Food Sensitivities & IBS

Food sensitivities are a hot topic these days but should you be concerned about them if you have IBS?

The short answer is yes.

With any chronic symptoms, whether they be IBS symptoms like gas and bloating, headaches or skin issues like eczema, food sensitivities should always be always be considered.

What is a food sensitivity?

The term food sensitivity is a catch-all phrase for any food that causes a negative reaction. While there are many ways to be sensitive to a food, this should not be confused with potentially life-threatening allergic reactions (anaphylaxis). 

What are the symptoms of a food sensitivity?

Just as there are many ways to be sensitive to a food, there are many ways that a sensitivity will show itself. The more common symptoms that can occur are:

  • Digestive issues like gas, bloating, constipation and/or diarrhoea
  • Headaches, migraines
  • Skin issues like eczema, psoriasis
  • Stuffy nose
  • Itchy eyes
  • Itchy skin
  • Joint pain, swelling
  • Pain or tenderness in the abdomen

What are the different types of food sensitivities?

IgG Sensitivities

are the type of sensitivity that most people refer to with the term “food sensitivity”.  IgG is a type of antibody that forms immune complexes that can travel throughout the blood and show up in various sites in the body. IgG sensitivities are more commonly seen in those with IBS than without due to the dysbiosis factor of IBS: the pathogenic microbes involved in a dysbiotic gut cause damage to the gut lining. The gut lining can then become permeable, allowing large protein molecules (from food) to escape into the bloodstream. This is referred to as “leaky gut”. Large protein molecules that pass into the bloodstream get the immune system all jacked up and ready to fight the perceived invader.

The most common IgG sensitivities are gluten, dairy, corn, eggs, soy and peanuts, though I am seeing almond sensitivities more and more. IgG sensitivities can be tested for via blood test.

Histamine Intolerance

occurs when one lacks the enzyme that breaks down ingested histamine. Certain foods are naturally high in histamine: spinach, fermented foods, aged meats, bone broth and canned fish. Symptoms of histamine intolerance include headaches, bloating, cramping, insomnia, itching and allergies. Citrus foods can aggravate symptoms as they encourage the release of histamine.


are natural plant substances which can help the plant defend itself against bacteria, fungi and other pests. Some people are sensitive to the small amount of salicylate in foods such as nightshade vegetables, radish, zucchini, berries, avocado, coconut and olive oils. Symptoms of a salicylate include itching, stomach pain/nausea, headaches, puffy or burning eyes and sinus congestion.

Carbohydrate Malabsorption

occurs when one lacks the enzyme to break down certain carbohydrates, thus causing GI distress with lots of gas and bloating. Lactose intolerance is the most commonly known carbohydrate malabsorption scenario though fructose malabsorption is fairly common as well. Carbohydrate malabsorption can be tested via a breath test.

FODMAP Sensitivity

FODMAPs are a group of carbohydrate molecules that some people with IBS aren’t able to digest properly. When eaten, they pass through the small intestine unbroken down and draw water into the intestines: thus causing gas, bloating constipation and/or diarrhoea. Since FODMAPs are found in all carbohydrates and impossible to remove completely, we use the Low FODMAP diet to find out which high FOMDAP foods you do and don’t tolerate. The Low FODMAP diet was a game changer for me and I’m a huge proponent of it.

Knowing your food sensitivities are an important part of gaining control over IBS symptoms. Besides the blood test for IgG sensitivities, an elimination diet is the best way to find out what foods you are sensitive to. An elimination diet is just as it sounds: eliminating a set of foods for a period of two to six weeks or until symptoms go away. At that point, you introduce the foods strategically one at a time to see which ones cause symptoms. A word of caution: don’t try to eliminate all potential sensitivities at once! Meaning, don’t try to avoid all the common IgG sensitivities, salicylates, FODMAPs AND high histamine foods- you’ll be living on air at that point.

Need help discovering your food sensitivities?



  1. […] intestinal permeability (leaky gut), dysbiosis, a jacked up immune system- the likelihood of food sensitivities, inability to digest certain foods and reactions such as gas and bloating is greatly increased. […]

  2. […] intestinal permeability (leaky gut), dysbiosis, a jacked up immune system- the likelihood of food sensitivities, inability to digest certain foods and reactions such as gas and bloating is greatly […]

  3. […] Food sensitivities are a popular topic in the natural health blogosphere. A cursory look through a Google search on this will lead you to believe that we are all sensitive to dairy and gluten. Not everyone has food sensitivities. That said, those who have chronic GI issues such as bloating, are more likely to have a food sensitivity than someone with excellent gut health. […]

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