Food Allergies, explained.

Food allergies are not as cut-and-dry as one would imagine. Many terms, such as allergy, intolerance, and sensitivity, are used today, sometimes interchangeably.

Food allergies are not as cut-and-dry as one would imagine. Many terms, such as allergy, intolerance, and sensitivity, are used today, sometimes interchangeably.

Dr. Heintze, will be launching the Food Allergy Formula in a few weeks. To learn more, click here!

Food allergy:

By definition, a food allergy involves the immune system. The body mistakes certain foods as foreign, and the immune system responds to clear the food out of the system by producing antibodies—immunoglobulins known as IgE, IgG, and IgA. An IgE-mediated reaction is a more immediate hypersensitivity reaction because it causes the release of histamine in response to exposure to an allergenic particle. Symptoms are often immediate, appearing from within minutes to hours later. The IgE response is considered a type I hypersensitivity reaction (Verhoeckx, 2015), and it produces anaphylactic-type reactions: hives, swelling of face or throat, and trouble breathing. Think of this as the classic peanut allergy. Someone who is allergic to peanuts or peanut products needs to strictly avoid them as they will have an immediate and severe reaction that requires quick use of antihistamines or urgent care.

Another type of food allergy response, non-IgE-mediated, involves IgG, a different set of antibodies. An IgG food allergy results in a delayed hypersensitivity reaction; symptoms may appear hours or days after the food is consumed. This delayed reaction can also result in an inflammatory cascade that leads to many other symptoms, including overall inflammation, joint pain, skin issues, fatigue, and even chronic headaches. The trigger in IgG-mediated reactions might be particles of food that, when they enter the bloodstream, provoke a cascade of immune responses, even though there is a delay in symptom presentation.

IgA-mediated reactions, like IgG, are also delayed reactions and are associated with celiac disease. One result from an IgA-mediated immune reaction that is specific to celiac disease is the skin disorder dermatitis herpetiformis, a skin eruption from IgA deposits that results from a sensitivity to gluten. The person may have no digestive issues but presents with this particular lesion (Sicherer, 1999). A strict gluten-free diet is the main treatment for confirmed diagnosis of IgA-mediated dermatitis herpetiformis (Antiga, 2015).

Food intolerance:

Food intolerance involves the digestive system. Food intolerances are considered nonallergic food hypersensitivities and are non-IgE-mediated, meaning they are not associated with anaphylaxis. Sometimes eating certain foods can cause delayed digestive symptoms and other conditions, such as headache, rhinitis, gallbladder issues, and joint stiffness (Sicherer, 1999). These symptoms are often the result of the body lacking the ability to break down food components in digestion. A common example is lactose intolerance. Someone who is lactose intolerant lacks the enzyme lactase, which is needed to digest lactose.

Other food intolerances do not involve an enzyme deficiency. Gluten intolerance, for example, often elicits an immune reaction, and in the case of celiac disease, an autoimmune reaction.

Tyramine is another example of a food intolerance. Tyramine is an amino acid derivative of tyrosine, which is commonly found in aged meats and cheeses that the body converts to tyramine. Tyramine-sensitive individuals may react to fermented products, chocolate, red wine, processed meats, and yeast. There is a strong correlation between people with tyramine intolerance and those who have migraines. Tyramine is known to be a vasoactive compound, meaning it can cause changes in blood vessel tone and could be the mechanism that causes migraines. If a person is sensitive to tyramine-containing foods, they may not be able to neutralize the amino acid before their body absorbs it. The unneutralized tyramine gets into the blood and circulates into the brain, leading to migraine pain and inflammation (Sensenig, 2001; Sinclair, 1999).

Food sensitivity:

In contrast to allergy and intolerance, food sensitivity is a more broad term often used by people who inherently know a certain food is bothering them and they feel better not eating that specific food, but after food allergy labs are run, everything appears normal. This phenomenon often occurs with gluten. A new classification called non-celiac gluten sensitivity refers to those who do not have celiac disease but have symptoms after ingesting gluten and whose symptoms improve after eliminating it (Elli, 2015).

How do these immune reactions to food proteins occur?

A susceptible person may be exposed to a food protein, either by eating, skin contact, or inhalation, and become sensitized to it. Upon further exposure, the immune system may induce an allergic reaction to the food particle, leading to inflammation, and acute or delayed symptoms may result. Think of it as immune cells being constantly on guard in the bloodstream and on the lookout for proteins or bacteria that don’t belong there. If the immune system sees something that it considers foreign, it will tag it and work to clear it out of the system. The next time this particle enters the bloodstream, the immune system will act quickly to identify it as foreign and remove it, and in the process inflammation occurs.

What causes the particles to get into the bloodstream?

According to research studies, a direct link exists between leaky gut—intestinal permeability—and food allergies (Chen, 2014). The digestive tract lining is really only one cell thick, and if it is inflamed or the bonds holding the cells together are compromised, when food is digested, particles that should not get through the intestinal cells do, and thus enter the bloodstream, leading to the development of food allergies (Verhoeckx, 2015). Increased leaky gut is associated with development of food allergies, diabetes, and celiac disease (Chen, 2014).

What are the most common food allergies?

Foods commonly identified as allergies include milk/dairy, eggs, peanuts, soy, wheat and gluten grains, fish, and legumes (Sicherer, 1999).

Knowing about any food triggers will allow you set a specific dietary plan with your doctor and put you in control not only of the treatment but also the prevention of migraine headaches.


Dr. Heintze, will be launching the Food Allergy Formula in a few weeks. To learn more, click here!

Dr. Ellie Heintze, ND, LAc, is a naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist specializing in IBS, migraine relief, and digestive health. For more information about the clinic, visit:



Antiga, E. e. (2015). The diagnosis and treatment of dermatitis herpetiformis. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol , 8, 257-65.

Chen T., e. a. (2014). Food allergens affect the intestinal tight junction permeability in inducing intestinal food allergy in rats. Asian Pac J Allergy Immunol , 32, 345-353.

Elli, L. e. (2015). Non-celiac gluten sensitivity: Time for sifting the grain. World J Gastroenterol , 21 (27), 8221-8226.

Sicherer SH., e. a. (1999). Manifestations of food allergy: evaluation and management. Am Fam Physician , 59 (2), 429-430.

Sinclair, S. e. (1999). Migraine headaches: nutritional, botanical, and other alternative approaches. Altern Med Rev , 4 (2), 86-95.

Verhoeckx, K. e. (2015). Food Processing and Allergenicity. Food and Chemical Toxicology , 80, 223-240.

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Dr. Ellie Heintze, ND, LAc

  • Master’s Degree in Acupuncture
    Bastyr University
  • Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine
    Bastyr University
  • Master’s Degree in Chemistry
    Northern Arizona University
Dr. Heintze Acupuncturist and Naturopathic Doctor

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