What Is a Food Allergy?
A food allergy is an immune system response. It occurs when the body mistakes an ingredient in food — usually a protein — as harmful and creates a defense system (antibodies) to fight it. Food allergy symptoms develop when the antibodies are battling the “invading” food. The most common food allergies are peanuts, tree nuts (such as walnuts, pecans and almonds), fish, and shellfish, milk, eggs, soy and wheat and wheat products.
What Is Food Intolerance?
Food intolerance is a digestive system response rather than an immune system response. It occurs when something in a food irritates a person’s digestive system or when a person is unable to properly digest or breakdown the food. Intolerance to lactose, which is found in milk and other dairy products, is the most common food intolerance.
What Are the Symptoms of a Food Allergy?
Symptoms of a food allergy can range from mild to severe, and the amount of food necessary to trigger a reaction varies from person to person. Symptoms of a food allergy may include:
- Rash or hives
- Stomach pain
- Itchy skin
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Swelling of the airways to the lungs
What Are the Symptoms of Food Intolerance?
Symptoms of a food intolerance may include:
- Stomach pain
- Gas, cramps, or bloating
- Irritability or nervousness
How Common Are Food Allergies and Intolerances?
Food allergies affect nearly 4% of teens and adults and 5% of children. Food intolerances are much more common. In fact, nearly everyone at one time has had an unpleasant reaction to something they ate. Some people have specific food intolerances. Lactose and gluten intolerance, being the most common food intolerances I seen at the clinic on a regular basis.
What Causes Food Allergies and Intolerances?
Food allergies often run in families, suggesting that the condition can be inherited. There are many factors that may contribute to food intolerance. In some cases, as with lactose intolerance, the person lacks the chemicals, called enzymes, necessary to properly digest certain proteins found in food. Also common are intolerances to some chemical ingredients added to food to provide color, enhance taste, and protect against the growth of bacteria. These ingredients include various dyes and monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer.
Substances called sulfites are also a source of intolerance for some people. They may occur naturally, as in red wines or may be added to prevent the growth of mold. Salicylates p of plant chemicals found naturally in many fruits, vegetables, nuts, coffee, juices, beer, and wine. Aspirin also is a compound of the salicylate family. Foods containing salicylate may trigger allergy symptoms in people who are sensitive to aspirin. Of course, any food consumed in excessive quantities can cause digestive symptoms.
How Can You Tell the Difference ?
Food allergies can be triggered by even a small amount of the food and occur every time the food is consumed. People with food allergies are generally advised to avoid the offending foods completely. Food allergies are more easily detected as the reaction is more often profound and easily connected to the offending item(s).
On the other hand, food intolerances often are dose related and the reaction can be accumulative, delayed and rather subtle, in spite of the possibility of their involvement in some rather unpleasant and slowly degenerative conditions. People with food intolerance may not have symptoms unless they eat a large portion of the food or eat the food frequently. For example, a person with lactose intolerance may be able to drink milk in coffee or a single glass of milk, but becomes sick if he or she drinks several glasses of milk.
Food allergies and intolerances also are different from food poisoning, which generally results from spoiled or tainted food and affects more than one person eating the food. Your health care provider can help determine if you have a food allergy or intolerance, and establish a plan to help eliminate or control your symptoms.
How Are Food Intolerances Diagnosed?
Most food intolerances are found through various types of test or indeed trial and error to determine which food or foods cause symptoms. Modern technology has brought the science of intolerance testing to whole new level of accessibility and accuracy, such systems at the Photon testing employed by us at the Ray Nolan Clinic Killarney.
Our test covers 986 items of food, vitamin & minerals status and an energy check on the body organs. If you needed to procure any supplements, these are extra if desired. We do include a homeopathic remedy combination free of charge.
How Are Food Intolerances Treated?
Treatment for a food intolerance is based on avoiding or reducing your intake of problem foods and treating symptoms when they arise.
Such treatment may involve the introduction of various beneficial bacteria, enzymes and other micronutrients, all of which can be established, and subsequently managed through our testing regime.
Can Food Intolerances Be Prevented?
Taking a few simple steps can help you prevent the symptoms associated with food intolerance.
- Learn which foods in which amounts cause you to have symptoms and limit your intake to amounts you can handle.
- When you dine out, enquire about how your meal will be prepared. Some meals may contain foods you cannot tolerate, and that may not be evident from the description on the menu.
- Learn to read food labels and check the ingredients for problem foods. Don’t forget to check condiments and seasonings. They may contain MSG or another additive that can lead to symptoms.