Wellness Wednesdays: Distinguishing between a food allergy and a food intolerance

It is very important to distinguish between a food allergy and a food intolerance. Many people confine themselves to continuous suffering when an allergy test comes back as negative, believing that it cannot be food leading to their suffering – effectively giving up when in reality they are most probably still intolerant.

A food allergy is an adverse response to a food protein; the body effectively thinks it is under attack and the immune system responds by sending out white blood cells to fight, causing the allergic reaction, with symptoms presenting themselves almost immediately. Diagnostic tests, which include a skin prick or blood tests, can be done to detect whether a person is allergic after which the disease can be treated but there is no cure. Symptoms affect the skin (rashes, hives, dermatitis and eczema), respiratory tract (nasal congestion, sinusitis, asthma and coughing) and gastrointestinal tract (mouth ulcers, cramps, nausea, bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation and IBS).

An intolerance results from the absence of specific chemicals or enzymes needed to digest a food substance and is chronic rather than acute. An intolerance is more difficult to diagnose and symptoms, although similar to those of an allergy,  only present themselves over a prolonged period of time. An elimination diet is the only way to determine what may be the cause.

The severity of the symptoms and amount of food needed to trigger the reaction varies from person to person for both.

Although an allergy can be treated with certain medications such as epinephrine (adrenaline), antihistamines and steroids I believe the simplest solution to either an allergy or an intolerance is to completely eliminate contact with the problematic protein. Many people suffer from multiple food allergies which can include anything and everything from wheat, gluten, nuts, dairy, shellfish, soy and beans to chicken. The list is endless and random.

Many people become overwhelmed when they are diagnosed with an allergy or an intolerance. Our advice here is to concentrate on what you can eat rather on what you cannot. When your slew of health issues become a thing of the past this lifestyle change is so obviously worth it.

Read more here (especially about gluten intolerance).