Top 10 Most Common Food Sensitivities and Intolerances

Dr. Kimberley O'BrienBlog, Food, Health 1 Comment

Recently I shared the top 10 signs and symptoms that may indicate you have food sensitivities, allergies or intolerances, as well as the difference between each of these reactions.  Today I’m sharing specifically which foods are the most common food sensitivities, and some of these foods may surprise you!

Although the foods I list below are the most common food sensitivities, it’s important to note that they will NOT all be issues for you specifically!  A food that acts as healthy fuel for me may be leading directly to inflammation and unpleasant symptoms for you, and vice versa! What’s important is to identify which of these potential food triggers are an issue for YOU so that you can personalize your diet; transforming your health and energy as a result!

Top 10 Most Common Food Sensitivities and Intolerances

Top 10 Most Common Food Sensitivities and Intolerances

Could one or more of these foods be leading to your low energy, bloating, pain or digestive upset?  These are the most common food sensitivities!

1. Cow’s Milk, Cheese and Whey Protein

Of all the most common food sensitivities, cow’s milk is often the most problematic food trigger discovered by patients in my naturopathic practice.  This includes milk itself as well as milk ingredients, which are found in a number of products like energy bars, soups, milk chocolate and more.  It also includes cream-based products like coffee creamers, whipping cream and ice cream. Butter also contains milk protein, although you can purchase clarified butter or ghee in which the milk protein has been removed.  Yogurt is also an issue for dairy-sensitive individuals, although it’s occasionally less problematic because the milk protein has been partially broken down via fermentation.

Dairy is one of the most common food sensitivities

In addition to milk, cheese and whey protein are also some of the most common food sensitivities that I see in my naturopathic practice.  A dairy-sensitivity or intolerance can lead to symptoms including fatigue, bloating, digestive upset, acne, eczema, chronic sinus congestion and more!  

A dairy-sensitivity is caused by an immune reaction to the protein within these dairy-products.  It’s very important to note that this is different from a lactose intolerance, in which you’re unable to properly digest the sugars in milk.  If you experience an immune reaction to the milk, cheese or whey proteins (which is very common), choosing lactose-free dairy-products will not be enough to fully resolve your symptoms.  You can find more information on the differences between a dairy-sensitivity and lactose-intolerance in my recent post on food sensitivities versus allergies and intolerances and in the Ask Dr. Kimberley section of my blog.

In order to identify whether dairy may be at the root cause of your own symptoms, it’s important to completely avoid all dairy ingredients for a minimum of 2-3 weeks.  The most effective way to do this is as part of a more comprehensive Elimination Diet protocol, which I explain in more detail at the end of this post. The process of completing an Elimination Diet enables you to identify not only whether dairy may be an issue for you, but it also guides you to identify if any of the other foods on this list may also (or instead) be your food triggers.

2. Wheat and Other Gluten-Containing Grains

After dairy, wheat and other gluten-containing grains are some of the most common food sensitivities experienced by my patients. Gluten is a protein that’s found in grains like wheat, rye, barley, kamut and spelt. It’s important to note that oats may also contain gluten, unless you 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 regards 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!

3. Rice, Quinoa, Oats and Other Gluten-Free Grains

These are a few of the food sensitivities and intolerances that are more likely to surprise people!  Although rice, quinoa and oats are less common food sensitivities than gluten-containing grains like wheat or rye, they may be triggers for inflammation in certain individuals.  In fact, upon completion of my Elimination Diet Meal Plan online program approximately 10-15% of people report having discovered one or more of these grains as a trigger for their symptoms like fatigue, bloating and digestive upset.  

As mentioned above, oats may contain gluten unless certified gluten-free so it’s important to be cautious of this when working to identify your food sensitivities.  You want to be clear that it’s the oats themselves (instead of gluten they may contain) that’s leading to your chronic symptoms!

4. Eggs

Did you know that eggs are one of the most common food sensitivities?  Symptoms that are often triggered by immune reactivity to eggs include eczema, itchy skin, nausea and bloating.  Egg whites are more likely to be reactive than egg yolks, and I recommend that when reintroducing them into your diet as part of an Elimination Diet that you introduce the whites and yolks separately.  It’s not uncommon for people to tolerate one but not the other!

Eggs are one of the most common food sensitivities and food allergies

5. Corn

Corn is a common food sensitivity that can also lead to chronic symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, bloating, irritable bowel symptoms, headaches, joint pain and more.  My patients often tell me that they don’t have very much corn in their diet, but it’s important to remember that corn is in a number of different products as a very common ingredient!  Corn flour, corn starch and corn syrup are all ingredients to watch for if you are assessing whether you may have a sensitivity to corn itself.

