FOOD ALLERGY VS FOOD INTOLERANCE
Statistics presented by “Allergy & Anaphylaxis Australia” show that in Australia alone, food allergy affects 1-2% adults and 4-8% children below 5 years old. While 10% of children under the age of one have a proven food allergy.
So what causes allergies and intolerances?
A food allergy is actually triggered by our immune system whereas an intolerance is caused by the body’s ability (or inability) to digest food. People often confuse the two so let’s take a quick look at the differences.
An allergy is triggered by our immune system and is a reaction we get when our immune system overreacts to proteins coming from the food we eat, presenting itself commonly as a rash or itchy skin, an irritated nose coupled with sneezing and teary eyes, plus swelling. The signs can also be severe including vomiting, difficulty breathing and diarrhea. Allergies can be passed on genetically and you can be born with it or develop it at any stage in life.
A food intolerance has more to do with the body’s ability to digest food. Two of the most common types are lactose intolerance and gluten intolerance.
Allergies can also come from natural components produced during food production such as sulfites. A component that is naturally produced in wine fermentation and often used as a food preservative. So a person may not be entirely allergic to a particular food but the allergic reaction comes from the substance present in that type of food.
Questions to Ask to Differentiate Between a Food Allergy and Food Intolerance:
Food allergies and food intolerances can be differentiated quite easily. However, there are other conditions that may show similar symptoms, like food poisoning. In order to determine if it is an allergy, an intolerance, or something else, here’s a few questions to consider:
- Is it your first time experiencing a reaction to this type of food?
- If the symptoms appeared after eating at an event (birthday, social dinner) has anyone else shown the same reaction?
- How was the food prepared? (is the food raw or processed)
- How much food did you consume? Did you feel the reaction immediately or how many minutes/hours have passed before it manifested?
- Do you always experience the same reaction when you eat this type of food?
Prevention and Treatment for Food Allergies and Food Intolerance
To determine if the condition is a food allergy, some tests may be done such as blood test, scratch puncture test or skin test just to name a few.
When a test confirms a food allergy, the only possible treatment is to avoid that particular type of food. This means being extra careful with everything you buy. This includes double checking on the ingredients of both processed and cooked food you intake. At the onset of an allergy attack, taking antihistamine can prevent it from getting severe.
Food intolerance is more common in older people mainly because it has a lot to do with proper food digestion. As we get older, the health of our gut also weakens and it affects how our body breaks down food.
Eliminating food that is causing the sensitivity or eating smaller portions helps in preventing food intolerance. It is also important to keep our gut healthy by taking food supplements that are rich in fibre, probiotics and L-Glutamine.
Here are some food supplements we can recommend: