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Distinguish Food Allergy from Food Intolerance
March 2, 2014, 12:15 pm

Adverse reaction to certain foods could be the result of food intolerance or food allergy. However, it is important to know the difference between the two as food allergy can be serious and life threatening, while food intolerance, though not life-threatening, can cause digestive issues, joint pain, migraines, sinusitis, and a host of other issues. Knowing the difference between the two can help you avoid a trip to the emergency room, or a life of discomfort.

Food Allergy: A food allergy is a potentially life-threatening reaction caused by the body’s immune system to a particular food. The first time someone with a food allergy eats the food nothing happens.

But, the second time they eat that same food, their immune system perceives the food as a ‘threat’ and tries to protect the body by releasing antibodies which, ultimately triggers the release of histamine.

Histamine provokes an inflammatory response in an effort to remove the invader from the body. The type of allergy symptoms experienced depends on where the histamine is released. Essentially any food can cause an allergic reaction, but 90 percent of them are caused by foods such as bread, salmon, eggs and milk, as well as by shellfish, peanuts, and tree nuts.

Food Intolerance: Though non-life threatening, food intolerance is a reaction involving the digestive system and have a greater variety of causes. Absence of enzymes needed for digestion, immune problems, sensitivity to food additives, and naturally occurring histamines and salicylates found in food are some of the root causes of food intolerance. Additionally, the existence of one food intolerance can trigger other illnesses. Gluten intolerance often results in permeability of the intestinal tract, leaky gut, enabling food particles to cross the intestinal lining into the bloodstream, eliciting a immune response. Hence, someone may appear to have problems with a wide variety of foods when in fact the only real problem is gluten.

Also, symptoms related to food intolerance manifest themselves differently in different people and are often chronic rather than severe. Digestive symptoms include gas, bloating, stomachaches, acid reflux, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and others. Non-digestive symptoms include migraines, headaches, eczema, asthma, brain fog and depression.
Since food intolerances have so many causes with so many symptoms, they are often not recognized correctly or misdiagnosed as allergies. Like food allergies, food intolerance can involve essentially any food. Some of the more common food intolerances are dairy, gluten, food additives, and sulphites.

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