Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between food sensitivities, food intolerances and food allergies?

First of all, all of them can make you feel terrible.  All of them can involve your immune system.  All of the symptoms can be controlled by avoiding the foods which make you react.

Food Allergies

These reactions are mediated by the IgE antibodies (a type of white blood cells).  These can cause anaphylaxis.  The protein in the food is what causes these reactions.  However the form of the food may affect if a reaction is precipitated.  For example some children who are egg allergic, are able to eat baked eggs.  My son reacts to raw carrots, but not cooked.

Food Sensitivities

These reactions can also be immune mediated, but they are not IgE mediated – other antibodies like IgG are involved.  Brain fog, lethargy/fatigue, nasal congestion, migraines/headaches, bloating, irritability, digestive tract difficulties, etc.  Food sensitivities often trigger inflammation.  These are can be delayed by as much as 48 hours. Food sensitivities often travel together.  This makes sense because once the immune system is stimulated, it is easy for it to over-react to other stimuli.  The good news is that after the immune system calms down (and often after the gut is healed), people with food sensitivities may be able to handle small amounts of the offending food.  This is NOT true of people with food allergies.

Food Intolerances

Usually an intolerance is caused by the lack of an enzyme, often a digestive enzyme.  For example, lactose intolerance is caused by a lack of the enzyme lactase which digests lactose, the primary sugar in milk.  Usually  lactose intolerance is permanent. However the bacteria that live in your gut are able to digest a small amount of lactose,  So if you gradually add milk to your diet, you may able to tolerate small amounts.  The diarrhea, bloating, cramps are caused by too much lactose finding its way into your large intestine.  The bacteria that live there throw a party (Woo Hoo – lactose – party!) and start feasting on lactose.  The resulting gas and acid cause all those digestive symptoms.  This is a very different type of reaction where the immune system is not involved.  (It does not mean it is not painful!)

The Differences

When someone is allergic to milk protein they may have an allergic reaction which could result in hives, trouble breathing, vomiting or anaphylaxis.  If someone is sensitive to milk, they may have fatigue or bloating after eating milk.  If someone is lactose intolerant, they may have diarrhea and abdominal gas after consuming milk.  However this person may be able to consume a hard, aged cheese (like Parmesan) or yogurt  both of which reduce the lactose in their production.

An allergic person cannot eat either of these because they are reactive to the milk protein. After reading this question, you know more than most of the American population.  The term “allergic” is used by many people whether or not it is an actual allergy.  It may be an intolerance or a sensitivity and not a true allergy. (FYI, Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease, not an allergy.  It is not IgE mediated, but the immune system is involved.  Wheat allergy is IgE mediated.)

What if my family’s sensitivities are different than yours?  How can I use your recipes?

I have modified most of these recipes to fit our sensitive and you can modifiy them to meet yours!  Many things are easy to modify – for example if you are gluten-free, in Blueberry Ricotta Cake, try King Arthur Flour’s Measure for Measure flour and proceed with the recipe as usual.  Many recipes calling for milk can use a milk substitute (almond, soy, oat, rice milk).  Check out my recipe modification tab as well as individual podcast episodes and recipes for suggestions.

What do you mean by whole foods?

I mean foods that are close to the state in which they were grown.  For example frozen plain spinach vs frozen, creamed spinach, raw potatoes vs frozen French fries, shredded wheat vs Froot Loops – etc etc.  I do not mean that the food cannot be processed – technically pre-washed spinach in a bag is “processed”!  I am not against processed foods.  Just be sure to read the labels to avoid those “reactive” ingredients and be careful how much fat, salt and sugar is added.

Why will eating more whole foods benefit everyone?  What is your nutrition philosophy?

I believe that there are many ways to eat a healthy diet.  I focus on eating more whole foods including:  fruit, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and dairy.  I believe most people can fit their favorite foods into a healthy diet.  Eating is about pleasure and community as well as providing the nutrients our bodies need.  I encourage families to enjoy healthy food together.  Special emphasis here is to give food-sensitive families the tools and skills to ensure every member feels good after eating.

Why do you keep recommending more fruits and vegetables?

It is hard to overstate the benefits of fruits and vegetables in your diet.  They are rich in vitamins and minerals, phytochemicals (plant chemicals that occur naturally which have positive health benefits), fiber and are low in fat, sodium, and calories.  Every fruit and vegetable is different so not all fit every statement above.  Most of the benefits of eating a plant based diet come from eating more fruits and vegetables.

The data is very clear that the more fruits and vegetables you eat, the lower your rates of cancer (and other chronic diseases) EVEN if they are not organic.  The myth is that only organic fruits and vegetables are good for you is a lie.  The studies were clear that eating more fruits and vegetables has health benefits – so eat them.  There may be some benefits to some organic, but the good nutrients and phytochemicals in “conventional” fruits and vegetables far outweigh the risks of pesticides.  The true crime of the organic movement is that many people now believe that only organic fruits and vegetables offer benefits.  This is NOT true.  But many people believe it so that they have reduced their fruit and vegetable intake because they cannot afford organic (me either for the amount my family eats!!) or they can only afford a small amount of organic   You need to eat MORE fruits and vegetables.  Then if you budget will allow, consider eating some organic.  Remember that organic does NOT mean no pesticides – just certain ones are allowed.

Do you develop your own recipes?

I have developed some of the the recipes you will find here.  I usually begin with a recipe and modify it.  Sometimes it is modified so much that it becomes my own.  Sometimes I do not modify it  at all – well hardly at all.  Then you will find a references and/or a link.

Why do your recipe pictures not look like others on pinterest, etc?

A couple of words about the food and pictures you will find here.  The pictures on my website are pictures I have taken of real food that my family has eaten.  I do not style food and throw it away just to make it look pretty.  Usually my pictures are taken on the fly as the food is hot and it is time for us to eat! Yum!

I like what I see – where can I get more?

Hooray!  I love to share recipes and substitutions that have worked to feed my family delicious food!  Please listen to the podcast, The Sensitive Kitchen, and subscribe!  Take my Cooking Framework Quiz and join my email community so I can send you recipes and other helpful information.  The Kitchen Table, a private membership community, will be opening for Founding Members this spring.  It will help you find meals that your family  loves so you can save time and money on this food adventure.  Monthly challenges will keep you motivated and inspired.  Please let me know if you might be interested (this is just interest – no commitment!!?).  And my course, Cooking to Flourish:  Meals Your Food Sensitive Family Enjoys  will help you test and create a customized plan for your food sensitive family.

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