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Food Allergies vs Food Intolerances

foodallergiesintolerancesJacquie Eubanks RN BSN

What’s the difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance or sensitivity? Turns out the body knows the difference immediately. A food intolerance involves the digestive system, often leading to difficult digestion, abdominal pain, intestinal gas and other digestive symptoms. A food allergy involves the immune system and can lead to a serious or life-threatening reaction, even when past reactions have been mild. The most severe allergic reaction is anaphylaxis, a whole-body response that can impair breathing and cause a dramatic drop in blood pressure, as well as confusion or loss of consciousness. Anaphylaxis often occurs within minutes of eating a problem food or as a reaction to another potential allergen such as a medication or an insect sting. Those with food allergies who also have asthma are most at risk for an anaphylactic reaction.

A food allergic reaction occurs when the immune system has an adverse reaction to a food or a component of the food such as food proteins. Eight foods that are most often responsible for allergic reactions include cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, fish and shellfish. Blood tests for the presence of IgE antibodies help to identify specific food allergies. For the highly allergic, careful avoidance of potential allergens may be the only way to prevent anaphylaxis. Severe symptoms can be reversed when epinephrine, a highly effective medication also known as adrenaline, is administered promptly. Those who know they are extremely allergic often carry this emergency prescription medication for self-treatment. As symptoms, can reoccur sometimes hours later, those who administer self-treatment should immediately seek further professional evaluation.

In contrast, though food sensitivities may cause intestinal distress, skin issues or inflammation, food intolerance reactions are generally less serious. Apart from lactose intolerance or celiac disease, there is no accurate or reliable test to identity food intolerance. Sensitivities are often identified using an exclusion diet. This short term eating plan helps to pinpoint exactly which foods are causing intestinal distress or other health related issues such as acne or eczema. The inflammation reducing exclusion diet is very useful for identifying the food or foods that are negatively affecting the body and causing the inflammation lurking behind the development of many health conditions, including chronic fatigue, autoimmune disorders, arthritis, muscle pain, weight gain, migraines, skin issues or mood disorders.

Excluding common allergens for a minimum of three to six weeks can result in significant improvement in overall wellbeing. After the exclusion phase, over a period of one to two weeks, one food at a time is slowly introduced back into the diet and any symptoms are recorded. Once a food is reintroduced, if symptoms of sensitivities return, the food is excluded again to see if symptoms clear up once more. An exclusion diet generally consists of 40% fresh vegetables, 30% protein, 20% healthy fats and 10% fruit. As some people are sensitive to grains, even gluten free grains like quinoa, you may want to exclude them altogether or keep them at 10% or less of your overall food intake.

It’s a trial and error process, but in 4-6 weeks, food intolerances should be identified. If symptoms return when food is reintroduced, there’s a good chance this food should be eliminated from your food choices for better short and long term health. Some health professionals recommend that everyone do an exclusion diet at least once during their lifetime. Many may not attribute symptoms such as headaches, bloating, runny nose, hives or a persistent cough to a food intolerance and find they feel surprisingly better once certain foods are permanently excluded or greatly reduced. Those with food sensitivities may also benefit from digestive enzyme supplements that facilitate the breakdown of foods for improved digestion and absorption of nutrients.

Professional Supplement Center carries high quality allergen-free nutritional supplements along with effective digestive enzyme products:

Super Shake -...Super Shake Vanilla by Nutritional Frontiers – Super Shake provides a hypoallergenic, low carb vegan meal replacement powder suitable for those with food allergies or sensitivities. Free of common allergens including gluten, dairy and soy, Super Shake features pea, rice and pumpkin protein for a total of 24 g per serving. Mixes easily with beverage of choice or may be added to a smoothie. Available in a variety of flavors. Non-GMO formulation.

UltraCare for Kids®...UltraCare for Kids® Vanilla Flavor by Metagenics – UltraCare provides high quality, comprehensive nutritional support for children with food allergies. Features low-allergy-potential rice protein for children with sensitivities to dairy, egg, gluten, corn protein or soy protein. Provides 250 mg of non-dairy calcium per serving. Wheat, gluten, soy, dairy and egg free. No artificial colors or flavors or high fructose corn syrup. Non-GMO formulation.

G.I. Hist SupportG.I. Hist Support™ by Neurobiologix – This clinically tested and patented enzyme formula helps to break down food-derived histamine in the digestive tract. Food intolerance can be caused by histamine naturally found in foods. This product does not address IgE-related food allergies. Wheat, gluten, yeast, soy, dairy, nut and egg free, Non-GMO formulation.

AlliHist Relief ...AlliHist Relief by BioGenesis Nutraceuticals – This herbal nutritional formula is designed to reduce allergic symptoms without drowsiness or other side effects of antihistamines. Botanicals and enzymes help to reduce sensitivities to food, airborne or contact substances to support upper respiratory function and sinus health.

Food Intolerance. https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/conditions-dictionary/food-Intolerance
Food Allergy Overview. https://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/allergies/food-allergies
Food allergy to proteins. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17245088
About Anaphylaxis. https://www.foodallergy.org/anaphylaxis
Food Intolerance: Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/263965.php