An estimated 15 million people in the US have food allergies, ranging from mild sensitivity through to life-threatening conditions. A true food allergy causes an immediate reaction with symptoms like anaphylaxis, difficulty breathing, swelling, hives, and digestive trouble, while food sensitivity reactions can be delayed for up to two days after eating a food and can cause the symptoms listed below.

Because of this delayed reaction, many people are completely unaware that they have a sensitivity at all, and may put up with troublesome symptoms for years. However, once a sensitivity has been diagnosed and appropriate dietary changes have been made, many patients are amazed at how much better they feel. If you’ve noticed any of the following symptoms, it could be possible that you’re putting up with an undiagnosed food sensitivity.

Food sensitivity1. Bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation

Perhaps some of the most common and noticeable signs of a food sensitivity is digestive issues. If you have very irregular stools or painful bloating on a frequent basis, food sensitivity is one of the first things you would work with your doctor to try to rule out.

2. Fatigue

If your meals tend to make you feel sluggish and low in energy, it could be a sign of sensitivity. Food should fuel your body and help you stay energized, so if it is doing the opposite there may be a problem.

3. Joint pain

Consumption of food that the body is sensitive to can trigger inflammation, not just in the gut but throughout the body. When inflammation occurs in the tissues around joints, it can make them feel painful, achy and stiff. Painful joints are often written off as a sign of getting older or of arthritis, but if you’re experiencing it alongside other symptoms of food sensitivity, it’s likely that a change in diet could remedy it.

4. Skin problems

Food sensitivity frequently causes flare-ups of inflammatory skin conditions such as acne, rosacea, eczema and psoriasis. You might also notice your skin gets dry or itchy, or that you develop dark circles underneath the eyes, despite being well-rested.

5. Migraines

Some food intolerances show themselves in the form of painful migraines, which may not occur until several hours after consuming the food you’re sensitive to. It’s important to know the difference between a migraine and just a regular headache; migraines tend to cause very intense, almost unbearable pain, sometimes combined with nausea, blurred vision and sensitivity to noise and light.

6. Food cravings

Believe it or not, even if your body doesn’t react well to certain foods you may experience intense cravings for those very same foods. This can make it particularly difficult to eliminate foods from your diet once you’ve been diagnosed with an intolerance. Don’t worry though – cravings usually subside within a few days.

7. Shortness of breath

It’s not uncommon for food sensitivity to cause respiratory issues, much like those experienced from pollen allergies. You might find yourself with a blocked nose or runny eyes which make it difficult to breathe, or you could experience shortness of breath much like asthma. For some people who have already been diagnosed with asthma, certain foods may stimulate an asthma attack or temporarily make their symptoms worse.

I’m showing signs of food sensitivity – what’s next?

If you experience any of these symptoms on a regular basis, book an appointment with your doctor. They will be able to perform blood tests and skin prick tests to help identify the sensitivity. It might also be helpful for you to keep a diary of your food intake and symptoms, so that together you and your doctor can pinpoint foods which cause you problems. Once you have a better idea of the foods you’re sensitive to, your doctor will help you to adopt a new diet that will optimize your health and keep uncomfortable symptoms at bay.