Food Intolerance’ and ‘Food Allergy’ are often thought to be variations of the same thing but the biological processes behind them, and how they affect you, are very different.
Food allergy is quite rare, affecting about 2% of the adult population. During an allergic reaction, the body’s immune system believes it is being ‘invaded’ and produces IgE (Immunoglobulin E) antibodies to fight off the food or drink ingredient it mistakenly considers to be harmful.
The body’s inflammatory response in this circumstance can vary from mild to severe and can affect one or more systems in the body, such as the digestive system, respiratory system or the skin. In extreme cases, the immune system triggers a response throughout the whole body, resulting in a systemic reaction (anaphylaxis) which is potentially fatal.
Unlike allergy, food intolerance usually involves a delayed biological reaction which, although often uncomfortable and unpleasant, is not life threatening.
Causes of food intolerance
People react differently to different foods. There is no one definitive test because food intolerance takes on different forms such as:
- Food Allergy – immediate reaction (IgE)
- Coeliac Disease – lifelong autoimmune reaction to gluten proteins which damages the gut wall and prevents nutrients being properly absorbed
- Enzyme deficiencies – lifelong deficiencies such as lactose intolerance
- Chemical sensitivities – such as reactions to food additives like tartrazine (E102), caffeine and sunset yellow (E110)
- Reaction to histamine in foods
- Delayed onset food intolerance (measurement of food-specific IgG antibodies used as a strategy to determine which foods to eliminate); need not be lifelong
Symptoms of food intolerance
When you experience a food-specific IgG reaction or ‘intolerance’ to a particular food or drink, the body can produce a variety of inflammatory responses as it incorrectly identifies the ingredient as a threat.
Unlike allergic reactions, these immune responses can be delayed up to 72 hours and vary in severity, effecting digestion, skin, joints, respiration, energy levels and even psychological health.
Understanding your own personal food and drink intolerances, and the effects they could have on your health and wellbeing, is important to ensure you make the best possible choices for your diet.
- Acne Symptoms
- Tiredness and Fatigue
- Itchy Skin
- Joint Pain
- Respiratory Problems
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