As more becomes known about the complex relationship which our bodies have with the food we eat, a growing number of people are discovering that there are some foods, or groups of foods, that doesn’t seem to agree with them for some reason. Food Allergies or Food Intolerance Symptoms vary from fairly mild issues, which often pass almost unnoticed, or put down to “one of those things”, through to life-threatening conditions where prompt medical treatment is absolutely essential.
It’s important to note that the body doesn’t react in one way to a foodstuff which causes an adverse reaction: the way in which the body reacts to a food it is intolerant to is different to an allergic reaction.
Here we take a look at the difference between food intolerance and a food allergy, as well as provide advice regarding what to do if you suspect you may suffer from either.
If your body perceives a food as a toxin, your immune system is triggered to deal with it. People who have a food allergy have a body which perceives a particular food as a toxin. The immune system is activated, resulting in symptoms which include asthma, related breathing difficulties, swelling, runny eyes and nose, itching, hives or coughing. Some or all of these symptoms may be present. The degree of severity varies: some people will experience only mild symptoms; others will need to be hospitalised promptly (particularly if the allergic response has resulted in asthma, swelling of the nose and throat or other breathing difficulties).
An extreme allergic reaction may result in the body going into anaphylactic shock. This is a very severe allergic reaction, which, in addition to the symptoms previously described, may also result in swiftly lowering blood pressure, cardiac disturbances and unconsciousness. Symptoms may begin within minutes of coming into contact with an allergen or occur several hours afterwards. Food allergies can be life-threatening, so it is vital to avoid harmful foodstuff. A simple test will help you identify which common foods which trigger an allergic response include: shellfish, nuts, eggs, fish and dairy products.
What is a Food Intolerance?
Food intolerance is usually recognised when a person has problems digesting a particular food or group of foods. Although not usually life-threatening in the same way as an allergy, food intolerances can cause a range of unpleasant symptoms which include sickness, diarrhoea, bloating, IBS, a runny nose or eyes, coughing, headaches or migraines and general feelings of unwellness.
People may attribute their symptoms to other things, meaning a food intolerance remains undiagnosed and continues to make life miserable. Intolerance to a food may develop in later life; conversely, some adults find that over time their food intolerance lessens, potentially enabling them to include the offending foodstuffs in their diet once more. If you have noticed any of the above symptoms and have not been tested for food intolerance, testing could be a sensible option.
What to do if you suspect you have an allergy or intolerance?
If you notice unwanted symptoms after consuming certain food or group of foods, prompt testing to establish if the item is causing an allergic reaction or an intolerance is important. Although in both cases the offending foodstuff needs to be avoided, allergy sufferers may need to take particular care: if there is a severe allergy present, the sufferer may need to carry an epi-pen to use in the event of unexpected contact. The epi-pen releases epinephrine which works to reverse many of the most damaging symptoms of anaphylaxis.
If intolerance or allergy is diagnosed, avoiding the foodstuff which causes the reaction can cause a dramatic improvement in symptoms. Book an appointment today to get Test your Food relationship.