Health Desk – It can be difficult to determine whether you have a true allergy or intolerance to something you eat or drink. Know how in this article?
Regardless of our need for nutrients, foods can trigger negative reactions from the body with varying degrees of severity. These reactions can be divided into three categories: 1.allergy, 2.sensitivity and 3.intolerance.
Because the symptoms often overlap, there is a lot of confusion about the difference between them and what they mean for your body. In addition, clinical definitions are based on internal responses. Below we will learn about the major differences between food allergy, sensitivity and intolerance.
Food allergies are serious and can be potentially life threatening. An estimated 32 million Americans have food allergies. They usually develop in childhood, although they can pop up later in life. The main difference that separates a food allergy from other reactions is that your immune system activates when it mistakes the food for something harmful.
There are two specific types of allergic reactions caused by the immune system. The most common antibody is immunoglobulin E (IgE), which causes an immediate reaction when it tries to neutralize the food. Think anaphylaxis or hives.
A non-immunoglobulin E (non-IgE) response is less well understood. It is caused by other immune components that do not include IgE antibodies. This response is delayed because the food must move into the digestive tract to trigger symptoms. It is not generally considered life-threatening.
Some studies have suggested that there is a genetic component to food allergies. A child is more likely to develop allergies if both parents have them. The most common food allergies are peanuts, shellfish, milk, eggs, fish, wheat and soybeans.
The common symptoms of food allergy are as follows.
- Feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- Tingling or itching
- Swelling of the face, mouth, or throat
- Difficulty swallowing
Food intolerance means that your body cannot fully digest a certain type of food, but your immune system is not involved. This type of reaction can be extremely uncomfortable and cause physical symptoms such as abdominal pain or diarrhea. The most common type of food intolerance is lactose intolerance, followed by gluten intolerance.
Food intolerance can be the result of a number of factors in your digestive system. It could be that your body lacks an enzyme that allows the intestine to digest food, as in the case of lactose intolerance. Another reason could be sensitivity to chemicals or additives within the food. However, adverse reactions to food additives are rare.
With a food intolerance, you have more control over the reaction. Sometimes a small amount of food passes through and doesn’t bother your digestive system. Or, you can prevent the reaction, such as by taking Lactaid before consuming dairy products in the case of a lactose-intolerant individual. There is no way to prevent a food allergy other than completely banning that food from your diet.
Food intolerance can get worse with age. For example, as we age, our bodies are less able to handle dairy because our intestines make less lactase, the enzyme needed to break down lactose.
Common symptoms of food intolerance include but are not limited to:
- Stomach pain
Food sensitivities are more complicated. Food sensitivity and intolerance are often incorrectly used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Unlike food intolerance, there is a slow reaction that is not life-threatening. Symptoms are not immediate and may take a few days to appear. This is why people can go a lifetime without realizing they have a particular food sensitivity.
More research is needed to fully understand the scope of food sensitivities. We know that a food sensitivity is not a food allergy because the source of the reaction comes from an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract.
Common symptoms of food sensitivity include but are not limited to:
- Joint or muscle pain
- Brain fog
How to identify if you have a food allergy, intolerance or sensitivity ?
If you are having regular reactions to food, it is important that you visit your doctor. They will be able to help you determine which reaction you have and make a plan to manage your symptoms. Allergy testing will determine whether you have a food allergy.
It is hard to pin down a food intolerance or sensitivity. The only proven test for food intolerance is the hydrogen breath test, which diagnoses lactose intolerance.
There are additional things you can do to identify food sensitivities and intolerances. First, you can work with your doctor to create a food elimination plan that removes certain foods from your diet for about a month and gradually reintroduces one food at a time. .
Time to gauge if a reaction occurs. When a reaction occurs, you will then be able to track it back to a particular food.
You can also keep a food diary detailing the foods you eat, how you feel and any reactions. By tracking all of these factors, you’ll be able to see patterns in the foods you eat and the reactions you have.
Tips for managing food reactions-
If you have food allergies, sensitivities and intolerances, this can make planning your diet more complicated, but not impossible. Even with dietary restrictions, you can still enjoy food and have a fulfilling diet.
1. Customize your diet-
Even reactions that aren’t serious are uncomfortable. To avoid this, work with your doctor or dietitian to eliminate your trigger foods and adapt your diet to get enough nutrients.
2. Pay attention to the food label-
When grocery shopping and cooking for yourself, it’s important to read nutrition labels carefully to make sure the products are indeed free of your allergens. According to the FDA, food allergens must be declared on the label.
3. Listen to your body-
If you live with an intolerance or sensitivity, you don’t need to restrict your diet as strictly as you would with an allergy. You may unknowingly consume triggering foods at restaurants or at family dinners. It’s important to listen to what your body is telling you so that you can address it accordingly.
4. Have an epinephrine shot-
Depending on the severity of your allergy, you may need to carry an epinephrine shot like an EpiPen® with you. This is reserved for food allergies and is not necessary for food sensitivities and intolerances.
Food allergy, sensitivity and intolerance are three unique reactions that our bodies have to food. Allergies are the most serious and can be fatal. Sensitivity and intolerance are less serious but can be extremely uncomfortable depending on the symptoms. All of them require customization of your diet.
You can manage these reactions with a careful lifestyle. Make sure you read nutrition labels closely and pay attention to your symptoms to identify reactions. And always remember to consult your doctor if things change.
Note- The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to be health or medical advice. Always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health provider with respect to any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or health objectives.