Food Intolerance Vs Food Allergy. What You Need To Know?

Several people in the world suffer from food allergies and may have certain food intolerances. The cases of allergy and intolerance are constantly rising. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), reported that almost 5% of children and 4% of adults suffer from a food allergy. People may not always be aware of the difference between the two which is why they must consult the doctor to know for sure about their condition.

It is important to understand that both are different concerns and require different treatment. You can book a doctor’s appointment or get in touch with a dietitian nutritionist in Pune to identify your issue and seek proper treatment.

Understanding Food Intolerance and Food Allergy

People tend to confuse the two health issues because their symptoms are similar. However, food intolerance is a chemical reaction to certain foods and is not linked to your immune system. It does not cause any severe allergic reactions and cannot be detected through allergy testing. Certain substances present in various foods can trigger rashes, headaches, stomach pain, etc., and even asthma, IBS and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Food allergies are a concern worldwide, they can also be inherited and are more commonly detected during early childhood when a child starts eating a variety of foods. Food allergies are a response of your body’s immune system to a protein in foods, also known as allergens. 

The Different Symptoms

Food allergy symptoms develop immediately after you eat the food but in the case of food intolerance it may be immediate or take up to 24 hours to develop. The reactions depend on the quantity of the food consumed and it varies for each person. 

If you have a food intolerance, you may notice:

  • sweating
  • rapid heartbeat and breathing
  • headache, migraine
  • diarrhea
  • burning sensations on the skin
  • tightness of the face and chest
  • breathing troubles
  • allergy-like reactions

If you suffer from a food allergy, you may experience:

  • swelling of the entire face
  • hives 
  • tingling mouth
  • abdominal pain, vomiting 

In case of severe allergic reaction you may experience:

  • difficulty in breathing
  • swelling of the tongue or tightness in the throat
  • wheezing or persistent cough
  • difficulty talking or a hoarse voice
  • persistent dizziness or collapsing
  • paleness in young children

Causes

Both these conditions are caused due to consumption of certain foods. Allergic reactions may be caused due to foods like:

  • peanuts, tree nuts
  • eggs
  • cow’s milk
  • wheat
  • sesame
  • fish, particularly shellfish
  • soy 

Food intolerance related food items include:

  • dairy products
  • chocolate
  • eggs
  • food flavor enhancers
  • strawberries, citrus fruits and tomatoes
  • wine
  • histamine and other amines in some foods.

Treatment 

The best treatment for food allergy or intolerance is by avoiding the intake of those foods. You must book a doctor’s appointment as soon as you notice symptoms. For food allergy, it is necessary to identify the allergen which can be done through diagnostic tests, such as:

  • Keep note of the food you eat and the symptoms you experience
  • Eliminate the suspected foods from your diet, then reintroduce them to check for reactions
  • Skin prick tests are done using food extracts or IgG blood tests

Prevention 

If a person has a food intolerance, he or she must not consume that particular food. However, after a gap you can consult the doctor and reintroduce those foods into your diet in small amounts initially. 

Allergy prevention is under a lot of research. However, some studies state a few things like avoiding allergens in pregnancy will not prevent allergies in your child, exclusive breastfeeding may be helpful in preventing allergies in early childhood and soy milk formula does not prevent allergies in children.

Food laws and labels

Foods must contain labels with lists of the ingredients used, food additives used and the processing aid. These are important to ensure that buyers are aware of certain substances in foods, including:

  • cereals that contain gluten and gluten products
  • shellfish and fish products
  • egg and milk products
  • nuts and products containing them
  • soybeans 
  • added sulphites of 10 mg/kg or more
  • royal jelly, bee pollen and propolis.

Conclusion

A food intolerance or a food allergy can happen to anyone irrespective of age. Food intolerance is mostly seen in early childhood as it gets difficult for the body to properly digest the food you have eaten. A food allergy affects the body’s immune system and a person with a food allergy is at risk of a life-threatening event due to the consumption of an allergen. It is more serious and the concern may lead to anaphylaxis which needs to be treated in an emergency. If you are confused between the two, this blog will help you get a clear idea. A dietitian nutritionist in Pune will be able to guide you best, and remember that you must not leave these conditions untreated.