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A food allergy or a food intolerance?

How to recognize it?

Almost 90% of children under one year, 74% of children under three years old and, on average, nearly 42% of adults have a hypersensitivity to particular kind of food. However, not always the increased sensitivity to a specific food is associated with a real allergy. It can be related to a lot of other problems – enzyme deficiency, disorders in the work of the gastrointestinal tract, diseases of the immune system, inflammatory diseases of the liver, intestines, pancreas and a lot of others.

There are reliable ways to find out if you have an allergy or a food intolerance.

The oldest and most famous method is skin test: the doctor applies shallow scratches on the inner side of the forearm, then he drips on each scratch a solution of one or another allergen. After a few minutes, the doctor evaluates the reaction. If the scratch has not changed its appearance – there is no allergy. But if the skin around becomes reddened and swollen, it is an allergy.

The advantages of this method are rather high reliability and speed of the analysis.

Cons: in such a small area of ​​the skin it is impossible to “place” all “suspects.” And sometimes after the test, a severe allergic inflammation develops within 6-8 hours.

Two more tests – the enzyme immunoassay (ELISA) and the radioallergosorbent test (RAST) – are considered to be more modern. They allow us to identify not only the reaction of the organism to the components of food products (specific proteins of milk, meat, cereals) but also the intensity of this reaction itself. Today it is known that in addition to Quincke’s edema, urticaria, lacrimation, and others – there is a so-called “hidden allergy” that can appear quite unexpectedly – for example, manifest itself in diarrhea or excessive sweating.

A food allergy

If you found out that you have an allergy to particular food, you should entirely exclude this product from a ration at least for a year. There is a version that after the product-provoker stops to enter the body, the antibodies which were produced as a result of an allergic reaction will gradually come out of the blood. So “allergenicity” of the product will “wipe off” from memory, and a person will be able to re-insert it into the diet.

A food intolerance

But if the blood test shows a negative result for those products, it is most likely that it’s not a matter of allergy, but intolerance or the inability to assimilate some components of the product. Usually, the cause of this is an enzymatic deficiency, which can appear because of heredity, race or nationality or the region of residence. Less often it appears because of chronic and autoimmune diseases (a vivid example is diabetes mellitus).

One thought to “A food allergy or a food intolerance?”

  1. Food allergy and food intolerance sometimes have similar symptoms, but different conditions. And that is the main difference, as for me.

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