Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance

Boy, it sure seems like nowadays, everybody has an allergy to something.  Commercially prepared food, fast food and genetically modified food has a great deal to do with that, and are definitely sources of sustenance you want to stay away from as much as possible.  The chemicals, preservatives and splicing of food genes sets the stage for both food allergies, as well as food intolerances.  This is NOT to discount individuals with genuine food allergies, and many foods marketed as being “healthy” or “good” for you, are actually quite the opposite, and cause a whole host of allergic-like reactions and imbalances to one’s health.  Grains is one major example, as many people have gluten intolerances, and those who are diabetic will find it hard to keep their blood sugar regulated if they eat too many grain products, because refined grain is mostly starch.   Now, when it comes to food intolerances, the closer your diet is to nature-made, the less likely you are to suffer from food intolerance symptoms.

How Do You Know If Your Food Is Making You Sick

If after every meal you eat, you feel bloated, gassy or queasy, then it’s time to start keeping a detailed food journal.  Whether your symptoms are food allergy or food intolerance related, you won’t know who the culprits are unless you have an accounting of everything you eat and drink, along with any symptoms after eating them.  Less than 2% of the U.S. population have a true food allergy.  More often than not, the majority of your distress is due to a food intolerance, which again, can be easily corrected once you know which foods and beverages are giving your digestive system a hard time.

A Food Allergy

An allergic reaction to food occurs when your immune system mistakes something you’ve eaten (or drank) as harmful, and sends out IgE (immunoglobulin E) antibodies to protect you.  The result?  Anything from a runny nose to anaphylaxis, which can cause difficulty breathing, swelling of the throat, a rash or hives.  Food allergies can develop at any age.  Allergy experts say that those who have other allergies, such as to dust mites, pet dander, mold, etc., are more susceptible to food allergies.  While some children can outgrow allergies to wheat, soy and milk early on, before the age of 5, it is rare for adult or child to outgrow or rid themselves of an allergy to nuts or seafood.

Most Common Food Allergies

* Wheat

* Dairy

* Nuts

* Seafood

* Eggs

* Soy

A Food Intolerance

A food intolerance involves your digestive system, and occurs when a food irritates your digestive tract, or your body can’t break down an ingredient.  Intolerances can develop at any age.  Common intolerances include lactose and gluten.  The chemical histamine (found in certain fish, cheese and red wine, for example) can also cause a reaction.  Intolerances are not life threatening, and eventually the symptoms go away (until you eat the offending food again), but if you chronically experience them, they are certainly not pleasant.

Food Allergy vs Food Intolerance Quick-Guide

Note Your Symptoms

Food Allergy Symptoms – hives; trouble swallowing; swelling face or tongue; itchy eyes-skin-mouth-throat-or tongue; runny or stuffy nose; difficulty breathing.

Food Intolerance Symptoms – heartburn; bloating; belching; indigestion; diarrhea.

Look At The Timing

Food Allergy Timing – symptoms usually strike within the first few minutes, or up to 30 minutes after eating the food.

Food Intolerance Timing – symptoms usually don’t develop until 1-3 hours after eating the food.

Consider How Much You Ate

Food Allergy Symptom – you just ate a little amount.

Food Intolerance Symptom – you downed a lot of food either at one sitting, or over a couple of hours.

450w x 115h Gluten-Free Mall for Gluten-Free Foods

Know The Likely Trouble-Makers

Food Allergy Troublemakers – symptoms occur after eating eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts, cashews, pecans, walnuts, dairy or seafood.

Food Intolerance Troublemakers – symptoms occur after eating garlic, onions, artificial sweeteners or drinking red wine.

These are just the “most common”, however, you can experience a reaction to just about any food, which is why food journaling exactly what you eat at each meal, as well as any symptoms after each meal, will quickly help you identify which foods are causing you distress.

Hidden Culprits

Any food product that has been GENETICALLY ENGINEERED can cause allergy or intolerance when eaten, due to the fact that food genes are being spliced together for an “end product”.  Since we don’t usually know what these exact splicings are, it’s almost impossible to know in advance if a particular food will cause you distress, or worse… a harmful allergic reaction.  This fact is yet another strong reason to eat as close to nature-made as you possibly can.  This way, if a particular food does cause offending symptoms, you will know exactly what food is causing a reaction vs. it being a genetically modified or chemically-induced reaction.

What Do You Do Now

Food Allergy – If you think you have a true food allergy, then you’ll need to avoid the offending food completely.  In some cases a food allergy can cause anaphylactic shock, which can lead to death, so don’t take any chances….stay away.

Food Intolerance – You may not have to give up the offending food(s) completely, but don’t push it.  Eat these foods only in small to moderate amounts, and certainly not everyday.

When it comes to today’s food, especially any commercially prepared food, nothing is exactly as it appears.  Strategic marketing tactics make sure of that.  Learn to be your own food detective, and train you and your family to have better nutrition habits.  Know what foods support your health, and learn which ones to stay away from.  After all, a good detective always gets their culprit!

Bon Veggie Appetit!

Gina ‘The Veggie Goddess’ Matthews