Food Sensitivity │ More common than Food Allergy & Intolerance │ Free To Eat

Food Sensitivity

Food is our major source of energy and nutrition and good food brings joy and fulfilment to many. But what if one experiences adverse reactions to this fundamental element of our life?

What is Food Sensitivity?3-5

Food sensitivity is an adverse reaction to a food that is not due to an Immunoglobulin E (IgE)-mediated reaction or an enzyme deficiency. It appears to involve an immune inflammatory reaction and constant activation of the innate immune system may contribute to chronic inflammation.

Other names: “Delayed Food Hypersensitivities”, “Hidden Food Allergies.”

“Clinically, complex health conditions without known cause are often found to improve by treating food sensitivities.”5

Signs and Symptoms3, 5-7


Rashes, Dryness, Scaling (as in Eczema or Psoriasis), Swelling, Thickening


Abdominal pain, Bloating, Constipation, Diarrhea, Indigestion, Irritable Bowel, Nausea, Vomiting

Neurological & Cognitive

Headaches, Migraines, Memory & Concentration Disturbances, Psychological Disturbances (Anxiety, Depression, Panic Attacks)

Joints & Muscles 

Joint discomfort, Pain, Stiffness, Swelling, Arthritis


Fatigue, Sneezing, Obesity, Diabetes

Food Sensitivities and Health4-6,8-9,11

  1. When a food is mistaken by the body as a threat, the innate immune system can be activated as “first responder” 
  2. Innate immune cells, primarily neutrophils (the most abundant of white blood cells), undergo certain changes to release pro-inflammatory substances and reactive oxygen species as a defense response
  3. Repeated activation may lead to chronic inflammation, tissue damage and overburdened immune system, which can contribute to the symptoms associated with food sensitivity

Comparison between Food Sensitivity, Allergy and Intolerance1-5, 8-12

The terms “Food Allergy”, “Food Sensitivity” and “Food Intolerance” are often used interchangeably when there is an adverse reaction to foods, which could be very confusing.

Food Allergy Food Sensitivity Food Intolerance
  • IgE mediated immune response to food
  • Adverse reaction to food that is non IgE-mediated & not due to metabolic deficiency
  • Inability to digest or absorb a food component, usually due to deficiency of enzymes
Other names
  • Classic Allergy
  • Type 1 Hypersensitivity Reaction
  • Delayed Food Hypersensitivities
  • Hidden Food Allergies
  • Often got mixed up with Food Sensitivity, and sometimes Food Allergy
  • Usually immediate (from minutes to hours)
  • Can be life threatening
  • Usually delayed (from hours to 2-3 days)
  • Non life threatening, but can have psychological & social effects
  • Usually delayed
  • Non life threatening, but can have psychological & social effects
Immune Response
  • Adaptive / Specific Immune System
  • Innate / Non-Specific Immune System
  • Not involved

Note: Symptoms of food allergy and food sensitivity may appear to be similar, so it is important to consult your physician and seek medical advice to rule out IgE-mediated food allergies when assessing for food sensitivities.


1. Alcat Food Sensitivity Comparisons. (2018, January 12). Retrieved from
2. Understanding Your Alcat Test Results. Retrieved from
3. Mullin GE, Swift KM, Lipski L, Turnbull LK, Rampertab SD. Testing for food reactions: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Nutr Clin Pract. 2010 Apr;25(2):192-8. doi: 10.1177/0884533610362696. Review. PubMed PMID: 20413700
4. Pietschmann N. Food Intolerance: Immune Activation Through Diet-associated Stimuli in Chronic Disease. Altern Ther Health Med. 2015 Jul-Aug;21(4):42-52. Review. PubMed PMID: 26030116.
5. Mahan, L. K., & Raymond, J. L. (2016). Krause’s food & the nutrition care process. Elsevier Health Sciences.
6. Genuis SJ. Sensitivity-related illness: the escalating pandemic of allergy, food intolerance and chemical sensitivity. Sci Total Environ. 2010 Nov 15;408(24):6047-61. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2010.08.047. Review. PubMed PMID: 20920818.
7. Lee MS. Role of innate immunity in diabetes and metabolism: recent progress in the study of inflammasomes. Immune Netw. 2011 Apr; 11(2): 95-9.
8. Valenta R, Hochwallner H, Linhart B, Pahr S. Food allergies: the basics. Gastroenterology. 2015 May;148(6):1120-31.e4. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2015.02.006. Epub 2015 Feb 11. Review. PubMed PMID: 25680669; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4414527.
9. Sapone A, Lammers KM, Casolaro V, et al. Divergence of gut permeability and mucosal immune gene expression in two gluten-associated conditions: celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. BMC Med. 2011 Mar 9;9:23. doi: 10.1186/1741-7015-9-23. PubMed PMID: 21392369; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3065425.
10. Boyce JA, Assa’ad A, Burks AW, et al. NIAID-Sponsored Expert Panel. Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Management of Food Allergy in the United States: Summary of the NIAID-Sponsored Expert Panel Report. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2010 Dec;126(6):1105-18. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2010.10.008. PubMed PMID: 21134568; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4241958.
11. Dossier – Scientific Basis of the ALCAT Test.
12. Allergy UK. Retrieved from file:///C:/Users/chanc/Downloads/Food_Intolerance_original.pdf