Food allergies are a common cause of poor health and frustrating symptoms. You have probably heard of food allergies and the many health issues they can create; from digestion issues, mental health problems, autoimmunity…the list goes on.  There are actually 2 separate food issues when it comes to diet and the immune system; food allergy and food sensitivity.

Food Allergy vs Food Sensitivity 

Both food allergies and sensitivities trigger the immune system and lead to health problems. Many more people have food sensitivities than true allergies to food.

We test for both in our Naperville office using blood tests because they both provide useful information when creating an immune-friendly diet plan. If you have been to an allergist for food testing, they were most likely testing for food allergies…not sensitivities. The problem with only testing for allergies is that sensitivities and not identified and most people are actually struggling with food sensitivities…NOT food allergies.

Even if you have symptoms associated with an “allergy” like runny nose, itchy eyes or skin…your allergy tests could be negative. I have yet to find a patient who has allergy symptoms and a negative food sensitivity test. A “negative” test means you did not have any foods come up as being a problem. This is because BOTH food allergies and food sensitivities trigger an inappropriate and exaggerated immune response…which by the way is the definition of an allergy.

Food Allergy and Sensitivity Diets

Another common mistake I find is that people have a food sensitivity test performed and they are instructed to only avoid the foods that come up as “positive”…problem foods. This is not the best way to use the test results. The doctor who is evaluating the test results should be looking at HOW THOSE FOODS ARE RELATED. Many people see their test results and it just looks like a bunch of random foods. In most cases there is a pattern and relationship to these troublesome foods. Without the knowledge of how these foods are related, there will be huge gaps in the diet recommendations. Most people are not getting the most out of their food test results because interpretation of the results were lacking. This is why it is very important to have the guidance of a functional medicine doctor who understands food testing, what the results mean and finally recommend a diet plan that will result in positive changes and increased health. After 19 years of working with patients and seeing test results they bring in from other doctors, I have yet to see a doctor recommend anything other than to remove or rotate only the foods that came up as positive.

Some patients will improve from this approach but many never got the benefit they could have received if the results were interpreted properly. I do not blame these doctors because that is how we were taught to interpret these tests; it is not just the BEST way.

When it comes to food allergy / sensitivity diet plans it is important to make sure that all of the offending foods are removed from the diet, at least temporarily. This ties directly into another problem I often encounter with people who have tried elimination diets.

Have you tried an elimination diet?

Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t…WHY? The idea behind an elimination diet is to remove all possible offending foods and then reintroduce foods back into the diet, noting any adverse response. Here is the problem I often see with elimination diets…where to start? What I mean is, what foods are you going to begin with that are considered “safe.” For this process to work, you would need to begin with foods that you are absolutely sure you won’t have a reaction to. My question is what are those foods? What are the “safe” foods for everyone? 

  • Are nuts ok?
  • Is spinach ok?
  • Are fermented foods ok?
  • Is tuna ok?
  • Is rice ok?
  • Are gluten-free oats ok?

I have found that many “healthy” foods are NOT ok for many people when starting an elimination diet. If your starting point on an elimination diet contains foods that are NOT good for your immune system, then you did not start from a “clean space” with your diet. If you started with bad, foods how will you be able to monitor your response and reactions to the foods your reintroduce?  This is where food testing can be very useful! It can help you find your “clean space” to start from.

When working with food allergies or sensitivities, you need to get to a “clean space” to work from. This will reduce inflammation in your digestive tract (and you whole body); so that healing can occur. Once this has been accomplished most foods can be introduce back into the diet without adverse reactions.

If you suspect food allergies or sensitivities are contributing to your health issues or if you just don’t know what to eat; food testing can be a great place to start.

If want to restore your health, you need information about the state of your body and how well it is functioning now…not how it was functioning 5 or 10 years ago…right now. Now is your starting point.

I wish you success on your quest for health!

If you would like more information about functional medicine and integrative medicine or Dr. Sexton go to

Do your own research, inform yourself and ask lots of questions. When collecting information, you MUST consider the source. There is no shortage of false, misleading, outdated, profit-driven and utterly biased information in healthcare today; even from the most respected sources and organizations.

This approach to healthcare is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, mitigate, or prevent any disease. Why? The FDA enforces its position that these words can only be used with drugs. This approach does not use drugs.