The Full Story on Food Allergies and Food Intolerances
Information provided by the American Dietetic Association: Your Link to Nutrition & Health
Adverse reactions to foods should be taken seriously - they can have negative effects on your health and can disrupt your quality of life.
If you experience a queasy stomach, itchy skin or diarrhea after eating, a food intolerance or a food allergy may be the culprit. Causes of discomfort after eating are many and complex and self-diagnosis may lead you to unnecessary food restrictions.
What is the difference between a food intolerance and a food allergy?
Food allergies are abnormal responses of the body's immune system to certain foods or ingredients. Food allergies can show up as rashes, swelling of the skin, nasal congestion, nausea and diarrhea or the most serious reaction - anaphylactic shock, which is life threatening. People with food allergies usually need to eliminate the problem foods from their diet altogether.
About 2 percent to 2.5 percent of all adults (and many children) suffer from food allergies, so knowing what to avoid is important. The most common allergens are found in peanuts, shellfish and dairy products.
Food intolerances, on the other hand, do not involve the immune system, although your body's reactions can mimic those of allergies. With a food intolerance, the body can't adequately digest a certain component of a particular food.
Depending on the type of food intolerance, most people can eat small servings of the problem food without unpleasant side effects. However, people with celiac disease, also known as gluten intolerance, and sulfite sensitivity are exceptions to this general rule.
If a certain food seems to bother you, talk with your physician to diagnose your symptoms. A dietetics professional can help you develop a healthful eating plan that's right for you despite food restrictions.