food allergies vs intolerances
What’s the difference? The main difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance is how the body reacts to the trigger food.
In a true food allergy, the body’s immune system produces an antibody in response to a specific substance (or allergen) in the food—usually a protein. This antibody is the body’s way of protecting itself against an “attack” by the allergen. As the body battles the invasion, symptoms can appear throughout the body including the mouth (swelling of the lips), digestive tract (stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhea), skin (hives, rashes or eczema) and the airways (wheezing or breathing problems). The only way to avoid these unpleasant (and potentially life-threatening) symptoms is to avoid the offending foods.
Food intolerance is actually a much more common problem than food allergies. A food intolerance occurs when eating a certain food that triggers a negative physiological or metabolic response, but the body’s immune system is not affected. The body cannot adequately digest a portion of the offending food which can result in unpleasant symptoms such as stomach cramps, diarrhea, headaches and fatigue.
To diagnose food allergies, it’s recommended that patients visit an allergen specialist. Diagnosis may include a detailed patient history, physical exam, an exclusion diet, allergy skin tests, blood tests and other diagnostic testing.
Source: US Food & Drug Administration
get smart about food allergies!
The food allergy community has some wonderful support organizations that focus on research, education and awareness. Visit the other resources area of our website for links to many organizations and websites.
Our allergy-friendly and tips and hints areas will also provide you with helpful information on living safely with food allergies. View our useful Survival Guide, or request one to be sent to you by mail by clicking here
did you know?
- Eight major food groups (milk, eggs, fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soy) account for 90% of all food allergies. Enjoy Life is free of all eight!
- The US FDA now requires all food manufacturers to clearly label common allergens on their product labels.
- It’s estimated that 12 million Americans have food allergies, with 6.9 million allergic to seafood and 3.3 million allergic to peanuts or tree nuts.
- Each year 30,000 people go to the emergency room and 150-200 people die from food allergic reactions.
- 8% of children (5.9 million people under the age of 18) in the United States suffer from a food allergy.
- Adults can develop food allergies at any time. Children sometimes outgrow the allergies they have as infants, but an early peanut allergy may be life long.
- Cow’s milk, egg, wheat and soy are the most common allergies in children, while tree nuts, fish, shellfish and peanut allergies are most likely to affect adults.
- In Canada, there are 13 recognized common food allergens. Enjoy Life is free of all of these!
Sources: The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network, U.S. Food & Drug Administration,Food Allergy Initiative