Difference between Allergy, Sensitivity & Intolerance

Published: 23rd September 2009
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What's the difference between allergy, sensitivity, and intolerance? There's a lot of confusion about these terms, and the whole subject is confusing enough without that. The "correct" meaning of each of these terms is as follows:

• Allergy: This term is used by medical allergists to denote those body reactions which involve the entire immune system, in particular the IgE (immuno-globulin, type E) reaction.

• Sensitivity: This term is used by environmental ecologists, scientists, and many medical allergists to denote somewhat different body reactions (mostly white blood cell actions) which often do not involve IgE, and other parts of the immune system. (IgG reactions are often used.)

• Intolerance: This term refers to a food intolerance, which is characterized by a missing enzyme that is needed to digest a particular food. Familiar examples include the enzyme "lactase" which is necessary to digest milk products, and the enzyme needed to digest beans. Both cause intestinal problems, mostly gas from the fermentation of the food instead of digestion. Since intolerance is not a true problem involving allergens, we'll stop with the definition here.

The first two - allergy and sensitivity - are very similar in their effects. Either or both can cause virtually any symptom known to man. A partial list of known allergy/sensitivity symptoms is as follows:

• Head: Headache, neck ache, fullness, pressure or tightness in the head, dizziness, imbalance, vertigo, blackout. Sneezing, runny or stuffy nose; puffy, watery, or itchy eyes, blurred vision, excessive mucous formation; ringing, popping or fullness in the ears, fluid in the middle ear, earache, hearing loss; sore throat, hoarse, weak voice, gagging, itching in the roof of the mouth, difficulty swallowing, canker sores, excessive thirst, frequent yawning, sinusitis, increased sensitivity to light & sound.

• Chest: Coughing, wheezing, reduced air flow, tight congested feeling in the chest, shortness of breath, chest pain, rapid pulse, palpitations, heart irregularities, sudden changes in blood pressure.

• Stomach: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, bloating after meals, belching, passing gas, feeling of fullness in the stomach long after finishing a meal, abdominal pains or cramps.

• Skin: Hives, rashes, eczema, itching, sweating, flushing, chilly, cold or hot flashes.

• General: Faintness, clumsiness, excessive drowsiness or sleepiness soon after eating, muscle pains, cramps, spasms, weakness, twitching, jerking, or tics, joint aches, warmth, or redness, backache, neuralgia, swelling of the hands or feet, urinary frequency or urgency, vaginal itching, excessive hunger or binge eating.

• Mental: Schizophrenia, depression, hyperactivity (ADD/ADHD), Emotional instability or hypersensitivity, Insomnia, Chronic fatigue, crying jags, stuttering, excessive daydreaming, anxiety, panic attacks, withdrawn, listless, seizures, aggressive behavior, anger, irritability, silly, tense, restless, excited, agitated, behavior problems in children, difficulty concentrating, memory loss, poor comprehension, confusion, impaired attention, obsessive thoughts, compulsive behavior, feelings of unreality, disorientation, false beliefs or delusions, hallucinations, suicidal, feel like hurting self.

NOTE that all of the above "brain problems" may be caused by allergy or sensitivity. This is a very important point in understanding solutions to "brain problems". As a matter of fact, since the unconscious mind controls the physical body, (including the immune system) all of the above "symptoms" could be thought of as brain controlled. This leads to possible cures using the unconscious mind. This explains the success of both the Bate Auditory Training system and EEG Biofeedback, (AKA Neurofeedback), as well as hypnosis. All are methods that have been used for brain training.

A lot of the confusion comes from medical allergists not being up-to-date on testing methods of sensitivity. Many are still using the obsolete "scratch" test. Others are using the newer RAST (Radio-AllogoSorbent Test). Although the scratch test will sometimes show food sensitivities as well as direct food allergies, it is often confusing to these professionals. The RAST test only tests IgE, and most food/chemical sensitivities do not show up on this test at all.

It is generally considered by "experts" in allergy that the "scratch" test is only 75% accurate, the RAST test is about 85% accurate on allergies and 20% accurate on sensitivities, and other tests for sensitivities are about 80% accurate. Both false negative and false positives are seen on all tests.

There's another very important difference between allergy and sensitivity. A food or chemical sensitivity will literally "die down" and no longer cause symptoms if the food or chemical is abstained from for a period of 3-6 months, and only ingested once a week or so from then on. Allergies do NOT die down, but are usually a lifelong problem for the sufferer.

As an example, I am sensitive to both soy and peanuts, and allergic to ragweed. Soy caused pain in my left arm like tennis elbow, bursitis, and neuralgia. Peanuts cause rheumatoid arthritis in my hands. Ragweed causes rhinitis (hay fever). Living in Florida, I'm not bothered by ragweed as much as I was in NJ as a boy. Sure, if the ragweed pollen is high, I may sneeze a few times, but no real problem. I can generally ignore it.

Peanuts and soy are different, as both cause real pain. I have to be careful about eating any foods which contain either. As long as I am that careful, I am free of both "symptoms". I can even eat a peanut butter sandwich once a week without a problem. But, if I should eat two of these within a few days, my hands would be painful and cramped. Before I found the problem, my hands were really crippled up, and my wife and I were sailing around the Caribbean at the time in a sailboat that required rope handling, etc.

There are many tests used by different allergists and orthomolecular or environmental ecologists. These are as follows:

• RAST - as explained above - this is used by most progressive allergist MD's today. But, since it doesn't show up sensitivities well, many allergists just ignore them.

• Scratch - This is also used by many allergists but is considered to be obsolete by most scientific observers. It does show some sensitivities but is difficult to interpret.

