August 13, 2017

Food Allergy and Food Intolerance: What Is the Difference?

Allergic and Non-Allergic Reactions to Foods

Adverse reactions to foods are the order of the day and even became mainstream in our modern society. Nowadays people discuss their “food allergies” as openly as they talk about the weather. It became even fashionable to have any kind of reaction to food. But what about the science behind these fashionable reactions? What is a food allergy and what is an intolerance?

First, it should be mentioned that symptoms caused by eating a certain product don’t necessarily mean a food allergy. When it comes to a food allergy, this means that there is an IgE-mediated process which causes the release of allergic components leading to symptoms related to a food allergy. There are also reactions which are not allergic, but they are food intolerance. Some of them can be caused by the immune system, and others cannot.

Some products cannot be digested by the human body, but a person who does not know about this situation continues to use them. Accordingly, health is harmed, and then the person is surprised why his (her) health worsened and new diseases appeared. Many people are accustomed to confusing food intolerance and allergy but these are completely different things, and the approach to treating them is different.

 Food Allergy Vs. Food Intolerance

Food allergy – what is it?

Allergic reaction to foods manifests itself immediately after eating. 30-60 minutes are enough for the occurrence of the corresponding symptoms that are typical for any type of allergy. These are signs of mild asphyxia, cough, runny nose, redness of the skin and skin rash. A much smaller percentage of the population suffers from food allergy rather than from food intolerance. After taking antihistamines and refusing a specific food which became the cause of the allergy, the problem is solved in most cases.

What is a food intolerance?

The adverse reaction of the body to eating certain products or components in their composition is commonly called food intolerance. Such a state develops because of the inability of a particular organism to digest them. This pathology has nothing in common with an allergic reaction. According to medical statistics, with age, every third person no longer properly digest dairy products, and every hundredth person no longer properly digests cereals such as rye, wheat, barley as well as legumes, mushrooms, and berries, especially strawberries. After eating such products, a reaction occurs due to the presence of the appropriate features of the body, but it manifests itself after a few days or even weeks, in contrast to the presence of food allergies. One of the brightest examples of this state is gluten enteropathy. It is an intolerance to gluten, which is a cereal protein.

 Why does food intolerance arise and how dangerous is this condition?

Food intolerance develops in the presence of digestive disorders: large undigested product molecules, which are called transcytosis, begin to be absorbed by the body and are not digested. Such a condition can be provoked by:

  • eating unhealthy foods that contain many food colors and preservatives;
  • stress;
  • food allergy;
  • enzymatic insufficiency;
  • diseases of the gastrointestinal tract.

As a result, such products not only do not benefit the body, since they are not digested but also provoke various diseases. The immune system begins to react to transcytosis as to foreign substances that have permeated the body, and it fights them by producing antibodies. With the bloodstream, such antibodies are transported throughout the body and begin to provoke the development of inflammatory processes in the internal organs. Food intolerance can be of two types: congenital and acquired. But it is worth recalling that such a problem is disguised by a huge number of diseases and, in the end, in the absence of proper diagnosis and therapy, it can lead to the development of a number of chronic diseases, the formation of excess kilograms, metabolic disorders.

How to identify food intolerance?

A specialist can help you identify the very product that the body does not tolerate. To this end, many methods and special tests have been developed. Quite often, thanks to the banal correction of the diet and lifestyle, you can solve this problem. The reason for going to a specialist can be the presence of the following conditions and reactions of the body:

  • pain in the joints and muscles, their swelling;
  • skin rashes;
  • gastrointestinal upset;
  • constant sensation of weakness, fatigue, irritability;
  • unsuccessful attempts to lose extra weight or on the contrary to gain a couple of kilograms, provided a normal lifestyle and nutrition and the absence of endocrine pathologies.

 Non-Immune Mediated Intolerance

The most common of the non-immune mediated intolerance is lactose intolerance which is characterized by diarrhea, bloating, and cramping within hours of consuming lactose-containing products. This condition is triggered by a deficiency of lactose. This is the enzyme which breaks down lactose, leading to water entering the small intestine from the body due to the large lactose molecule contained in the intestine. Allergy testing doesn’t demonstrate signs of milk allergy.

There are many other foods causing non-immune mediated intolerance. Most of these conditions result in some type of disorders of the gastrointestinal tract. There are no tests available for these types of reactions.

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