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Managing Food Sensitivity: Food Intolerance and Allergies

Food and Nutrition

Managing Food Sensitivity

-Victoria Haruna

food sensitivity allergy intolerance differencesHave you ever bothered to know how sensitive you are to certain foods? Do you experience intestinal gas, abdominal pains or diarrhoea, after eating some foods? Or your system seem intolerant to such foods? The fastest explanation for this feeling is called sensitivity or allergic reaction to these foods.

Food intolerance means that individual elements of certain foods cannot be properly processed and absorbed by the digestive system. Those affected frequently suffer from inability to digest fructose or lactose; histamine or gluten intolerance (celiac disease) is less common.

Food intolerance occurs when a person has difficulty digesting a particular food.  According to the Founder, Amelia’s Organics, Titilayo Oduye, food intolerance is sometimes confused with or mislabelled as food allergy. Food intolerances and allergies involve the digestive system and the immune system. With food allergy, even a very tiny amount of the food has the potential to lead to a serious or life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxix (a serious allergic reaction that is rapid in onset and may cause death).

Mrs. Oduye explained that in the case of food allergies, the immune system plays a decisive role – it overreacts, resulting in strong allergic reactions such as itching, erythema and swelling. “In contrast, the immune system plays no part in food intolerance; here the body is simply unable to digest or absorb certain substances in the food. The inability to digest histamine is an exception, which can occur with (pseudo-allergic) reactions that are similar to allergic reactions,”

Food intolerances are caused by the partial or complete absence of activity of the enzymes responsible for breaking down or absorbing the food elements. “These deficiencies are often innate. However, they can sometimes be diet-related or can arise due to illness.”

Symptoms of food intolerance

Fructose and lactose intolerance are manifested primarily by gastro-intestinal symptoms such as a bloated feeling, flatulence, stomach ache, nausea or diarrhoea.

In the case of celiac disease, symptoms of vitamin and iron deficiency, general malaise and oedema may also be evident. The inability to digest histamine appears more similar to an allergy, and among other things may result in skin erythema, itching, shortness of breath, swelling or cardiac arrhythmia.

Mr. Gounden added that food intolerance could be the underlying causes of some illnesses such as Gastro-intestinal; Respiratory (Asthma, breathing difficulties), Neurological (Migraine, headaches) Dermatological (Eczema, Acne and Psoriasis), Musculoskeletal (Arthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis), Psychological (Depression, Panic attack, ADHD), Weight gain/obese and others including bloating, lethargy and general feeling of Malaise.

The way out according to the duo, is to find out one’s food tolerability. How? “By going for immunoglobulin tests (IgG) as IgG tests could be a useful diagnostic tool in addition to current testing protocols if they prove inconclusive. Elevated IgG levels to specific foods can be associated with food intolerances. Elevated IgG levels are associated with increased systemic inflammation. And there is evidence to suggest that IgG Food Intolerance could be exacerbating symptoms in certain chronic conditions. IgG microarray Food intolerance test, i.e., Foodprint 220+ is effective for this.”

These clues can help you figure out if it is an allergy or intolerance. {A doctor can help you know for sure}

Food Allergy:

  • Usually comes on suddenly
  • Small amount of food can trigger
  • Happens every time you eat the food
  • Can be life-threatening

Food Intolerance:

  • Usually comes on gradually
  • May only happen when you eat a lot of the food
  • May only happen if you eat the food often
  • Is not life-threateningShared Symptoms
    A food allergy and an intolerance both can cause:
  • Nausea
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

Different Symptoms

When a food irritates your stomach or your body can’t properly digest it, that’s an intolerance. You may have these symptoms:

  • Gas, cramps, or bloating
  • Heartburn
  • Headaches
  • Irritability or nervousness
    A food allergy happens when your immune system mistakes something in food as harmful and attacks it. It can affect your whole body, not just your stomach. Symptoms may include:

Rash, hives, or itchy skin
Shortness of breath
Chest pain
Sudden drop in blood pressure, trouble swallowing or breathing — this is life-threatening.
Common Food Allergies and Intolerances
These triggers cause about 90% of food allergies.

Tree nuts (such as walnuts, pecans and almonds)
The most common food intolerance is lactose intolerance. It happens when people can’t digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy. Another kind of intolerance is being sensitive to sulfites or other food additives. Sulfites can trigger asthma attacks in some people.

What about a gluten allergy? While celiac disease — a long-lasting digestive condition that’s triggered by eating gluten — does involve the immune system, it doesn’t cause life-threatening symptoms.

Treatment for Food Allergy
Your doctor can find out if you have an allergy or intolerance. These things may help:

  • Keep a diary of the foods you eat and the symptoms you have
  • Stop eating some foods to help figure out which one is causing symptoms
  • Have allergy tests

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