Is it a food allergy or food intolerance?
Around one or two people out of every 100 in the UK have a food allergy, yet food intolerance is more common.
How to tell the difference
Food allergic reaction:
- Symptoms come on within secs or minutes of eating the meals
- In extreme cases it can be life-threatening
- Even a tiny trace of the foods can cause a reaction
- It is easily diagnosed with tests
- Symptoms come on more gradually and are long-lasting. They mainly involve the digestive system
- It’s never life-threatening
- A reasonable portion of food is usually needed to cause a reaction, although some people can be sensitive to small amounts
- You may desire the problem food
- It’s difficult to identify as there are only a few reliable assessments
Genuine food allergy can be rare. About 2% of the population (and 8% of children under the age of three) are affected.
What is a food allergy?
A food allergy is a quick and potentially serious response to a food by your immune system. It can trigger classic allergy symptoms such as a rash, wheezing and itching.
The most common food allergies among adults are usually to fish and shellfish and nuts – including peanuts, walnuts, hazelnuts and brazil nuts. Children often have allergy symptoms to milk and eggs as well as to peanuts, other nuts and seafood.
What is a food intolerance?
Food intolerances tend to be more common than food allergies. The symptoms of food intolerance tend to come on more slowly, often many hours right after eating the problem food. Typical symptoms include bloating and stomach cramps. It’s possible to be intolerant to several different foods. This can make it hard to identify which foods are causing the issue.
Food intolerances can also be difficult to tell apart from some other digestive disorders that can produce similar symptoms, such as inflammatory bowel disease, gastrointestinal obstructions or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Lactose intolerance, sometimes called dairy intolerance, occurs when your entire body can’t digest lactose. Lactose is in milk and dairy products such as yoghurts and soft cheeses. The main symptoms are usually diarrhoea and stomach pain. In most cases, your own GP can diagnose lactose intolerance searching at your symptoms and medical history.
Could it be another type of food intolerance or condition?
Sometimes it isn’t clear which food is causing a problem. The only reliable method of identifying such a food intolerance can be through an exclusion diet, where you minimize certain foods from your diet one at a time to see if there’s an effect.
Coeliac disease is a common digestive condition where a person has an adverse reaction to gluten. However , coeliac disease is not an allergy or a good intolerance to gluten. It is a good autoimmune condition where the immune system mistakes substances found inside gluten being a threat to the body and assaults them.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley that damages the intestinal tract of people with coeliac disease. Signs and symptoms include diarrhoea, bloating and weight loss. Coeliac disease can be accurately diagnosed with a blood test and biopsy.
About one out of one hundred people in the UK have coeliac disease, but it’s estimated that about half a million aren’t diagnosed.
Treatments for foods allergy and food intolerance
In the case of a food allergic reaction, you’ll have to avoid the food you’re hypersensitive to. You may be able to eat the cooked versions without any problems, one example is with fruit or vegetable allergy symptoms.
With lactose intolerance, you will need to reduce the amount of dairy food that you eat.
Along with other forms of food intolerance, you’ll have to stop eating the food for a while, or possibly for life.
With the autoimmune condition coeliac disease, you must avoid gluten for life.
In all cases, continually read food labels carefully, and learn where your problem food may be used being an ingredient in other foods.
For more advice on your diet, inquire your GP to refer you to definitely an NHS dietitian.