylaxis (which can include anything from itching and hives to difficulty breathing).
What I just described is known as a type 1 reaction and is mediated through a specific antibody of the immune system. These are reactions that many of us are familiar with and we term them allergies.
A different reaction, yet still a function of the immune system, can be described as food sensitivities, or type 3 and type 4 reactions. These reactions have unique characteristics including the potential for delayed onset of up to 4 days. Because of this specific characteristic it is possible that a person could be eating a particular food, spinach for example, all along thinking that it was good for them, yet it is causing pain and inflammation.
Here’s the scenario. Jack prepares a lovely, big spinach entrée salad for Jill on Saturday night. All is well until Tuesday when Jill wakes up with aching joints and muscles. What could have caused this? It’s very difficult to know as there has been so many different foods that Jill has eaten in the last several days and it could be anything from her diet on Monday, Sunday, Saturday or possibly even Friday.
So what symptoms could be caused by food sensitivities? The specific list is nearly too long to include but any symptom of pain and inflammation fits the bill. These are typically chronic symptoms that individuals are feeling that manifest in known disorders such as:
• Migraine or Headache
• Reflux, Heartburn or GERD
• Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
• Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) including Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease
• Autoimmune Disorders. Any of them. Celiac Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, Ankylosing Spondylitis, Sjögren’s Syndrome, Lupus, Alopecia Areata, Hashimoto’s Syndrome. The list goes on and on.
• Skin disorders such as Psoriasis and Eczema
• PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)
If you would like more information on how to identify food sensitivities, please see my article “Figuring Out the Elusive Food Sensitivity.”