Corn is one of the most common food sensitivities and intolerances

6. Soy

Soy protein is a common food allergy and sensitivity; leading to headaches, joint pain, acne, eczema and more.  If soy protein is an immune trigger, you may find that tofu, soy milk and soy protein powders are the biggest concern! This is because those products contain higher levels of the soy protein itself, which causes inflammation in susceptible individuals.  Fermentation helps to break down the soy protein; therefore fermented soy products like miso, tempeh and soy sauce may be better tolerated.

When evaluating for potential food sensitivities it’s important to completely avoid that food and it’s ingredients for at least 2-3 weeks.  During this period of time you should watch to see if your symptoms improve.  If they do, you may then choose to test that food back into your diet to see if your symptoms recur.  Since it’s possible to be sensitive to more than one food or ingredient, competing an Elimination Diet is the most comprehensive way to identify your food triggers!  You can download my free guide to identifying your food sensitivities for more details on how to get started.

7. Legumes

What are legumes?  This term refers to lentils, peas, peanuts and beans.  When legumes are an issue it’s common for people to experience digestive upset like bloating and gas, but they may also experience fatigue or pain. Legumes can also be one of the more common immune triggers in those with autoimmune concerns like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease.  

Legumes are one of the most common food intolerances

As with all of the other foods mentioned on this list, legumes are definitely not an issue for everyone and they are otherwise considered as very healthy, high fiber foods!  Again, the foods that are healthy for one person may be leading to immune reactivity and inflammation in others. It’s so important to identify how YOU are reacting to the foods you eat as part of your everyday diet!

8. Tree Nuts – Especially Almonds, Cashews and Pistachios

This is another one of the most common food sensitivities that can often surprise people!  I know it initially surprised me when I discovered that in higher quantities almonds and cashews trigger outbreaks of cystic acne for me.  This is a reaction that I had missed identifying for YEARS until I completed an Elimination Diet.  Upon initially avoiding, and later minimizing, my almond and cashew intake I was amazed at how quickly my skin cleared up! 

Nuts can also be a common cause of digestive upset, eczema, joint pain and fatigue. Have you ever suspected nuts as a potential cause for your own symptoms?

Almonds and cashews are a common food sensitivity!

9. Citrus Fruits

Are you surprised? Lemon, lime, oranges and grapefruit can be common food triggers for your symptoms like joint pain, hives, itchy skin, nausea, reflux and more!  Those with sensitivities may discover that they react to all citrus, although it’s not uncommon for only one or two of these fruits to be an issue.  I’ve had a number of patients who were drinking a glass of lemon water each morning to support their health, only to later discover citrus to be one of the foods triggering their inflammation!

Could citrus fruit be one of your food sensitivities?

10. Nightshade Vegetables

What are nightshade vegetables?  This family of vegetables includes potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant.  While these vegetables aren’t issues for the majority of the population, they contain chemicals called alkaloids that can cause inflammation and pain in genetically susceptible individuals.  Joint pain, headaches, irritated skin, nausea and migraines can be all symptoms of a sensitivity to nightshade vegetables!  As with all of the most common food sensitivities in this list, the most effective way to identify how you’re reacting to these foods is via an Elimination Diet.  You can also download “A Naturopathic Guide to Identifying your Food Sensitivities” for free here.

nightshade vegetables are one of the most common food sensitivities!

How Do  I Identify Which of These Foods are Issues for ME?

Although it may seem as though I’ve listed every food imaginable on this list, the key to remember that not all of the most common food sensitivities will be an issue for YOU.  Remember… A food that is nourishing for one individual may be the exact food that is causing your chronic symptoms, and vice versa.

It’s also important to note that there are a number of foods that are not on this list!  The foods that are the least common food sensitivities include vegetables other than the nightshade family, fruits other than citrus, seeds (especially chia and hemp), coconut, lean meats and fish.  These nutrient-dense foods are the ingredients that I include in the delicious recipes that are enjoyed during the 11-Day Elimination Phase of my Elimination Diet Meal Plan online program. An Elimination Diet is the most effective way to identify your food sensitivities, and completing this diet enables you to get a clear answer as to whether the foods in your diet are fueling or fooling your body!  

For more information on exactly how to complete an Elimination Diet to identify your food sensitivities, I have two fabulous resources for you!  One of these resources is my free eBook series, “A Naturopathic Guide to Identifying your Food Sensitivities”, in which I teach you the exact process to follow in order to complete an Elimination Diet.  


I also have an online program called the Elimination Diet Meal Plan, which is a done-for-you option that makes completing an Elimination Diet both simple and enjoyable.  The program provides you with over 70 recipes that I designed specifically for an Elimination Diet, regular and vegan meal plan options, weekly grocery lists, symptom tracking questionnaires, ingredient guides, how-to videos, weekly educational emails and more!  This is the exact process that I use with patients in my naturopathic practice and it’s also available to you online here.

Elimination Diet Meal Plan


Have you identified whether any of the foods on this list of the most common food sensitivities are issues for you? Let me know your discoveries in the comments below!

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Top 10 Most Common Food Sensitivities and Intolerances

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