Allergies and Food, Part 2: Food Allergies vs. Food Intolerance

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Unlike food allergies, in which even a speck of the offending food can cause a life threatening immune system reaction, food intolerances often are dose related. This means that while you might find that you can eat a small handful of wheat crackers and have no problems, consuming an entire bowl of pasta will cause you to experience pain and discomfort.

Food intolerance is a digestive system response rather than an immune system response. It occurs when something in a food irritates a person’s digestive system, or when a person is unable to properly digest or breakdown the food. Additionally, food allergic symptoms often occur within minutes of the food being eaten, while food intolerance issues can occur up to 24 hours later.

If you find yourself experiencing allergic symptoms and don’t know where they come from, you may have what is commonly called a “food intolerance.” Food intolerance symptoms are not life threatening, but can certainly cause you to feel miserable.

In recent years, studies have shown that food intolerance symptoms can go beyond the “basic” upset stomach. Food intolerance can cause inflammation in the stomach and intestines, and poor nutrient absorption, resulting in a variety of health problems. People have reported suffering from migraines, acne, hives, ulcers, fatigue, high blood pressure, and even chronic urinary tract infections from food intolerances. Food intolerances have also been linked to IBS, or Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

One good way to figure out if you suffer from a food intolerance to to keep a food journal and note any symptoms that may occur after you eat certain foods. Another option is to try an elimination diet, in which you first cut out all suspected foods and gradually re-introduce them, keeping track of your allergic responses and symptoms. Common foods that can cause intolerance are dairy (lactose intolerance), wheat, nuts, soy, corn and food additives or preservatives.

Being aware of what you eat, avoiding problem foods, and eating a healthy diet free of food additives will help you go a long way to maintaining a high quality lifestyle.

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