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Allergies: Is Your Food Making You Sick?

Updated on March 29, 2016
Cynthianne profile image

Cynthianne has cooked from scratch her entire life, including raising her 6 children on home grown goodness. Baking is a particular passion.

Food Allergies Can Be Anywhere


Allergies or sensitivities to food may mimic or exasperate chronic illness, according to many allergy doctors and specialists. Could your food be making you sick? Fatigue, intestinal upset and headaches are of some of the symptoms that can be caused by food allergy or sensitivity.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Explains What an Allergy Is

Common Symptoms Caused by Allergy and Sensitivity

  • Joint pain
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Asthma
  • Sinusitis
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Headache, migraines and other headaches
  • Excessive sleepiness or insomnia
  • Craving a particular food
  • Hyperactivity
  • Unable to focus
  • Feeling spacey or foggy brained
  • Occasional heart palpitations
  • Weight fluctuations (3-5 pounds in any given 24 hour period)
  • Can’t seem to lose or gain weight
  • Runny nose, sneezing
  • Gas, flatulence
  • Itchy ears in adults, ear infections in children


If you have these symptoms, be sure and seek medical care in the event of an underlying illness. The symptoms of food allergy/sensitivity can mimic other illnesses. Now that the disclaimer is out of the way, let’s continue on.

Allergy or Sensitivity?

What is the difference between an allergy and sensitivity? An allergy will usually show up when an allergy test is performed. Usually? Doesn’t it always show up? Well, no. If you have an autoimmune disease or nerve disorder, such as Lupus or Fibromyalgia, your allergies can fluctuate depending on how your immune system and nerves are reacting. The more inflammation the higher chance of reaction to a food. I have had a few rheumatologists tell me that in order to keep on top of what I am allergic to I would have to be tested every six months because of my autoimmune responses. Talk to your doctor about any serious adverse reaction to foods. Chances are, you will be advised to avoid that food altogether, always. You do not want to take a chance at a fatal reaction.


According Mayo Clinic online, an allergy will cause serious reactions such as:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest tightness
  • Light headedness
  • Fainting
  • Hives
  • Wheezing
  • Anaphylaxis shock
  • Itching of the mouth
  • Severe intestinal upset
  • Swelling of the lips, eyes and tongue
  • Flushing or blushing of the skin, blotches of red or pink, may be hot or the person may feel hot

These are serious symptoms and you should tell your doctor if you react to any food and have these symptoms. Many medications and supplements can contain foods you are allergic to. For example, if you are allergic to avocadoes you may be allergic to latex.

Food-Pollen Reaction

Birch pollen
Birch pollen | Source

One thing I have learned with my allergies and a lot of research and talking to allergy specialists is that if you have hay fever, seasonal allergies and year round allergies, you may be allergic to some foods. Here is a partial list of cross-reactivity with pollens and food:

If you have an allergy to Birch then you may be allergic to:

  • Apples
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pears
  • Peaches
  • Potatoes, raw

If you are allergic to Grasses:

  • Melons such as cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew and other sweet melons
  • Oranges
  • Peanuts
  • Tomatoes
  • The white, or Russet potato

An allergic reaction may happen immediately or take hours to develop but it will happen every time, no matter how the food is cooked or eaten.

The Big 8

There are 8 widely recognized common allergens known as the Big 8. They are:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish (bass, cod, flounder, etc)
  • Crustacean shellfish
  • Tree nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Wheat
  • Soya

The Big 8 are recognized by the FDA as foods that are commonly reported to doctors and hospitals, food companies and the FDA as causing allergic reactions in children and adults. Companies are required to list if their product contains or was processed with any of these allergens.


Food Sensitivity

Food sensitivity is not the same as an allergy, but it can still make you sick. As the name implies, you are sensitive to that food, or rather some component of that food but your body’s immune system does not go on full attack like it does with a full allergy. When you are sensitive to a food you react to something about the food, not the whole food itself. For example, you react with an itchy mouth when eating fresh peaches, but do not get the itchy mouth if the peaches are cooked. Some of the enzymes in the peach are cooked out plus the peach fuzz is no longer on the peach. You may need to peel the peach, opt for nectarines or simply only eat them cooked. Here are some symptoms of food sensitivity:

Itchy mouth that passes after drinking a watery beverage, followed by intestinal cramping:

Example: your mouth itches when you eat an apple but you get a drink of water or other beverage and the feeling passes, but later you have intestinal cramping. You may be sensitive to fresh apples if this only happens when you eat them fresh. Cooking the apple removes some of the acid and enzymes that may be causing that reaction.

Itchy ears that stop itching after an hour or so

Example: You eat corn and your ears itch but you do not get any other symptoms, the itchiness passes after some time and you seem fine, but it happens again and again when you eat corn. You may be sensitive to corn.

More aches and pains after eating certain foods, such as milk or wheat

Bloating an hour or longer after eating. Some sensitivities can take 3 days to appear

Become a Food Detective

If you find that you have a reaction after eating a food, the tricky part may be finding what you are sensitive to. You may eat a cookie with flour, egg, canola oil and baking powder and have a reaction. Now, what are you reacting to? You have to become a food detective. Put on your sleuth hat and go to work! You may have to eliminate wheat from your diet first, and see if you feel better, if there is no change, try removing eggs and so on. You may learn that the food, if store bought, was processed with an allergen from the Big 8 and that is what is causing the reaction.

You may find that you can eat a food after it has been cooked thoroughly but not fresh. Why is that? Foods have particular proteins and oftentimes cooking will reduce that protein which will allow the sensitive person to consume it. Some foods will increase in the particular protein and cannot be consumed by a sensitive or allergic person. Corn is one food that the protein does not deplete when cooked.

Check and recheck your symptoms. Try the elimination method to determine what you are allergic or sensitive to. Many doctors will suggest this first before testing because testing may not pick up sensitivities or be all inclusive of what you react to.

Elimination Diet

Ok, you know you may be reacting to something. You do not feel well, you may be achy, suffer headaches and your nose feels stuffy especially after you eat. Now you need to find out what is affecting you. The best and cheapest way to do that is to eliminate foods, one by one from your diet and see how you feel.

Eliminating a food from your diet means everything that food is in and if foods are processed with that food. Let’s take a look at dairy elimination. Removing dairy from your diet means to remove the obvious, milk and cheese, but if you want to know if you have a dairy or casein sensitivity you need to remove all dairy which can be listed as whey or dairy derivative. Products like non-dairy creamers can still have dairy as a milk derivative, bread may have whey protein added for softness. You need to be well aware of what is considered dairy, how to look for dairy in a product and then stay away from it.

If you feel better, than leave that food out of your diet and be strict! If you cheat on your elimination diet you will not be sure of it was that food or something else. Using the dairy example, let’s say you have marked improvement in memory, aches, pains and fatigue. You will know you need to eliminate dairy from your diet. If there is no improvement, then move on down the list and eliminate something else you are consuming and then feel bad. Continue doing this and keep a food log.

It cannot be stressed enough to keep a food log while doing the elimination diet especially if you eat processed foods. Processed foods contain preservatives and additives that could be causing the reaction so you may need to go back and remove all those ingredients one by one to pin point what is bothering you. Keeping a food log or diary will also help you see your eating patterns. You do not need to count calories with the elimination diet unless you are dieting in general.


One good side effect of finding the foods you are sensitive or allergic to is weight loss. If your body is fighting something you are ingesting then as a protective measure, it holds on to weight. Eliminate the offending food and you may lose weight without counting calories.

© 2014 Cynthianne Neighbors


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