Food Allergies or Food Intolerance

Most people do not have food allergies no matter how uncomfortable they may feel after they eat ice cream or drink milk. The cramps and the bloat are most likely due to having food intolerance to dairy.

The basic difference is that food allergies require an immune system reaction and food intolerances do not. In a food allergy, your immune system mistakenly identifies a specific food or a part of a food as being harmful to your body. That sets off your immune system which triggers specific cells to produce antibodies to fight the evil food or ingredient. The next time you eat even the smallest amount of that food, or sometimes touch it or inhale its particles, the antibodies sense it and signal your immune system to release histamine and other chemicals into your bloodstream to protect itself which causes all sorts of reactions such as swelling and hives and dizziness.

The good news is that only two to four percent of adults and six to eight percent of children under the age of three have true food allergies. The rest of us are likely to have food intolerance. That is important to know because eating even the tiniest amount of food may trigger a serious allergic reaction. If you have a food intolerance, however, you usually can eat small amounts of the food with any serious side effects.

There are about 170 different foods listed as causing food allergies. Eight of the major food allergens cause 90 percent of the allergic reactions. These major food allergens are: milk from cows, eggs, fish, shell fish, peanuts, soybeans, tree nuts and wheat.

Reactions to food allergens may be mild or severe and vary from person to person. Some may attack only one part of the body such as hives on the head. Others may be more severe and attack the entire body. Symptoms also differ. They may take place immediately or there may be a delayed reaction a day later.

The tendency to be allergic to a particular food tens to run in families. Interestingly, people with food allergies come from families where allergies are common even though none of the family may be allergic to food. Parents and siblings may be allergic to pollen, fur, cats, and some drugs. If both parents have allergies, it is more likely that their children will have allergies.

Food allergy reactions include:

Hives, eczema, swelling of the face and hands and feet, itching, swelling of the lips and tongue.

Abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

Runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath.

Lightheadedness or fainting.

If you suspect you have a food allergy or that someone in your family has a food allergy, check it out with your family physician or internist. Food allergies can be life threatening.

On the other hand, if you suspect you have trouble with some foods, the most common one being dairy products, avoid eating them or only eat small portions.

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About The Author, Ruthan Brodsky
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