Whilst itchy skin can be caused by a variety of complaints, one of the most common is a food allergy or a food sensitivity. For some reason it can be isolated to one place and not really that noticeable, but if it develops into a rash and spreads all over the body, it will show visible proof that the skin is in some trouble.
In most cases there is a simple reason for it, but there are cases where the itching is caused by an underlying, more serious condition, such as diabetes, thyroid issues and certain liver diseases, all of which need more immediate and long-term attention.
Some reasons for itchy skin are troublesome and but can be cleared up easily by simply stopping using a product, or some may take longer:
- Bites (insects)
- Lotions, creams, make up, anything you put on your body
- Bed bugs
- Forms of eczema and dermatitis
- Stomach issues such as pain, diarrhoea/constipation
These can be mild or more severe but can be easily cured or treated. In the case of dermatitis, this can be caused by something touching your skin, such as jewellery or chemicals. This is called ‘contact dermatitis’. Some serious forms of eczema and dermatitis can be long term, especially the latter.
Food sensitivities can take longer to discern particularly using the elimination process, but please don’t mix up allergies with sensitivities, which a lot of people actually do. The difference between the two is quite vast. It is important to recognise allergies promptly, as they are potentially life-threatening. (Please read our article on the differences between allergies and sensitivities/intolerances).
Classic Signs of Food Sensitivity
You may experience the following, although some of them, of course, occur for different reasons as well.
- Facial swelling of the tongue, lips, eyelids and also the feet and hands
- Headaches, migraines
- Nausea, vomiting
- Sneezing or coughing (respiratory issues), wheezing
- Stomach problems – bloating, acid reflux,
- Diarrhoea or constipation
Top Nine Most Common Food Sensitivities and Intolerances
Cow’s Milk, Cheese and Whey Protein
Of all the most common food sensitivities, cow’s milk is often the most problematic foods that trigger a reaction. This includes milk itself as well as milk ingredients, which are found in a number of products like chocolate energy bars, soups, milk chocolate and more. Yoghurt seems to be less problematic.
A dairy-sensitivity or intolerance can lead to a vast range of symptoms including fatigue, bloating, digestive upset, acne, eczema, and even sinus.
After dairy, wheat and other gluten-containing grains are some of the most common food sensitivities experienced. Gluten is a protein that’s found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley. Oats may also contain gluten, but you can purchase oats that are certified gluten-free.
Gluten is difficult for our digestive system to break down and it’s a common trigger for our immune system. There may be genetic susceptibility in regard to whether or not an individual is sensitive to wheat and other gluten-containing grains, and there is a definitive genetic association in cases of celiac disease (1). As with other foods on this list, gluten is not an issue for everyone! It’s important for you to identify specifically how your body is reacting to all of these foods.
Wheat and gluten are one of the most common food sensitivities, as the digestive system finds them hard to break down. Other grains (such as rice and quinoa can also cause sensitivity UNLESS you opt for the ‘Certified Gluten Free’ versions.
Eggs are one of the most common food sensitivities and food allergies. It can be both yolk and white, or either one separately (bit of a dilemma). Try eating them separately if you feel it could be eggs causing the problem. Potentially, from an egg intolerance, the symptoms are worse.
Look at all corn products, not just sweetcorn. Cornflour, corn starch and corn syrup are regularly used in unusual products, so check packets for any declarations.
Corn is one of the most common food sensitivities and intolerances and reacts in many of the listed ways.
Fermented soy should be fine, but items such as soya milk and tofu can cause a reaction. Such intolerances are due to a high level of soy protein, which when fermented is broken down. Check out fermented soy products and you may be able to tolerate them. (Examples: miso, tempeh)
Legumes include items such as peas, beans, lentils and peanuts.
These are one of the most common food intolerances. May not be a problem for some but can be very dangerous for others if for instance, you have an allergy rather than an intolerance to peanuts.
(Other) Nuts – Especially Almonds, Cashews and Pistachios
Known as tree nuts, they are another common food sensitivity.
A little bit surprising, they are supposed to be healthy with so much Vitamin C. But these juicy fruits can cause inflammation to certain people, and it is more common than people realise.
Included in this group of foods are vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and aubergines. Again, a little confusing particularly if you are an advocate of the Mediterranean diet. Even more surprising is that this group also includes potatoes!
Less common than most insensitivities, but they include alkaloids, a chemical agent that provokes inflammation.
Are there any specific foods that I shouldn’t eat?
That depends on you. There is a ‘two-pronged attack’ in terms of diagnosing exactly what food you are sensitive to, it’s a case of an elimination diet if you know you get itchy after eating something in a certain food group, and/or taking a test which will highlight what your problem food or other sensitivity is. Often it can take a while using the elimination process, so if you feel ill or uncomfortable and the itching seems to be getting worse, you are able to take a test, such as this. The test not only reveals any food culprits but can also show environmental issues that could be at the root of the problem.
You must be patient when analysing, via an elimination diet, what the problem foods are for you. It can take up to 72 hours for a problem food to show up so it can be hard to work out what it is, even if you keep a food diary. You probably eat quite a lot of different items in one day! Many medical professionals advise that the ‘two-pronged’ attack achieves the best results.
Having said this, there are certain foods that are most regularly recognised as culprits.
Fortunately, with a scientific approach, you can take out the guesswork and identify which foods are causing your symptoms. There is an advantage to doing both test and elimination at the same time, as you learn a great deal about what is, or maybe happening in your body.
Are there any symptoms that people would recognise?
Firstly, not all food sensitivity is shown by an itchy skin, there are quite a few others, it just depends on which part of your body is attacked by the ‘antibodies’. So, if you experience, say, aches in your joints, you potentially don’t realise that this can be caused by a food sensitivity – why would you assume that!? So, as you can see, diagnosis is not simple when it comes to food. Here are symptoms that you may experience:
- Sore or painful joints
- Brain fog/difficulties in concentration
- Fatigue or tiredness
- Stomach problems
- Bloating, gas, acid reflux
- Diarrhoea or constipation