What is Food Allergy?
The reaction of the immune system towards certain foods is generally termed as food allergy. Immune system of the body reacts to these foods in a way similar to the toxins and releases histamines in an effort to eliminate the toxic substances. The released histamines result in a myriad of symptoms whose severity can be very high or mild. As the immune system is very active at recognizing the toxic materials even very small amount of allergic food can initiate the symptoms.
Common Causes for Food Allergy
The most common food items that cause allergic reactions in children include milk, wheat, sea foods, egg white, soya protein and peanuts. Almonds, peanut, hazelnut, and walnut are few common allergic food items in adults.
What is Food Intolerance?
Any unpleasant reaction to a food item is considered as food intolerance. Few food intolerance prove to mild forms of food allergies. It generally results in development of discomfort in the digestive system due to irritation of the system by a specific food item. One of the most commonly observed food intolerance is lactose intolerance which is the sugar found in milk and milk products.
Common Foods Causing Food Intolerance
Majority of people are intolerant to food items such as dairy products, strawberries, tomatoes, citrus fruits, food additives such as monosodium glutamate and foods containing histamines.
Comparison of Symptoms of Food Intolerance and Food Allergy
Involvement of immune system: symptoms of food allergy develop due to involvement of immune system. Food intolerance symptoms develop due to inability to digest one or more foods due to deficiency of required enzymes, stress, food poisoning, celiac disease and irritable bowel syndrome.
Extent of their occurrence: Food allergies are observed only in about 5% of adults. But, food intolerance is a very common reaction. Every one of us develop an unpleasant reaction to one or more food items during the lifetime.
Rapidity in the onset of symptoms: The symptoms of food allergy develop immediately whereas food intolerance symptoms develop gradually.
Severity of the symptoms: food allergy symptoms are very severe and may even lead to death if neglected. Symptoms of food intolerance are not very life threatening.
List of symptoms: symptoms of allergic reactions generally involve development of rashes, diarrhea, itching, vomiting, difficulty to breathe, bad smell of lips and other soft tissues and shock may also be observed in few cases. Swelling of the allergic tissue is also observed due to increased release of histamine at the site of reaction. Symptoms of food intolerance that develop due to inability to digest the ingested food include abdominal pain, heartburn, headache, nervousness, bloating, smelly diarrhea and vomiting.
Persistence of the condition: In majority of kids food allergies disappear by the time they reach adolescence. But, allergic reactions to certain foods such as peanuts and fish continue throughout the life. The persistence of food intolerance depends on its cause.
Medications: Generally food intolerances cannot be treated by use of medications. The only way to treat them is eliminating the food item. Food allergies can be treated with medications. However, they are hard to manage.
Food Allergy and Food Intolerance Tests
In view of severity of the symptoms of food allergies and food intolerance it is highly essential to immediately diagnose the cause and treat accordingly by eliminating the culprit food item from your menu.
Simple Food allergy and food intolerance tests involves eliminating one food at a time or beginning with the least possible allergic food and including one food at a time until the symptoms of food intolerance or allergy are observed. This is a time taking process.
Simple Food allergy and food intolerance tests involve eliminating one food at a time or beginning with the least possible allergic food and including one food at a time until the symptoms of food intolerance or allergy are observed. This is a time taking process.
For faster results blood tests are used. It is done using blood collection kit which tests the presence of antibodies for all possible allergens. The extent of positive reaction determines whether the specific food item is strongly allergic, mild or insignificant.
Skin Prick Tests are also used to Diagnose Food Allergies.
Finally, depending on the results of food allergy and food intolerance tests the allergic or the intolerant food item is eliminated. If the symptoms do not subside it is recommended to go for second blood test. Even after the symptoms subside it is recommended to go for a second test after a period of twelve months.
Do not eliminate the suspected food items prior to confirming with appropriate tests and physician’s guidance as it can lead to severe malnutrition.