Food Allergies and Food Intolerances... What's the difference?
Thomas DeLauer breaks down the science behind Food Allergies and Food Intolerances (and what ignoring your gut could lead to) on the latest #ScienceSaturday
Transcript by Rev.com
- What's going on, Jigsaw crew? Today we're talking about the immune system, and we're talking about all that stuff that you're allergic to or that stuff that you pretend to be allergic to so you don't have to eat it. But in reality, we're talking about the difference between allergies and intolerances, something that actually triggers a histamine response versus a structural response to a physical food. So let's get straight into the science so you can have a solid understanding and know which is which.
The first thing that I really wanna talk about is a food allergy and what happens inside your body. Okay, a food allergy is a reaction that begins with a food shortly after eating it. So, you've probably heard of a food allergy before and you know what ends up happening. You might get 'em in the way of hives. You might get 'em in the way of maybe some rashes. Or maybe you end up having to run to the bathroom or you end up getting some bloating. You know if you have a reaction to a food. You've probably experienced it before. Now, that's the simplicity of it, but let's talk a little bit more about what's actually happening. You see, at the very, very root of it, when you have an allergy, it's just a simple substance that is harmless that your body is responding to as if it was a harmful foreign invader. So basically your body sees a food come in, and it think that it's bad, so it triggers a reaction. But there's a pretty interesting process that occurs when it comes down to that.
You see, that response that actually happens with that food is coming from something known as IgE. It's a specific kind of protein, and we're gonna talk about these all in a second. They're called immunoglobulins. But in this particular case, this IgE protein attaches itself to the foreign invader, in this case the harmless food that is labeled as a foreign invader. So the IgE protein attaches itself to the foreign invader, and then from there it triggers multiple chemical responses, one of which is usually histamine.
Now, if you've ever taken an antihistamine before, this is what you're fighting. You're not fighting the IgE response. You're fighting the histamine response. So here's what's interesting. If you have allergies to multiple different foods, a lot of times you might find that the reactions are similar amongst all those foods.
So, let's say for example you're allergic to shellfish and you're allergic to peanuts. You might find that if you eat shellfish, you end up with your throat closing up. Well, you might find that if you eat peanuts, you end up having the same kinda reaction. And that's simply because your reaction is to the histamine. It's not really to the food. So there's a deeper problem going on where your body tends to recognize the shellfish or the peanuts as a foreign invader, triggering this already built-in mechanism that's causing your throat to close up.
But let's talk about the other immunoglobulins, and it gives you a big broad spectrum overview of what is happening with your immune system with foods and pathogens. So IgE, like we talked about, that's the immunoglobulin that is released whenever we have a foreign invader that attaches itself to it. Then we have IgA. See, IgA is the main protein that is released whenever we have any kind of infection or issue going on with the respiratory tract or the digestive system. So if you get a blood test and you notice that your IgA levels are super high, at lot of times it can be indicative of some kind of chronic issue with your digestive system or possibly even pneumonia or some respiratory condition like that.
Then we get into IgG. See, IgG is another really common one that we see, and IgG is a response to a bacterial issue. So you could have some kind of low-scale bacterial infection that's going on throughout your body that you don't really know about that's not really manifesting in symptoms, but it's causing your IgG to be elevated. This means you are having an immune response and your body is creating proteins to ultimately attack this, but you may not realize it.
Then in the cases of more chronic conditions like Lyme disease where you actually do have symptoms, you might notice that your IgG levels are super, super high. And then of course if you have a rampant infection, you're definitely gonna notice that your IgG levels are high.
Then we have IgD. IgD is an immunoglobulin that really isn't talked about too, too much. All that is is an antigen, an antibody receptor. Whenever we have antibodies in the body to help tell our bodies that something is okay and we don't have to have a response to it, we still need to have proteins that receive that message. And that's all that IgD does.
So, that's really gonna stay stagnant for the most part when you're looking at your blood work. Then we have IgM. See, IgM responds to blood infections. If you have high levels of IgM, you probably need to be a little bit concerned. There are some exclusions, but for the most part if you have a blood infection, you might wanna go get checked out, 'cause that could lead into a lot of other things.
And sometimes IgA comes after a chronic IgE exposure. So if you've been exposed to a food that you're mildly allergic to for awhile, it might eventually lead to a broader scale infection or issue based on the immune response. Now to wrap up the allergy part, I'm gonna help make some sense of all this.
So remember how I told you that the IgEs respond to the actual component that you're allergic to? Well, there's a reason why people end up getting more allergic to things as time goes on. You see, it's the job of our immune system, it's the job of that IgE to go and attach itself to that food so that the body know that there is an issue, which means the next time you eat the food, the body's gonna respond even faster.
So here's an example. Let's say you're allergic to peanuts again. The first time you eat peanuts, you're gonna have that IgE response, which is gonna trigger histamine, and you'll show a small reaction. Then if you were to eat peanuts again, you're gonna notice your reaction's worse because the body has already figured out how to send histamine there in a really fast way 'cause that IgE already knows how to respond. That's why when you're testing food out with infants, you're usually testing them out in very small, independent doses so that you can see if there's even a small, little, teeny, minuscule reaction. That way you know as a baby if they have a reaction to a food so that you don't continue to feed it on later when they end up having a worse reaction.
Okay, now let's talk about intolerances for a second. There's a big difference. See, an intolerance is simply the lack of the body's ability to break down food. It's usually structural or functional in that case, meaning we're lacking an enzyme to physically break a food down.
A good example is lactose intolerance. People will say, "I'm allergic to milk."
No, you're lactose intolerant, which means you're lacking the enzyme to break it down, so you end up having a lot of digestive issues. You have gas. You have a intolerance. Lactose intolerance.
So that's where the difference comes into play. Now, there are a lot of foods that we can be intolerant to that can lead to an immune response later on. See, what ends up happening is if we're consistently eating foods that we can't break down, then we start to cause some structural damage within our digestive system. And once there's structural damage, there's microtrauma. And when there's microtrauma, there's tears. And when there's tears in the intestinal tract, of course your immune system's gonna attack it. You could have bacteria that gets into those microtears, and that causes the issues with all of the allergic-like responses.
So over time, by eating foods that you are intolerant to, you will ultimately cause yourself to have an immune reaction. But at its root, an actual response as an intolerance is non-immunological, so that means there's no immune system response.
Now, there's a couple of things that can trigger intolerances, because it's not something that we're always born with. If you have high bouts of stress for a period of time, you can start to break down enzymes and structural components that would normally help you metabolize food. So if you go through a period of really, really stressful stuff, you might find all of a sudden you can't eat broccoli anymore, or you might find that you can't do milk anymore.
These intolerances can come on over time. You're not born with them. So it's something to always be aware of. And again, if you continue to eat those foods after an intolerance, you can trigger a more serious allergic response that you're not gonna like.
So as always, my Jigsaw friends, if you haven't already, make sure you're checking out the full line of Jigsaw products, but of course my personal favorite, Magnesium SRT, which is a clinically proven sustained release technology magnesium tab that's gonna help you get the best out of your life. I'll see you soon.