Go online and read articles on food intolerance and food allergies, and you may find that some articles define these terms differently. Other may even use these terms interchangeably. But there are key differences between intolerance and allergies when it comes to food.
Key Facts about Food Allergies
These are the most important facts about food allergies:
- A food allergy is a condition during which your body’s immune system reacts to the presence of a food item or a specific ingredient in your food. Your body produces IgE antibodies, and it also releases histamine and other chemicals in the body. These chemicals usually cause inflammation.
- There are many types of symptoms that may present when you eat something to which you’re allergic. There’s swelling, as well rashes and itching. You may experience gut issues, such as diarrhea, stomachache, and vomiting. Your breathing may also be affected, and you may wheeze, cough, or have a runny or blocked nose. These symptoms can appear very quickly after you eat the food to which you’re allergic.
- The most serious allergic reaction can be life-threatening. This sort of reaction can include swelling of the face, tongue, or lips. The throat may become constricted, and the breathing can turn difficult. The heart rate may speed up and even loss of consciousness is possible. These symptoms can occur a few minutes after making contact with the offending food item, although it’s also possible for the symptoms to be delayed by an hour or two. The proper treatment for this sort of reaction is an immediate injection of adrenalin.
- Food allergy is luckily very rare, as it is present in about 2% of adults and 8% of children.
- If you’re allergic to something, even trace amounts of the food can cause an allergic reaction.
- The most common food items to which people are allergic include peanuts, tree nuts (like walnuts, Brazil nuts, and almonds), shellfish, fish, milk, eggs, wheat, and soya. But any food item can potentially cause an allergic reaction.
Key Facts about Food Intolerance
You will find that a food intolerance is actually a different thing altogether from a food allergy.
- The reactions to the food don’t involve your immune system and the production of IgE antibodies. This makes it more difficult to diagnose the problem since there are no antibodies to test for.
- The symptoms can be very different for each individual, and that also adds to the difficulty in recognizing the food intolerance.
- Usually, however, the symptoms involve the gut, and you may experience bloating, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome, or diarrhea. Other common symptoms are skin problems like eczema, as well as joint pain. Additional vague symptoms may include headaches, lethargy, and brain fog.
- The reaction to eating something which your body doesn’t tolerate well is usually delayed. The symptoms of food intolerance can appear in a few hours, or even after a few days. Again, this makes it difficult to realize that a food intolerance issue is at the root of all these different symptoms.
As you can see, there’s a clear difference between food intolerance and food allergies. Hopefully, you can recognize which of these conditions is causing your symptoms, so you can get the proper treatment promptly.