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How Food Sensitivities and Food Allergies Can Lead to Adrenal Fatigue

Some foods you consume can trigger an inflammatory reaction and lead to adrenal fatigue; that's how your body reacts to the food. What these foods are, however, depends on your body. Different people have different trigger foods.

The difference between food sensitivities and food allergies

A food sensitivity is an inflammatory/immune reaction your body has to the lectins in a food. Lectins are proteins found in many foods, especially grains and nuts.

The lectins in your particular trigger food set off an immune reaction in the intestine. It can cause leaking of the tight junctions of the small intestine cells and lead to leaky gut syndrome (increased intestinal permeability, in doctor talk). The body views the lectins as foreign invaders and forms antibodies against them.

Common symptoms of food sensitivity include fatigue, muscle and/or joint aches, headaches, excessive flatulence, diarrhea, bloating, heartburn, confusion, and irritability. Often these symptoms occur several hours after the consumption of the offending food. If you say, “Must have been something I ate,” chances are you're exactly right.

A food allergy, on the other hand, is quite different from a food sensitivity. A food allergy triggers an allergic reaction, not an inflammatory response. Common allergic symptoms include tongue swelling, watery eyes, wheezing, and acute shortness of breath. A food allergy can develop into a medical emergency. Whereas food sensitivity often occurs several hours after you eat the trigger food, food allergy symptoms often appear very quickly.

Particularly severe allergies can cause a major overreaction of the immune system. The result can be anaphylaxis, an emergency situation requiring immediate attention and treatment with epinephrine. Anaphylaxis is a serious allergic reaction that comes on rapidly and may cause death, likely through heart attack or its cousin, cardiac arrest.

How to pinpoint trigger foods

Unless you identify and stop consuming the trigger food, the symptoms may persist. Common causes of food sensitivities include foods that contain lactose or gluten. Common causes of food allergies include eggs, nuts, wheat, fish, and shellfish. That being said, be aware that any food has the potential to be a trigger food, even fruits and vegetables.

Consider keeping a food diary in order to identify potential trigger foods. Each person is different, and different foods can trigger different reactions. If you find that you experience the symptoms of a food sensitivity or allergy, you can eliminate what you think may be the trigger food from your diet.

If the idea of a food diary is cumbersome or overwhelming, consider going the medical route and taking food sensitivity tests. ALCAT and LEAP (Lifestyle Eating and Performance) are the two most commonly used blood tests for looking at triggers from food, dyes, additives, and preservatives. Both companies provide practitioners who can assist you with understanding the results and creating a diet plan.

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