Understanding Food Allergies and Food Intolerances
Updated: Aug 27
Have you ever found yourself questioning why certain foods just don't seem to agree with you? Or maybe you've wondered why some individuals experience severe reactions to specific ingredients. Let’s gain a better understanding of the contrasting nature of food allergies and food intolerances. By understanding these two concepts, you'll gain the power to make informed choices about what you eat, ensuring that your taste buds and tummy are always in sync.
What Are Food Allergies?
Food allergies are immune system reactions that occur after consuming certain foods. They are triggered by specific proteins present in the food and can be life-threatening. Common allergens include peanuts, tree nuts, eggs, milk, shellfish, wheat, soy, and sesame.
Food intolerance is a non-allergic adverse reaction to certain foods or food components. Unlike allergies, food intolerances don't involve the immune system. Common intolerances include lactose, gluten (non-celiac gluten sensitivity), histamine, and sensitivity to food additives like sulfites or MSG.
Food Allergy Symptoms
Food allergy symptoms can range from mild to severe and usually develop rapidly after exposure to the allergen- typically within minutes. Hives, itching, swelling, trouble breathing, coughing, vomiting, diarrhea, and, in extreme cases, anaphylaxis are all possible symptoms. If you suspect a food allergy, seek immediate medical attention.
Food intolerance symptoms can vary widely but are generally less severe than those of allergies. They commonly include bloating, gas, stomach pain, diarrhea, and nausea. These symptoms may take longer to appear after consuming the offending food, often hours or even days later.
Diagnosing Food Allergies and Food Intolerances
A medical history, physical examination, and diagnostic testing such as skin prick tests, blood tests, and oral meal challenges are used to detect food allergies. A specialist, such as an allergist, can help identify the specific allergens and provide guidance on managing the condition.
Diagnosing food intolerances can be challenging, as there are no standardized tests available. It often involves keeping a food diary to identify potential triggers and performing elimination diets, where specific foods are temporarily removed from the diet and then reintroduced to observe reactions.
Managing Food Allergy and Food Intolerance
The primary way to manage food allergies is strict avoidance of allergenic food(s). It's crucial to carefully read food labels, inform restaurants about allergies, and carry an epinephrine auto-injector (e.g., EpiPen) if prescribed. Educate family, friends, and coworkers about the allergy to prevent accidental exposure.
Managing food intolerances typically involves avoiding or limiting the consumption of the offending food(s) or food component(s). In some cases, dietary supplements or enzyme replacements may help alleviate symptoms. For personalized guidance, speak with a licensed dietician or healthcare professional.
Stay Informed and Seek Professional Help
Discovering the differences between food allergies and food intolerances is crucial for making informed dietary choices. By understanding the symptoms, diagnosis, and management strategies for each, we can prioritize our well-being.
Whether you're managing a chronic condition or dealing with allergies, take control of your health by scheduling an appointment with Aila Health's compassionate care team. We provide personalized support, including nutrition plans and educational resources, to help you navigate your health journey with confidence.