Food Allergy Or Food Intolerance?

A food allergy is an immune system response and a food intolerance is a digestive system response.  Does a certain food give you a rash, nausea, airway restriction, itchy skin, diarrhea or shortness of breath?  That would mean you have a food allergy.  Food intolerance symptoms are stomach pain, nausea, cramping or bloating, heartburn, headache or vomiting. 

According to Webmd,  ”A food allergy is an immune system response. It occurs when the body mistakes an ingredient in food — usually a protein — as harmful and creates a defense system (antibodies) to fight it. Food allergy symptoms develop when the antibodies are battling the “invading” food.  Food intolerance is a digestive 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.”  The most common food intolerance is lactose, found in dairy products.  Common food allergies are peanuts, shellfish, eggs, soy products and wheat or gluten.  I believe as we age, our bodies will tolerate less and less of some of these common foods.  I have a reaction to wheat, but only sometimes.  If I’m under stress, my stomach will react very quickly to certain foods.  There are other times when I’m perfectly fine.  Those with food intolerance lack certain enzymes needed for digestion.  When the undigested food enters the bloodstream, it causes a reaction.  An allergic reaction can happen immediately, starting with a tickle in the throat or itchy lips or tongue.  A friend of mine, on Thanksgiving, had peeled many many potatoes and went into anaphylactic shock. He had no idea he was even allergic, but he had peeled so many potatoes, his system was overloaded. 

Digestive enzymes are used by many people to help with the digestion of food.  Some to certain foods and some to cooked foods.  My opinion…if you have a problem eating certain foods, you should just stop eating that food.  But alas, and I am just as guilty as anyone else, we continue to eat what our bodies just don’t want to assimilate or digest. 

In the book, Prescription For Nutritional Healing, there is a food questionnaire and a food diary you can fill out.  It’s important, when you think you have a food allergy, to start to take inventory of the foods that you react to.  Eating one food at a time so that you will definitely know what the reaction in your body is, then eliminating that food for a period of time.  Certain fruits and veggies, when I touch my eyes after touching them, will make my eyes very puffy and red.  However, my body doesn’t react at all to them from the inside.  These are organic and eaten in the raw state so I don’t have an answer for that one.

If you are allergic to a food, your body will release a chemical known as histamine, to protect itself.  This chemical triggers allergic symptoms that affect the respiratory system or your gastrointestinal tract, your skin or heart.  Food allergies are more common in children than adults and people often confuse a food allergy with a food intolerance.  As uncomfortable as a food intolerance is, it is not dangerous.  Peanut allergies are rarely outgrown and, as an adult, an allergy to fish, is also rarely outgrown.

There are so many other opportunities these days for those of us with gluten or dairy allergies or intolerances.  Gluten free products abound at health food and grocery stores.  Dairy free products like soy or rice cheese, are great alternatives to dairy.  I drink store bought rice milk and make my own nut milk, usually almond milk.  Start today and eliminate one food that just doesn’t “sit well” with your body.  It could even be an emotional reaction

Be well.

Should you have swelling in your throat, difficulty breathing or a loss of consciousness, this is the sign of a serious food allergy and you should contact the nearest health facility.  Please advise your doctor or health care physician regarding any questions about food allergies in you or your child.

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  • Mimi

    Thank you for your informative article. When you mentioned //I have a reaction to wheat, but only sometimes. If I’m under stress, my stomach will react very quickly to certain foods.// that really rang some bells with us. Even though I had noticed this myself, I wasn’t aware that this is common. At the moment I am only tolerating cooked vegs and a little chicken, yet if I stick with that for long enough, somehow the body seems to heal and slowly slowly I should be able to introduce other foods, one in every four days only though. Also both my children allergic to sweet, any sweet including fruit, most grains, gluten, dairy. I thought we were ‘special’ heheh, sadly very common though.
    Thank you, in our case if we didn’t take enzymes, there wouldn’t be much we’d be able to digest. Why? I dunno, God does.
    Thank you


  • Donna Boyle

    You are welcome.Donna