There is some confusion in the terminology used for food reactions. This blog will define some of the more commonly used terms.
“Adverse Food Reaction”: an umbrella term for a harmful reaction to food
- Immediate-onset food allergies are also referred to as “true” allergies or “IgE allergies”. The reaction involves IgE antibodies. Reactions typically occur within 2 hours of eating the offending food, and these types of reactions are present in less than 5 % of the population (Braly,p. 14), with classic symptoms showing up in skin, gut and airways. Examples are hives, nausea, asthma… When extreme, this type of reaction can result in anaphylaxis, which can result in death.
- Delayed-onset food allergies, or “IgG” allergies“, (sometimes referred to as food sensitivities, food sensitivity reactions, hypersensitivity reactions (Lipsky, p. 154)) These reactions are characterized by the involvement of primarily IgG antibodies, but also IgA, and IgM. These reactions may make up some 95% of food allergies, and affect some 10-20 % of the population (Lipsky, p. 154). Symptoms typically arise from 2 hours after eating to several days after eating. Due to the delay, offending foods are difficult to identify. It may be possible to become less sensitive to these foods over time by following a holistic support program including the avoidance of offending foods for 4-6 months (Lipsky, pp 160, 167), 3-6 months (Braly, p. 221) Up to 70% of those living with chronic conditions unresponsive to conventional medicine may have some delayed-onset food allergies with their wide-ranging symptoms throughout the body (Braly, p 15).
“Food Intolerance” is a term often used when the cause appears to be the lack of an enzyme needed for digestion. Frequent usage : “gluten intolerance”, “lactose intolerance”, “fructose intolerance” .
“Sensitivity”, “Sensitized” are words with various and inconsistent usages in the literature. [Health Canada uses “sensitivity” as the umbrella term . (Health Canada, Food and Nutrition). The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases uses “sensitized” to mean exhibiting an IgE reaction.(Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States, pg. 4). WebMD, in a physician-reviewed article suggests it is none of the above, and a separate category of “unpleasant” reaction. (WebMD, Food Allergies: 5 Myths Debunked, page 2),] For the purposes of this blog, I will try to avoid its use but when used, the meaning will be the common usage: responsiveness /reactiveness.