Food Allergy and Food Intolerance: Are They the Same?
Ever had gastric discomfort after eating a particular food item and claimed it as a food allergy? Then, you just need to rethink! Discomfort due to a food item may mean you are sensitive or intolerant to that food, and not allergic. Feel perplexed what is the difference between food allergy and food intolerance? And more importantly, should you know it? Well, yes. Both these conditions are different and you must know whether you are allergic or intolerant/ sensitive to food since they have different symptoms and how you need to manage it will also vary. Did you know there is a simple test that can check food intolerance? Book a food intolerance test and know for yourself.
Food allergy Vs. Food intolerance
Food allergy means your body identifies a certain substance in a food item as an intruder and reacts by making antibodies against it. This is an immune system response. On the other hand, food intolerance is a relatively simpler condition where your body is unable to digest a certain food. It might occur due to a lack of enzymes that are needed to breakdown that food (or a particular substance in that food). Your immune system is nowhere involved in this.
Symptoms and their significance
Food intolerance results in gut-related symptoms including bloating, stomach ache, constipation, nausea, etc. Also, the symptoms are usually dependant on the amount of food eaten. In case you are intolerant to peanuts- the more peanut you consume, the more discomfort you experience. This implies if you are intolerant to a food item you really relish, you can restrict the amount eaten and enjoy the taste with very mild or even no symptoms at all.
Food allergy causes symptoms like any other allergy which may include skin rashes, itching, swelling, etc. in addition to gut problems, and can even lead to a more severe reaction (called anaphylaxis),. This severe reaction can cause a drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness, etc., and needs immediate medical care. If you are allergic to a food, even consuming the smallest amount of that food (or at times, even touching the food item) can give you the symptoms. So you need to completely take out the food from your diet.
Food allergy or food intolerance: Which is more common?
Food intolerances are more common than food allergies, as per the British Allergy Foundation. Speaking of food allergy, while any food can be a trigger, some of the common triggers for a food allergy include the following:
Triggers in children:
Triggers in adults:
-Peanuts and tree nuts
-Fruit and vegetable pollen
Can food allergies go away on their own?
Many people with food allergies wonder if their condition is permanent. There is no definitive answer. While allergies to milk, eggs, wheat, and soy may disappear over time, allergies to peanuts, tree nuts, and fish can stay lifelong. It is noteworthy that children can outgrow food allergies to milk and eggs.
Can food allergies develop as an adult?
Although most food allergies appear in people when they are young, they might develop in adults as well. The most common food allergies that affect adults are shellfish, fish, and peanuts. Some adults might ignore symptoms such as vomiting or diarrhea as food poisoning. Make sure to pay close attention to symptoms and don’t miss the crucial hints. It can get people at risk if they continue to eat the food.
Tips to prevent food reactions
- Know your triggers and avoid them: The best way to avoid getting the symptoms is to know what foods you are allergic or intolerant to. Now how do you know it? Usually, most people only know it after repeated exposure and developing symptoms. If you doubt having a food reaction, you can maintain a food diary, watch back and correlate your meals and foods with days you had got symptoms. If you are allergic to a food, completely avoid it.
- Get yourself tested: A food intolerance test is an easy way to know if you could be intolerant to a certain food. If you know it, you can skip eating that and get rid of the discomfort.
- A little caution while eating out: If you have to eat out, make sure to ask the staff that no item in your order has any of the substances you are sensitive to. The cutlery should be also clear of any food remnants.
- Check product labels carefully: While getting pre-packed foods, make sure to double-check the product label. Even if it is your repeated purchase, recheck labels as the manufacturers might add new ingredients in the old formulations.
- Keep an action plan ready: Consult your doctor on what you need to do in case you get exposed to a food substance you are allergic or intolerant to. He might prescribe medicines to take in case of any health emergency (related to food allergy, food intolerance has very less chances of needing emergency care).