Food Allergies or Food Intolerance?

Food allergies are often confused with a food intolerance. True food allergies affect a very small percentage of the population. Adults that fall into this category are estimated at two to three percent. Children are estimated at six to eight percent. The typical example of a food intolerance is lactose. Those with this intolerance find it hard to drink milk or eat dairy products without getting an upset stomach. Intolerance to a specific food is not considered an allergy until or unless the immune system is affected. A true allergy consists of the immune system malfunctioning. It reacts to a particular allergen as though it were a harmful substance. In this case the trigger would be the specific type of food.

Foods That Can Cause Food Allergies

Here is the typical list of offenders but keep in mind that almost any food can cause an allergic reaction.

  • eggs
  • soy
  • milk
  • wheat
  • nuts
  • fish

My sister has an allergy to eggs. She falls into the typical category of an allergy prone person. She has had severe eczema at times and even in her 40s still has asthma. Asthma and eczema usually indicate that you will be allergic to one or many things and that you might be more likely to experience food allergies. Food allergies can encompass a whole range of foods once identified. Think about the fact that eggs are used as an ingredient in so many foods. You always have to be conscious of the ingredient list even when you go to restaurants.

Symptoms of a Food Allergy

  • itching
  • hives
  • swelling of the mouth (possibly including lips)
  • cramps
  • nausea
  • diarrhea
  • watery eyes
  • runny nose
  • dizziness
  • difficulty breathing
  • accelerated heartbeat

The symptoms of a food allergy can range from mild to severe. Seek medical attention immediately because the sooner you get there the more they can relieve your discomfort. Even if you have a mild reaction if it does not go away you should seek medical advice. Your primary care physician will more than likely refer you to an allergist to confirm that you have a food allergy and not just a food intolerance.

How to Treat Food Allergies

Once your allergist has diagnosed your food allergy the simplest treatment is to avoid the foods all together. Please keep in mind that mild allergies can be treated by over the counter antihistamines. If your food allergies cause a more severe reaction do not waste time. These reactions can be life threatening and will need professional emergency medical care. Whether you suffer from food allergies or food intolerance knowledge is power. Be vigilant when choosing what to eat.

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