Food Allergy

food allergy

A food allergy is when the body’s immune system responds to a food and produces an allergic response. Generally, the body’s immune system recognizes, targets, and destroys germs and invading organisms within the body. Unfortunately sometimes the body confuses good and harmless things, such as food, as being dangerous invaders and attacks them causing an allergic reaction

What is the difference between a food allergy and a food intolerance?

It can be difficult to determine the difference between a food allergy and food intolerance because they are both reactions caused by food. While difficult, it is important to determine, with the help of an allergist or doctor, what kind of reaction you are having so it can be properly treated. Proper diagnosis is important to prevent eliminating foods out of your diet that are important sources of nutrients. Below are some differences between food intolerances and food allergies.

 
Food Intolerance
FoodAllergy
Onset of Symptoms:
Can be gradually
Suddenly
Amount of food needed to cause a reaction:
May not have a reaction unless a large portion has been eaten
Small amount will cause a reaction
How often does it happen?
May only happen if eaten in large amounts or eaten frequently
Every time the food is eaten
Cause of the reaction:
Various causes
Immune system response
Is it life-threatening?
No
Yes

What are food allergy symptoms?

Food allergy symptoms can range from mild to severe and in some cases a life threatening anaphylactic reaction. Mild symptoms may include:

  • Hives
  • Eczema
  • Skin redness
  • Itchy mouth
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Dry cough

Severe symptoms may include:

  • Mouth and throat swelling
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Wheezing
  • Turning blue
  • Feeling faint
  • Confusion
  • Body weakness
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Chest pain
  • Weak pulse

Severe symptoms may be signs of an anaphylactic reaction and require immediate treatment such as an EpiPen or calling 911.

How is a food allergy diagnosed?

Diagnosis and treatment of food allergies should be done by an allergist. Self-diagnosis of food allergies can many times lead to unnecessary diet changes and wrong diagnoses. Often times what individuals think is a food allergy is really a food intolerance or oral allergy syndrome. Consider keeping a food diary to help the doctor know what foods you react to with what symptoms. The allergists may conduct tests, food challenges, or an elimination diet to help with the diagnosis of food allergies.

How do you treat a food allergy?

Treating food allergies can be difficult, especially when unable to determine the “hidden” ingredients used in processed foods. But, with the help of a doctor or dietician it can be possible to help treat your unpleasant symptoms. The only safe way to prevent and treat a food allergy is to:

  • Avoid the trigger food. Many stores may also provide alternative food products such as lactose-free milk or gluten-free bread.

Remember:  Always consult a doctor or dietician before making any changes to your diet.

 

References

Disclaimer: The information contained in this site is for educational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for a licensed physician. Please see your physician for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition. Click here to read the full disclaimer.
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