At Getufit Fitness & Nutrition in Chicago, IL, we know that a well-balanced diet is a vital part of leading a healthy lifestyle, but for people who have food intolerances and allergies, it can be more difficult to build a meal plan. If you are someone who frequently has reactions after eating certain foods, it may be a good idea to visit a physician to complete allergy and intolerance tests. With more knowledge about what you can and cannot eat, you will be able to build a balanced diet. We can help you come up with a plan to allow your body to start tolerating more types of food.
Food Intolerances and Allergies
While some people believe that food intolerance and food allergy are two interchangeable terms, there is actually a huge difference between these conditions. A food intolerance is essentially a response from the digestive system, while a food allergy is a response from the immune system. While both conditions mean that your body is responding negatively to food, the way you can cope with these conditions is vastly different.
It’s also important to note that a food allergy can be a potentially life-threatening condition. If a food allergy prompts anaphylaxis, this can make it difficult to breathe and may result in hospitalization. Food intolerance, on the other hand, is rarely life-threatening.
What Triggers These Conditions?
If you are someone with a food allergy, then your allergic episodes are triggered by an immune system response. The immune system in the body is a highly effective tool that protects you from dangerous or harmful foreign stimuli. When the body identifies food as dangerous to the body, it prompts a wide-scale immune response by releasing certain antibodies. The body will respond in the same way each time an allergen is consumed.
Food intolerance, on the other hand, is triggered by consuming food that the body has difficulty digesting. Many people with food intolerances may have a sensitivity to certain additives or may lack the digestive enzymes required to properly break down food during digestion. Food intolerance may also be caused by digestive disorders. Some people may be able to eat small portions of sensitive foods without experiencing intolerance symptoms.
Symptoms of Food Allergy
The severity of an allergic reaction to food will vary depending on the degree of allergy. Some people may only experience minor discomfort such as tingling or itching of the mouth, while others may experience severe abdominal pain. Symptoms such as hives, eczema, itchy skin, wheezing, nasal congestion, dizziness, and lightheadedness are all common for food allergies.
Severe symptoms can include swelling of the face, lips, tongue, and throat, which can impede breathing. These severe symptoms are often associated with anaphylaxis, which occurs when a severe food allergy causes the airways to tighten. People who experience anaphylaxis may also have symptoms such as a rapid pulse or a sudden drop in blood pressure. Emergency treatment is necessary for people who have an anaphylactic shock.
When Do Symptoms Begin?
In general, people with food allergies will have a very quick response to the allergen. The symptoms of a food allergy can develop as soon as a few minutes or a couple of hours after the food is consumed. Sometimes, the speed of the allergen response may depend on the severity of the allergy. The symptoms of a food allergy are rarely delayed.
Symptoms of Food Intolerance
Most of the discomfort associated with food intolerance occurs in the digestive tract. People who have a food intolerance will frequently experience abdominal pain, diarrhea, gas, bloating, nausea, upset stomach, and heartburn. Some people may also have headaches and migraines. Not all of these symptoms will be experienced during each intolerance episode.
When Do Symptoms Begin?
Most of the time, people will not experience the symptoms of food intolerance until the food has moved through the digestive tract. Most people will notice symptoms a few hours after consuming triggering food, while others may have delayed reactions after 48 hours. These symptoms can last for several hours or days, depending on the severity of the intolerance. Sometimes, over-the-counter medication can help relieve these symptoms.
What Are the Most Common Triggering Foods?
Food intolerances and allergies share many of the same triggering foods. For food allergies, the most common allergens include milk, fish, eggs, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat, soybeans, and shellfish. The most common foods that trigger food intolerance include lactose, gluten, and histamines which naturally occur in cheese, chocolates, and some fruits.
How Are Food Allergies Identified?
The most common way to identify a food allergy is to complete a blood allergy test and an allergy skin-prick test. For the skin-prick test, a doctor will prick the skin with a small amount of a potential allergen; after 15 minutes, if a bump appears on the skin, the individual may have a food allergy. An allergy blood test measures antibodies of immunoglobulin E.
For some people, certain risk factors may make them at high risk for developing food allergies. Individuals who have a family history of food allergies and other allergic symptoms, people who have existing allergies to other foods, and people who have asthma are all at higher risk for having food allergies. People who have asthma are also at higher risk of developing anaphylactic reactions.
How Are Food Intolerances Identified?
Food intolerance can also be discovered with a skin prick test or a blood test, although these tests may not be as accurate for identifying intolerances. The best method to identify food intolerance is an exclusion diet, which involves avoiding the potentially triggering food for several weeks and then eating the food to track symptoms.
Get Help With Food Intolerances and Allergies
Having food intolerances and allergies can be extremely disruptive to everyday life. While these conditions are similar, a food allergy is typically more severe. A doctor can use blood tests and skin prick tests to identify both conditions.
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