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The Diffrence between Food Allergies & Food Intolerance

Food Allergies & Food Intolerance

Although it may seem that nearly everyone has an allergy to some food or another, in reality true food allergies are quite rare. Roughly about 5-8% children and 1-2 % adults suffer from food allergies. One of the reasons for this could be that people often confuse between food allergies and food intolerance’s.

A true food allergy is an abnormal reaction of the body’s immune system to something in a food or a food ingredient (virtually always a protein) that is otherwise harmless.

True food allergies involve the body’s immune system. In case you are allergic to something, you can take an allergy panel to confirm the allergen.

Whereas, Food intolerance or food sensitivity, on the other hand is a non-immunological food reaction to food or food additives originates in the gastro-intestinal system and involves an inability to digest or absorb certain substances. Lactose intolerance and sulfite induced asthma are some of the most common examples of food intolerance.

The signs and symptoms of proven food intolerance vary and may be usually mistaken for those of food allergy. This can be confusing to people who suffer from them and is probably one reason why people are quick to say they have a food “allergy” when in fact they may just have a food sensitivity or intolerance of some sort. Food sensitivities are rarely life threatening and the symptoms tend to be localized.

Symptoms of food allergy are not uniform and may vary from individual to individual. Food allergy symptoms can range from mild (such as an itchy mouth, itchy tongue, swelling or itchy rash/ hives) to severe (shock or cardiac arrest). Other complaints sometimes attributed to food allergy include migraine headache, muscle aches, pains, nausea, cramps, vomiting, diarrhea, sneezing,coughing, shortness of breath or wheezing.

The most severe food allergy reaction is called anaphylaxis. This infrequent, yet potentially fatal, response to an allergen involves several different body systems and results in a collection of symptoms instead of the usual one or two seen with typical food allergy. Difficulty in breathing, throat constriction, decreased blood pressure and unconsciousness may occur almost simultaneously.

Immediate medical attention is necessary. Although they are rare, anaphylactic reactions which are fatal most often occur when the allergic individual is eating away from home and inadvertently consumes the offending foods. Even minute amounts of an allergen is enough to trigger symptoms.

Food allergy may appear at any age, but true allergic reactions to foods are most common in infants and young children. Common food allergens include cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, treenuts (almonds, walnuts, hazelnut, brazilnut etc.), soybeans, wheat, soy, fish and shell fish.

Hidden sources of these allergens have been mentioned below. In some people, bees and bee products like honey could

also cause allergic reactions.

 Food Types   Hidden Sources
 Milk and milk products  Baked dishes and desserts
 Eggs (especially egg whites)  Confectionary, toppings on certain desserts.
 Soy and soy products  Soy sauce, processed foods
 Wheat and wheat products  Breads, bakery, thickeners, soups
 Peanuts  Candies, commercial preparations, oriental cuisine
 Tree nuts (almonds,walnuts, hazelnut, brazilnut etc.)  Cereal crackers, ice creams, candies, chocolates
 Fish  Stews, salad dressings, oriental cuisine.
 Shell fish  Salad dressings, oriental cuisine.

Allergens usually provoke the same symptoms each time, but many factors affect intensity, including quantity of the offending food consumed, and how it was prepared.  Some allergens are easily identified because symptoms will develop immediately after eating the offending food.

Allergens are not always readily identified. It may be necessary to keep a carefully documented food diary of the time and content of all the meals and the appearance and timing of subsequent symptoms. After a week or two, a pattern may emerge. If so, eliminate the suspected food from the diet for at least a week, and then try it again. If symptoms develop, chances are that the offending food has been identified.

A little planning and preparation can eliminate the need for dealing with food allergy situation altogether:

Once allergens have been identified, eliminate these foods from the diet.

Read labels carefully.

Use extreme caution when eating out in restaurants. Don’t hesitate to ask the chef about ingredients.

Avoid consuming too much of processed foods and eating out too often.

If in doubt, leave it out.

In case of children and teenagers, thoroughly communicating with the school, staff, teachers and friends about a child’s allergies is one of the most important things that a parent can do to help prevent a reaction from occurring during the school hours. This is even more important when a child has been newly diagnosed with an allergy.

Teens should be included in the meeting with the school staff so that they can discuss their food allergy experiences and specific symptoms.

 Inform your airlines in advance about your food allergies when traveling.

 When eating at a friends place:

 Let your friends know about the foods or food ingredients you are allergic to.

 Inform far enough ahead of time about your restrictions, so that the menu can be revised accordingly.

 Educate them on safe food handling methods during preparation and serving of foods:


Cross contactby not sharing utensils, food containers, cutting boards and serving dishes.

Use of same cooking oil for both allergenic and nonallergenic foods.


Organ Systems Symptoms
Skin  Swelling, hives, eczema / atopic dermatitis (skin rash)
Gastro-intestinal tract Abdominal cramps, pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea
Respiratory tract Runny nose, asthma, difficult breathing, tightening of throat, wheezing
 Oral Itching, swelling and hives in the mouth, palate and tongue Itching, swelling and hives in the mouth, palate and tongue
General (Systemic) Anaphylactic shock (severe shock involving several body systems)

Disclaimer: This page/site provides general health and wellness information. The information provided in this page/site, or through linkages to other sites, is not a substitute for medical or professional care, and you should not use the information in place of a visit, consultation or the advice of your Doctor or other health care provider.

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