• EPT - The End-point-Titration test is perhaps the most accurate of all tests, and it shows both allergy and sensitivity. It does not distinguish between them, and it has the advantage of not only the most accurate testing method, but it also creates the "correct" dosage for "corrective shots" as it tests.

• Cytotoxic Test - This is a test for food and chemical sensitivities, and it also shows up food/chemical allergies, but not as clearly, and like the EPT test, it does not distinguish between them. It is now considered somewhat outdated and replaced by the ALCAT test below. I did use it in my practice however with good results.

• ALCAT - this test is an advance over the above cytotoxic test, and it uses a similar method of observing white blood cells, but it is much improved with better accuracy. IgG - There are some facilities that test for IgG in much the same way as the RAST test does for IgE. This is supposed to find food/chemical sensitivities. I do not personally know enough about this technique to have an opinion about it.

• Caveman Diet & Pulse Testing - This has one huge advantage over all the above. IT'S FREE! Download this info at:


While working in a top allergy lab in the early 80's, I coined the First Law of Allergy/Sensitivity: "There are no laws". I later modified this to include "There are only a few guidelines". Some time later, I coined another "law" for allergy/sensitivity: "Anything Can Cause Anything!"

Various Allergy Cure Techniques

First, and most difficult, find out just what is causing each symptom. Use any or all of the allergy testing methods outlined above, or found in my shareware book The Health Revolution". In the Appendix section of my book, there are several very helpful allergy questionnaires (devised by Dr. Marshall Mandell), and several lists of common foods that are often allergenic.

On the Resource pages, there are sources for more info, including cross-reactivity, and food families. This "finding" is the most difficult part as it involves a lot of detective work, keeping a food and environment diary, and self-testing.

Ok, now you've found that you're allergic (or sensitive), what are your options to get rid of the symptoms produced by whatever is causing them? Actually, there are several options, although some may or may not work for you as an individual. My first rule of allergy (and sensitivity) is:

THERE ARE NO RULES. There are some guidelines, but remember that "anything can cause anything".

Here are some of the options for actually getting rid of allergy/sensitivity symptoms:

1. Avoidance of foods/environment/chemicals causing symptoms.

2. Subliminal Training

3. Shots derived from EPT (End Point Titration).

4. Sub-lingual dosing derived from EPT.

5. Chiropractic (including NAET).

6. Acupuncture.

7. Traditional shots from an MD allergist

8. Homeopathy.

Avoidance is OK when you are dealing with specific food allergy/sensitivity such as shellfish, or peanuts, but very difficult if the foods are common such as wheat or corn, or it's an environmental allergy.

For brain problems in particular, I recommend Subliminal Training. I proved that this somehow changes the brain reaction to some allergens. This theory of mine was shown to be correct in tests in 2004. Since it is the least expensive of all clinical solutions, it should be tried first. If it works, you've saved a lot of money.

EPT derived shots are much more accurate, but even they can change with time in individuals, so re-testing is necessary, and it can get very expensive. If money is no object, this is the best at present in my opinion. Some individuals are "cured" completely with these - others may have to be on shots for many years or even forever in some cases.

The same for sub-lingual doses. The only difference is that no shots are needed. Dr Doris Rapp has gotten excellent results over many years in treating ADD and even autistic children this way. (Check for her books in your library reference section).

Traditional allergy shots are very inaccurate, ranging from about 50% effective to much less. They work best at making money for the allergists pocket in general.

Chiropractors have claimed for years that allergies can be cured by spinal manipulation, and certainly, they have lots of case histories to prove that claim. The latest NAET technique seems to have some good success rates although I have no personal knowledge of it.

My problem with chiropractors (and psychologists/psychiatrists) is that they are trained to keep clients coming back and back even when there is no longer a need (except the doctor's bank account). There are good and bad in every profession.

Acupuncture does work , as least for food sensitivities, as I can personally testify, BUT, (why is there always a "but"?) if you continue eating the same foods too often, the symptoms will reoccur. This happened to me. The acupuncture worked for six years for soy, but returned recently (in the other arm - isn't that curious?).

Hypnosis and Subliminal Training may seem pretty far out, but actually both do work pretty well for at least some, if not most, people. Again, the results are individual. In my practice, I have had great success in treating asthmatic children with my Relaxation Technique. I do not believe that the allergy "trigger" was "cured", but the symptom of asthma was "disconnected" from it successfully. In recent experiments with dozens of volunteers suffering with many allergies as well as many different "brain problems", over 75% reported dramatic lessening of symptoms from ADD to depression, and virtually 100% "cure" of Insomnia and other sleep problems of all types. If we remember that allergies/sensitivities are products of our immune system, and that system is controlled by our unconscious mind, why shouldn't subliminal Training and even hypnosis be very effective? It is certainly a conduit to that unconscious mind of sorts, and can be effective.

Homeopathy can also be effective. I saw many allergy/sensitivity "cures" done by Dr Fred Yost of Stuart Florida some years ago. The problem is that he was one of the best, and there are few in this country that actually get their remedies from Germany as he did, so I cannot comment on their efficiency in allergy work.

Those are some of the current options. There's always snake oil and other similar cures that use the placebo effect as well, and perhaps that's why most of these above work so well when they do. Which will be most effective for you individually depends on your individual case, where you live, what you eat, what you do for a living, how much money you have, and many many more variables.

To really get well again, YOU are going to have to work hard, and do some research on your own. No doctor knows your body like you do (or can at least). In the long run, your better health is really up to you.

Tough cookies, but that's how it is. I hope this helps you to do it.

Good luck,

Phil Bate PhD.

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